Journal 1/2015

The customer experience is the new “competitive battlefield” if we are to believe Gartner’s outlook for 2015 and beyond. Traditional ways to competitive advantage, such as product or business model innovation, are expected to have decreasing effect while improving the customer experience is reckoned to be the only way to build and maintain brand loyalty in a hyper-competitive business environment.

Whether this turns out to be the whole truth or not, it is undeniably important to understand what the customer experience is all about in the first place.

Toni: “Customer experience has become a bit of a buzzword recently. No matter where you look it’s something most companies are talking about openly. But why should anyone care?”

Tuomo: “One reason for this growing interest in the customer experience is the digital revolution and its related business models. Today, it is increasingly hard to win customers’ loyalty when unprecedented levels of transparency make it easier for customers to see the benefits of alternative solutions and service providers.”

Toni: “So everybody wants to tilt the playing field for their own advantage?”

Tuomo: “Yes, everybody wants to influence the decision-making. The customer experience is about acknowledging that our customers are each individuals with their own feelings, which will affect the way they make decisions. Improving the customer experience is about generating business by influencing the customer’s decision-making.”

Susanne: “Exactly! And everyone in the company has customer responsibility. For true success, it's important to see customers as individuals and understand their experiences. Simply by listening a little more, you will gain insights that can be mutually beneficial and a basis for moving forward.”

Tuomo: “I agree. Taking the customer experience seriously means it has to be at the centre of all operations, and that is very hard to do in a real business environment.”

Toni: “And it’s not just B2C where emotions play a role. We conducted a study last year and found out that the two most important expectations from our customers when making a vendor selection were trust and caring – both very much emotional factors. Only after those two clear winners came rational things like reliability and speed.”

Tuomo: “It is still quite common to think that corporate clients are all rational and fact based. This, of course, is a gross generalization. Perceptions of value and therefore expectations include not only financial and functional dimensions but also immaterial and emotional ones. The last two are not always easy to point out, making it much more challenging to form meaningful and lasting relationships.”

Susanne: “That’s true for Mälarenergi’s customers as well. Price is important but service is becoming more and more important for our customers. That’s where we want to walk the extra mile and exceed our customers’ expectations.”

Toni: “For us this is true as well. It seems operational excellence is needed to keep us in the competition but it's definitely not enough to take us in the pole position. That requires us to play a closer role as a partner with our customers and constantly help them to develop their processes and services.”

Tuomo: “In general, improvements often focus on the functional aspects and very little on the immaterial and emotional. Maybe we should look at things from a different perspective and start from these in order to discover areas which are really valuable to our customers.”

Toni Paloheimo, Head of Service Design, OpusCapita. Toni Paloheimo has been nominated to lead the activities that focus on reviewing every detail of customer feedback and expectations and adjust the operations to deliver accordingly.

Tuomo Ketola, Service Designer, Palmu. Palmu is a service design agency with over 50 professionals helping customers – from start-ups to international corporations – to develop their service business and design new service concepts.

Susanne Hedlund, Unit Head, Mälarenergi AB. Mälarenergi is a Swedish energy company offering both private and corporate customers heating, electricity, water and broadband solutions and related services. The company has approximately 580 employees and a turnover of SEK 3 billions.

Published in OpusCapita Journal 1/2015.
Read the whole magazine here

READ ALSO the greetings from a customer experience guru from Silicon Valley in OpusCapita Journal 2/2015: Go below the surface! [add a link to the Journal article file “Journal-2-2015-idean-web”]