Many customer experience programmes encourage the front-line staff to smile at the customer. This of course makes total sense. A genuine smile is a great way to connect to anyone. You can even hear it over the phone.
But this simple expectation of friendliness creates an interesting management problem. A challenge which stretches all the way to the C-Suite.
After all, how do you make an employee smile?
Genuine smiles don’t appear on command. You can try to prescribe them as part of your training and process manuals. But compliance doesn’t mean sincerity, and customers can spot a fake smile a mile away.
You can also decide to create a wonderful working environment. There’s growing support for the statement that happy employees produce happy customers. Think of it as a modern day variation of the statement that happy cows give more milk.
But also on this path, success isn’t guaranteed. In fact, kindred customer spirit Maurice Fitzgerald even questions whether it leads anywhere. After analysing 345 companies, he could only conclude that: "employee satisfaction does not do anything at all for customers in most industries". While my data-set is more limited, I can only confirm this conclusion. I've even experienced situations with an inverse correlation between employee and customer happiness.
Now don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that employee satisfaction doesn’t contribute at all. But I am saying that to make employees smile at customers, they need to be more than happy to be working for you. They need to enjoy working for the customer. Enjoy providing them with great experiences.
As a leader, this means you need to do three things:
#1. Give your people a reason to get out of bed.
Don’t tell your people to smile at customers as part of hitting their targets. Instead, give them a customer related purpose which they enjoy fulfilling and which will eventually drive profit for your business. If they like putting a smile on your customer’s face, they will start smiling themselves.
#2. Show them you mean it.
Too many leaders fail to walk the talk. So greet your colleagues with a genuine smile. Build teams of positive people, that support and build each other. Even if they’re not in the front line. And yes, create that employee experience which treats your people like you hope they will treat your customers.
#3. Be ready to support.
No one can be cheerful all the time. But customers will nonetheless expect the same level of friendliness at every interaction. So be sensitive to the ups and downs of your people. Give them an opportunity to take a time-out. Put a mechanism in place to cheer them up on those days when it’s hard to smile.
Creating a front-end culture of genuine smiles is one of the bigger leadership challenges that I'm aware of. Because as you might guess, it’s not the smile that matters. It’s the sincerity that goes with it. The desire to meet and exceed customer expectations. The desire to make customers smile, because you made their day.
SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS! Did I miss a beat? Do you (dis)agree? What do you do to make your people smile? Use the comment section to share your thoughts and views with everyone who reads this article. We can all learn from each other.
This article is one of a series to help me articulate my thoughts for The Customer Fitness Code. This is a new book I’m writing to complement the rapidly expanding Customerfit system. If you would like to know more, you can already check out www.customerfit.eu or get in touch. Meanwhile, don't forget to follow me on Linkedin or subscribe to my newsletter.
(c) 2018 Alain Thys, all rights reserved
Photo by Brooke Cagle
I regularly meet customer champions who complain that their colleagues just don’t get it. Or that they don't care about the customer.
I always challenge this mindset. If, as customer advocates, we cannot convince people to care, this doesn’t mean that they are slow. It only means that we haven't been convincing enough. After all, no one gets out of bed with the intent of upsetting customers (well, there was this one guy, but that's another story :-)
So with this article, I would like to share three suggestions to help your people care about the customer. None of them are magic bullets, but I hope you find them useful.
1. Show people how they impact the customer experience.
In my Reebok days, a colleague of mine ran a programme to create the perfect order for UK sports retailers. Like everyone else in the business, the warehouse staff also got involved.
During one of the many workshops, a breakdown occurred. One of the warehouse workers wanted to leave the session, as he felt it was a waste of his time. After all, all this customer b**lsh*t didn’t apply to him. He worked with boxes and had no influence on customer satisfaction.
Now, luck had it, that on this day the CEO of a major retailer was visiting that particular warehouse. He overheard this employee. In a friendly way, he joined the conversation and asked him about his job at the warehouse. The man explained that he worked on picking and packing. He had to seal the boxes before they went on the truck.
The CEO continued with a rhetorical question. "So you are telling me, that you are the last person to see and touch my product before it comes to my stores? And you say you have no influence over my satisfaction as a customer?" The point didn't need any further explanation.
ACTION 1: The actions of every employee (should) add value to the customer. Explain to each of your colleagues how they are part of the bigger picture. Once they see how their work puts a smile on the customer's face, it'll be easier for them to get excited about it.
2. Make the customer voice actionable.
Customer voice programmes can be a great source of honest feedback. They can help you pinpoint what you are getting right and what you are getting wrong. But those unfamiliar with the way these programmes work, may struggle to see their value.
For example, if a customer complains about the price she needs to pay, billing may not be the issue. Sales or marketing may have created the wrong expectation. Those delivering the service might have delivered sloppy work. The invoice might be unclear.
Yet, if you work in marketing, service delivery or IT, you may not immediately see these aspects. After all, the bill being too high has nothing to do with the job you do.
ACTION 2: Complement your customer voice programme with a regular root cause analysis. Translate customer feedback into functional and departmental language that resonates with your silo-colleagues. Once they see how they can contribute, they are more likely to act on this.
3. Humanise your customers.
Every business and employee wants to look professional. Tools of this trade include PowerPoint presentations, jargon and complex analytical models.
While these serve a purpose, they can dehumanise customers. Juan, Mary and Gérard, become units-in-use, policy holders or PAX (BTW does anybody even know what that abbreviation means?). This directly affects the organisation's ability for customer action. In fact, once we turn someone into a number, there is a dramatic decrease in our ability to care. Bringing back the customer as a human can inverse this process.
A few years ago I saw a brilliant example of this at a global telecom operator I worked for. Like any other telco they had clients that suffered from bill shock. Especially when confronted with unexpected post-holiday roaming charges.
Also, like at every operator, these customers were numbers on a spreadsheet. That is, until one of their customer experience champions singled out the story of Johan.
Johan was a single dad who had been on holiday with his two children. Upon returning home at the end of August, he found that his bank account was empty. The country he was in, wasn't part of his data-plan and he had incurred a bill of several thousands of Euros. Through automatic debit, this amount had disappeared from his bank account. At the start of the school year, he didn't have the money to buy his children the books and new clothes they needed.
Telling this story at the start of the bill-shock meetings, got a lot more of people's attention than the spreadsheets used to do.
ACTION 3: Replace your cold customer reports with human accounts. Give your people the opportunity to relate to your customers as individuals. Make them care. Once they do, they'll be ready to help. Not because KPI's say so, but because it's in our nature.
Thank you for reading until the end of this page. This article is one of a series to help me formulate my thoughts for The Customer Fitness Code (project title). This is a new book I'm writing to help companies improve their customer experience management capabilities (aka. customer fitness). If you would like to know more, you can already check out www.customerfit.eu or - alternatively - get in touch :-)
Meanwhile, if you haven't done so, do subscribe to my newsletter. Here, I share articles like this one, additional thoughts and the occasional freebie. You can find a registration field at the top of this page.
This article is the first in a series of publications to share the results of Customerfest, an online experiment to co-create the future of customer experience which ran late 2017. A big shout out to the team of InSites Consulting for making the event possible
In Bavaria, a driverless bus scoots across the countryside. In China, a man enjoys his dinner thanks to a dental implant set by a robot. In Northern Ireland, a toddler sports a 3D printed kidney. A Caribbean robotic bartender mixes cocktails on a cruise-ship.
The world has changed, and customer expectations are changing with it. 2020 will be a world where technical customer loyalty is dead. Where customers can buy what they want, when they want it, where they want it and even at the price they want it.
To adapt to this new reality, we will all need to reinvent ourselves. In fact, every company will need to develop three specific capabilities (*):
We need to learn how to solve customer problems before they occur. As devices around us get smarter, customers will expect smarter environments. Interfaces that only show the stuff they like. Mechanics that repair machines before they break down.
Customer insight collection needs to become instant and continuous. Sensing technologies and algorithms need to predict customer needs before competitors do so. Even before customers identify these needs themselves. This will allow further simplification of the customer's life. Cut transactional steps and touchpoints. Even complete journeys.
As long as humans are paying the bills, we want to be more than an organic interface to a digital process. Before we part with our money, we want attention, empathy and warmth. So while a more digital experience can add value, you will always need to infuse it with a human touch.
Tactically, you need to truly understand the customer's emotions at every stage of the relationship. Strategically, your business needs to develop a human face. A purpose and business model that transcends the simple pursuit of profit.
The experience we offer IS the product. But the opportunities to deliver this experience are getting scarce. Customers already tuned out of (intrusive) marketing efforts years go. Digitalisation now helps them avoid our showrooms, stores and offices. Unless these visits make their life easier or more enjoyable.
So when they do give you their time and attention, you need to pull out all the stops. Immerse them in your offer and the story of your business. Give them an experiential memory that can lasts months, years or even a life-time. After all, there’s no telling when you’ll get another chance to interact.
Bonus checklist item: reinvention
I realise that the above may feel like customer experience science fiction. Especially as many of us are still coming to grips with journey mapping and VOC programmes. But unfortunately, I'm not making the rules. Technology will accelerate. New players will disrupt existing markets. Customer expectations will rise.
Above all, this means mastering the skill of reinvention. The ability to challenge our own habits and beliefs. The willingness to learn new techniques and skills. Even if they are far outside of our comfort zone.
Does your business have a process to challenge itself on a regular basis? Do you deploy red teams to find weaknesses in your system? Set up think-tanks to explore new business models? In short, are you ready for reinvention when the need presents itself?
This is a final post with learnings from my trip to The Future of Storytelling (FOST) Summit in New York. My thanks for inspirations offered by Don Hahn, Melissa Kelly, Andrew Peters and my friend and virtual reality savant David Polinchock.
Imagine that I told you the story of Snow White. But I’d do it in a fragmented way. I would tell you some parts over Twitter. A bit in a 90-second YouTube video. Some more on a highway billboard as you drove to work. To add to the complexity, we wouldn’t make an appointment to talk. I’d shout out at random, unannounced moments in your week.
With this approach, you’d probably miss a large part of the story. You might think it was a tale about mining conditions for dwarfs. About a narcissistic queen and her mirror. A murderous huntsman. A young woman that sings to animals. Or, worst case, a lady serial-killer selling apples.
SHALL WE STOP FOOLING OURSELVES?
The above may sound like ineffective storytelling. But it is a reality for every brand and corporate communication professional. There is a complex, often layered story to tell. But it must live in rushed videos, limited character tweets and glossy websites which no one reads anymore.
Despite best efforts, only very few customers, stock market analysts and even employees ever hear a company’s full story. Snow White hits the radar. The apple may stick too. But most of us miss out on Sleepy’s goofiness or the Queen's complicated relationship with the huntsman.
This is problematic because a brand’s personality is all about this nuance. Without these colourful touches, every story it tells sounds the same and becomes a commodity. This, in turn, makes even more people tune out.
THE ANSWER IS STARING US IN THE FACE
The performing arts have solved the above storytelling problem for thousands of years. Their solution still works today. If they want an audience to hear a story, they don’t push it across 50 channels. They concentrate it in its purest form and ask the audience to come to them.
I am increasingly of the belief that this can also work for brands. That marketers can break the self-destructive cycle of forcing their messages on an ever more elusive and disinterested audience. That, like the arts, they can invite their audience to join them willingly by investing in immersive media and experiences. By telling stories which people want to hear.
These can take many forms. Physical spaces. Virtual/augmented reality environments. Long-form copy (aka. books). Podcasts. ARG’s. Story-worlds. Or the often ignored, but oh-so-immersive silver screen of cinema. I probably missed a few.
SHALL WE PLAY A NEW GAME?
Unfortunately, these immersive experiences won’t fit the reach addicted communication formats that force us to dumb down stories into 30-second or 140-character formats.
They require us to replace our message-centric communication models with an audience-centric approach. Stop focusing on the stories we want to tell, but craft the stories our audience wants/needs to hear. Quit chasing hypothetical GRP’s, but embrace and move smaller, real audiences. Rely on them to tell our story to the world.
We need to start crafting (immersive) experiences that are meaningful, memorable and shareable. As this is a standard that most of the current marketing and communication initiatives fail to achieve, marketers and agencies need to raise the bar. Play a new game.
WHAT IF AUDIENCES EMBRACED YOU
This mind-shift will take effort. Audience-centricity, meaning and the careful crafting of experiences don’t always fit in the hectic world of campaigns and KPIs. Advertising has become a machine and the world I describe above, doesn't really fit the mould.
But I firmly believe that the brands that dare to be different will gradually, and sustainably overcome many of the communication challenges they face today.
Instead of hunting audiences, I see a world in which customers willingly give their time. Immerse themselves in real, imaginary or virtual brand environments because they want to experience them. And once they have been touched, they tell their friends about it.
After all, who of us wouldn’t want their brand’s story to be as familiar as Snow White?
If you're a (marketing) executive and you find this message resonates, do get in touch. I'm currently still shaping my thoughts on this topic, so perhaps we can experiment and co-create in 2018.
Also check out my other two lessons from the Future of Storytelling:
This article first appeared on www.alainthys.com. All rights reserved.
Every year, I force myself out of my day-to-day activities to attend the Future of Storytelling Summit in New York. In a short series of posts, I’m sharing some of the lessons I learned this year. I hope you find them useful.
FOST LESSON 2: TO TELL A STORY, YOU NEED TO LISTEN
Once upon a time, I met a storyteller from Madagascar. She captivated her audience with crocodiles, tribal feuds and virgins discovering love in the jungle. When she climbed on the stage she wore her traditional robe. No shoes. No props. No Powerpoint. As she spun her tale, you could hear a pin drop.
After the event, I had the opportunity to spend some time with her. Knowing we would only have a few moments, I decided to make the most of them. “How" I asked. "do you take such a simple story and use it to silence a group of grown men full of their own importance?”.
Her answer was one of the most important storytelling lessons I ever had in my life. “You need to remember”, she said, “that you are not the one telling the story. The people you speak to tell it to themselves. In their imagination. All you do, is give them the tools, the ideas and the emotions that they can make their own.”
She continued by explaining that, as a storyteller, her most important skill was to listen and understand the picture the audience was painting for themselves. She watched their body language. Their expressions. Their eyes.
Based on what she saw, she adapted her tale. Would the crocodile take a little longer before the attack? Would it swim away? It all depended on the reaction from the audience and her intuition. While the core elements remained the same, she hardly ever told the exact same story twice.
NEW YORK, OCTOBER 2017
I was reminded of the Malagasy’s words at the Future of Storytelling Summit. In their own way, speaker after speaker illustrated that successful storytelling required listening.
Cartoon Network’s approach hinged on design thinking and rapid prototypes. Disney actively involved audiences in making their movies better. Eating designer Marije Vogelzang was more interested in the stories of the people eating her food, than the food itself. Colum McCann from Narrative 4 delivered a passionate plea that listening and empathy lie at the heart of every meaningful story.
To me, this struck an important chord. As a hard-core customer-centrist and empathic individual, I’ve always believed in listening. Sometimes to a fault. But in the world of angano (Malagasy for story), it is the only way.
Stories do not exist unless someone is listening. To make audiences care about your words, you have to start from their reality. This applies if you want to convince people of the business case for your idea or have them embrace your description of the Gash-i-Rah clan on the planet Khalu. You need to give them points of recognition which connect to their beliefs. Their desires. Their fears.
Once you meet them there, you can take them to any point of your story world, as long as you keep listening and continuously adapt your tale to the story they are ready to be told.
LESSON LEARNED: AUDIENCE-CENTRICITY IS KEY TO GREAT STORYTELLING
Bad listening is where many stories fail. Deliberate listening is what makes them succeed.
The good news is that with my customer-centricity training, I know how to do this. Generating insights, observing audiences and taking customers on an emotional journey are all part of the trade.
The bad news is that I remain human. As executives, talkers, writers, makers, we’re so eager to get our point across, that we lose sight of the ideas our audience are ready to accept. We use words that don’t resonate with their beliefs. Warn of threats they do not see. Promise treasures they cannot imagine.
As a result, we may rationally convince them of our point, but forget to win their hearts. They may hear about our crocodiles, feuding clans and virgins in the jungle. But they will never see them in their mind’s eye. I’ve done it more than once, and I’m bound to do it again.
So the lesson I learned, is that for every future story I tell, I will try to apply the audience-centric principle that it is not about the story I want to tell, but all about the story my audience is ready to hear.
This story first appeared on alainthys.com. If you like what you read and would like to get more, subscribe to my newsletter. It's full of articles, tips and other goodies.
Every year, I force myself out of my day-to-day to attend The Future of Storytelling Summit in New York. This is one of one of those rare events that don’t just inform, but challenge - even change - your belief system. After a week of experiential overdose, I'll be sharing some of the lessons I learned this year. I’ll focus on the ones which are relevant for brands and customer professionals. I’ll split them over multiple posts.
FOST LESSON 1: UX as we know it, just died
Every serious conversation about quantum physics has a tendency to melt your brain. It doesn’t make sense, and yet it is. So when my first work session at Fost started looking at the influence of quantum field theory on user interface design, I knew I could be in for a rollercoaster ride (OK, I’m a nerd, sue me 😃).
Jumping straight to the end of the story, the workshop's message was that we should forget everything we know about today's user interfaces.
Ever since the beginning, we have modeled digital interfaces on an industrial age paradigm. If you wanted a machine to do something, you had to press a button. This could be a physical button, a Siri command or a wave of the hand. But metaphorically, it was always “a button”.
Using this new paradigm, these buttons disappear. By installing a wide variety of sensors around us, our machines monitor our every move, micro-expression, heartbeat, temperature, pupil dilation. And just to be clear, our sunglasses, jewellery and clothes can all be machines.
This allows the development of probabilistic models that predict our intentions at the speed of our brain. In other words, the machines watch us and calculate the probability that we want to open a door, open a file or are in the mood for ice-cream. Once the probability is high enough, they automatically provide us with the things we desire. No commands. No instructions. No buttons. Only intent.
This can happen over short distances, but also across larger ones. Even at the other side of the planet. After all, if you think about vectors in a quantised field, space is a very relative concept. All that matters is the expression of intent/probability.
If this sounds like science fiction, it partly is. The technology is available today and all major players are working on it. But it does require 5G, a ton of sensors (IoT anyone?), more advanced AI and - as an AT&T executive observed - “a massive amount of processing power”.
Also, the ethical implications will need sorting out. If my primal brain says I want bacon, but salad is the smarter option, which will the digital restaurant menu show first? If I tell my vendor that I’m satisfied with the service, but my micro-expressions contradict this, is he allowed to know? If I’m depressed and consider killing myself, will the machines help me? Or stop me?
But all these elements will eventually be sorted out. Especially as first user tests indicate that after 20 seconds of usage, people have figured out the new way of working. They also prefer the intuitive nature and nanosecond speed over old-school UX.
So, there is still a number of years mileage in today’s user experience design practices. But the genie is out of the bottle and there’s no way we’ll put it back in. In my mind, UX has we know it, is a dead man walking.
What are your thoughts when you read the above? Good? Bad? Ugly?
If you like my thinking and want to read more of what I write about customer-centricity, storytelling and related subjects, don't forget to register for my newsletter. If you aren't yet on the mailing list, there should be a registration bar at the top of this page. It comes with articles, reading tips and the occasional freebie/preview.
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Lately, I've been wondering a lot about the future of CX. Notably about what lies beyond our current pre-occupation with the customer's voice, journey mapping and getting better at what we should be doing anyway.
To many questions, I can't find a quality response. So I summarised the main ones in this article, in the hope that you might have some answers, or at least thoughts that could help us all to solve the puzzle.
If you do, I'd appreciate if you could share them in the comments, or even better by joining the team from Insites Consulting and myself on Customerfest. This is an online experiment where customerati from all over the world try to co-create the future of customer experience. Either way, I'd love to hear your views.
Also if you are of the opinion that I ask too many questions ;-)
I've been asking myself a lot of questions about the future of customer experience. Four, I seem to be unable to answer by myself. So I thought I'd share them in the hope that you could throw in your 2 cents to solve them.
You can do this in the comment section below. Or even better, by joining www.customerfest.eu. This is an online co-creation experiment I've set up with my friends at Insites Consulting. It's free. It’s educational and it promises to be great fun.
Either way, I'd love to hear your views. Also if you are of the opinion that I ask too many questions ;-)
Question 1: How do we pick the right technologies to enhance our customer’s experience?
A tsunami of technologial change is coming our way. Every day, new developments in AI, 3D printing, genetics, IoT and more hit our newsfeeds. But it’s not always clear how these breakthroughs benefit our customer’s experience.
So, without 20:20 foresight, how do we pick the ones that matter? How do we find out of the box use cases and combinations that will - as vendors promise - disrupt our industry?
In theory, it's simple. We need to observe our customers. Go out and experiment. Learn. Prototype. Rebuild. Design thinking and all that jazz.
But the real world doesn’t work that way. On the one hand there is opportunity overload. On the other, resource limitations exist. What's more, not everyone has reinvention skills. So, no matter how dedicated we are to exploring all avenues ahead, we will need to make choices.
But how do we choose? Is there a method? Or will success be a randomised game where the winners are the ones that guessed right?
Question 2: How do we maintain a human touch?
Whether we like it or not, the world is going digital. Supply chains will continue to automate, AI’s will respond to customer requests. Robots already greet us at airports. But, until further notice, humans are still the ones paying the bills. Regardless of machine efficiencies, our flesh & blood type still like a human touch.
So how do we design for emotion in a world of digital assistants, predictive services and robots. Do we need to give our technology a more human face? Do we need hybrid solutions where humans complement machines and vice versa? Or is there a business case to go 100% human and reject technology all together?
How do we marry technology and humanity? And where do we draw the line? Commercially, but perhaps also morally?
Question 3: How do we engage employees as machines start taking their place?
The reports are unanimous. Machines are going to replace as significant amount of humans in the workplace. Some say that this is fine. People will move to new jobs that don’t exist today. Others are more pessimistic. They press us to make work of universal basic income. Either way, we’re heading for a period of transition. This will bring job insecurity and possible employee hostility towards automation.
So, what do we do? Do we play Darwinistic hardball and let the most adaptable survive? Do we start preparing our people for a fuzzy future? And how do we keep these people motivated to deliver the best customer experience they can? Especially if some will realise that it’s only a matter of time before a machine starts gunning for their job.
How do we deal with this? We cannot take a wait and see attitude. Morality aside, today’s employees are still tomorrow’s customers.
Question 4: How do we stay in control of the coming customer experience chaos?
Big data. Personalisation. Fragmenting supply chains. Many factors are making our world a lot more complex. According to some, current developments are only the beginning. Technological change will continue to speed up. Changes in one industry will exponentially influence customer expectations in another.
How will we stay on top of this complexity and acceleration? How will we deal with big data if most companies still struggle with their CRM system? Will we outsource our thinking to AI? Are we heading towards a counter movement with radical simplification and small data?
And as individuals. How will make sure that we keep our own knowledge fresh and relevant? All while doing our regular day job?
When confronted with this barrage of questions, you may raise your hands and say I don't know. Most of the time, I do the same.
But, sooner rather than later, we will need to come up with answers. The world is changing at the speed of light. While there is still time, the customer experiences we work on today, may not exist 5 years from now. Many will definitely be gone in a decade.
So, help myself and 50 other customerati from around the world look for answers. Register for our co-creation project at www.customerfest.eu. It's free, educational and promises to be fun.
Image (cc) Jonathan Simco
With all the talk of multi-channel retail and digital commerce, I sometimes wonder if in five to ten years, there will still be a high-street. Will we still go shopping? Or do we order our goods in virtual reality for delivery-by-drone?
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to interview Cate Trotter. She's the Head of Trends at Insider Trends and helps retailers develop future scenarios for their business. I've compiled the best excerpts of our conversation in the video below.
Not so long ago, customer expectations were fairly siloed. Customers didn’t really compare the way they banked to the way they shopped for cars or were treated in their local hospital. To compete, all you needed to do was keep an eye out for the competitors in your market and be better. While challenging, this was conceptually quite easy.
Today, this has changed. Once customers had a certain experience anywhere, it will become their expectation everywhere. Regardless whether this is fair or realistic. If CitizenM can get me through check-in in 30 seconds, why do I have to stand in line in my medical centre? If Coolblue can tell me EXACTLY when my dishwasher will arrive at home, why can’t my vendor do the same for the widgets that are due in my warehouse?
Customer expectations are increasingly driven by the sum of all customer experiences a person has. Anywhere. Anytime. So if you’re selling B2B widgets, suddenly dishwashers matter.
I’ve been looking into this a bit as part of the upcoming Customerfest. It led me to formulate three areas in which you might want to look at the customer experiences you offer. I’m sure there are more, so if you have idea, do share below!
Shorten the customer journey
The simplest customer journey is the one that doesn’t happen. Places like Amazon or AirBnB have taught us that you can buy things in one click and get all the services to match. The more this happens, the more we start expecting shorter journeys everywhere. Every inefficient step, every address detail re-entered, becomes an irritant.
ACTION: Rather than improving your customer journey, look at eliminating complete steps. Can you do what Warby Parker eyewear did, and let customers take their vision tests at home? Can you create your version of the one-click-buy or Amazon Dash ?
Virtual assistants like Siri or Alexa, combined with the AI that powers them, are teaching customers to think about the ways they interact with brands. As a result we'll grow increasingly irritated when navigating that IVR or working through 3 call-centre agents that can’t seem to get our problem solved. Instead, we want our answers fast, accurate and with as little hassle as possible. Even if we’re not asking the question.
ACTION: Explore ways in which you can make your products and services more intelligent. Solve customer problems before they occur. Take inspiration from examples like the Pirelli Connesso system that proactively manages a car's tires through a mobile app. Or Nudge for Change, which helps consumer’s spend money at establishments which align with their beliefs.
We are living in the on-demand decade. Think Netflix. Same-day delivery. Soon even our cars will appear when we summon them. These developments are rapidly reducing our tolerance for waiting around and committing ourselves when there is no immediate need. We want our solutions instantly, and if we don’t use them, we’d preferably not pay..
ACTION: Think about the places you are making customers wait. Not just for delivery, but for answers. Service. Information. Payment. Take a look at Avvo, which gets you on the phone with a new lawyer within 8 minutes, or Verifly which has just launched drone insurance by the flight. Whether any of these services actually become a business success, is irrelevant. They are changing expectations, one customer at a time. This will eventually affect your business.
So get going, and look at the way other industries are changing your customer’s experiences. But remember. It's not because technology can be used that it should. Empowering the customer doesn’t equal digital force-feeding. Personally, I love gizmos that make my life easier. My wife, on the other hand, just wants to talk to another human that makes her problems go away. If you want to do business with our family, you have to keep both of us happy.
Just to keep your life a challenge :-)
B2B is going digital. Processes get automated. Self-service models introduced. Some firms are reducing the amount of human contact to the point of non-existence.
To a degree, we like this. As professional clients we want to be efficient with our time. We have developed a culture which considers email to be more efficient than calling. In which we prefer to pick up a phone over meeting face-to-face. Especially if the latter requires travel. In short: we achieve more, talk less and we like it that way.
So, whenever a client comes to your head office or showroom a unique opportunities arises. To build relationships. To open your clients' eyes to new avenues of business. To give them stories to tell when they get back home. To create a memorable experience.
Unfortunately, many B2B companies squander this precious moment. On the process front they pursue the latest in digitalisation. But in face-to-face meetings and hospitality, scripts haven't changed since my first job. 30 years ago.
Clients check in at reception. Someone brings them to a clean, but non-descript, meeting room. They get a cup of coffee or tea and a cookie. After some small talk, it’s on to Powerpoint and paperwork. Sometimes, a tour or demo brightens up the day.
It feels like - and probably is - an efficient way to get the practical side of the job done. But as an experience, it’s also very un-memorable. If not boring.
B2B product and service providers need to rethink their (head) office experience.
Offices and showrooms can be more than physical locations to get stuff done. They can be immersive experiences which help your staff strengthen client relationships. Create memorable moments.
This isn’t about buying funky furniture, though may be part of the mix. It is about creating client experience scripts that consider:
Once you get into it, you'll quickly find that many of the office protocols you consider to be normal today, contribute little to the visiting client's experience. You might even find they detract from it.
So, are you ready to turn the place upside down?
About this blog
Whenever inspiration strikes, I use this space to share my thoughts on customer experience management, storytelling or what ever else crosses my mind.