On the customer's side

Daniel Ewerman, author and lecturer, is one of the leading Swedish advocates of good customer experiences. He has devoted the past ten years to trying to root out poor service.


Who wins from a poor customer experience? Daniel Ewerman is standing up for better service. Photo: Volante.

Working as an industrial designer at the beginning of the new millennium, Daniel Ewerman’s eyes were opened to customer-oriented development. While many companies at that time viewed “the customer experience” as something they could have a look at if they had time, he realized that there was business value to be gained by showing consideration for the customer. Today he runs the company Custellence – a digital tool for mapping the customer journey.

“There were several of us who started taking an interest in the customer journey at about the same time. It was like the way cheese originally appeared simultaneously in several places around the world. We were quite simply ready for it,” he says with a chuckle.

Every step counts

One of his important insights was that the customer’s journey often isn’t linked to a specific transaction – it may have started much earlier. Perhaps during a visit to a store, or in a conversation with friends. Every phase from then on – including the after-purchase phase – counts toward the customer’s overall perception of the company.

People have long claimed that the customer is always right, but they generally only pay lip service to the concept.

His ideas about the customer journey resulted in his writing the book Kund­upplevelse: varför vissa organisationer lyckas – och andra inte (Customer experience: why some organizations succeed – and others don’t). It is a book based on his own experiences, and it is intended to serve as a tangible tool rather than a pompous, academic thesis.  

It took three years from the time he wrote the first sentence to the time the book was published. He is now working on the fourth edition, and praise has rained down from all sides. His objective has been, in his own words, “to root out sadistic customer experiences.” 

“People have long claimed that the customer is always right, but they generally only pay lip service to the concept. Companies have tended to take the approach that ‘we in here are right, and the customers are stupid.’ It’s very much the elephant in the room,” states Daniel Ewerman. 

Social media give power to the customer

Thanks to social media, that attitude is now dying out. A shift in power has taken place, which means that just one dissatisfied customer can wreak havoc.

“Before, if you wrote a letter, the customer service department would simply throw it out. But now even management teams have to start answering mail from customers. As a customer, you can even mail the CEO if you want to.” 

I must admit that I take my work home with me and study customer experiences even when I'm shopping for myself.

This development has turned conventional roles upside down and opened the door to disruptive challengers. If the customer is dissatisfied and the company fails to react, the disrupter will take a bite of the pie. 

“If I buy something from Electrolux and Bring provides poor service, there’s a domino effect.”

The transport solution, too, becomes a touchpoint bearing the supplier’s brand.

When it comes to customer focus, efficient data processing is a key factor for success. A lot of people focus more on what they themselves don’t like rather than on what the customer says is important. One example of this is long waiting times. It may be more important to be put the customer through to the right person who can solve the problem than simply to provide a quick response. 

A thirty-minute wait where users can choose to have the company call them back often proves to generate a better reputation among customers than a one-minute wait that leads to frustration when the wrong person takes the call.

“I must admit that I take my work home with me and study customer experiences even when I’m shopping for myself,” says Daniel Ewerman, and relates that he recently ordered a snowboard online. 

The board was delivered when he wasn’t home, because the order form did not contain a field where he could write that they should press the intercom by the door. 

“So I had to pick it up from a collection office. And it wasn’t there. At the same time, I received a message informing me that the package would be sent back to Germany if I didn’t collect it.” 

It turned out that the auto-generated messages were not functioning as they should. 

When goods and services are becoming increasingly similar to your competitors’, the customer experience may have a crucial role to play in how well you succeed. If a supplier runs a better ecommerce solution, that will become a strong advantage. 

Customers are more inclined to switch

The past ten years have witnessed major changes to the landscape. Players who fail to work with the customer journey risk being overtaken. 

We have not yet seen all the consequences of the shift in power from company to customer. Daniel Ewerman expects them to appear over the coming 5–10 years. 

Customer apathy – rather than loyalty – may well be the reason why development is not progressing more quickly.  There is such a thing as false loyalty, which has nothing to do with customer satisfaction, and everything to do with old habits. 

When Daniel Ewerman switched banks, he had the opportunity to study how both his old and his new bank acted. 

“My old bank hasn’t been in touch at all.” 

This means they missed the opportunity to win back a customer and prevent the customer talking them down. 

“It’s common to talk about loyalty and to say that customers who leave are disloyal, but I switched because it was a little more practical. There were no hard feelings on my part.” 

This type of action is becoming more and more common. Thresholds have been worn down, and customers can easily switch without being bitter or angry. 

“There’s been a change in mindset, which results in a greater tendency to switch.” 

Daniel Ewerman believes we will see more personalized and better adapted services in the future. The success factor for finding out what the customer wants is to involve everyone in the organization. 

“Invite, involve and create together. If you’re just a small group, you won’t succeed,” says Daniel Ewerman. 

Good customer experiences must be a priority in all areas of the business.