Growing up playing football, or soccer as it’s commonly referred to in North America, it was essential to look the part on the pitch. We wanted to wear the same cleats that football legends Pele, Maradona, Zizou, and Cruyff wore. Nike and Adidas enjoyed creating the brands that we all wanted. While I didn’t realize it at the time, rather than listening to our preferences, these brands told us what we should like. And, we did.
Then, product customization was introduced. NikeiD took off, and we were able to personalize our shoes to match our club team colors, place our initials and numbers on them, and make them ours (see photos of customized cleats). But, this is only the beginning. The future of footwear will provide custom-molded shoes to fit the unique shape of every foot. This idea debuted at the 2002 World Cup, where Brazilian footballer Rivaldo was the first player to do this with sporting goods manufacturer Mizuno.
Photos from www.nikeid.com, where you can customize your own footwear.
One of my favorite books is How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization by Franklin Foer, which takes a look at the product development of football footwear and gives us a good indication of where customer experience has been and where it is headed. For the longest time, companies have told us how we are to be treated. They set customer service performance metrics that drove employee behaviors and directly influenced our experience as customers. Those metrics drove, and continue to drive, efficiency, like the standard, off-the-shelf shoe.
But today’s customers expect the brands they do business with to go beyond providing great service. As a customer, I want personalized service that reflects my needs and expectations—not merely mirroring my communication style, using my name three times during a call, or managing the call service time within 300 seconds. Yes, I generally want quick, prompt service. Yet please ensure you’re super polite. You can place me on hold and skip the small talk, because I’m generally multitasking when I’m speaking to you and I really don’t want to talk about the weather or anything personal. There go traditional quality guidelines! Kindly get me the answer I’m looking for and let me get off the phone. And, rather than try to walk me through several steps to find a resolution online, please send me a direct link with the necessary information so that I can go through the steps myself.
However, these are the moves that get players only half way down the football field, and in order to be successful and live up to customer expectations, organizations need to deliver more personalized service. So, how do they do that? Here’s an idea. Customers should be able to select the type of service they want. They should be able to choose the communication channel (voice, email, chat, mobile) they want and select the performance metrics by which their service will be evaluated (i.e. quick service vs. take your time with me and walk me through everything thoroughly).
One industry that has nailed this is the hospitality industry. As a Hilton Diamond member, I’m able to select what I get in my hotel room when I check in and where I want to earn points. Star Alliance Gold is pretty good with my selected aircraft seat and food selection type. I’ve created profiles for my stays and flight selections, but what about when I call in? Why can’t my Canadian airline recognize that it’s me, know that I want a higher level of service, and then route me to associates who have personalities to match mine? Now that’s service! Or, at least have my communication expectations noted in my profile so the associate who takes my call is prepared to help me and tailor the experience to my predetermined preferences. The companies that start to personalize service the way they personalize their products will be light years ahead of their competition. They will be playing in their own league.
Another high-scoring play is revolutionizing the way companies measure their service employees’ performance. Associates cannot be held to standard efficiency metrics such as average call handling time and generic quality form scores. Instead, customer satisfaction, customer loyalty, adaptability, and customer confirmation will supersede the aforementioned efficiency metrics.
While we are not able to read tarot cards and predict who will win the next World Cup in customer service, we are able to look at other industry trends and customer expectations to see what we need to do in order to anticipate, be involved in, and succeed in the new world of customer experience. And, customers are being loud and clear. They want us to listen to them, understand their preferences, and then customize their experience accordingly, just like we customize their products. This is the future of customer experience, and companies that take the shot will score more goals and be the winners.