Embracing Experience Culture
“Studies show people overestimate the amount of happiness things will bring them and underestimate the long-term positive effect of experiences.” Younger audiences are realising this and changing their entire relationship with purchasing. Business models are shifting from larger one-time transactions to smaller subscriptions. Consumers are then left thinking, “Why buy when I can rent?” The “commitment” from a consumer is less while the lifetime value is more.
What does this mean for brands? It doesn’t mean that your customer is going to stop buying your product, but it does mean that it is more important to look at the entire experience someone goes through to arrive at the purchase of your product, the actual purchase experience, and the product experience.
I’m not talking about journey maps, while those are helpful, I’m talking about the physical, digital, and cultural environments that our products now exist in which we need to take new approaches to master. We’ve reached the end of mobile. Everyone has a mobile phone. Purchasing, experiencing, and understanding flows through the device on our person. Regardless of how we meet the customer there (apps, websites, social), we know they’re there. If you’re not prioritising the mobile experience from a budget, experience perspective—start now! I’m not kidding.
Customers give us some huge advantages in their preferences. They’d rather self-serve than talk to a person. Scaling people is expensive, building the right support mechanisms so people can handle their own problems is critical.
What is a good example of this? Take Comcast’s Xfinity Platform. They released a My Account App that did a couple notable things. First, they owned if there was a problem. A heatmap shows issues to customers instead of in the past where it was on a customer to call and individually figure out there is a widespread issue. Second, such a large number of problems can be solved by rebooting the Comcast hardware, the app can trigger this automatically in a series of steps to help the user. Finally, you can start a chat or a call if these early steps don’t work.
Customers are also experienced multitaskers. Although chatbots didn’t takeover the world, chats with support personnel over Twitter, Apple’s iMessage, or custom solutions allow users to have an asynchronous experience. Messages flow as the user can pay attention, it does not require them to consistently interact and dedicate 100% of their attention to the issue like a support phone call. This will lessen the inconvenience of the experience as it is occurring on the user’s own terms and can be tested via CSAT exercises.
Employee Experience Matters Too
Too often I’ve seen journey maps or shopping reports that do not weigh the tools and experience employees have while assisting customers. As you look across a given day and the various interactions consumers have as they travel, eat, work, and play - the support tools employees have are dated. “Sorry sir, my computer is running slow” is one of my favourites. Another is glancing at an employee’s screen that looks like it is out of the 1980s with lots of function key shortcuts and special codes to remember.
ESAT + CSAT is greater than the sum of the parts! Happy employees mean happy customers. Providing streamlined tools also has another advantage—iterating on employee interfaces allow the experience to be honed to the point a customer could directly interact with the tool at a point in the future.
I see companies really stumble to grasp this approach. VPs from different departments with competing goals. For example, VP One is involved with IT tasked with keeping costs down while VP Two is in charge of customer experience and sees the load time on a system causing employees ability to service customers taking longer than it should, especially during peak usage. Although VP Two is clamouring for new hardware or software updates, VP One is being praised for managing to their budget. Meanwhile, the water cooler talk is full of employees relating their challenges and how “easy” it would be to fix them if the tools (hardware/software) just had some love. Recently this example was exemplified in one of my new favourite quotes:
Every hard problem stems from two vice-presidents needing to speak to each other.—@csoandy at #BoS2019
Putting it together
So the easy takeaway is meet the customer on mobile and figure out how to get from point a to point b with the minimal amount of friction. Use the many cues from users as well to hone the process. Native apps, social experiences, websites, all get various data points from users. Some of these data points have to be won, like location or push, so be sure to impart the benefit that trust will create.
The deeper takeaway? We need to rethink how we work together to create experiences. Working in silos and creating amazing experiences will never happen. Internal teams, agencies, technology partners, support vendors, etc… all must be aligned and working towards the same goals. The very experience we create for our teams as we work together are the yin to the yang of the customer experience. A reductionist way to explain this is the experience is more than the sum of the parts. This is a saying that grew out of Gestalt Psychology. People take in the whole sum of an object rather than its components: Think of your experience that way.
Ben Reubenstein is CEO of Wunderman Thompson Mobile