Or how Jimi Hendrix might guide your company through turbulent times

Let me take you back to a Monday morning half a century ago, in the fields of a dairy farm in Bethel, New York. It was a sunny morning and more than 400.000 people witnessed what is to this very day one of the most iconic performances in the history of rock. Into the third day of that rock festival, one man takes the stage and starts playing the National Anthem on his electric guitar. Then he starts throwing in bombing sounds and machine guns, twisting The Star Spangled Banner into the most violent noise ever devised on a guitar. That, back then, was his way to criticise the Vietnam war. The year is 1969, the place is Woodstock.

The man is Jimi Hendrix. Guitar God. Rock ‘n roll nobility pur sang.

The question he asks us on his first album always stuck with me: “Are you experienced?” Today, being able to answer that question is what may determine whether your company can out-weather storms like the one we’re in right now.

Online experiences in times of crisis

Fast forward to early 2020. Have you noticed how naturally we have incorporated online activities into our daily routines all of a sudden? Things that seemed impossible to virtualise a mere two months ago? My eight year old son has a meeting scheduled with his teacher tomorrow morning, via praatbox.be. My 77 year old mother now checks in with her children and grandchildren via Google Duo. My wife has replaced the gym with Madfit, a Youtube Channel. Tomorrow she has an online yoga class scheduled. Dinner will be served by Door 73 today, brought to us by Deliveroo.

It gets crazier. Covid-19 has accomplished what no Ministre of Justice has been able to achieve: Belgian Courts of law have entered the digital age. The Tour of Flanders was ridden virtually by some of the strongest riders out there (big ups for Greg Van Avermaet) and broadcasted live by the public broadcast service. Google Hangout even found its way into the royal palace.

However, not everybody copes well.

Webshop until you drop

On March 20, 26 of our Belgian retailers sounded the alarm bel. They literally begged us to buy at their webshops (instead of Amazon, AliExpress or Bol). Because if we don’t, their open letter said, tens of thousands, possibly more than one hundred thousand jobs are on the line. 
The letter further insists that you should do so, even if you — and I quote —“find it elsewhere cheaper, or they deliver it faster, or even if they offer a better search experience.”

Rarely I’ve seen somebody admit defeat so painfully. Let alone from 26 CEO’s of respected Belgian brands. Basically they are saying: “We know we are charging you more for the same product. But hey, that’s okay, because it will be harder to order and we’ll be delivering it later.”

And you know what? I did what they asked me to do. I bought 2 pairs of white sneakers at one of them, and 5 identical black T-shirts at another. I did so for the first time. Not because I particularly like the shops or the brands, but because I really do feel with those tens of thousands of people who could be my neighbours. And I ordered a football pump and gels from a French sports chain. The French webshop experience was okay, the Belgian shops… not so much.

The first delivery (the T’s) arrived 6 days later. The second 3 days after that. I’m still playing with a deflated football with my son, because more then 17 days after my order the pump still hasn’t arrived. Two of the webshops have sent me automated feedback mails to ask how I would rate them. I didn’t have the heart to reply. Because I don’t take pleasure into flunking companies who are struggling to survive.

In contrast, today I ordered some print paper at Coolblue. It was pretty much a 5 click experience: search, compare, order, pay. All in less then 3 minutes — including a change of address. It’ll be here tomorrow, they’ve already sent the confirmation and the shipping mail.

Coolblue rocks. 
Because they care about ROX.

ROX rocks

What went wrong? What is the difference between Coolblue and their Belgian counterparts? And why am I even prepared to pay more for the same print paper at Coolblue than I am willing to search for a cheaper competitor online?

Enter Customer Experience. The website is a delight to use. Search is easy and smart. Say you’re looking for a headset with a mic (because “hey, conf calls nowadays”), but you don’t know how that’s called? By the time you’ve typed “Hoofdt” autofill already suggests you’re looking for a headset. Responses are lightning quick. Feel lost? Ask an expert. Really, test it. There’s a real human being answering your questions in nearly real-time. Convinced? Add it to your basket. Pay — how easy are those QR codes nowadays? Set. Make sure to keep your distance when the courier drops your 2500 sheets of white double-sided print paper tomorrow. Smile.
Next time you want to order something online, chances are you’re going to check Coolblue first to see if they have it.

Now that’s customer experience. Why is Coolblue so good at it? Because they invested in the best Customer Experience they could possibly think of. And guess what: you can do that too.

All you have to do is start obsessing over ROX: Return On eXperience.
Simply put: put your money where the experience is. Now more than ever. And tomorrow even more so.

Are you experienced?

Think the above is just a random example? Let me throw some research at you if rock ‘n roll isn’t your thing. A study from PwC shows that one in three customers (32%) will walk away from a brand they loveafter just one bad customer experience. Translate that to the customer experience from the Belgian webshops.

How about loyalty? 40% of Gen Z — not exactly the most brand loyal target — say they will stick with a brand that gives them a good experience. And every generation is prepared to pay a premium price for a better experience. They’re willing to pay up to 18% more for a cup of coffee. How’s that for a wake-up call?

So unless you want to spend the rest of your days as a company fighting a race to the bottom (I wish you good luck with competing against AliExpress and Amazon), and unless you want to spend every single cent of your marketing dollars in acquisition of new clients (which you will have lost before you can say ‘and what the hell happened to redemption coupons?’), I suggest you seriously start investing in Customer eXperience.
And I suggest you let ROX be your guide in the process.

For those about to ROX

Say, for the sake of argument, you’re with me. You’ve seen the light. You are as convinced as I am that ROX is the holy grail of digital marketing. “Where do I sign?” you ask. And then you wonder: “So how do we get this thing started?”

Now here’s the tricky part. Whereas ROI is fairly straightforward and pretty easy to calculate, ROX is not one single-minded metric. It is a constant effort to give the customer a better experience throughout the entire journey. And about measuring that experience every step of the way. Wherever you detect friction (a high bounce rate, an overload of incoming calls to your customer service center, abandoned shopping baskets, delivery times that are simply too long), you look for ways to remove that friction and make it one smooth experience. One time, that could mean changing your digital platform entirely. Or you may have to rebuild your warehousing. Another time, you may need to rethink your content and the way people access it. Sometimes, you might get lucky and you just need to add Paypal as payment method.

To calculate the ROX to the bottom, you need to have a clear picture of 3 domains.
First you need to consider your Operational Costs (offices, receptionists, manual data input that can be automated,...). You may decide to switch bricks for clicks. And save on the number of FTE's that you may decide to reallocate to jobs that actually enhance the Customer Exprerience.You will also need input from your marketing department. How much is your Customer Acquisition Cost and what is his lifetime value? How can we lower the first and extend the second? Finally, you need to address the costs of your platform. Chances are, you don't have a Digital Experience Platform yet. So what will it take to make the switch? What's the cost of missing out and trying to tweak your current platform?

Do this exercise for every step along the entire customer journey and you know where your priorities are. Do this today rather than tomorrow. You’ll be rocking harder then ever.

Or, as Jimi Hendrix would put it: 
Let’s get you experienced.