If you spend some time talking with Brian Solis about customer experience, or read his new book on the topic, it may forever change your thinking about how companies should engage with their customers.
A principal analyst at the Altimeter Group, a research and advisory company, Solis has deeply studied customer experience, with one of the benefits of his research being a new book, X: The Experience When Business Meets Design. In X, Solis argues, “customer experience, more than any other business priority, defines a company’s brand and determines its outlook for the future.”
Unlike many authors of business books, Solis says he has a special regard for CIOs as he worked as a programmer earlier in his career. When it comes to customer experience, CIOs are uniquely positioned to be an executive champion, says Solis. Not only do they understand the role of technology, they can support customer experience as a way to give their organization a competitive advantage, if it’s done right.
Making customer experience a great experience
Naturally, customer experience means different things to different people. One of the aspects of customer experience that puzzled Solis when he was writing X is that “when you ask people why they love certain brands, they will say that it’s a great experience, but they often can’t describe why.”
To Solis, customer experience is “the sum of all engagements, of every touchpoint, in the customer lifecycle of a product.” These engagements include your interactions with a salesperson in a retail store, unboxing a product for the first time, trying to return a defective item, and much, much more.
“Customer experience is an emotional reaction to all of these touchpoints,” says Solis, who points out that “people will have customer experiences, so don’t leave them to chance.”
However, many companies today are not organized with customer experience in mind, Solis says. Rather, it is the responsibility of several departments, such as marketing, retail, or customer support. “Often these departments are not working in unison with each other,” he says. “And in some cases, they are actively working against each other.”
What Tesla and Apple have in common
For X, Solis studied the top brands in the world, especially the ones that are most often associated with providing outstanding customer experience. “As I peeled back the layers,” he says, “I found that only a couple of companies truly understand customer experience and excel at it—namely, Tesla and Apple.”
Tesla has distinguished itself in the arena of customer experience with the breathtaking quality and innovation of its electric cars, plus the way that the company sells and services them. One example: Unlike all of its competitors, Tesla provides free fuel for customers’ cars, post-sales, with its solar-powered charging stations.
As for Apple, Solis devotes an entire chapter, focusing on the iPad as an example of how Apple provides an unparalleled customer experience. For the iPad, Solis says Apple created a story arc for the customer experience, creating a customer journey in which the iPad consumer sees him or herself as an empowered hero. “With the iPad and other Apple products,” says Solis, “the entire customer journey is a complete, thoughtful, and intentional experience, at each moment of the journey.”
Disney and a few other brands possess leading aspects of great customer experience. The entertainment company unveiled Disney MagicBand, its sleek, Internet-connected, rubber wristbands, at Disney World. With MagicBand, once a customer selects their favorite rides, the wristband organizes them in the most-efficient itinerary (no more wasteful zigzagging between destinations or getting lost en route). And with added service called Magical Express, MagicBand enables a customer to board an airport bus, check into their hotel, and gain admittance to Disney World without a single piece of paper or ticket.
Solis believes CIOs are the ones to lead with game-changing tech innovations like Disney MagicBand. “After all,” he says, “they are the ones who best understand how technology can be used to enhance customer experiences.”