Cut the crap - How to build experiences that truly matter

Frans Reichardt

February 26, 20248 min read

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In this article, CX thought leader Frans Reichardt urges CX leaders to shift from crafting momentary joy-inducing customer experiences to improving fundamental processes – streamlining customer journeys, ensuring transparent communication, and prioritizing employee engagement – that truly matter in the eyes of your customers.

"Very inspiring!", he wrote. A couple of months ago, I read a post on LinkedIn from someone who wrote that his daughter recently flew with Brussels Airlines. Just before boarding, she checked the results of her final exams online. She passed. As she boarded, she shouted enthusiastically down the aisle to a friend further down the plane: “I passed my exams!”  

During the flight, a flight attendant surprised her by serving her a glass of champagne with a napkin that read 'Congratulations – Success'. The father posted this story on LinkedIn and said it was 'a unique example of someone who does her job with passion and thus ensures a wonderful customer experience".

Table of Contents

Moments of happiness

A few days later, my fellow CX author and speaker Steven van Belleghem posted pictures of meals shaped like funny faces served to children in a Belgian hospital. Steven added: Algemeen Ziekenhuis Sint Dimpna , the chef prepares creative meals for the children who are staying there. By making the food more enjoyable, the children have moments of happiness during their otherwise scary and less enjoyable time at the hospital. Moreover, the children are eating more of their food, aiding their recovery process, helping them get better sooner. This small effort has a tremendous impact and adds an element of fun to the job of the kitchen team. Everyone benefits - it's a win-win situation! I absolutely adore this initiative!' 

Algemeen Ziekenhuis Sint Dimpna, the chef prepares creative meals for the children who are staying at the hospital.

Making customers' lives easier

I doubt if experiences like these truly add value to the customers’ lives. Don't get me wrong. I am not saying you shouldn't bring moments of joy into your customers’ lives. You should. These small moments of happiness might give your brand positive word of mouth and fuel enjoyable content on social media.  

I’m saying customers would benefit much more from sustainable improvements that make their lives easier and build trust in a brand.  

Balcony Concerts

Let me give you an example of what I mean by integrity, honesty, transparency, and consistency. During COVID-19, hundreds of thousands of older people in nursing homes and small-scale housing in my country were not allowed to receive family or friends for months. Not even their children or grandchildren to support them. Some housing corporations organized balcony concerts. The same housing corporations that organized those balcony concerts raised the rent with an annual rise of six percent, even though many of their customers, especially those who were self-employed and those who had jobs in the hospitality industry, catering industry or event industry, had lost their work and income. The balcony concerts were a painful display of a lack of proper customer care. The rent increase showed that the housing companies that organized fancy balcony concerts did not really care about the customers. Integrity, honesty, transparency, and consistency build trust. We all know of brands that have a lot to gain there. 

Fundamental processes

In today's highly competitive business landscape, customer experience has become a key differentiator. Brands increasingly invest in strategies and initiatives to enhance the customer experience, hoping to create loyal customers who will stick around for the long haul. Yet, many businesses seem to get caught up in superficial tactics and fail to address the fundamental processes impacting customer experiences. It's time for those companies to cut the crap and focus on making substantial improvements in processes that contribute to customer experiences that truly matter when it comes down to meeting customers' expectations, creating lasting customer satisfaction and building customer loyalty. 

Seamless customer journeys

First,  businesses must streamline their core processes to ensure seamless customer journeys. From the moment a customer interacts with a company, whether it's through a website, a physical store, or a customer service representative, every step should be designed to deliver a smooth and hassle-free experience. This means eliminating unnecessary steps, reducing wait times, and ensuring that the customer's needs are met efficiently and effectively.  

Clear and timely communication 

Furthermore, companies must prioritize transparency and communication throughout the customer journey. Customers should be kept informed about the status of their orders, the progress of their requests, and any potential delays or issues that may arise. Clear and timely communication helps manage customer expectations and builds trust and confidence in the brand. 

Happy and motivated employees

Another critical aspect that companies often overlook is employee engagement. Happy and motivated employees are likelier to go the extra mile to provide exceptional customer service. Therefore, your business must invest in training programs, empowerment initiatives, and a positive work culture that encourages employees to take ownership of customer interactions. When employees feel valued and supported, they are more likely to deliver exceptional experiences that leave a lasting impression on customers. 

Leverage customer feedback

In addition to these core processes, companies should also focus on leveraging customer feedback to drive continuous improvement. Regularly collecting and analyzing customer feedback helps identify pain points and areas for improvement. Companies can then use this data to make informed decisions and implement changes that address customer needs and concerns directly. 

'Wall of Shame'

An excellent example of a brand that uses customer feedback to enhance sustainable improvement is Upfront, a Dutch food company founded in 2019 that says 'Sincerity wins. Our logo stands for an open relationship between customer and producer. We put nutritional values and ingredients at the forefront of our product packaging, and our margins are public. If we can purchase cheaper from our suppliers, we always pass this on in the sales price.'  

Upfront's brand promise, in my words, is transparency. Their customer promise, in my words, is honesty. Transparency and honesty, in my words again, gain trust.  

A few months ago, Upfront posted a picture of its 'Wall of Shame' on LinkedIn. The picture shows a wall in the Upfront office covered with bad customer reviews. Upfront says, “On our website, customers leave different types of reviews. Unfortunately, not only positive. Companies often filter out these reviews, or customers are asked (for a fee) to adjust or remove reviews. Not Upfront! Our product development team prints reviews with less than four stars each week and hangs them on the wall beside their desk. Only when the underlying problem has been solved can it be thrown in the trash, and until then we look at it every day! To everyone who has (had) a spot on our wall: we're sorry and we're going to do better!”  

Wall of Shame

I love it. 

How to build customer experiences that truly matter 

If your brand wants to build customer experiences that truly matter, that are sustainable and will drive growth, focus on these five areas of improvement: 

1. Focus on customer processes

CX professionals should analyze and streamline the customer journey by identifying pain points and bottlenecks in the current processes. They can use techniques like process mapping and customer journey mapping to identify areas for improvement. By optimizing processes, they can ensure a smoother and more efficient experience for customers. 

Examples of processes in which you find pain points and room for improvement are your customer's search, order, quotation, invoicing, contract renewal, and return processes. 

2. Focus on customer service - including self-service

Providing customers with self-service options can significantly enhance their experience. You should invest in developing user-friendly self-service portals, knowledge bases, and chatbots that can handle common customer queries and issues. By empowering customers to find solutions independently, you can improve customer satisfaction and reduce the need for customer support interactions.  

How to craft a winning customer service strategy using self serve

 3. Focus on online

With the increasing reliance on digital channels, you should prioritize enhancing the online customer experience. This includes ensuring a user-friendly website, easy navigation, fast-loading pages, and secure online transactions. Customer data will help you personalize your communication and provide relevant and targeted content, offers, and recommendations.  

4. Focus on mobile

Mobile devices have become integral to customers' lives, so you should prioritize optimizing the mobile experience. This involves creating responsive and mobile-friendly websites and apps that are easy to navigate and provide a seamless experience across different devices. They should also leverage mobile-specific features like push notifications and location-based services to enhance engagement and deliver personalized experiences. 

5. Focus on technology 

You should keep up with the latest technological advancements and leverage them to improve the customer experience. This may include implementing customer relationship management (CRM) systems, data analytics tools, and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to gain insights into customer behavior and preferences. By leveraging technology effectively, you can deliver personalized experiences, anticipate customer needs, and provide proactive support. 

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In conclusion, instead of focusing on small moments of joy, CX professionals should focus on substantial improvements in processes that contribute to customer experiences that truly matter. Superficial tactics may provide temporary boosts, but long-term success lies in streamlining core processes, prioritizing transparency, and communication, engaging employees and leveraging customer feedback. By taking these steps, your business can create exceptional customer experiences that drive loyalty and set you apart from your competition. 

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