The Customer Experience

June 06, 2018
Rob Andrews
Relentless focus on delivering the total customer experience, anticipating needs, and creating raving fans, is what the successful enterprise of the future will do.

Relentless focus on delivering the total customer experience, anticipating needs, and creating raving fans, is what the successful enterprise of the future will do. Optimal performance requires engineering the customer experience, not simply reducing defects. It’s not necessarily just about what you sell, but what you stand for. Strategies that don’t begin with the customer in mind underperform. Those that lose sight of the customer will likely cease to exist.

According to Inmar, and Willard Bishop Analytics, publisher of The Future of Food Retailing since 1983, the world of food retailing is more turbulent than ever. The landscape continues to be reshaped by mergers and acquisitions, including Amazon’s $13.7 billion acquisition of Whole Foods, Ahold’s $4.3 billion acquisition of Delhaize, Walmart’s $3.3 billion acquisition of Jet.com and Kroger’s $500 million acquisition of startup Boxed, just to name a few.

In our last post, we talked about “share of stomach”, the trends around which are less predictable than ever. The rise of the millennial, the digitally savvy customer which has displaced the baby-boomer as the largest customer segment, is playing havoc with traditional marketers. Natural foods and organics, formerly differentiators, are now table stakes. High prices, formerly accepted as few choices existed, are no longer tolerated by knowledgeable customers, being wooed by new and evolving formats like Trader Joe’s, Aldi, Lidl and Amazon. Digital commerce and convenience is also a disrupting factor as multi-tasking customers are increasingly pressed for time and looking for a differentiated experience.

In 1988, traditional grocers commanded the lion’s share of grocery and consumable products, and convenience stores were losing share. Since then, traditional operators have lost share to supercenters, alternative channels, and e-commerce retailers. Supermarkets are losing share to fresh format, limited assortment and super warehouse formats. Here’s another big surprise. The Convenience store sector, once thought to face the fate of the dinosaur, because of its unhealthy offerings, is enjoying strong sales gains. Exceptional C-store operators like Maverik, Wawa, Sheetz, QuikTrip and Buck-ee’s have not only cracked the code on clean, fresh convenience, but have also cracked the code on a truly differentiated customer experience.

Strong, adaptable, aware and smart retailers will survive, and some will thrive. Hy-Vee, an Iowa-based retailer with 245 locations across the Midwest, built a new store, with a food-court-like format in downtown Des Moines, and has become so popular that it’s begun eating into nearby restaurants’ business. H-E-B has become so good at taking costs out of its supply chain and replenishment labor costs, that it’s recaptured drug and health and beauty aid business once stolen by the Walmarts and big box discounters. QuikTrip, the 850 store C-Store chain has done what few thoughts could be done, which is to make a convenience store a highly desirable destination stop. Maverik is now another excellent example of how to do C-Store retailing right by embracing a unique identity as “Adventure’s First Stop”, which is totally unique, fresh and exciting. Winning, and winning big is still possible, when customer experience becomes front and center.

As we recognize the importance of choreographing employee and customer experience, we are excited to announce our partnership with Experience Engineering® Inc., as the sole search/leadership firm provider of Experience Engineering® assessment, certification, training, and development products.

Since our inception, Lou Carbone has influenced the way we do business. It is quite a privilege to say we knew Lou Carbone way back when, that Lou pioneered, and did experience engineering before experience engineering was cool! Leading the customer-centric organization of the future will be different. Not only will we need to educate and train workforces around the nuances of the truly differentiated experience; we will need to screen for the right hard-wiring. Understanding the customer experience and the lifetime value of a customer requires a level of empathy and grassroots understanding missing in many of today’s classically trained leaders.

People who hear Lou Carbone speak say he transforms the way they look at the customer experience. Wouldn’t your organization benefit from learning more about engineering your customer and employee experience?

  • The science behind customer experience management.
  • How customer and employee experiences can be leveraged as a value proposition.
  • Why emotion is at the root of the customer experience and how sensory clues impact customers’ perceptions and actions.
  • Why understanding how people think on an unconscious level is today’s most critical competitive edge.
  • How to design and deliver the drivers that create a memorable and meaningful experience.