More than 20 years ago Pine and Gilmore introduced the concepts of the Experience Economy and “work is theater and every business a stage”. Since then, technology has enabled experience first to become the expectation. Experience aligns collaborating and empowered employees and technology with customers. As technology continues to expand so does the experience first expectation. Like technology, this expectation isn’t limited to customers only. Everyone has become accustomed to experience first. For business, this translates to experience first for customers, employees, suppliers, and other stakeholders – anyone that interacts with the company. In this post, we’ll focus on customer experience.
Gartner’s 2017 Customer Experience in Marketing Survey reports that “67% of companies feel they compete on mostly or completely on the basis of customer experience, and 81% expect to do so in two years.” However, many leaders still struggle with integrating experience into their strategic goals to develop a sustainable competitive advantage or even keep up with their competition. In Industry 4.0, focusing on experience is imperative.
Experience first organizations leverage insights and data to create and execute impactful customer experience strategies and then design and deploy processes and technologies that improve customer experience and positively impact business outcomes. In order to gain buy-in from leaders and employees across the organization, the business case for the investment of time, money, or both must be clear.
Realizing experience must come first results in elimination, or at least minimization, of friction points – places that hinder or halt progress. To identify these points, understanding your customers’ journeys is critical – from before they’ve even heard of your organization, to how they learn about your company and make initial contact, through the sales process, service and/or product delivery, aftercare, and onto repeat sales. Everyone that touches your customers must understand that they are a critical part of your customers’ journeys, and that every interaction is an opportunity to add value to or take value away from the customer experience.
Developing this understanding should be accomplished through creation of key customer personas based on interviews and focus groups of customers as well as electronic data captured followed by customer journey mapping. Customer journey mapping identifies the touch points along your customers’ journeys including critical moments of truth that will make, or break, customers’ experience, opportunities for enhancements, and friction points, among other areas. Once a thorough understanding of your customers’ journeys and these friction points is developed, experience first organizations innovate to optimize interactions and increase customer loyalty.
Experience first companies also reskill existing team members to understand data and enable visibility and then empower them to make quick decisions, independently, to guarantee experience first. One organization we recently worked with empowered their call center team with predictive analytics about performance of service technicians so they could more accurately schedule service appointments. This led to a 219% increase in on-time appointment arrivals and a 27% increase in customer loyalty.
Another example is of a professional services firm that now provides clients with a detailed project delivery roadmap before the engagement starts to eliminate the fear of the unknown and promote proactive communication. It includes the roles and responsibilities of all stakeholders in each phase, potential pitfalls, and critical dates. This has led to an 31% increase in on-time delivery and a 6% increase in phase profitability after only four months.
Another experience first creator is internal innovation programs which encourage insight from within companies. In Industry 4.0, the enlightened organization’s core belief is that innovation should occur at all levels not just at the senior level; and can occur individually or within teams, including non-traditional teams.
A few examples of internal innovation programs are:
- Regular availability (for any employee) to pitch plans to executives
- Creation of an innovation stream with a budget for employees to create protypes of products and/or services
Examples of companies with internal innovation programs are Adobe and LinkedIn. Adobe’s innovation program is name Kickbox. “Kickbox is a new innovation process that Adobe developed for its own use and then open-sourced so everyone can use it. It is both a process for individuals and a system for deploying that process across an organization at scale. It’s designed to increase innovator effectiveness, accelerate innovation velocity, and measurably improve innovation outcomes. It can also optimize innovation investments by reducing costs compared to traditional approaches.”
Another example of an internal innovation program is LinkedIn’s approach which grants employees access to pitch ideas to its executives once per quarter. In addition, if the program is accepted, time is allotted up to three months to grow the program.
Last year we helped a professional services organization develop an internal innovation program after establishing the need for one during their strategic planning process. Our first step was to bring together a cross-functional team including employees from all levels of the organization to develop the structure of the program. Although this structure included an ongoing open call for ideas and concepts, we held a series of ideation workshops open to employees from all levels of the organization to kick-off the innovation program. During this workshop, one of their entry-level employees proposed development of a technology application to solve one of their target clients’ newest challenges. On the surface this may not seem earth shattering but this was a company that for its past 32 years in business sold ONLY services. Fast forward 10 months and this application has led to the development of a sustainable competitive advantage that has increased revenue 31% with existing customers and the profit margin on the application is nine times more than on their most profitable service line.
Across industries, acquiring new customers can cost up to five times more than retaining current customers. Experience first organizations invest and reinvest in and invent and reinvent delivering a superior customer experience. Amazon’s once innovative two-day Prime delivery has now become the norm amongst many retailers. Quantitative and qualitative customer data must be captured, analyzed, interpreted, and acted upon continuously in order to gain and keep a sustainable competitive advantage in the Experience Economy.
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Chief Value Creation Officer