As with so many moments of change in business, the things that are important at the start of the journey often become reframed and recontextualised - directly impacting what we actually do.
Never has this been more true than in the world we all live in today, namely with customer experience. It’s a journey that, for some of us, has spanned across nearly two decades and has been gathering pace over the past five years or so.
The incredible explosion of available data and insights, as well as the need to seamlessly blend the digital and physical experience for our customers, ensures that there is plenty more change in the pipeline.
And as we come to understand what real customer behaviour looks like, we need to reframe our thinking about some of the wisdoms of the past…
The basic processes of customer experience
Big data, anthropology, neuroscience, behavioural science, human interactional science, and not to mention on-line behavioral studies - just a few of the many sources that seek to feed our visions and strategies.
Whilst thinking all of this through, I came across a couple of very good blogs by Shep Hyken on WOW moments and un-WOW moments. The two apply a degree of common sense that clearly reflect our experiences in the delivery of great CX across a number of different sectors. As well as across B2B, B2C and the ever-expanding B2B2C.
The science currently being applied to parts of how we create seamless and irresistible customer experiences is amazing. However, there is a danger that we may all be missing the point a little bit when it comes to the rubber hitting the road.
In other words, we can use all the science we want, but there is a moment when we are no longer in control.
This is so true of the customers we seek to engage, inspire and build relationships with based on authentic and appropriate experiences.
But to do this, we need to build a usable and actionable framework that allows the delivery of a seamless customer experience at the exact moment of interaction. This is true of all moments of interaction, whether it’s digital, physical, ‘phygical’, ‘digical’, electronic, human, or artificial intelligence bots.
We have been working on these processes over the past 17 years and are continuously improving each and every time we execute a CX alignment programme. From this, we have developed three key principles.
These are based on our work with customers and their expectations of brands, as well as the desires of our clients to build authentic brands with purpose...
Principle 1 - Understand the industry / sector hygiene deliverables
These are those aspects of the customer journey that, if delivered consistently, indicate to customers that you are a player in the market.
Making sure your digital and physical experience are up to the basic standard your customers expect can drive some great results, but it will not deliver differentiation.
Benchmarking at this level is far more complex than it used to be as customers now set their own standards. They desire experiences that answer their needs, no matter what sector the solution is within.
To be able to do this you need to meet their needs. Do some research to discover who is best in class at a particular touchpoint and establish how they make it happen.
However, this comes with something of a health warning.
There are many people making a good living out of helping clients improve towards an “industry standard”. However, this could simply improve their CX to the same level as every other brand - reinforcing the generic nature of their position and all that goes with that particular approach.
Principle 2 - Use your brand to develop unique and differentiating brand basics
To be able to deliver the brand basics at every interaction with your customers, you need to be developing irresistible customer experiences. Something that requires you to envision, develop and deliver the basic customer experience, whilst still allowing customers to recognise the brand’s distinctive “handwriting” behind it.
Not only can this deliver the consistency that consumers expect, but it outlines the distinctive style of the brand in a new era of brand building. An era that demands brands do what they say they are going to do day in day out, touch point by touch point.
This is the ultimate starting point for any brand building their customer experience.
After all, if you can’t get your brand basics right what chance do you have of creating and delivering those higher level “WOW moments” (as we used to call them)?
Here are a few of the brands we really respect for delivering their own unique basics brilliantly:
Premier Inn - they promise and deliver a great night’s sleep which has driven sales up by 6.8%
Ryanair - they commit to “always getting better” which has has supported a turnaround in their business fortunes
Lidl - using a great wine offer to raise the bar and attract new customers in the relentless pursuit of offering customers exceptional value
Pets at Home - the team’s absolute passion for animals is impossible to fake, and protects them from supermarket competitors
Richer Sounds - they ensure they have great people and a strong belief in all of their products, allowing them to personalise the experience for each and every customer.
Principle 3 - Convert people from customers to a medium
This is what we call brand amplification.
For years, moments where brands have blown the socks off their customers have been known as “WOW moments”. They have functioned as times of exceptional brand delivery that are designed to build advocacy and loyalty in equal measure.
But there is more to it than that...
These moments play a specific role in the communication of the brand, as well as the pure experience they create. An idea which brings us full circle to the heady days of great advertising and the concept of stimulus and response, but reimagined for the era of holistic customer experience...
Many years ago I was fortunate enough to work with (although ‘work for’ is probably more accurate) one of the great communication thinkers, Mr Jeremy Bullmore. He supported the concept that we should always seek the response rather than allow the stimulus to get in the way.
For those of you who haven’t had the privilege of his fresh eggs and flying lessons speech I would highly recommend it.
The point is, brands that craft authentic, brilliant moments focused on customer experience will inspire their audience to become their most powerful medium. Making customers a more effective way of promotion than any paid or ”sponsored” channel.
For real results, dedicate your time to innovation around moments of brand amplification. By using the insights from the ‘phygical’ world to delight, excite and stimulate customers, you can trust that they will do the rest.
But finding the right time, channel and place to deliver moments of brand amplification requires a real understanding of the customer’s journey, as well as their expectations and needs. At its very best, this is the moment when real personalisation can come alive for your customer, blow their minds and build your brand big time.
Pinpoint brand amplifying moments
Finding the exact moments to amplify requires rigorous planning with all the people responsible for delivering it - from whichever channel the customer chooses to interact from. But once identified and executed, it’s time to move on and plan the next manifestation of the amplification moment...
This is a process that is based on continuous improvement and innovation because nothing in our world stands still. What was last month’s brand amplifier is this month’s brand basic. This is why having the right data, the right insight and the right cross functional team are so brand critical.
One might even call it the new era of brand management!