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Ultimate CX: Grounded With Concorde?

When the Concorde fleet was permanently grounded nearly 20 years ago in 2003, it also marked the demise of ‘ultimate CX’.

There’s a fundamental element to CX that’s rarely discussed. This has less to do with our actual customer experience, and everything to do with the experience we think we should have or the experience we believe that others are having – I would argue, this is ultimate CX.

It is the presence of ultimate CX against which all other experiences (subconsciously) are measured.

In the 1970s and 80s, holidaymakers were invited to join the JWT set and head to the sun as vacations abroad became affordable.

While these were fantastic experiences in themselves, they paled in significance when compared to the life of the stars and tycoons of the age enjoying ‘ultimate CX’ flying MACH2 on Concorde to NYC, arriving in time for lunch having had breakfast in London a little over 3 hours earlier.

It is this presence and visibility of people who look like or are clearly enjoying a great customer experience that’s critical to ultimate CX, and importantly, one that others feel they can aspire to.

In a world of dupes, hauls and look-books, perhaps we have forgotten that it really is ‘experiences’ that are truly desirable.

I recently began to consider ultimate CX as I ate my salad in the only restaurant open in a post-covid airport. I wondered if great CX has nothing to do with the experience we’re actually having and instead it has everything to do with the experiences we can’t have or think we can’t have. In the absence of the crowd at the ‘other’ restaurant, or the cool looking shoppers browsing in store, the aspirational aspect to CX as part of an emotive journey falls flat.

The presence of people, and people ‘participating’ in retail, attracts and engages other people, and no technology in the world can make up for their absence – in store, in a restaurant or at an event.

Back in my music industry days, as a band we were regulars at clubs in London like the Milk Bar, Bagley’s and Café de Paris. As the velvet cord was lifted for us to sashay straight in, you could feel the electricity, and it was a hell of a laugh – but made one realise it takes the presence of other human beings to make your experience that more visceral. So too with ‘ultimate CX’ which is why the Pandemic was so damaging to retail when stores were shut and foot fall disappeared.

In her book Very Important People, Professor Ashley Mears points out that the merry-go-round of the global party circuit of million-dollar birthday bashes on mega yachts, with $40K bottles of champagne, takes hard work, sophisticated use of data and people strategies.

Venue owners know that the driver of truly outstanding club on the global circuit is “making visible an A list of stunning individuals that attract peers and wannabies who will then pay to create the lure of the great experience to attract wealthy personages and to encourage them to spend even more.”

Sound familiar?

In a similar way effective customer management and engagement relies on brands needing to be seen to deliver ultimate CX by drawing customers into a perception of effortless, knowledgeable, conversational, and importantly, aspirational CX.

Effortless in this regard means whatever the nature of the interaction, it’s a pleasure rather than a chore, an experience to look forward to rather than avoid. That takes organisation across people, technology, platforms and process deployments to properly support this.

On a Friday evening in London we no longer look up on hearing the sound of Concorde flying overhead on approach into Heathrow.  Today we appear to celebrate the prompt arrival of a cardboard box with a cartoon grin on the side as the ultimate in 21st century customer experience. Perhaps it’s no wonder that today’s ‘hypermobile elites’ who Mears refers to as the ‘globally nomadic leisure class’ now spend their billions heading to the nearest space port to touch the void.

In the world of the customer management services provider however, when considering the best experience a customer can have, we recognise that the trajectory of the customer’s journey will enter and leave our orbit of influence but briefly. In that ‘moment of truth’ we represent everything about that multi-billion dollar brand to that individual customer.

That’s why as a partner to national and international ecommerce brands, we have to think ‘ultimate cx’ at all times, to delight customers, create advocates and increase customer lifetime value.

As for the end of the ‘ultimate CX’ of the Concorde experience, US photographer and artist Christopher Makos, who frequently travelled with Andy Warhol on the flight, commented: “It was one more element from the world of chic exclusivity coming to an end. “I miss that ride. It was among the all-time cool ones.”

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