Products or Customer Experience: Which wins customers?

There’s a little coffee shop near me that I adore. It’s small, cozy and inviting. The aroma of freshly ground coffee greets me as soon as I open the door. The baristas are welcoming and friendly and have treated me like a regular since my first visit. They’re constantly buzzing around behind the counter brewing and blending, frothing and foaming to make delicious drinks for customers like me. There’s a vibe in the air that is comfortable and creative, yet caffeinated. Although the space is small, the tables are spacious, the chairs are comfortable, the WiFi is reliable and the electrical outlets are plentiful.

Needless to say, I love this place.

Did you notice I didn’t even mention the coffee? It’s quite tasty, by the way. But what really won me over is the experience this little shop has carefully crafted. It’s what drew me in for my first visit, why I keep coming back, and the reason I linger long after I’ve finished my beverage.

My experience is not unique and it’s certainly not limited to coffee shops. But it is something increasing in importance to companies around the world. Businesses are focusing more now on customer experience than ever before. As Tesco Chairman Sir Richard Broadbent says, “The company that provides the best relationship with the customer will win — not through product, but through the best experience.”

Why the shift?

Companies are losing the control they once had over their brands. As an article by ForeSee explains, “Customers hold all the power now with Web and mobile devices affording them the opportunity to change brands without a second thought and voicing their opinions about it through social media. As a result, retailers have come to realize that their best chance of long-term success is to provide a superior customer experience. And if they haven’t come to that conclusion yet, they really need to…and soon.”

Who’s getting it right?

Amazon recently topped the ForeSee Experience Index (FXI), which ranks customer experiences with top brands, and is regularly among the top winners of the National Retail Federation’s Customers’ Choice Awards. The company is recognized year after year with honors like these.

When asked about the company’s success, Amazon Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos said, “If there’s one reason we have done better than any of our peers in the internet space over the last six years, it is because we have focused like a laser on customer experience.” The company aims to make it easy for people to be their customers, which is exactly what they have found their target market wants.

Zappos is another well-loved brand that has benefitted from prioritizing the customer experience, despite the odds that are stacked against it is. Employees never see the customers. The company has no brick-and-mortar stores. They can’t control when, where or how people interact with the company. They don’t even make the products they sell. Yet they have found a way to create a customer experience that generates new customers every day and maintains strong brand loyalty. In fact, the company’s CEO, Tony Hsieh, literally wrote the book on customer experiences in Delivering Happiness.

How do Amazon, Zappos and other beloved brands achieve exceptional customer experiences? They realize that the success of their businesses depend on identifying exactly what their customers want and then delivering it really, really well. As a Forbes article about Zappos said, “The point is that while Zappos offers thousands of shoes and other products that appeal to a broad audience with diverse needs, their customers are able to easily customize their seemingly unlimited options into exactly what each of them needs and wants.”

Applying this philosophy to enterprise apps and software is critical, too. These tools and resources are extensions of your brand and whether they are internal (for your team) or external (for your customers), it’s important to craft a beautiful and engaging customer experience. At Maestro, this is why the first step in our development process is establishing thorough user personas and understanding what they want, need and expect from the software or app we’re building. When you build software up around the users it’s designed for, it will be more engaging to them and they will use it more often – and be happier when they do.
Whether you’re building an app or building a brand, without taking time to really dig into the preferences, motivations, frustrations, challenges and objectives of your customers, you’re limiting your chances of success. If my favorite little coffee shop hadn’t taken the time to understand my needs and what makes me happy as part of its target market, it wouldn’t be any different than the impersonal fast-food chain down the road. Instead, they carefully crafted an experience that I look forward to being a part of. Do you think your customers would say the same?

*You can read this post and many of my other articles at

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