A recent Gartner survey reveals that 91% of senior marketeers think the single most important differentiator will be customer experience. Is your business geared up for this trend?

Personalisation of Customer Experiences

It was getting late. The Newcastle fans were drowning their sorrows after being knocked out of the FA Cup by Brighton. As their energy returned with the downing of copious amounts of Newcastle Brown, the stewards decided to call time and get the crowd out. The only problem, they were in the middle of a spontaneous and rowdy ‘Okey-Cokey’ routine. “Let’s all do the conga!” – shouted one of the women stewards and proceeded to start a conga-line. Within 5 minutes, the whole crowd had joined in, and were happily ‘conga’d’ out the door and into the fresh air of the outer concourse.

The result? Laughter, good humour, happy customers enjoying the product and of course, happy staff.

One key trend, is the tailoring of customer experiences to the individual and ‘types’ of people we want to do business with. At Brighton’s Amex stadium, away fans are welcomed by an away stand lit in the team’s colours, their heroes on the screens, and a guest beer on tap as well today a take-home poster thanking them for travelling the 344 miles from Newcastle to get to the Amex – albeit on this occasion to lose the match.

We’re seeing the same trend toward a more tailored experience elsewhere too. As our partners at TMIUK report in one of their TMISpy newsletters “There is now apparently a designated parking area for women at Frankfurt airport for instance. The walls of the ‘Ladies (sic) Parking’ are pink with flowers, the ticket dispensers are pink and it is even lightly perfumed! Nippon Airways introduced a female only toilet on-board their planes a couple of years ago!

Increasing ‘Hi Tech’ AND ‘Hi Touch’

The human factor will continue to be mission critical. The Nunwood Customer Experience Survey 2014 cites their top 3 of new leaders First Direct and the personability of staff and the “magical rapport” they create, plus their knowledge and speed of response; John Lewis, the overall polish of the in-store experience and cross channel service; and QVC for the level of personal engagement in their presenters and the personal connection created plus a “most helpful” call centre.

We’re seeing many existing and new touchpoints handled through digital technology, and where there is human contact, the experience quality is increasing to reflect the iconic nature of such moments of truth for the brand image. In retail, and other sectors, we’ll continue to see this emergence of digital and omni-channel customer engagement, with entertainment featuring in fresh and creative ways to win peoples’ attention. All together this gives us as the modern customer a much wider range of engagement opportunities with a brand – to research, experience, compare and contrast when deciding how to spend our money.

Many experts see mobile internet usage surpassing desktop this year, and with a study conducted by marketing agency Knotice (cited by Confirmit) revealing that at least 27% of emails are being opened on mobile phones or tablets, we’ll continue to see new methods for mobile engagement of customers and employees as well as a means to measure and improve customer experiences.

In 2012 in the US, 72% of people used smartphones while traveling; 63% in a store while shopping; 47% in the car; and 64% in a restaurant or coffee shop (Elizabeth Shaw, Forrester Research). So the experience has to be good. And, with changing supplier becoming an easy one button choice, it may be that the experience has to be the best to succeed.

So there is pressure to get this right. Paul Levy, author of Digital Inferno (Clairview Books, Nov 2014) says – “Too many businesses let down their customers with a poor online service experience that simply reflects their poor understanding and use of digital practices internally – you have to get the internal culture sorted first.”

The 21st Century Working Climate

As these trends develop, there may be a growth in the adoption of personal and corporate wellbeing and mindfulness practices, as the potential harm to family and work climates of overuse of digital technology becomes apparent. Paul Levy’s book is certainly well timed and contains some great tips.

There is a business benefit too in getting this right. David McLeod, in a Government Survey estimates that in the UK, we’re 17% less productive than the rest of the G7. In some companies already, we’re seeing customer service performance being included in the HR remit such is the pivotal role that ‘softer’ issues such as internal working culture and engagement will continue to play in driving business performance.

One perhaps critical trend is towards creating a climate where people want to and can take personal responsibility for innovation and customer engagement, and find creative ways to better engage their customers. Daniel Pink, in a brilliant TED talk on the subject of motivation, cites research that shows that financial incentives can great for repetitive basic tasks but be counter-productive for tasks that require some thought, creativity and decision-making. He concludes that autonomy, mastery and purpose are the building blocks for the peak performers of the 21st century.

With this millennial workforce merging with more ‘mature’ people remaining in work, there will be a demand for great 21st century leadership skills where, “Do as I ask/tell.” alone will no longer work. Coaching, enabling, facilitating, engaging different talents, young and old, in a clear shared vision as well as cultivating true core values that connect with people personally (hi-touch) is becoming the role of the new leader, supported by their HR/Training and development function – through the employee journey of induction, training, leadership, support, recognition.

This cultural agenda will also see more inclusion – as online collaborative tools develop the working climate in global organisations – albeit with the need for strong organisation/culture development strategies to optimise them.

All in all, a truly exciting, connected, global 2015 lies ahead of us!

Nick Brice is MD of 360 Degree Vision® – www.360.degreevision.co.uk
He can be contacted at nick@360degreevision.co.uk

Nick Brice
Nick Brice

Nick is a managing consultant, speaker/facilitator of 28 years. He’s delivered numerous blue chip brand-culture engagement programmes on a global/local scale. First ever ‘triple Gold’ award winner with National Training Journal (Leadership Development, Change Management and Learning Partnership) for developing the American Express Community Stadium sports-hospitality culture/customer experience. He runs an award winning arts organisation specialising in VerbatimPlayback™ encounters to immerse leaders and staff in the world of the customer/employee. He’s co-author of the inside-out branding text – ‘Brand Alchemy’ (2007).

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