Customer experience – Getting the basics right


By Doreen DANSO

Customers’ expectation on speed, consistency and ubiquity of service delivery is changing very fast. To keep pace with these changes a lot of industries are turning to the adoption of technology as the solution.

Many businesses and industries are investing in various technologies to improve how their customers experience them, yet the desired outcomes are short of expectations.  Banking is one such industry that has adopted technology in its operations, yet majority of bank customers globally are not satisfied and according to a Global InfoAnalytics report in 2023, Net Promoter Score (NPS) for banks in Ghana was at -11.18%.

This implies that there are a greater number of bank customers who would not endorse their banks compared to those who would recommend them.  What should banks and other businesses do to improve on this? To attempt an answer, we need to go back to some basic questions: Who is a customer? What do businesses want from a customer?

The Oxford Dictionary defines a customer as a person who buys a product or service from a business. To remain profitable, a business needs to influence customers to decide to buy and continue to buy their products or services. The key words to focus on are: “person”, “buy”, “product or service”,” influence”, and “decide”. Let us unpack each of the key words:

“Buy” – this is the goal of relating to the customer. It is the end, and the means to this end needs to be carefully thought through and owned by the business, instead of being left to chance.

“Product or Service” – it must be fulfilling a certain need for the customer. Whether functional, emotional, or social, there is always a need a customer wants to meet with the product or service. It is typically not the end but a means to achieving an end. Understanding this “end” is crucial.

“Influence” – to influence is to be able to effect one’s action or behaviour. At the centre of this is information, and most importantly, how and where the information is shared with the individual we wish to influence.

“Decide” – in our attempt to make the customer purchase from us, we ultimately desire for them to decide in our favour. Given that a product or service is a means to an end, there is usually more than one means to achieve that end. Therefore, the customer must choose which means they prefer after many considerations, some consciously and others sub-consciously. How we understand these considerations is key to influencing the customer to decide in our favour.

Finally, and most importantly, “Person” – customers are humans with feelings, experiences, stories, ambitions, and aspirations. Even in B2B relationships, we are still dealing with individuals who run these organisations. We can build a world-class product or service that is highly functional or “gets the job done”, but under the hood are a lot of other factors that influence why a customer will probably choose a less functional product or service. A deep understanding and acknowledgement of customers as real people, with emotions and different life experiences and plans for their future, will truly revolutionise how we design products/services, processes and touchpoints that engender empathy, reduce friction, and truly influences the customer’s buying decision.

From the above, it is essential to consider the basic building blocks of truly understanding the “customer”. These are foundational and leveraging on digital technologies can be built on top of it. Without the strong foundation, other seemingly revolutionary technologies or strategies will always fall short of our desired business goals.

To codify these building blocks, various theories and frameworks have been developed by academics and industry players. From “Jobs To Be Done” (JTBD), created by Tony Ulwick and popularised by the late Harvard professor, Clayton Christensen, which focuses on businesses asking the question about why the customer is hiring their product or service and what “end” is the customer trying to meet with the product or service; Nudge Theory by Noble Prize laureate, Richard Thaler, which applies principles in behavioural economics to influence customers to make a desirable decision; and Customer Journey Mapping by Chip Bell and Ron Zemke, depicting the various customer touch points with the business, with the aim to minimise friction and influence the customer as a result.

Irrespective of which model, theory, or framework you choose and irrespective of the industry, the essence of who the customer is and what we are attempting to influence them to do must always be at the centre of it.

Internal processes can become more efficient with application of technology, improving the general product or service delivery. When customers interact with businesses, they leave tons of data in their wake. Using technology, this can be leveraged to further refine the process of understanding the customer and having a better product or service. The data can also be used for predictive analysis and to tailor personalised experiences for customers, enabling businesses to “surprise” customers with their solutions to their sub-conscious needs before they even become apparent. The use of technologies like AI-enabled chatbots and virtual assistants can significantly improve customer interactions by simplifying basic requests and providing quicker turnaround to certain inquiries by customers, reducing the emotional burden of “waiting” in line to speak to a customer service representative. AI-enabled CRM applications enable a unified system that empowers both the customer-facing employee and the customer to be more efficient and make interactions proactive and purpose-driven.

Technology can cause a seismic shift and give wings to customer experience, once the fundamental building blocks are in place. Businesses should focus on building the skill set of their employees in areas around empathy, behavioural economics, and design thinking to provide a solid foundation for its customer experience strategy.

The author is an experienced banking professional, a certified Retail Banker with passion for customer experience and people. She is currently the Manager, Commercial Client Service at Stanbic Bank Ghana.

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