The Customer is Still King: Customer Experience in 2023

‘The customer is king.’ Many agencies pay lip service to this mantra, but do they follow through with actions?

In the words of Benjamin Franklin: “Well done is better than well said.”  Why? Because customer experience overtook price and product as the single reason people chose to buy two years ago.

Building your agency around your client is not just good ‘customer service’ but – in 2023 – fundamental to your agency’s survival.

Let’s explore why and how your agency should treat clients like royalty – and the rewards you can reap in return.


Forget the ‘tech threat’

Technology gets a bad rap: often the fall guy for a company’s more severe failings.

But note this:

  • Netflix didn’t kill Blockbuster – convenience and choice did
  • Apple didn’t kill Blackberry – evolving experience did
  • Uber didn’t kill taxis – accessibility did.

Whilst updated tech provided the solution – the problem the technology solved was customers’ frustrations. (Even ones they perhaps couldn’t have articulated themselves.) Customers were not being treated like royalty – and competitors found a way to elevate the customer experience and kill the competition.

Technology alone is not the disruptor to your business – not being customer-centric is.

In the words of N Kemp,  “The greatest threat… is not being out of touch with (digital) developments, but losing sight of the fundamental needs of consumers and the underlying long-term drivers of their business.”

Losing focus on your client will see you lose clients: 73% of consumers say that customer experience (CX) is a deciding factor when purchasing. And after a bad customer experience? Nearly 89% of customers will switch to a competitor.

It’s time to ensure your agency delivers a top-notch service and a customer journey fit for a king.

What is customer experience?

Customer experience is your customer/clients’ perception of how your agency treats them – through all stages/touchpoints of their relationship with you.

In other words, you’re judged not only on the service you deliver but also on how your clients FEEL about working with you. Essentially, do they like you? Do you make them feel good?

If you do, they’re going to stick around. And this is where CX delivers.

On the CX Express

It might feel that this thinking is a radical change of direction or focus, but business owners have always known they’re selling more than a ‘thing’. They’re selling an experience.

The first department store retailers in the 1900s understood the power of customers’ perceptions of their buying experience. Whether Selfridge, Fields or Wanamaker coined the phrase ‘the customer is always right’, they all built their business approach around it. And they all made millions.

And in 1960, Theodore Levitt in the Harvard Business Review called out marketing strictly from the standpoint of selling a specific product rather than from the point of view of fulfilling customer needs as a dangerous ‘myopia ’.

CX is not new, then, but it’s more apparent than ever why it counts.

Stats from the start of this year alone are telling: when 1,920 businesses were asked to share their top priority for the next five years, 465.9% said customer experience (CX) was number one.

The reason? They’re onto the fact it could well be the only discernable difference between themselves and their competitors – and that winning here, is winning all round.

The Temkin Group found that companies that earn $1 billion annually can expect to earn, on average, an additional $700 million within three years of CX investment. Let that sink in: CX alone delivers almost double the revenue. No service or product development: just CX.

While it’s nice to make people feel nice, the bottom line is revenue and profit!.

So how does keeping customers happy account for this eye-watering growth?

It’s simple: a good customer experience leads to customers spending more in three key ways.

1. Loyalty Delivers

Customers who are loyal stick around to spend more: loyal customers spend 67% more as compared to new customers. But great CX delivers revenue growth not just from long-term relationships.

2. Prestige Pays

86% of buyers are willing to pay more for a great customer experience. According to research from PWC, the more expensive the item, the more they are willing to pay: as long as the experience is as prestigious as the product.

3. Rewarded by Recommendations

Social proof is priceless: 88% of people trust online reviews written by other consumers as much as they trust recommendations from personal contacts. 27% of customers who have a great experience will likely tell people about it.

The new normal is that customers talk and hold you accountable online and in person.

If this is all sounding great, but the relevance for your B2B agency feels less clear, keep reading.


B2B Customer Experience

While there are differences between the customer relationship in the B2C and B2B space, the gap in expectation of the experience is closing.

65% of B2B customers say their B2B experiences don’t match their experiences as customer experiences. And 80% of B2B buyers now expect a purchasing experience similar to that of B2C customers.

So although B2B sales will likely involve multiple stakeholders, not just a single person, the learning about CX still applies. Creating a customer-centric process through every stage of the buyers’ journey – from awareness to account management to becoming your agency’s champions – can reduce churn, increase client retention and grow their account AND add weight to your reputation and industry standing.

Elevating the Customer Experience

Clients want a smooth experience: you want to be easy to work with. With minimal effort on their part, your interactions deliver high value. Customers are not blown away by bells and whistles but by simplicity.

The wow factor is the convenience of your client’s experience with your agency.

Low Effort Service = High Customer Loyalty

But how do you know what elements of your agency’s process – sales, onboarding, or project/account management – create friction for your clients?

Simple: ask them.

Your most valuable insights will come from the people who work with you. Make it a policy to have conversations with them: feedback emails, 1-2-1 sessions, polls, surveys, and social listening.

And act on what they tell you. According to Gartner’s research, companies that successfully implement customer experience projects begin by focusing on how they collect and analyse customer feedback.

Whether you use surveys, web forms, or Net Promoter Score (NPS) programs, use their feedback to learn what customers expect from you. Then, invest in projects to deliver these expectations.

And a warning: don’t make the mistake of assuming that the absence of negative feedback means that everything is OK. Research reveals that, in most cases, customers don’t tell you they’re unhappy: only 1 in 26 unhappy customers complain – the rest just never use you again.

Agencies can excel at CX

So what are the high-performing agencies doing differently?

The customer-centric conversation is just part of the equation. Of course, it’s vital to smooth the creases in your CX, but genuinely innovative thinking requires you to push the needle on your customer-centricity and reevaluate your portfolio.

Remember the disruptors at the top? They alerted customers to their frustration, agitating the ‘industry standard’ and changing the marketplace.

The high-performing agencies look at their portfolio and interrogate underserved whitespaces, verticals, micro verticals, and niches to find opportunities to modernise, productise and ‘profitise’ new areas, with the customer experience at the heart of these decisions.

Case in point: do your clients know the customer is king? Do they operate a customer-centric model? If not, you’ve found your white space.

‘Profitise’ your expertise with a new offer: smooth their CX with your agency’s consultation and strategy implementation services and digital deliverables to improve the customer journey.

CEO of Dell, Jerry Gregoire, said: “Customer experience is the next competitive battleground”.

He’s wrong. The customer experience is the only competitive battleground for agencies and their clients.

If you want your clients to have a positive experience, you have to invest in it. Get on board with CX now and future-proof your agency’s growth.

Want to talk about this topic further but need a community to share ideas with? Join a GYDA Mastermind and learn from your peers every month.