I don’t want to be a buzz kill, or the bearer of bad news, but if you’re just setting out on a customer experience career journey, understand that it is not for the complacent, nor the satisfied. This is the career for those who must motivate themselves and others to constantly and consistently top what has been done previously.
Is that fair? Probably not. But it’s simply what customers demand of us. That’s why when you deliver outstanding experiences that genuinely delight customers, I’m not sure there’s any better feeling in business. And, that’s why my advice to our next generation of leaders is to think of customer experience like a magic trick.
Let me explain:
We always think our own era is the definitive one, don’t we? We think the basketball players we grew up watching are the BEST EVER, and we think our movies and music are superior to the movies and music that came before (or after) our youth.
The same is true of customer experience and accompanying expectations. I can remember the days before ATMs. The days before grocery stores were open 24 hours. The days before the Internet. The days before they served beer at the movies. The days before electric cars. And the days before “click once and stuff will be delivered to you.”
You know who didn’t demand 24-hour grocery shopping? People who had never conceived of—much less experienced—such a thing.
It’s only natural that when you’re in business, you think about customer experience through the prism of your own era. Your sense of what are reasonable and unreasonable customer expectations is naturally influenced by what was possible and routine, and what was cutting-edge and extraordinary, in your formative years.
Even if you’re not an old curmudgeon, it’s easy to find yourself thinking, “Geez, that customer experience technology thing we could implement is nifty, but is it really worth the time and effort? Our customers may not really care either way, because we didn’t have anything like that back in the day.”
But, they WILL care.
Even if your memory of what constitutes great customer experience is dictated at some level by what was common in your early days as a consumer, the truth is that customer expectations aren’t static; they aren’t a snapshot in time pasted in a scrapbook. Instead, customer expectations constantly march forward, with no respect for—or even acknowledgement of—the past.
I’m writing this on a plane, and the guy next to me is complaining about the Wi-Fi speed. On a plane! The fact that we can access the Internet while flying is remarkable in every way. Yet, now that we’ve experienced it, we want it more—we want it better, cheaper, and faster.
I’ve been a consultant for 25 years now, and if there’s one rule I’ve come to understand with great clarity it’s that customer expectations never move backwards. The genie NEVER goes back in the bottle. No customer ever says: “You know what? It’s okay to be slower. It’s okay to be less relevant. It’s okay to be less efficient. It’s okay to be less personalized.”
Expectations for great customer experience are like an escalator that has no top. And what this means for me, and for you, is that good enough is never enough.
As a customer experience professional, you can never be satisfied, because your customers are never satisfied. Among all the business disciplines, the ones that are the most driven by “What have you done for me lately?” all fall under the customer experience umbrella, in my estimation.
This is why the invention and deployment of truly great customer experience is like a magic trick. But, it’s a trick that audiences get bored of very, very quickly. I wish you nothing but the best in your career as a customer experience magician. It’s a tough job, but it’s also incredibly gratifying when you master the illusion.