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New Book: Creating a Customer Experience-Centric Startup

It’s finally here!  We congratulate Prof. Dr. Thomas Suwelack on the new publication of his book „Creating a Customer Experience-Centric Startup“. We are pleased that he, together with the authors Feng Xia Ang and Prof. Dr. rer. pol. Manuel Stegemann, has created an 170-page framework, which is not only intended for startup founders, but also serves as a helpful support for already existing companies.

Brand University: Hi Thomas, your new book “Creating a Customer Experience-Centric Startup“ is about achieving a high level of customer experience (CX). What do you mean by CX and why is it so important?

Thomas Suwelack: Customer experience is the customer’s overall perception of a brand including cognitive, emotional, physical, sensorial, spiritual, and social responses to interactions throughout the customer journey. Hence, it is a very big term as ALL product features as well as written and voice communications across the lifespan of a customer update the overall judgement of a customer towards the company and its products.

As this judgement does not only affect todays but also future’s purchase decisions it is the ultimate company KPI to look at. Also, the higher the CX the more failures of a company’s product features will be tolerated, the less service complaints will be filed against the company as well as the higher the willingness to pay a price premium.

BU: You put customer focus at the heart of business. Is that enough to run a company successfully? What else do you need to think about when starting a business?

TS: Most companies have realized that the customer needs need to be put at the focus of the company. The question rather is: How deeply does a company mean it? How empathic are the employees? How often do they collect feedback of the customer and discuss this feedback internally to find the best solution that matches both the customer needs and the company’s DNA?

It is important that not only the employees working in the marketing and product unit of a company think hard about the customer needs. Empathic customer thinking and acting must exist across all units of the company. As customer experiences are created at every touchpoint the customer has with the company, also the finance people should think about the best invoice process and the most appealing invoice.

BU: Thomas, you and one of the other authors founded the company 21 done. What was your motivation?

TS: Yes, the co-author of the book is also the co-founder of 21done. She was a student of mine when she inspired me to think about a marketplace for soul services. Soul turned into personal growth. And the individual personal growth services users can book on the 21done marketplace are now complemented by many other personal growth resources like podcasts, articles, challenges, coach interactions or videos. All having the intention to enable personal growth in one of these 4 categories: Mindfulness & health, sustainability, professional fulfillment, creativity.

One more thing was very important to us: We wanted to tie personal growth to a social impact. Every time a user makes progress on his/her personal growth journey, the user would contribute to a better world by making us plant a tree, donate to a social project of his/her choice or doing good him-/herself.

BU: Why a customer analysis?

TS: A company always serves the customer to reduce negative emotions like pain and fear or enhance positive emotions like pleasure and hope. If there is no betterment of a customer’s emotions, there is no reason to exist for a company. Hence, you better know what the customer needs!

BU: What is the importance of brand identity?

TS:  A company must be very clear about its DNA and communicate this through its brand. If the customer does not understand the “Why” of a company, then the customer would not purchase. It is exactly the power of the “Why” that makes customers love brands. It is not the computers of Apple that create excellent CX (though they are great), but rather the idea behind them to enhance the lifestyle of the user. Similarly, it is the “Why” behind Disney (enabling their customers to escape from the complex reality) or Nike (selling motivation of being able to “Just do it”) that makes customer purchase. It’s less the product itself.

BU: You provide a clear step-by-step guidance to bring CX to life for businesses. In your opinion, what tools must not be missing from the implementation to be successful?

TS: If I would only be allowed to pick three tools from the bigger toolbox and methods that we offer to achieve an excellent CX, it would be: Customer Journey Framework, Golden Circle from Simon Sinek and the Empathy Map. The latter aims to generate the key consumer insight by asking diverse questions related to the customers thoughts, feelings and behavior.

BU: You take an interdisciplinary approach to tool selection. Why is that?

TS: The world is complex and competition is even more intense in digital times. Companies must excel on dimension like psychology (“How does the customer think and feel?”), philosophy (“what is right or wrong in today’s complex world? What standpoint should we take and what is our reason to exist?”), digitalization (“How can we analyze the customer’s digital data to offer better digital products offered efficiently and effectively through digital channels?”) or marketing (“Which channels and media would make sense to use to reach and convince the customer?”).

BU: Happy customer, successful business?

TS: Not as simple as this. First, I would add that the happy customer needs to be profitable for the business to succeed in the long run. So do not forget the cost side. Second, be aware that a happy customer today can still switch to another company in the future because the competitor makes the customer even happier by coming up with great product innovations and/or better storytelling. In the end, there is no time to relax. Just keep thinking hard about tomorrow’s customer needs. In the end, it is a company’s culture that must drive a customer’s CX.

Thank you Thomas Suwelack for talking to us about your new book.