Create Powerful Customer Experiences

How marketers can move up the customer experience pyramid to drive loyalty, satisfaction and advocacy

When you’re stranded on the side of the road with a flat tire, you need a simple, how-to video that explains where to put the jack and how to easily loosen the first lug bolt. The content could even be computer generated as long as it hits the mark in terms of getting you the information you need when you need it. Surprisingly, too often brands fail to deliver the basic information and experiences that customers expect and need.

According to the 2017 Gartner Customer Experience in Marketing Survey, 81% of marketing leaders responsible for customer experience (CX) say their companies will mostly or completely compete on the basis of CX in two years. Yet only 22% say their CX efforts have exceeded customer expectations. The Gartner Customer Experience Pyramid is a powerful framework for building effective experiences that lift satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy and start to chip away at this chasm between expectation and reality.

This is the rarified air of not just providing customers with superpowers, but making them feel like they have superpowers

It starts by furnishing the key information customers need, in their moment of need, such as a basic how-to video to fix a flat tire. “CX is not a game of chance,” said Gartner research director Augie Ray at the Gartner Digital Marketing Conference 2018 in San Diego. “Get prepared to play the right game.”

Ray outlined how CX is underperforming where it matters most — for customers — and what brands can do to move beyond just solving today’s problems for today’s customers using today’s processes. The CX pyramid has five stages.

Stage No. 1: Furnish information I can use

The journey to better loyalty, advocacy and satisfaction begins with meeting customers’ basic needs. This stage and those that immediately follow are tactical, reactive and focused on removing irritants that get in the way of better experiences and satisfaction.

Stage No. 2: Solve your problem when I ask

Here, your problem is the company’s problem; that will be how the customer sees it. Moving beyond the foundational level means solving the company’s basic issue when the customer asks. In the case of a flat tire this would mean providing the bare minimum tire replacement service a company is obligated to provide, such as using the customer’s 40 mph-limit spare doughnut in the trunk.

Gartner: The CX Pyramid: A Framework for Powerful Experiences

Stage No. 3: Solve my needs when I ask

Once the company’s needs are met, the hierarchy of CX needs starts to get interesting because this is where a brand addresses specific needs, wants and requests. This means recognizing that when a customer has a flat tire they want the car to drive as it was before they got the flat. So the service agent might arrive with a fully functional replacement tire or fix the flat tire on the spot.

Stage No. 4: Provide what I need without me asking

Moving beyond resolving customer needs starts to enter the realm of aspirational customer service, according to Ray. It requires deeper knowledge and data about the customer and effective processes to execute the experiences. In the case of roadside repair, a mobile service technician would not only fix a flat tire to its near-original state, but also check the rest of the car and fix a leaky radiator during the same service call. That type of CX drives significant satisfaction…and is quite difficult to execute.

Stage No. 5: Make me better, safer or more powerful

The top of the pyramid is reserved for exceptional CX practices that fundamentally redefine the customer experience and what customers can become as a result of using the product or service. This is the rarified air of not just providing customers with superpowers, but making them feel like they have superpowers. This level might be as simple, and as complex as, dispatching a luxury self-driving vehicle to whisk a stranded customer to work at the push of a button — and delivering their fixed, washed and waxed car to their driveway while they are at work.

Uber and Lyft expanded the vision of ordering a taxi by making it easy to hail a ride from the comfort of home

Ray concluded with a note about implementation. As companies move up the pyramid they need to take steps to reduce risk such as gathering appropriate voice of customer data and even expanding their vision to include the entire customer journey.

Uber and Lyft expanded the vision of ordering a taxi by making it easy to hail a ride from the comfort of home rather than standing on a corner. Their customer journey started at the point of need — rather than the point of pickup as defined by taxi companies — much to the joy of millions of delighted and now loyal customers.

For anyone who has endured pouring rain while waiting for a cab to arrive, ordering and waiting for transportation from the comfort of home starts to feel like a superpower.

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