In recent years we’ve heard a lot about customer experience (CX) being the new marketing battlefield. All the opinions and data reinforce this notion. Gartner surveys, for example, suggest that more than two-thirds of companies compete mostly on the basis of CX today, and the percentage is growing. Indeed, by next year, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator, according to Walker, a business-to-business consulting firm.

Whether a bold statement like that holds up in the telecom business is up for debate. Some would argue that if your tech works, you don’t “touch” customers that much so CX isn’t as important as product, price and reliability. Others contend that in today’s business environment, a heavy focus on CX is imperative regardless of the frequency of customer touches; in fact, that it’s critical to success and continued growth in the telecom industry because it’s the only durable advantage.

We’re in the latter camp.

After all, telecom customers are notoriously disloyal. Millennials, in particular, are fickle and cost-conscious. For them (the largest generation in the U.S. labor force), great products, pricing and reliability are simply table stakes. Their expectations for CX are much higher than older generations.

Looking at CX More Broadly

Forrester’s 2019 US Customer Experience Index (CX Index), a study of customer experience for 260 brands in 16 industries, reveals that most firms are about “average” for CX. Roughly two thirds of firms are rated “okay.” About 16 percent get “good” or “poor” ratings. A small percentage get “excellent” or “very poor” ratings.

The results for two brands in the annual benchmark study caught our interest.

The Whole Foods CX Index score is up 3.6 points, a big increase. That tracks nicely with a reported 16 percent increase in foot traffic and roughly 6 percent increase in sales during the first quarter.

This is impressive considering there was a lot of speculation about how Amazon – a data-driven company with a focus on being fast, cheap and efficient – could corrupt Whole Foods’ culture and impact CX. It was going to be a culture clash and total fail!

Turns out price cuts and considerable digital-physical integration, such as letting customers order Whole Foods products online and get free two-hour delivery through Amazon Prime, among other actions, has positively impacted customer loyalty.

Southwest Airlines, on the other hand, suffered a CX drop of 2.9 points. It wasn’t the perennial CX leader’s fault. The company is the biggest US customer of Boeing’s troubled 737 MAX aircraft. When the FAA grounded the 737 MAX, Southwest canceled 100+ flights per day, forcing it to bump passengers more frequently. That didn’t sit well with customers. And, of course, the PR hit was enormous.

Bringing It Closer to Home

As Forrester’s Harley Manning puts it, the Southwest Airlines trouble is “a wake-up call for any brand that loses sight of the fact that they are part of a customer experience ecosystem that includes suppliers, partners, employees and customers.”

He adds that the important lesson we should learn from an ecosystem master like Amazon is this: You need to own your customer’s success.

And that’s what we do at Precision. We will never lose sight of how our systems and performance impact our clients. In fact, our very purpose is to help clients serve their end-user customers well and be wildly successful. That’s what drives us to be the best back-office and billing SaaS provider in the business.