How to make the difference at each touchpoint?

On Monday June 18th I attended the 11th Vlerick Brand Community in Ghent, organized by the Vlerick Management School. Topic of the afternoon was “Experience Branding” and “How to make the difference at each point-of-contact”. Regarding my specific interest and scope on Customer Experience Research & Management at InSites Consulting, I was highly interested in today’s topics. Three topics were on the agenda:

  • Frank Goedertier, Prof. Dr. at the Vlerick Leuven Gent Management School, bringing a review of the book “Customer Experience. Future Trends & InSights”
  • Deva Rangarajan, also Prof. Dr. at the Vlerick Leuven Gent Management School, presenting us research results on customer experience management
  • And finally Tom Lambert, sales director at A.S. Adventure, explaining how to turn theory into practice by talking about how the manage the unique shopping experience at A.S. Adventure

Frank Goedertier kicked off with a review on the book Customer Experience. Future Trends & InSights” by Colin Shaw, Qaalfa Dibeehi and Steven Walden. Main learning from the book was to look at Customer Experience not from a core business perspective, but rather from a core psychology perspective by focusing on 9 psychological attention points and associated learnings:

  1. Understand prevailing prejudice: bigger brands such as Coca Cola make people more forgiving than other brands;
  2. Understand expectations: consumers have certain expectations on brands and therefor brands should think about whether they will manage these expectations whether not;
  3. Experience as an association: make your frontline people smile so you can focus on the one-second moments, while your business and service remains the same;
  4. Understand well-being: do not only focus on the top level, emotional goals, but also focus on the lower level, more functional goals;
  5. Understand memory: brands should be aware of the closure moment since it often stays in a consumer’s mind the longest;
  6. Understand how memories are socialized: embed cues in your marketing that subtly stress the adherence to a specific group that is appealing to your customers;
  7. Understand heuristics: customer experiences can be built through simple things e.g. by creating WOW moments;
  8. Understand the subconscious value: a brand should give itself the right example to its customers
  9. Understand mood effects and try to work on that

Two other trends concluded the book review. Not surprisingly the authors refer to the integration of social media in customer experience management. They offer a 5-stage model on how brands and managers can integrate social media in their customer experience efforts: starting from disregarding social media, to observing it, over broadcasting and involving it into your management and finally integrally integrating customers as co-pilots in your company. This model shows high similarity to the philosophy behind the “Conversation Manager” and the “Conversation Company” books. The third trend is about neuroexperience and how neuroscience could potentially become a realistic predictor for behaviour and customer experiences. People speak differently than they think, so studying how the brain and the body respond to marketing stimuli might become (research) tools for business (growth).

Deva Rangarajan, second speaker of the afternoon, shared some practical insights on customer experience management based upon a combination of literature and his own experience as professor and researcher. He set up a framework for providing an excellent customer experience that involves 5 steps:

  1. Analyze the experiential needs of the customers: experience has to do with the emotions associated with the different senses, so make sure to deliver on it. Customer experience research needs to move from the voice of the customer to the mind of the customer.
  2. Develop an experiential value promise: a corporate strategy translated into a mission statement should be translated into a value promise for each specific customer segment, which has to be translated on its turn into a unique selling proposition for each customer on all touchpoints.
  3. Design the brand experience: a brand experience has to ensure that customer service is consistent, intentional, differentiated and valuable. Although, organizations have to decide whether they experience the brand or brand the experience (e.g. Abercrombie & Fitch).
  4. Manage customer touchpoint experiences: all touchpoints on a customer journey have to be linked to internal business processes to understand the impact they have.
  5. Measure & evaluate the customer experiences by continuously or ad hoc measuring KPI’s via NPS or customer satisfaction.

Deva concluded in general to bust the silo-approach and move to a holistic customer experience approach. Customer experiences happen at every touchpoint and through different channels. A holistic approach will allow better understanding and managing customer experiences and the impact they have on businesses.
Tom Lambert concluded the afternoon with a real life testimonial. Tom is sales director at A.S. Adventure and directly involved in managing the unique shopping experience at A.S. Adventure. I was enormously happy and excited to hear that every sales decision at A.S. Adventure is taken from the perspective of this unique shopping experience. As a result, customer experiences and a personal service in particular are at the core of their mission statement.
This unique shopping experience is translated into 4 pillars: people, processes, the environment and product & price. Customer expectations and evoked emotions are underlying and therefor influential for the customer experience.
Another reason why I was happy to listen to this real life testimonial is the actionability upon customer experiences incorporated in the management of A.S. Adventure. They have installed customer experience KPI’s, continuously measure their shopping experience and map these results in order to be able to prioritize and set improvement goals for the future. Action plans are developed and are continuously followed-up on. In practice they have installed a real user shopping experience culture on their 4 experience pillars:

  • People experiences: personnel satisfaction surveys and attached bonus systems, product & sales concept trainings…
  • Process experiences: improvement to their sales support, installing new internal communication tools that are focused on bottom-up communication…
  • Environment experiences: new concept stores, refit programs, air-conditioning in all stores
  • Better product experiences

Implementing a customer experience management system and integrating actionability based upon customer experiences has shown significant and direct impact on the A.S. Adventure business results.
Has your company installed a customer experience management program? Is it translated into all touchpoints and across channels? Does it integrate an actionability system to act upon customer feedback? Is your company culture, from first-line people to executive management based upon what your customers think about you? If you want to improve your businesses and sell more, the answers to these questions should be positive since it will allow better customer experiences which will lead to better results in the end. And that’s what we want, no?
If you would have questions on this article or on Customer Experience Management, please do not hesitate to get in touch with me at [email protected].

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