One of the greatest challenges all companies face is how to stand out in the minds of their customers. Market share is precious, and in a world where market segments are becoming more and more commoditized, it’s becoming a much tougher task.
Customer experience, and its subset, customer service, have been touted for the last decade as the great differentiator. There’s a good reason for this. There are virtual mountains of research and case studies pointing to the direct relationship between improved customer focus with customer retention, loyalty and sales. But when everyone in the industry begins focusing on the same thing, is it still a sound strategy?
The answer is a resounding yes, but in a slightly weird way.
There are two extremes in the customer loyalty spectrum. Most strategies, rightly so, are focused on the one extreme of trying to create rabidly loyal customers. We try to create a brand that will be top of mind for customer experience, and then expend a great amount of resources to measure how well we are doing. That’s why tools such as Net Promoter, Customer Satisfaction, Customer Effort and RetailTrack’s CustomerVoice surveys have exploded over the last few years.
But what about those highly competitive industries where everyone is on the battleground of customer experience? It just might not be realistic for one company to clearly own the top position. In these situations, it is the other extreme that really comes into play. Because the one place you absolutely don’t want to be is in the bottom position.
Anecdotally, we’ve all heard people share stories of “the place I will never go back to.” There is nothing worse than having the reputation of ABYC (Anyone But Your Company) in a customer’s mind. Once an organization has that reputation, it’s hard to shake. This means that, even if you don’t see a benefit of leading your industry in customer experience, it still needs to be a priority.
What has happened is that the bar that represents the minimum acceptable level of customer experience is continually being raised in competitive industries. What was good enough last year won’t cut it this year. Customers have dizzying arrays of choices now, and very often they make those choices, not based on who is the best, but on a process of elimination.
Standing out, therefore, isn’t always a good thing – if the place you are standing is at the bottom. It is inevitably those organizations that get eliminated first.