“Our DNA is as a consumer company – for that individual customer who’s voting thumbs up or thumbs down. That’s who we think about. And we think that our job is to take responsibility for the complete user experience. And if it’s not up to par, it’s our fault, plain and simply”.  –  Steve Jobs

I love the term ‘customer experience’ and the industry it has spawned. Happy to be corrected, although hasn’t retail always been about the customer experience?

I certainly understand we invest into the psychology and methodologies of understanding customers at the most intimate detail. Certainly this science of consumer understanding has evolved well past what many practitioners nominate and that big data analytics, neuromarketing, archetypes, and other advanced approaches enable a far more intimate and powerful insight into our consumers with more to come.

However, let’s translate this customer experience for a moment into the retail ‘in the trenches’ customer experience from ambivalent staff, out of stocks, deliveries that don’t arrive to head offices that can’t be contacted. (Is it just me or has the advent of online retailing and websites that don’t enable customers to ring and talk to their retailer a million miles from the CEO’s phone is always there for customers?)

Do you recall the ground breaking “moments of truth” by Jan Carlson? Simply, said he noted as the then CEO of SAS Airlines that every transaction between a customer and the retail experience was a moment of truth . The make or break for that brand promise.

Consider this in conjunction with an internal customer TQM focus and now we live in the age of the new ‘customer experience’. Isn’t it really the aggregation, in the retail day to day, of the moments of truth both to internal and external customers that is the true measure of the customer experience ?

Our mystery shopping division, by way of example, consistently shows us that variability on results indicated variability in customer experience. Out of stocks (which are often the unsung customer turn off ) are often in double digit percentages at any given time.

So what does this say? Essentially that the alignment between the customer experience design and the actual in field customer experience must be in complete unison.  Anything less is the customer inexperience.

First published on Inside Retail on 1/07/15