How to avoid your customer experience becoming commoditised

Paul Taylor runs through three ways to avoid your customer experience being lost in a sea of sameness.

Paul Taylor 180Customer experience is the big marketing race of our time – and for good reason. A great experience drives loyalty and makes customers consider more than just price.

But if everyone is racing towards the same CX goal, what is to stop your experience becoming commoditised?

All brands in the race have experienced this. You make a change; your competitors make a change. You upgrade your customer service and your competitors upgrade even further. The struggle to stay ahead is real. But, how do you know if this commoditisation risk applies to you? And if it does how do you break the cycle? Here are three ways you can protect your customer experience from being a clone of your competitors:

1. Don’t use competitors as your only benchmark

Customer’s expectations are set by the services they use every day. They compare the experience you provide against Facebook, Uber and PayPal. This is the customer experience standard that you must (at least try) to live up to every day.

Only looking at your own industry accelerates the race to be the same as your competitors. Many ‘best practice’ reports provide recommendations for how to operate in specific industries. These are valuable as a starting point. But, just using your own industry as a benchmark isn’t ambitious enough to truly stand out from the crowd.

Avoid your brand being lost in a sea of sameness by recognising that customer expectations are universal. Your customers are asking ‘I can do this on Facebook, why can’t I do this with my bank?’

So if you are an insurance company looking to improve your claims process, don’t just study other insurance companies. Look at package tracking from DHL or even Domino’s Pizza Tracker to gain inspiration and differentiate the customer experience you offer versus that of your competitors.

2. Ensure your customer experience communicates your company’s purpose

What is your company’s purpose? Why does it exist? What is it here to do? If the answers to these questions don’t immediately come to mind, then it’s unlikely your customer experience will be distinct to your brand.

Providing a great and differentiated customer experience is dependent on whether customers receive a compelling and consistent brand experience, every single time, across any touch point.

It goes beyond just implementing whatever ‘best practice’ reports say you should do in your industry, and instead uses your unique value proposition as inspiration to provide an experience distinctive to your brand.

This isn’t easy. It involves doing hard work. Work out what your company’s purpose is first and then use this to genuinely connect with customers. It also involves aligning every staff member to the organisation’s purpose and ensuring that every customer interaction communicates your unique purpose in some way.

In the words of Coco Chanel ‘In order to be irreplaceable, one must always be different.’

Related: Does your CX include the jump offline in path-to-purchase? »

The advantage here is that if the customer experience you provide is distinct to your brand purpose, it can be owned. It cannot be copied by competitors who do not share the same purpose. Ever.


3. Embrace the idea you are never truly finished

In customer experience design you never get everything right 100% first time. Fact. The temptation when working on a large scale customer experience project is to pop the champagne corks at the end of the first release and move on to something new.

But, your new customer experience is becoming out of date and commoditised as soon as you launch. Your competitors are likely to copy and improve on all your enhancements whilst you are focused on your shiny new project. ‘Me-too-ism’ is rife, meaning that 18 months from now when you revisit your customer experience, it may have fallen badly behind.

Instead, embrace that you are never truly finished. Your design solution can always be improved upon. This spirit should permeate all activities post launch to continuously optimise the customer experience. Techniques such as A/B testing can help enhance the experience and turbocharge performance.

Everyone has heard the stats about Google making 800,000 deployments to production per day. This allows them to test and eliminate bad ideas, while keeping the good ones.

Even Kanye West has embraced this ‘never truly finished’ approach with his latest album, The Life of Pablo. Two updates to the album have been launched in the first 6 weeks of its release. As the album is streamed by the majority of listeners, Kanye is able to update it like a developer would update an app or a blogger might edit a post. Keeping up with Google is always a stretch, but keeping up with Kanye might be an option.

Many enterprise customer experience platforms are capable of automating this continuous enhancement in real-time on your behalf. This means your customer experience continuously improves without the need for complex development activities each time.

So don’t deliver a generic customer experience that gets lost in a ‘sea of sameness’.

Instead, put the work in to craft a unique customer experience. One that communicates your brand’s purpose in a compelling way at every touch point.

This is a big commitment. But the payoff in customer loyalty and defensible territory that your competitors can’t copy, is worth the investment.


Paul Taylor is national creative director – experience design, at SapientNitro.


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  • Hi Paul, it looks like you speak our language and happy to have a conversation about Silvertown, a new piece of London geared up for CX and a place where brands can differentiate through immersive spaces, design and animated architecture.

  • @naggingsue

    A good succinct read , this in itself puts into action the points made 🙂