The Experience Gap: What It Is, and How to Avoid Falling into It

October 24, 2019 Nicole Sholly

You’ve probably noticed that marketing blogs are full of buzzwords: Personalization. Influencers. Hyper-personalization. Experience gap. Meanwhile, new tools are released into the marketplace seemingly every day. You figure you need to pay attention to both the new buzzwords and the new tools to stay viable, and that’s true. 

Thriving in today’s hyper-competitive marketplace depends on creating indelible customer experiences no matter what you’re selling or who to. Keeping up on the trends — whether that’s new tools or new concepts — is integral to creating unforgettably good customer experiences. But you can’t forget about the employee experience. If that fails, you can’t deliver good CX (or at least it’s a lot harder to do it consistently), and you’re left with an experience gap that results in a loss of value, first in customer engagement and then in sales.

The experience gap: A buzzword worthy of your attention

One way to delight customers is by creating seamless experiences for them. They move from channel to channel, interacting with your brand from any of a few devices of choice without missing a beat. They don’t want to reinvent the wheel on each device.

Your customers want and expect your brand to know them — their preferences and previous choices — and to remember what they might have been doing on another device, earlier today, yesterday, or even last week.

So you say, a-ha! “We’ll get Acme Auto-Marketer, the best piece of CRM software around, and we’ll truly WOW our customers with personalized touchpoints and <insert shiny new must-have feature du jour here>.” Just imagine your leadership’s reaction when you show the resulting numbers. ROI will be through the roof.

This is an awesome plan but fraught with potential challenges. 

Does that shiny new feature du jour fit in with how you do business? 

Does it meet a need your customers have? 

Will your team be able to integrate it into their daily workflow without too much interruption? 

If you can’t answer those questions, you might fall prey to (as so many others have done) focusing all your efforts on the implementation phase. 

You plug in Acme and sit back to watch the customer satisfaction ratings soar and the money roll in. In no time at all, you’re sure you’ll prove the incredible new software you just bet the house on was the right choice. 

This path poses a pretty big risk because true CRM success doesn’t quite happen like that.

Companies who focus only on implementing the new tools don’t realize the full value of their investment. Users fail to adopt. Operations never fully integrate. Companies are left with — can you guess what happens? — applications that failed to live up to their hype. 

In other words, customers aren’t wowed. Neither is your boss.

Acme Auto-Marketer software showed such promise, so what went wrong?

The thing is, you don’t go from implementation success to financial success unless you consider these two phases in between: user success (your employees) and operational success (the whole organization). When you ignore those two phases, the result is a loss in value — see that gap between the curved arrows? This value gap is where you fall short of your financial goals. 

You can’t close the value gap until you address the experience gap, and doing that requires shifting your mindset away from this one project and focusing instead on the bigger picture within your organization. You can’t make changes system by system without looking at how they all work together and overlap and affect each other — and how your people do work within those systems. 

Closing the experience gap relies on four pillars of success. All four require your equal attention. 

CRM Strategy the Four Pillars to Close the Experience Gap for Customers and Employees

Implementation Success: A project that’s on time and on budget

Delivering a project on time and on budget is a standard baseline, so implementation success, the first pillar, is about more than that. At this point, you’re focused on integrating the right technology at the right time; what that means for you depends on your business goals and truly knowing your customer.

User Success: A user-centric approach to change enablement

Choosing the right technology for your organization requires you to take time getting to know (if you don’t already) how your workers work. What does the end user’s daily workflow look like? Will new software have a positive or negative impact on that workflow? If you don’t drive user adoption through positive experiences and provide support to make the new platform the standard for everyone, you won’t reach user success.

Operational Success: Process improvements to help you do more faster

A likely reason you’re looking for a new piece of software is you want to help make your people more efficient. You want to streamline key processes, so your team can work smarter, not harder. Focusing only on your team and how they work gives you only a partial picture of what’s happening in your organization. How do departments across your organization work? How do they collaborate? Or, do the existing systems and processes hinder collaboration?

Financial Success: Show me the money

Following through on the previous three pillars can help you effectively implement the technologies, strategies, and solutions that increase ROI and lead to financial wins. Ignore those in-between pillars, and you can’t expect to achieve financial success. Pillars will crumble.

The best way to avoid the pillars from tumbling down around you is through a discovery phase (or Phase 0) that leads you to focus on each of the pillars, in a logical and methodical way. During the discovery phase, we partner with our clients to understand their goals and devise a strategy that makes sense for their organization.

To learn more about the discovery phase and Appirio’s four-pillar approach to driving long-term value, get in touch with an Appirio consultant today.

About the Author

Nicole Sholly

With two decades of writing, editing, and author coaching experience, Nicole has written on topics ranging from big data security to improving employee workspaces to how to be a better wordsmith -- for Rackspace, Office Depot, Macy’s, Social Media Today, and others. When she’s not writing, editing, or otherwise playing with words, Nicole enjoys reading them.

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