The term Customer Experience (CX) is becoming increasingly recognised as a key focus area for organisations in creating a competitive advantage.

Rather than trying to force the customer to fit in with the organisation’s preferred way of doing things, a more sophisticated and caring approach is now required. Customers and their expectations have changed significantly, particularly with the advances in globalisation, technology, knowledge sharing, trends, disruption and an increased sense of immediate gratification and rapidity.

People now demand unique, tailored and human solutions. In addition, technology has enabled cheaper, faster and more flexible provision of outcomes and so consumers have come to expect instant and more affordable solutions. Thus the rise of organisations like Shoes of Prey and Mon Purse where customers can affordably co-create handbags and shoes so they aren’t exactly the same as everyone else’s; disrupting the likes of traditional fashion houses who have fixed product offerings, elitist price points and long lead times. Equally, there is an increasing concern for the environment, sustainable solutions, purpose and our global footprint driving trends around food, travel, investing and other consumer behaviours.

Within this context, there has been a recognition that being able to create unique, genuine and authentic experiences that solve customer pain points is a source of competitive advantage in winning customers hearts, minds and wallets.

What does the typical customer want? Firstly it is important to recognise that this is not a ‘generational/millennial issue’. All people want to be treated as though they matter and are respected in each area in their life – whether that be as a customer, employee, family member, team player etc. How does this translate into organisations creating a fanatically loyal customer base? By providing greater choice and control, seamlessness, speed, low cost and high value, quality, by providing thoughtful, regular but not overly intrusive touchpoints, instagrammable moments and to be above all human. No longer will inflexible organisational policies and processes that customers have to fit narrowly to be a measure of organisational success by leaders, shareholders and the media.

Thus there has been a significant power shift in recent years from organisations to customers (and employees). Those who remain either entirely complacent or don’t truly believe in creating a customer-centric organisation and embedding it in their DNA are ripe for disruption and will lose significant market share.

The CEO and executive team need to commit to taking the organisation on that journey of truly rewiring and transforming to become customer centric and it can really take 2-4 years to achieve that cultural change. All internal and external parts of the business need to be reviewed from the perspective of the customer journey and ensure that their processes are aligned to support that. Customer analytics and organisational metrics will support, drive and validate this change. This includes everything from the performance and reward systems through to how product design and manufacturing and client relationship management and branding to ensure the employees are mobilised around the customer’s needs. It requires commitment, discipline, persistence and patience but will deliver sustainable results and acceleration beyond the competition.

Companies that create exceptional customer experiences can set themselves apart from their competitors and achieve incredible results. Thus there is a significant power in understanding the experience your business is creating for your customers – and ensuring that it is delivering a thoughtful, caring and powerful touchpoint at every relevant opportunity to create competitive advantage through long-term customer loyalty.