What characterises an experience as different from marketing a product or service?
According to the Harvard Business Review, an experience “is memorable, personal, appeals to your senses, you are ‘a guest,’ it is revealed over a period of time, and it is staged.”
A few weeks ago I wrote about staged experiences and how they can help a brand stand out. This time around we’ll be focusing on six ways the experience-minded executive aligns and inspires an organization to deliver against an experience promise.
1. Build connected customer databases: Before creating customer experiences, find out who your customers are and what they really want. Don’t base this on assumptions. Base this on real data that you already have.
This necessitates that the different silos within the organization actually talk to each other–and that the technology infrastructure can connect disparate sources of data. The sales organization needs to know what interactions customer service has had with customers. The social media team has information on tweets, posts, and other interactions your customers are having with their friends about your brand. Customers give brands feedback all the time–but they are often pushed away in reverence to the next big idea. Connect these databases.
2. Create customer personas: Use the data from your databases to create meaningful customer personas. Derive insights from their actions, and use psychologists to understand their actions. Find out what they want as well as why.
Make it personal. Put up a picture of your persona. Give her a name. Let everyone get to know Mary, what makes her tick, and what her challenges are. Think about the “day in the life of Mary” vis-à-vis your brand category. Don’t do this sitting in your cozy meeting room. Walk in her shoes, actually going through the day as she does. Live her life–not just her digital life but her real life. Try to understand her motives and behaviour–and be her. Get that subscription to the limited data plan. Go with the promo coupon to the store to actually buy that lipstick.
3. Define the connected consumer experience: With your customer personas as a key starting point, conceptualize a connected consumer experience that would delight customers so much that they would be willing to pay for this experience. This necessitates thinking beyond the basics. It’s about creating something memorable for them, knowing what the competition is offering. Offer something they want to share, something that is not expected, but is valued if provided.
4. Think partnerships: Don’t limit yourself to your own product or service. Rather, think about the customer journey of the consumption of your product or service. A car company could be thinking about partnerships with takeouts–Starbucks or McDonald’s–because they understand that drivers often want a coffee or cheeseburger on the go. Or how about a Spotify partnership that suggests songs based on the relevance of the kind of music a customer listens to while driving?
5. Employ connected touch points: Remember that your reputation is based on your weakest link. Inspire your internal teams to understand the value of the experience, and empower them to be the most powerful touch points for your brand. The customer experience is defined by every interaction, at every touch point, every second. And you cannot fake it. It needs to be authentic and complete. Bringing employees along to understand what you are trying to do, and have them own this, is crucial.
6. Rinse and repeat: Building a customer experience is not a one-time activity. You need to be in continuous improvement mode. Build a relationship, try to see the impact of changes you make to the experience, and make improvements. Your customers are always ahead of you. They know what is happening with your competition and the marketplace. They know why a product is being recalled and about the dishonest employee in finance who swindled the organization. Your honesty in trying to provide them with something of value is key–even if it is a work in progress. Be honest and transparent.
Given that Gartner predicted that 89% of businesses will compete mainly on customer experience in just a few years, there are no options. It really is about transforming ourselves by bettering the experience.