The Six Disruptors of Customer Experience


by Ron Kaufman

Uplifting Service is a global education and consulting company. We help leaders and companies all over the world achieve two primary outcomes:

 First, improve your customer’s experience – to help you attract customers, keep customers, generate solid business results, and maintain a positive reputation for service.

Second, build a strong and sustainable culture that provides a great place to work, for everyone who works in or with your organization.

Today, these outcomes are becoming more difficult to achieve, and more important because of six trends, six big changes that are disrupting the expectations of customers and the delivery of great customer experiences.

This article will give you an insight into each of these Six Disruptors, and will point you towards the skills and the culture you must build to succeed with your customers, your company, and in your career.

These Six Disruptors are not coming in a nice sequence that you can surf one at a time. Nor are they coming in a neat order that you can plan to address one by one.

These Six Disruptors are colliding and crashing into the world simultaneously, and they are affecting everyone: companies, customers, industries, countries, and individual service providers.

The Six Disruptors of Customer Experience in this presentation are: Commoditization, Digital Transformation, Changing Business Models, Complex Service Ecosystems, Changing Customer Expectations, and Changing Workforce Expectations.

Before we go any further, let me introduce you, or remind you, of our definitions of Service and of Service Excellence.

We define Service as taking action to create value for someone else; this could be a customer or a colleague.

And we define Service Excellence, as taking the next step UP to create more value for someone else.

These definitions are important, because implementing these provides a clear path through the Six Disruptions to achieve customer success, cultural success, and your success.

Let’s look at these Disruptors one at a time, and see why this understanding about Service Excellence is so essential to succeed.

The first disruption is Commoditization. 
This means that very similar products and services are available from companies other than you. Price war often follows, which is not a good place to be.

Competition, globalization, and widely available delivery systems makes a differentiated customer experience more difficult to achieve, and more necessary for you to stand out.

And this being different cannot be just once. Your ability to continuously step up, stand out, and add more value is essential if you are going to earn higher margins from premium pricing and from repeat business.

Consider the situation in retail. Not only is your competitor right next door, but online shopping makes being better even more important.

The same is true for business to business, where your innovations in equipment, supplies, or standards will be noticed and can be quickly copied by your competitors.

So what is needed?

In response to Commoditization, a great customer experience is more important, your service reputation is more important, and the value of your brand is more important.

You cannot be satisfied with just doing what you did the last time, or doing what everyone else can do.

You must always be looking for new ideas and new actions, so you can take another step UP to create more, different, and better value. Remember, Service Excellence is taking the next step up to create more value for someone else.

The second Disruptor of Customer Experience is Digital Transformation.

This is the enormous shift that all of us are experiencing from analogue products…to digital products, with rising customer expectations for convenience, quality, and speed.

Or the dramatic change from manual services that have been delivered face to face…and will now be delivered with automated, autonomous, and artificial intelligence enabled platforms, applications, and devices.

Consider the financial services industry, where we are experiencing a complete transformation from physical cash…to convenient credit cards and debit cards…to integrated, seamless, and personalized services on our mobile phones…and to new ways of completing financial transactions with biometrics, and blockchains.

In this environment of rising technology and digital transformation, some people claim the human factor in service is less important.

But the opposite is actually true, because it is people who create, program, and maintain technology.

It’s people who design interfaces and shape the customer experience.

It’s people who encourage, explain, and assist other people to adopt new technologies.

And it’s people who respond to help and recover whenever problems occur.

Digital transformation is not to be feared or avoided. It must be embraced by you, your colleagues, and your service culture.

You’ve got to use digital transformation and make it work better to serve your customers, improve your company, and grow in your career.

The third Disruptor of Customer Experience is Changing Business Models.

New ways to serve customers and create value are being imagined, invented, and implemented all over the world.

You may be the disruptor, breaking in with a new business offer.

Or you may be the disrupted with your legacy systems, and all your existing standards and procedures.

In this world of Changing Business Models, winners will be agile organizations that can quickly create more value for customers.

Consider the sharing economy which is disrupting taxis, and hotels, and office space…and bicycles.

What is needed to succeed in the face of this Disruption is an unrelenting focus on customer experience, and not a rigid attachment to following procedures, ensuring compliance, and achieving KPIs.

Procedures, compliance and KPIs are important, but what is MORE important is finding ways to simplify procedures, ensuring compliance and convenience, and making sure your KPIs are tied to what your customers really want to achieve.

In a world of changing business models, you must think outside the box, generate new ideas, and build a culture that is willing to try new ideas, and take new actions to create more value.

The fourth Disruptor of Customer Experience is Complex Service Ecosystems.

What does that mean?

Multiple partners across multiple channels all working together to provide service value to the same shared customer.

Consider the telecommunications industry.

You go online to compare new phone devices. Then you go to a store to try and buy a phone. Then you activate a plan from a one of the phone network companies.

Then you use an app on the phone to customize how your data is consumed.

If you have a question you visit the website for product information, or you use the support forum, or you ask a question in the chat box.

And if you still need help, you reach out to the contact center and talk to a hopefully helpful human.

Now how many different companies, channels, and partners are involved here?

The device manufacturer, the reseller, the phone company, the app designer, the website manager, the online forum moderator, the chat box responder, and the call center agent.

All that complex business eco-system for you and your one phone. So what does it take to succeed in this environment?

In complex eco-systems, successful service providers keep everyone focused on the one outcome that matters most: creating a great experience and great value for the customer.

Everyone else is inside the company, between companies, or between departments, is a service partner.

Service partners in complex systems collaborate to make work for the real customer.

And who is that? The person who can take their business somewhere else.

That means overcoming silos, crossing boundaries and building culture of Service Excellence inside and between organizations.

When everyone focuses on taking action that creates more value for the customer, then clarity of purpose will focus the complexity of systems to achieve a better customer experience, and more satisfied service providers.

The fifth Disruptor of Customer Experience is Changing Customer Expectations – from new customers, repeat customers, difficult customers, happy customers, upset customers.

You have younger customers, aging customers, and culturally diverse customers.

You have, we all have, customers with new values, different values, and changing values.

Consider the hospitality industry, where hotels first offered clean and fairly priced rooms, then rose to meet the expectations of more efficiency with easier check-in and faster internet connections.

Then rose to meet the expectations of greater variety with more brands and styles, and then with new experiences, like gourmet coffee machines in every room, and amazing in-house pools, spas, and exercise rooms.

And now the industry is stepping up again to deliver social rituals, personal transformations, expert workshops, unexpected adventures, and other unique cultural retreats.

Standing still in a world of changing customer expectations is a recipe for defeat and decline.

So what is needed to succeed?

Service providers who are curious and creative, who like to learn, and want to collaborate with customers and with each other.

Young workers curious about needs and concerns of aging population. Older workers who are curious about interests and aspirations of the young.

People from one country or culture who are learning respectfully about the values and cultures and practices of customers, and of each other in a diverse and connected global workplace.

You must build a culture of Service Excellence with leaders and team members who come to work asking “What can learn today?”, and “Who can I learn more about?”, “What new ideas can we create to serve our customers better?”, and then, “What new actions can we take to create more and better value?”

The Sixth Disruptor of Customer Experience is Changing Workforce Expectations.

In a world of generation XYZ, with a booming freelance economy and fast-moving portfolio careers, your company culture must attract the best talent, and develop the very best in every person you’ve got.

Just exchanging their time for your money won’t pay off with the younger generation. Just a salary won’t inspire them to add the extra value that you and your customers need.

What will work is building a culture where everyone understands the meaning of Service Excellence, and has the tools they need to deliver Service Excellence.

We know this works because we have helped so many companies make this work in industries and in countries all over the world. How does it work? How can you make it work?

First, use the Service Culture Indicator to get your Leadership Team aligned on the importance of improving service, on your top priorities for improvement, and in their commitment to building a culture of Service Excellence.

Next, organize Service Excellence workshops to teach everyone what Service Excellence means, and give them the tools they need to improve internal service and external service.

And then, build a sustainable culture of continuous service improvement with an approach that is proven and really works.

You can do this. And if you want, we can help you do this, because building strong cultures of excellence in service is exactly what we do.

And before we go, just one more thing…

The importance of responding to the Six Disruptors, and building a culture of Service Excellence, has gone up dramatically because of one more enormous and disrupting trend: social media. We have always been social creatures, and we always will be.

But our ability today to share our views, our dreams, our delights, and our complaints is more immediate and transparent than ever before.

Everything you do right, and everything you do wrong, will be recognized and remembered.

What do you want your company to be recognized for? As a leader, a team member, or a service provider, how do you want to be remembered?

We believe in uplifting the spirit and practice of service all over the world.

We believe that every person should be educated and inspired to excel in service.

We believe that we are all here to serve and take care of each other.

At Uplifting Service, we are here to serve you.


About the author: Ron Kaufman is one of the best customer service motivational keynote speakers and most sought-after educators, consultants, business thought-leaders and on the topic of achieving superior service. Ron is Founder and Chairman of Uplifting Service, one of the world’s best customer service culture building development programs, currently translated into 15 languages for use by clients in every major industry. Ron is author of the New York Times bestseller Uplifting Service, and is ranked #1 Global Customer Service Guru in the world.