CEOS take note: The pandemic has brought about a fundamental shift in what customers see as your ‘product.’ 

The mistake we see a lot of companies making is they treat their product and CX as two different things, when in fact CX is the product. The CX community and trend forecasters have touted CX as being the number one differentiator over price and product since 2020, and while this is true, I believe these last 20 months have inspired a fundamental shift in the customer’s idea of product. If we look at what the insights are telling us about customer behaviour and how it’s changing, companies can’t afford to be separating their product or offering from CX efforts. Moreover, CEOs can no longer be removed from the CX process. They have to be the main drivers of  a CX strategy if it’s going to have any real meaning in an organisation’s output.


How product and experience are intertwined 

An interesting conversation to come out of our recent CX Masterclass was around the disconnect between expectation and experience. While a client’s expectations may have been met in terms of the product or offering, it does not necessarily imply they had a good experience. This divide is a result of the product being measured based on meeting the client’s expectations only and not against the holistic experience. What does that mean exactly? Well, if you’re just going by expectation, you’re only concerned with giving your client the product or service they paid for (e.g., taking out a specific insurance policy). But that’s not enough anymore. Your client can get a similar, if not the very same product elsewhere. It’s their interaction with the product or offering that determines whether or not they will be a repeat customer.

Sticking with the insurance policy example, to truly deliver a good ‘product,’ you would need to ask yourself if the communication was clear throughout the process? If the broker was pleasant to deal with? If he or she was knowledgeable about the policy being sold? If he acted within in the best interests of the client etc.

Do you see how product and CX can essentially become one? This synergy is what today’s customer wants. The pandemic has forced companies to not only jack up digital transformation, but also step up their personalised marketing efforts, and become more transparent in their communication. Getting this right requires going beyond just the functionality of a product or service, so you’d be remiss to think that customers are going to expect anything less than a seamless holistic experience as we head into the ‘post-pandemic years.


Why pick on  CEOs? Don’t they have enough on their plate? 

Only a few short years ago, the key to business success was having the best quality product on the market at the most affordable price. However, today, this will only get you so far. CX has changed the game completely, and the companies that are winning the game have cottoned on to the fact that their clients want more, they understand that they want to do business with companies that go the extra mile, and that provide them with value through authenticity and connection.

According to a 2021 report by Deloitte, a study of almost 2,500 end-users in April this year, found one in four people will walk away from companies they believe acted in self-interest. The reason this is so significant is that it ties directly into how customer-centric an organisation is or is not. CEOs who are still operating on a price and product first business model will have a very limited view of what makes their clients tick, and in turn, so will their employees.


The misalignment of KPIs

What I find is that too many CEOs preach about how they prioritise CX, but if you go down the food chain, heads of departments and employees are operating according to very different KPIs. For example, the procurement departments of a lot of bigger corporates act as their profit centres and are usually offshore. They aren’t aligned with a bigger ‘customer-centric picture, all they are concerned about is squeezing every last penny they can out of their customers. They’re looking only at the numbers on the sales sheets. Where is the customer in all of this? Putting the customer’s interests ahead of your sales target requires a certain level of CX maturity, and that folks is a gap I believe needs to be filled by the CEO. If the CEO is not living and breathing customer-centricity, how can you expect it from employees and external suppliers?

Ironically, in a recent poll we ran on Linkedin, we asked which department head should be responsible for driving the CX strategy. An overwhelming majority listed the CEO as the man for the job….BUSTED! Even those in your very own company are looking at you Mr/Ms. CEO to lead the CX way. And if you’re going to make it through the aftermath of the covid storm, you’re going to have to be the glue that holds the CX strategy together. More importantly, you’ll need to ensure that CX has a very prominent seat at the table alongside both price and product.