Product differentiation reduces your marketplace; Price differentiation reduces your profit or growth rate; Promotional differentiation is elusive and expensive; Service differentiation has now evolved. The extended product that encompasses end-to-end customer engagement is the current business battleground. Customer Experience is the new King.
- In the consumer age of the 50s and early 60s, Product was King. There was little competition in the marketplace to compare features or value, so price was determined by what the market would bear and manufacturers ruled the land.
- In the 70s and 80s, Brand was King. The competitive edge was brand-power and consumers would pay a premium for the product they wanted from a brand they trusted or felt aligned with.
- Then came the 90s and 2000s when consumers discovered the internet. The power of access to information meant the Customer was King. It gave consumers the real power of choice and they began to control what they wanted, when they wanted it and what price they would pay.
From around 2010 on-wards, we began to see the appearance of product comparison businesses. These aggregators dis-intermediate the buyer from the seller by providing a comparison of the same or similar products from various sellers allowing product comparison access to an even greater audience. Consumers are now able to change banks, telephone providers, insurers, etc., without impediment by law. They can join bulk buying groups and gain real purchasing power.
Under this intense level of scrutiny in the marketplace, sellers had to find a new way to differentiate their product and their brand. Enter the new era of Customer Experience.
Differentiation in this current marketplace requires an understanding of the entire end-to-end customer engagement. Understanding your customer includes:
- Understanding who they are
- Understanding what they value about your company/brand
- Understanding what they value about your product
- Understanding what they value about your service and/or extended product.
This will involve all of the following phases of the customer engagement and more:
- Pre-sale prospective customer engagement
- Automated marketing
- Social media target marketing
- Merchandising and e-Merchandising
- Inbound and Outbound Sales channels
- After-sales Customer Service
- Account Management
- Ongoing Customer Relationship Development
Success in this new world will require the ability to master some new skills:
- Identifying and understanding a buyer’s Point-of-Decision behaviour;
- Converting what your customer values into what they select and what you deliver; and
- Delivering after-sales service that is equivalent or better than the product itself.
Everything that goes to make up the entire customer experience determines who gets your business in this market – Customer Experience is the new King.!
Steven Brett is the Director of Manage Smart, a Sydney based consultancy focussed on customer experience and customer relationship development. He holds a degree in Applied Management and consults to the Customer Service Institute of Australia. A professional business consultant, he offers a full range of business coaching and training products as well as assessing businesses to the International Customer Service Standards©. Steven is able to speak at corporate events and functions, when available, on this and other customer centric topics.