Over the past few years, companies have shifted the way they leverage consultants and vendors, building internal support systems rather than depending on outside support. While “going it alone” may allow companies to exercise more control over outcomes, the downside is they lack important external insight that can spur innovation.
Naturally, if we have been working in an industry for a while, most of us feel we are experts, and well-suited to innovate within our industry because we know what’s been tried and what works. This thinking could not be more wrong.
I recently went on vacation and flew on a different airline than I normally do. I experienced a slightly different boarding process, sat in a different kind of seat with a different type of entertainment system, and used a differently functioning companion app for my smartphone. I couldn’t help but ask why? If airline companies employed experts with tons of experience behind them, why do we get such different experiences when using their services? The answer lies in customer experience design, but it also prompts other questions: Did they test their experience? Did they ask customers what they like or want, or did they make decisions based on years of “expert knowledge”?
In theory, we all want our customers to have a good experience. But in reality, these experiences differ greatly from industry to industry. Think of experiences that are more generic in nature, such as waiting at a pharmacy for a prescription, or ordering food in most restaurants. These are pretty standard experiences, and companies can’t differentiate themselves too much here. However, in retail, or banking, or airline industries, there is an intent to differentiate, build stronger loyalty, and offer more tailored experiences. Observing how other industries create experiences and understanding customers and competitors better can go a long way in helping companies create better experiences. This is where a consultant comes in.
Companies that want to differentiate themselves would do well to use an outside-in approach to their customer experience program. Here are three ways an outside vendor can help your company improve its customer experience:
- They can help you drive your desired experience, fine tuning the components, and prototyping/piloting, as well as benchmarking the outcome more objectively through experiences across other competitors in the industry, or from leading industries that perform similar processes.
- They can provide an unbiased opinion. Because they are not part of your company consultants aren’t motivated to agree with a specific point of view, and they can stay completely focused on the objective rather than be redirected to the biggest fire at the moment.
- They can provide insight into how other companies, even in different industries, are delivering experiences. My air travel experience, for example, could have included:
- While your airline saved money by having customers bring their own devices, your competition installed a relatively inexpensive system and wirelessly serves content. Now their customers are entertained on all flights and never run out of battery or charge.
- Your app provides basic flight information and allows you to update your profile. However, your competitors’ app allow travelers to get updated-to-the-minute flight information and seamlessly logs them into the company portal when necessary without needing re-authenticate.
- Since you have not installed devices into seatbacks in every seat of every plane, your flight attendants now spend an extra 15 minutes doing the safety briefing. Installing these devices could deliver consistent brand messaging crafted by your corporate marketing and operations teams that can be broadcast at the beginning of every flight.
Customer Experience needs to remain a priority as we shift from the days of Product Marketing to Product Design. The days of building a product or service and then marketing it are over. Products need to sell themselves and need to be designed to fulfill a compelling need. That also means we need to do a better job of understanding the customer and the competition and testing our ideas in-market so that we can confirm the desired outcome.
Although your organization may feel compelled to “go it alone,” don’t forget this key fact: external consultants help by allowing you to get out of your own way so that you can think about things you might not have considered on your own. And not because you’re incapable of doing the job, but because your run the risk of being conditioned—through experience—to stop asking the most important questions.
We invite you to check out our immersive and interactive Collaboration Center where we invite clients to partner together to create the CX solutions that will transform your business.