In both BtoC and BtoB transactions, the right offer and the right price no longer guarantee customer loyalty. The key variable today is the “customer experience”, a concept devised over fifteen years ago to describe the bulk of perceptions amassed by a customer over the course of his or her relationship with a brand. A 2015 survey by Accenture estimated that the customer experience is now one of the strategic priorities for an overwhelming majority of businesses (86%). But the same survey also highlighted that fewer than one in four firms (23%) take the necessary measures to realize effective programs for optimizing customer interactions. The end result is that in France alone the “volatile customer” market (the potential revenue linked to changes in consumption patterns and consumer defection rates) reached € 223 billion in 2014, an upturn of 11% since 2010.
DECIPHERING THE EXCEPTIONAL CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE
What factors generate total customer loyalty? The answer lies in two words: individuality and simplicity.
Consumers do not want to blend into the collective any more. They long to stand out from the crowd and have their uniqueness recognized, hoping that self-promotional tools (particularly social networks) will make them feel special. Customers are not intent on looking for the best service: they want the service that is most like them, even if it means helping to design it themselves. The buzzwords today are personalization, tailoring, do-it-yourself and “clienteling”, a new marketing trend from the luxury sector that uses a sophisticated CRM approach to deliver highly-customized services. Consumers do not buy products any more: they purchase services and advice. They do not want a trip but yearn for a “cultural experience”; they do not want shampoo but rather a “care experience.” In this new context, traditional sales pitches can no longer compete with feedback left by countless communities (online or otherwise).
The ongoing search for simplicity
Another essential ingredient in the customer experience is multichannel marketing. Most consumers do not want to have to choose between face-to-face and digital or between desktop and mobile. They expect to switch from one to the other without a moment’s thought, and even to operate in the two worlds simultaneously. Fluid and seamless, these new relationships reflect a fundamental trend: an aversion to effort.
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Based on, inter alia “The Value of Customer Experience Quantified”, Webinar of Peter Kriss , (hbr.org, 2015), “Retail’s Future: Where Customer Experience and Employee Engagement Converge”, Eric Feinberg , (Foresee, 2015), “Une entreprise plus efficace grâce à l’expérience employé”, Bertrand Duperrin (www.duperrin.com, 2015) and an interview with Abubakr Safashatri, Marketing & Communication Manager EAU, Marriott International, Dubaï.