20 Years Come & Gone

by Jeannie Walters

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So it won’t be surprising to many of you that I just attended my 20th Year Reunion with my graduating class from high school. But it surprised me.

I was totally prepared for the anxiety and also excitement at seeing people it’s been so long since seeing. I was also prepared for the weirdness at seeing people I knew well at one point who I could barely remember now. What I wasn’t prepared for was the internal analysis of where I’ve been and where I’m going. So, naturally, because my lives blend and blur together whether I want them to or not, this led me to think about the topic of customer experience.

20 Years Ago…come with me to 1990. Bangs were bigger and stirrup pants were cute.

Customer experience encompassed a much smaller area of real estate. Think about the touchpoints then:

1. Mail was number one. Direct mail and printed communications were the primary means of communication with prospects and customers.

2. Advertising wasn’t dead. There were no televisions with a fast forward button or easy ways to record shows unless you had a degree in VCR timer-settingology. Heck, even a CD player in a car was a luxury.

3. Very few people or companies were adept at using the Internet. While email was available, it wasn’t the pervasive part of our daily lives it has become. Some people still didn’t know what the “e” stood for. Web sites were few and far between.

4. Every morning, the majority of Americans woke up and read the newspaper. No joke!

5. Getting a job usually meant checking the classifieds in said paper or knowing someone who knew someone who knew your dad. “Employer marketing” was not really considered.

6. Mobile marketing meant walking around with a sandwich board.

7. While people were starting to gather on the Internet on forums and bulletin boards, social media was not even a blip on the radar for most of us.

As I thought more and more about this, I realized how powerful – and paralyzing – evolution can be.

I’ve witnessed internal workings of companies who simply refused to evolve. They decided it’s the way it’s always been done, and that was good enough for them.

How many of us have heard the phrase “our customers don’t <email/use mobile apps/social network/etc.>”?

Evolving is challenging. If every company did it well, there would be no such thing as start-ups. Start-ups see where the dinosaurs are not evolving and step in to become the next life form.

Your customers, however, WANT you to evolve. They want you to evolve while not abandoning the experience they have with you. It’s a tricky balance. Move too quickly and your loyal customers will be confused and feel left behind. Move too slowly and their loyalties could be tempted by a more modern competitor.

So how do you do it? It’s a good exercise to think about how you are or aren’t evolving right now. What are some of your examples about good and bad evolution?

(Oh, and just for fun – shout out to Glenbrook North Class of 1990. It was  fun event! If you drop by here, let me know!)


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Jeannie Walters

Jeannie Walters is the CEO/Founder of Experience Investigators, a global Customer Experience consulting firm. She has 20 years of experience helping companies improve loyalty and retention, employee engagement, and overall customer experience. Jeannie is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP,) a charter member of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA,) a Professional Member of the National Speakers Association, a Forbes Coaches Council Member, a C-Suite Network Advisor, a LinkedIn Learning and Lynda.com instructor, and a TEDx speaker. Learn more here.

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