Is Customer Experience the New Differentiator?

In many areas of commerce, it’s easy for customers to compare prices and for brands to price match, but trying to compete on price alone won’t give you an advantage.
The businesses that are facing the future with confidence are those that have grasped the importance of the customer experience. They are the businesses that people find it easy to do business with, rather than those that just strive to be the cheapest.

Likewise, a sector like construction – that already runs on wafer thin margins – cannot seek sustainable competitive advantage by cutting prices. This leads us nowhere.

The construction industry doesn’t talk much about customer experience. But I believe it will become the big differentiator in our sector. And to some extent this is already happening.

Customer experience is essentially a sum of positive behaviours and experiences – the things that people tend to remember long after projects are delivered and bills paid.

What do positive behaviours and experiences look like?

Imagine if we could replace:

  • Suspicion with Trust
  • Lack of Integrity with Respect
  • Self Preservation with Collaboration

The transformation starts with greater understanding of each other’s needs. This means looking at customer needs beyond what is stated in the ITT. And it also means respecting the needs of contractors for stability, cash flow and certainty.

In a truly collaborative environment, information sharing is a priority. There is complete transparency and there are no proprietorial attitudes to information.

Trust, respect, and putting the interests of the customer first are the hallmarks of the customer experience we need to create. Through this collaborative culture there can also be a sharing of benefits that may result from better solutions or increased productivity

Our customers don’t have the resources to deal with poor service. The defensive culture that seeks to protect interests through ever more complex contract clauses is also unsustainable. Instead they are seeking partners who can give them the confidence that the experience of working together will be mutually beneficial.

A greater focus on the customer experience has many advantages. For one thing, it means that price isn’t the only consideration. The other advantage is that the things you change to improve customer experience are also good for your business. It drives collaboration, innovation and process simplification, which have to be benefits in any organisation.

Nick Sterling, Managing Director of Osborne Communities, will be presenting and discussing more about customer experience within the construction industry at the Pellings ‘What’s next for procurement’ seminar on 28th September.

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