Did you watch Tim Peake conduct his historic spacewalk? Since the start of Peake’s sixth month mission on the International Space Station for the European Space Agency, it occurred to me how much space travel, in the 20th century and today, is still considered the next frontier. Equally, customer experience today is a competitive race and a key differentiator for businesses. Satisfying customer experiences not only attract and retain customers, they also increase revenue.

When Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin set out to land on the moon, the Apollo 11 computers had less processing power than a mobile phone. During that same time, customer service was limited to landline calls, letters, fax or in-store visits. Then came the web and the world suddenly became a lot smaller, more connected and busy.

Euston we have a problem

Having just received another automatic update from Virgin Trains for travel information it appears Euston (that’s the UK train station) really has a problem with overrunning engineering works. How did we ever survive without customer service technology – technology that not only assist customers in finding information fast, but could also prevent an influx of calls into a contact centre?

The value of what customers spend online is increasing, resulting in an increase in the number of orders, parcels, returns and the pressure on customer service departments. On our ‘always on’ planet, customers expect instant, right answers to questions on a range of products, services, bills, or where their orders might be.

Technology is empowering and advancing both customer behaviour and their customer service expectations, requiring brands to push the limits on what they can do and what can be accomplished. However in reality, many brands are finding it hard to move forward to deliver out of this world customer experiences.

Mission Critical

I wonder how many attempts failed before Neil Armstrong took the first ever step on the moon. How long did it take to find the right combination of technology, dedication, attitude and people to finally push through the limits and win the race that had America make history?

The same principle could be applied when trying to enhance customer experiences. Investing in a good customer service strategy combined with having the right technology in place, is key to having a competitive advantage, but it doesn’t stop there. Pioneers don’t get stuck. They continuously move forward. Just because you were successful in one mission doesn’t’ mean you can relax.

Customer service/customer experience pioneers like Jeff Bezos has just taken the crown from John Lewis (well known as the best British company for customer service). According to the semi-annual index from the Institute of Customer Service this is the first time in seven years that John Lewis has toppled out of the top three places to sixth, with Amazon moving into first place.

And others are taking notes from Amazon’s passion to deliver customer satisfaction. Cineworld was the highest riser among the top 50, increasing its score by eight points, climbing 115 places to the 50th slot. Jaguar added 7.2 points to its score, rising 110 rungs to 34th place, while GiffGaff improved its score by 6 points and climbed 84 places to number 27.

“Often unencumbered by legacy systems and processes, challenger brands are gaining on their larger competitors by offering straightforward, personal, seamless and quick service experience,” said Jo Causon, chief executive of the Institute of Customer Service. “This is reshaping the competitive environment around customer service and removing barriers to entry to create a real opportunity for smaller organisations to succeed against larger rivals.”

Beam me up Scotty

At 86 years old, Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon, in an interview once said’ “We should go boldly where man has not gone before. Fly by the comets, visit asteroids, visit the moon of Mars.”

When it comes to customer experience, brands too should not look back. If they want to succeed and profit they can’t stop now and say that’s good enough. “A ‘one size fits all’ customer experience is delivering diminishing returns and diluting valuable customer relationships,” says Jo Causon, ICS Chief.

Emulating great customer experience might appear alien for companies who have neglected their customers for years. Fear not, as Synthetix has created a special edition, free 30 minute read page turner to enlighten and awaken Multi-Channel Online Customer Service to humanity. Just click here to download the eBook or request a printed copy.

And for those of you following British space traveller Tim’s mission – he finally shared a video on Facebook of himself answering the most popular question about his journey. “Take the cap off, turn on the fan and the air flow keeps everything going down the pipe,” he says, holding up a tube connected to a special space toilet.

“Simple as that.”

Imagine that….