There Is More to Customer Experience Than Delight

While IoT and digital assistants had their fair share of attention during the spring conference season, the undisputed winner was customer experience.
Customer Loyalty

As the spring conference season comes to a close a few themes resonated across the 10 events I attended or participated in. The Internet of Things (IoT) was omnipresent from a variety of perspectives. From robotic lawnmowers able to report back to the manufacturer when a part begins to fail before it happens, to a farm in India that is connecting to cows to examine more closely what they eat and when they take their cow vitamins in order to improve their milk yields. And one of my personal favorites was the "magic" shopping bag that provides information (cross-sells, loyalty rewards, discounts, etc) in real time to shoppers on items placed into it, as well as information about the shoppers themselves.

Another hot topic at a number of events centered on the rise of voice-activated digital assistants like Amazon Echo, and how more and more people are beginning to use them to do more and more things, like order a Domino's pizzas, or an Uber ride. There was even a video showing the Echo starting up a Tesla after it opened the garage door. Beyond the consumer experiences, there were also demos asking Echo about the status of deals, what accounts are at risk, and the status of a customer service case.

While IoT and digital assistants had their fair share of attention, the undisputed winner of the conference season was customer experience. Every keynote presentation was focused on it. Most sessions featured it in some form or fashion. Many of the other themes, like IoT, were emphasized because of the potential impact they have on creating better experiences for customers. And it was this need to consistently create great experiences throughout all phases of the customer journey that resonated again and again, across all the conferences

However the focus wasn't just on customer experience; it was on creating experiences that delight customers-all the time. And many of the experiences aimed at delighting customers being demonstrated were eye-catching, like the magic shopping bag. So was the video showing people starting cars from voice-activated devices, for that matter. And it seemed like delighting customers was specifically about "over-the-top" experiences that leads to heightened senses aimed at producing emotional responses ("Wow", "oohs," and "ahs,") and reactions.

But customer delight, when viewed through the lens of "oohs and ahs," can be an increasingly difficult goal to consistently achieve as customer expectations are constantly increasing. But, customer delight, when viewed through the lens of efficiency, reliability, dependability and trust, is a lot more attainable goal to meet. You might not get a big emotional response from being reliable and dependable, but by providing those kinds of experiences, you tend to get customers who stick with you longer.

As Pegasystems CEO and founder Alan Trefler said during his Pegaworld keynote earlier this week, experiences need to be delivered in a more efficient manner. And, in a way, experiences focused more on efficiency can be just as delightful as those focused on tugging at emotional heartstrings, or luxurious extravagance.

Amazon has built its business on the premise of delighting customers in this way. There have been many studies that discuss how seeing a package sitting on your doorstep when you expect it to be delivered makes you feel happy. Amazon Prime has signed up millions of people to pay $99 a year to get purchases delivered within two days. And if that's not fast enough, in some locations you can pay a little extra to give your orders within an hour.

While making sure packages get delivered when they are expected may not be wow-inspiring experiences to most of us, it's those kinds of experiences that have allowed Amazon to be No. 1 in the "most trustworthy" and "company you'd most like to invest in" categories among Fortune 100 companies in a survey of more than 10,000 U.S. adults conducted by SurveyMonkey. Conversely, the lack of focus on delighting from a reliability/efficiency perspective can destroy the impact that emotion-driven experiences can have. A great meal at a Michelin-rated restaurant won't lead me back to the place if I had to wait a long time before my meal arrives. Because no matter how much I enjoyed the food, the overall experience is hampered because I don't want to have to wait to eat it.

It's great to think of the possibilities modern technologies like IoT and digital assistants present to us in terms of generating awe-inspiring moments for our customers. But it's hard to consistently produce those types of responses on an on-going basis, as expectations are always adjusting upward, at seemingly accelerating rates. So constantly trying to delight on the emotional-driven high end could lead to unintended negative consequences, especially if efficiency/reliability-focused delighting isn't constantly being improved. For me, a great meal consists of meat and potatoes first, then a nice tasty dessert to top it off. Having them both makes it great and getting them both without having to wait makes it delightful. Just like when I come home and see that package on my doorstep.