We are living in non-linear times. In the past, we had enough time to learn and analyse events, in order to initiate actions in the present that will secure our future.

Today, the problem is that when you try to learn something from the past (however recent), the present is so different that it is hard to take any lessons…

That’s an issue: how can we predict the future and prepare ourselves today if we cannot rely on past trends and patterns anymore?

What is the new normal? Adapting to constant and unpredictable changes

In the current era we do not have enough time to prepare for the change, that’s a fact. Our ability to foresee what is coming next is limited to our knowledge of the market and to what experts tell us.

Many world events that took place in recent years were not predicted (global change agents such as 9-11, 2008 economic crash and more recently, COVID-19 have transformed the way we live our lives), making clear that uncertainty is the new normal.

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The change per se is not a problem by itself. It is the pace of the change that poses the main challenge; therefore, the only solution left is to live the change and to keep on running.

In business terms, living the change means being agile enough in your business processes, systems and organisational structure which will allow you to transform quickly when the change occurs.

But it is not enough to be running, you need also to be running in the right direction.

Shifting to a Customer Experience strategy helps you stay focused on the change

Finding the right direction requires being attentive at all times to market trends. Detect when new opportunities are rising and keep a close look at what your competitors are doing.

In such a competitive market it is hard to differentiate yourself. You cannot just sell a commodity anymore. Your value proposition needs to be attractive enough in the eyes of your customers and prospects in order to gain their ongoing loyalty.

The customers need to experience something memorable that will tie them to your brand in a sentimental way. This will generate more revenue to your company.

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And this is the basis of the Experience Economy. How can your business produce economic value from selling an experience?

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Based on i. B Joseph Pine II, James H. Gilmore, The Experience Economy, Harvard Business School Press, 1999.

Let me take the example of a cake. First, people would buy the ingredients they need for a cake and prepare it themselves at home.

Then bakeries would buy the ingredients, prepare the cake and sell it to you from their premises. The main ingredient is expertise.

Afterwards, we evolved into a world where bakeries bought the ingredients, made the cake and delivered it to your home. The main ingredient becomes convenience.

And today we are in the age where the bakeries deliver the cake to your home together with a balloon and a messenger that will sing you happy birthday. The main ingredient becomes personalisation.

Now, this is an experience which you are willing to pay for a higher price, even though you are getting the exact same cake!

An experience is not an amorphous construct; it is an offering of services or goods wrapped up as a memorable experience in order to sell them better.

And why is it important? Because emotionally engaged customers are buying more, are less price-sensitive and are more loyal to your brand.

Customer-centric strategy supported by Digital Transformation

In order to get to this emotional bond, companies need to have a customer-centric strategy in place.

The communication channels with their customers must ensure a high level of satisfaction is reached all along the value chain; through marketing, sales, delivery and support. Each link in the chain needs to meet the standards that were set by the brand values. This is key.

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Today’s Customers expectation is to be able to interact with the brand at any place, in any time they choose. This is where Digital Transformation comes to play. The technologies used to modernise the business and give customers the ability to interact with the brand will result in a seamless experience when hopping from one channel to the other.

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Daily technology to support customer insights

As for the IT aspects, it is now essential to implement solutions that will refer not only to the transactional side of the business, that is covered by CRM and ERP applications, but also to have a deeper look at the emotional area.

This is where customers are cumulating experiences that define the way they perceive your brand. The combination of emotional data and transactional data is what allows the business to unlock the insights which will lead to better business decisions and customer loyalty.

An integral part of any IT project criteria needs to be the value the technology is going to bring to the improvement in customer experience.

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I am excited by the increasing number of technology applications that put customer insights at the heart of business systems. It is a clear signal that customer experience is front and centre to business success. 

Eytan Hattem is a Judge at the upcoming International Customer Experience Awards 2020.

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