How giving customers a better experience can build competitive advantage [Q&A]

happy customer

In a highly competitive world businesses can struggle to make themselves stand out from the competition. One of the ways they can gain a competitive edge is by providing a better customer experience.

But what does this mean in practice and how can organizations build better experiences? We spoke to Ross Freedman, co-founder and CEO of customer experience agency Rightpoint to find out.

BN: What should businesses prioritize to deploy technology throughout their organization and create flawless experiences?

RF: Technology, of course, is the number one enabler of experiences, however, the best and most updated technology does not necessarily equate to providing the best experience. A deliberate and strategic vision aligned with user needs should be the catalyst to tech choices. One place that businesses should start is with an upgraded digital workplace. By prioritizing how employees communicate and share information, a company’s overall business will be positively impacted. Business maturation won’t happen without buy-in from your employees, so prioritizing their experience and the technology that they use to get their job done will lead to more positive experiences for consumers and clients.

BN: Why is embracing design critical to staying competitive, no matter what your industry?

RF: Companies that embrace design perform better than their competitors who don’t embrace it. If companies want to remain competitive, they need to combine their technology capabilities with design to create memorable events for everyone who interacts with them, including consumers, prospective customers, employees and partners, for every portion of their journey. These events, and the memories that come from these events, result in the product: the experience.

BN: How can businesses think beyond a quality product or exceptional service and focus on experience as a key differentiator?

RF: Experience is becoming one of the largest key differentiators for businesses. It's a way that companies can stand out and go a step beyond a quality product or exceptional service. Figuring out how to become experience-led will be different for every company, but there are a few main things that any company, no matter the industry, need to focus on in order to get there.

Companies need to start by changing the way they think. Experience companies change their focus from an inside-out way of thinking to an outside-in mindset, which thinks about the customers’ needs first and then works backward from there. When doing this, these companies can’t just assume what a customer wants. Instead, they need to conduct qualitative and quantitative research to understand as much as they can about what customers, and future customers, are looking for from the company.

The next thing companies need to do when shifting focus to experience is to communicate and be transparent. If a company’s leadership team is open about their goals and strategies with employees, they'll be more likely to buy-in and help with the shift. When possible, communication and transparency are the best way to go when restructuring a company’s business model to focus on experience.

Lastly, employee experience should not be ignored. Back of the office and behind the scenes experiences are just as important as client-facing experiences. Companies should think of their employees like they're customers, and create memorable and seamless experiences for them to more effectively do their work.

BN: Is internal employee experience just as important as customer experience?

RF: In a word: yes. When you prioritize employee experience and engagement, they will become your biggest brand advocates. On top of that, if you make it easier for employees to communicate and work internally, that efficiency and positivity will lead to better and more effective client communication. The tools that employees use should do more than just get the job done. They should improve the work experience for employees and enhance personal connections among co-workers.

BN: How should organizations listen to their customers to best identify where opportunities exist to create seamless experiences?

RF: It's important that organizations devote time and energy into the process of listening to customers. They should conduct qualitative and quantitative research of their customers to get a better sense of what they need. After listening, these companies need to take the actions determined by the research and implement what they learned to improve experiences for their customers.

BN: Can you give us an example of how a company has led with experience?

RF: COVID-19 brought the world to a standstill, but cancer stands still for no one. After 11 years of phenomenal fundraising success, Pelotonia, a nationally recognized grassroots philanthropic organization, found themselves in the difficult position with a multi-day bike ride event that routinely attracts more than 8,000 riders.

Because the cancellation of all large gatherings was a completely unexpected turn of events, Pelotonia needed to develop an entirely different approach for their fundraising efforts—a digital experience that would connect, inspire and empower their participants, volunteers, donors and the Pelotonia community at large.

Despite the unexpected disruption of the pandemic, Pelotonia was able to not only adapt quickly to the immediate situation, but also to take important steps in their ongoing journey of digital transformation. Pelotonia not only transformed a purely physical event into an all-new digital experience, but also broadened opportunities for participation with a digital platform and personalized goals. By leading with experience, My Pelotonia allows Pelotonia to expand their reach, bringing their vision and mission to a larger audience than ever before.

Photo CreditAntonio Guillem / Shutterstock

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