Customer experience, sometimes also referred to as consumer experience or user experience, has become a decisive factor of business performance. Access to technology is rarely major challenge anymore. Likewise, many enough are good enough in execution. Customer interface is the remaining arena for innovation and differentiation. Customer interface is also the place where brand is being strengthened or weakened. By the way, I like the expression “customer experience” much more than “customer interface” because the experience is created everywhere below the interface although it manifests itself in the interface only.
“We ignore obvious opportunities because we are so focused on envying others.”
Customer experience is something people create in direct or indirect interaction. This is true also in the digital age because all digital services have ultimately been designed for human beings by human beings. Values and beliefs of those human beings affect the quality of customer experience profoundly. Japanese customer experience is different from a British or German customer experience. Customer experience created by Apple would be very different from customer experience created by Audi even if they were both making cars. To put it simply: customer experience is a product of culture, like it or not.
Customer Experience in Different Cultures
Being a Finn, I found it tempting to contemplate what kind of customer experience our national culture fosters and what would characterize it. I think our culture is very similar to Donald Duck. We are rather innovative, sometimes on our own, sometimes with the help of some kind of Gyro Gearloose. We tend to create plenty of brilliant solutions that lack a problem. We perceive business a zero-sum game. We ignore obvious opportunities because we are so focused on envying others. Sometimes, however, we score big time. When that happens we start to repeat and exaggerate our recipe of success until it turns into a major catastrophe.
On the contrary, Mickey Mouse, an archetype of America, is curious, innovative, agile, risk-taker and problem solver. How about Gladstone Gander, often associated with the Swedes in my country? He is enormously lucky because he is focused on believing he is.
“Customer experience is a hostage of culture.”
Mickey’s story is about adventure, Gladstone’s story is about luck, and Donald’s story is about envy and failure. Each of them keeps telling their own story to themselves. That shapes their behaviour. Most important, it shapes the way they treat others. Therefore, it shapes how others think about them.
Change Your Culture before Your Customer Experience
The customer experience we create defines how our customers think about us. But it is a loop: the way our customers think about affects their interactions with us and, ultimately, our beliefs about ourselves. Our beliefs shape our behaviour and, again, our customers’ experience on us.
Customer experience is a hostage of culture. To credibly change your customer experience means that you need to change your culture. As culture is a result of one’s own beliefs, the best way to change your culture is to invite your customers to change your beliefs rather than strengthen them.