TL;DR: If you want to attract a customer, you have to think like a customer, and build a united, customer‐centric organisation.
Growing a business is a multi‐faceted, multi‐pronged strategy. At the core of long‐term sustainable growth, however, is a deep understanding of the customer’s user experience (UX), from their research to their retention of key information.
When a corporate strategy has built‐in knowledge of the business’s customer on an empathetic level, marketing goes from an educated guess to a calculated, targeted tool. Then, calculating financial commitment and the subsequent Return On Investment becomes much more precise.
At the crux of UX and CKM
Knowledge of the customer’s User Experience (UX), and knowing customers themselves, is inextricably tied to what is known as Customer Knowledge Management (CKM). Customer Knowledge Management is not knowledge of the customer, per se, but rather is knowledge from the customer.
In a joint study conducted by universities in South Africa and Switzerland, international business scholars Gibbert, Leibold, and Probst point out how some of the most successful businesses in the world thrive because they turn customers or clients from mere consumers to “Knowledge partners.”
Take their analysis of online retail behemoth Amazon, for example:
“The Internet retailer manages customer knowledge successfully through providing book reviews, the customer’s own order histories, order history of other customers, and customized suggestions based on prior orders. Effectively, Amazon.com, a commercial enterprise, developed into a platform of book enthusiasts that are keen to exchange knowledge about their favorite topics (intrinsic motivation). Motivating customers to share their knowledge the Amazon way is a remarkable achievement, particularly if contrasted with the often vain efforts to evangelize employees from egoistic knowledge hoarders to altruistic knowledge sharers by way of rewards systems that are mostly extrinsic.”
Why understanding and usability are essential
And so, the question becomes how to make using customer knowledge — and at the same time gain knowledge of customers or clients themselves — both efficient and cost effective.
Gerry McGovern has authored six books on the digital experience of consumers, and has developed his own highly‐sought‐after model for helping large organisations improve customers’ UX.
To efficiently understand a target consumer, says McGovern, is to identify their Top Tasks — those items that are their top priority when navigating an online business.
In an interview with eZ Systems’ Roland Benedetti last year, McGovern outlined his approach to building a customer‐centric organisation. He talks about building a culture of empathetic knowledge of customer experience.
“To deliver exceptional customer experience,” he said, “we must develop an obsession with our customers. We must constantly be observing them and trying to understand their needs.”
What most consumers need, McGovern went on to say during that same interview, is for businesses to anticipate their needs, rather than for customers to have to spell out their needs.
In essence, if you want to attract a customer, you have to think as a customer does.
“To make things simple and intuitive, we must get inside the heads of our customers and think like they think. We must involve them constantly in everything we do. We need to co‐create with our customers, refining our content so that it is in exactly the language that they feel most comfortable with,” said McGovern.
Ease of use, he says, also plays a crucial role.
“To create easy‐to‐use, intuitive features and processes we must constantly observe our customers as they use these features and processes, always streamlining and simplifying so as to make their lives easier.”
Be a rebel, support your customers!
It goes without saying that most, if not all decisions, regarding customer UX, will be made by upper management.
In 2016, McGovern was a guest on the UXpod podcast, talking to host Gerry Gaffney about the challenges inherent in providing customers with a smooth experience. One of those challenges, he says, is that often, when problems arise with the customers’ UX, those problems aren’t communicated to upper management.
“I was in New Zealand,” McGovern recalled, “giving a series of workshops and … in the afternoon a whole bunch of managers came into the room just to listen in on the discussions that were going on. And as the afternoon wore on people became more and more open about their challenges and their problems. And at some stage near the end of the afternoon one of the managers said, ‘You know this is the first time I’ve heard any of this, you know, I’m not trying to be smart here or anything but this is the first time.’ ”
The key to improvement, McGovern pointed out, is for those who identify the problems with UX to communicate them to management, and to do so collectively, where possible.
“If we’re communicating upwards, not as an isolated individual, but from multiple sources within the organisation,” he said, “then that is more powerful. So…get yourself together with the other rebels and start communicating in polite, factual ways upwards saying we’ve got a problem here, we’re suffering because we’re giving a bad experience to the customer.”
Multi‐device design: The future of UX
The Danish web usability consultant Jakob Nielsen has been recognized by Bloomberg Businessweek as being among the “World’s Most Influential Designers.” He’s often a source in our articles here — and in our Sunday Letter — because of his insightful research.
During one keynote address in early 2018, Nielsen outlined the adoption of proper UX methodology as one of his Top 10 UX Challenges for the Next 25 Years.
“We want to really work on getting proper user experience methodology to be pervasive in design everywhere,” he said. “It’s just a disgrace how much bad design there is in the world, how many usability problems we continue to meet again and again.”
Within the next five years, said Neilsen, the focus of most businesses in improving their UX should be on multi‐device UX.
“The user interface is no longer just a computer screen. We have multi‐device, a full environment. That’s the world we’re going to. It definitely is a challenge because it’s much harder to design the full environment than just assign one user interface for one device.” [emphasis added]
Delivering a comfortable UX to your customer base is about getting to know them. Getting to know them is made all the easier by giving them a smooth user experience.
It seems like a bit of a Catch 22 situation, but as Thomas Ripsam and Louis Bouquet point out in a piece for strategy-business.com, it’s not enough to appoint a Chief Customer Officer (CCO). That’s because the CCO isn’t able to create the necessary customer‐centric organisation.
‘Responsibility and accountability for customer strategy remains highly fragmented among sales, marketing, service, and other functions embedded in business units and geographies,” Ripsam and Bouquet point out.
In other words, having a CCO is all well and good, but delivering a quality UX doesn’t begin and end there.
“Make sure your CCO (if you have one),” they go on, “directly or indirectly oversees every part of the organization that touches the customer’s experience.”