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Customer experience is more important than brand. How do you make sure you do it right?


A quick refresh

A few weeks ago, we wrote about questions to consider before you outsource some of your software development work. Then, recently, we started a mini-series on digital transformation (link), identifying seven core parts of a digital transformation process.

As a refresh:

  • Data and analytics {link}
  • Customer experience
  • Innovation
  • Tech Stack
  • Upgraded systems/processes
  • Up-skilling and reskilling
  • Leadership and culture

In this post, we’re going to discuss customer experience.

Why is customer experience important?

Two researchers recently looked at data from over 6,000 mergers and acquisitions worldwide between 2003 and 2013. They used mergers and acquisitions data because those typically contain dollar valuations of all assets at the time of acquisition, including elements of “brand” and elements of “customer relationships.” 

For years, most companies had operated according to a principle that “brand” -- both the general idea of how you’re perceived in the marketplace, but also specific concepts around trademarks, trade names, product names, publishing titles, domains, and the like -- was the most important aspect of a business.

When the data was crunched on these 6,000+ mergers, here’s what the researchers found: the value of customer relationships was seemingly more financially important than the value of ‘brand’ itself. In this case, it was gauged through existing repeat customers.

That’s a big shift. Customer experience now trumps ‘brand,’ which had been the gold standard of evaluating businesses for decades.

If you’re running a field service organization, you probably know by now that customer experience, customer service, customer satisfaction -- really, whatever you choose to call it -- is very important to your overall business health and growth potential. At the most logical, basic level, happy customers lead to more sales and more referrals, and referral is the most powerful marketing channel there is by far.

But if you haven’t quite embraced the idea of customer experience yet, why should you think about it now? Here are a couple of different ideas.

81% of customers will pay more for good customer experience

That comes from Oracle research; perhaps more importantly, 92% of customers -- across a varied slate of industries -- typically go directly to a competitor and make a purchase following a bad customer experience. Those are both very high numbers, although one leans in a positive direction (you make more at the margin) and one leans in a negative direction (your competitor makes a sale).

Which one do you want to embrace? 

Deliver a strong customer experience and, as reputation builds, you can charge more money for the service side of the business. 

It could mean $382 million more in the next three years

Per Temkin Group research, good customer experience can result in gains of up to $382 million across three years (it varies by industry). The same research also showed that companies with a strong customer experience process have a 16 percent advantage over laggards in key areas such as customers’ willingness to buy more and their reluctance to move business away.

It could mean a better share price

If you’re publicly-traded or belong to a publicly-traded company, this is huge news. In 2014, the CFI group tracked the share prices of the companies near the top of the American Customer Satisfaction Index, or ACSI. Between April 2000 and April 2012, investing $100 in those companies yielded $490, or a 390% increase. By contrast, investing $100 in a S&P 500 fund in the same time frame yielded $93, or a 7-percent decrease. The same study showed that better customer experience is often tied to high positive cash flows with low volatility.

It keeps costs down but drives value up

Bain Consulting did a study in 2014 showing that retaining 10 percent of your existing customers can lead to a 30 percent increase in your company’s value. The reason: when you retain more customers, you spend 4x less annually on marketing to acquire new ones. 68 percent of customers that leave a company or service provider due so because of customer experience; when you lose a customer, then, it’s likely because of poor experience -- and every lost customer is money you’re going to need to spend to court new customers. In a social media context, other research has shown that 4.7 percent of a brand’s fan base generates 100 percent of their social referrals. In short: focus more on retaining and bettering the experience of your existing customers, and you’ll spend less money finding and acquiring new ones.

It’s much easier to sell an existing customer on new services

This comes from Marketing Metrics research; in some cases your chances of selling an existing customer on a new service are 70 percent, whereas selling a not-yet-customer on that service hovers between 5-15 percent. That’s a huge difference if you’re trying to ‘servitize’ (make service a value-add) any business, and is a big deal for revenue growth within field service management.

Implication for field service: With service, there are always new ways to bundle service options together -- and there are often machines that a client has serviced out to someone else as part of a pre-existing deal. If you deliver strong customer experience, you can capture that slice of business as well.

It’s a competitive advantage others aren’t yet tapping

According to research from Peppers and Rogers Group, 27.6 percent of executive leaders aren’t sure of the ROI of customer experience (yes, despite the stats above):

While a higher percentage (31.6) does believe there is a large ROI to be had from customer experience, most executives seem to believe in none or small to moderate amounts. Combining this information with what’s above shows customer experience is an area you can focus on as a way to outpace the competition. (Plus, in another 2014 study, 47.3 percent of executives said their company was “ineffective” or “very ineffective” at tying customer experience back to bottom-line business results -- and remember, if something isn’t effectively measured within any business, it tends to disappear as something that executives focus on.)

Don’t do the same thing as everyone else; don’t look for revenue where everyone else is trying to find it. Look for it in the experiences that others aren’t focusing on yet.

What does the rise of customer experience have to do with software development?

Everything. Because your software processes need to drive good customer experience. They need to be intuitive for the end user. They need to make sense and be easy to onboard new customers. The whole omni-channel ecosystem needs to work together.

How do you find software developers who can code well, but also understand how to prioritize customer experience and develop/design for that?

It can be hard on the open market, because often people are very good coders -- important skill -- or very good at customer experience and design thinking -- important skill -- but it’s rare to find one person who overlaps these two important skills.

But when you outsource software development work to a team of experts, on a team extension model where they blend into your team, then you get experts in both coding and the need for a quality customer experience.

We put together a checklist of items to look for when outsourcing software development teams for any project, be it digital transformation or something smaller.

Access it below:

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