May 27, 2016

Don’t improve. Rethink. Starting from the customer.

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As technology keeps evolving, the opportunities for making your customers’ lifes better keep growing. Making things easier, faster, simpler, cheaper, or exceeding expectations more regularly, digitalisation makes it possible. Sounds pretty straightforward, but in reality, this proves to be rather challenging. It requires organisations to question their approach and shift from inside-out to outside-in thinking.

Let me share some examples with you.

Long term relationship over short term revenue

Telecom operators know our communication behaviour. They know which subscription model suits our needs best.

  • In the past, they did not offer us an easy way to find out. We had to do the math ourselves. If we could find the numbers.
  • Later, they offered us a help line we could contact. A limited number of times. Sometimes they even charged for this service.
  • Today, some operators are proposing us to change our subscription model for the future based on our previous communication behaviour.

Those are valuable improvements, enabled by technology, but we can do better. What the customer wants is simple: the lowest price for his situation. Without having to think about it, without having to predict his future behaviour. Looking at things really from the customer’s viewpoint, operators should just invoice according to the cheapest subscription model for the past invoice period. Short term decrease in revenue? Yes. Long term increase in customer appreciation? Definitely. Long term improvement of the customer relationship? Big time.

Build loyalty through surprise and delight

Organisations have a lot of data about their customers, sometimes captured directly, sometimes indirectly, for example via social media. I recently was on an intercontinental flight during my birthday. So I spent most of my birthday in the air. The airline employees treated me well, just as they treated all other passengers well. But they could have known it was my birthday: the airline had my passport info. A spontaneous “Congratulations” would have been a friendly gesture. A free glass of champagne nice. A free upgrade to business class would have exceeded all expectations from my side at a very low cost for the airline. A missed opportunity to build a strong, personal customer relationship and strengthen my loyalty.

Pondering about this with my feet back on the ground, I switched my smartphone’s airplane mode off. Within seconds, I received a text message from my energy supplier, wishing me a happy birthday full of energy. It put a smile on my face. Small short term effort and investment, with potentially a long term effect.

You do not compete with your competitor

In this context, it makes sense to check how your competitors are trying to bring more value to their, and potentially your, customers, and to see how you can make a difference. However, your customer expectations today are not only based on the experiences they get from you or your competitors. Their expectations are based any experience they have, from any product or service they use. I don’t care about birthday wishes from my airline because other airlines provide this experience (I don’t even know if they do). I care about it because any random¬†supplier does it.

All providers, all products and services raise the customer experience bar for you. Not only your competitors.

You can see this as a threat, but it’s also a source of inspiration.

As digital transformation is an enabler, the real challenge, or opportunity, lies in using technology to make things better for your customer. This means not just improving what you already do. It requires re-thinking what you do from the point of view of your customers, putting your customers first and your organisation second.

How will you put your customers first?


  • Steven Van Belleghem’s book “When digital becomes human” is a good source of inspiration on customer experience in an increasingly digital world.

1 Comment

  • Follow-up example: we went swimming with our family last weekend. 19,50 Euros for one entry. But we were suggested to purchase a card that would allow us to swim twice for 30 Euros, valid until end 2017. That’s a 25% discount.

    The bar is being raised…

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