Way long ago in 1998–yes, that long ago–B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore published a piece in Harvard Business Review (link at the end of this article) that the experience economy had arrived. And, sure, in 20th Century terms, it had. As they explained in their article, the progression began with families buying items, such as Betty Crocker, because there was less kitchen time to prepare the ingredients for a child’s birthday cake. Then parents started going to the bakery store to pick up cakes for their kids and no longer making the cake at home. And, eventually in the late part of the 20th Century, with more work and other demands, families started to outsource the entire birthday to soup-to-nuts groups that did everything, such as Chuck E. Cheese and the Discovery Zone.
And now we’re in the 21st Century, and experience matters even more and companies are beginning to try out different technologies, for instance, virtual reality and augmented reality. Major corporations, such as Facebook and Apple, have made substantial investments into those technologies because the future is coming quickly and I wouldn’t be surprised if in 2018 we see some other global experience, such as Pokémon Go.
Smart marketers understand that creating an experience–with technology–is essential to being able to sell a product or service in today’s world. So, how do you do it?
Customer Experience Continuum
An essential activity to create an excellent customer experience program is not only to have excellent customer service but to go further and understand what your customer experience is from start to finish. From the moment a prospect sends you an email, places a call to your office or messages you in some way, what is the experience your company provides? Understand the entirety of the customer experience from the moment they initially reach out and to what happens after the purchase.
Words Matter for Customer Experience Principles
Once you understand the experience that occurs, and more importantly what you want to make sure your leads experience, you have to ask yourself (and your team) to help you develop principles that will guide the experience from start to finish. In this case, words matter. For example, are you looking for your clients to have “fun” while they partner with you? Are you looking for “excellence in communication”? Whatever the words are that matter to you, develop principles around them and ensure everyone on your team is onboard.
Data In and What Comes Out?
When you’re talking about data, your CRM is everything. You want to make sure your CRM captures everything that is essential to know about your leads and clients. If your team isn’t inputting every touchpoint with your customers, accurately, then you’re not going to be able to anticipate their needs. Part of the customer experience is to know what your prospects and partners are going to want, even before they want it. As an example, in one of my companies, our former partners get reminders at regular intervals about scheduling their next fundraiser with us.
Provide a Sensory Experience
Everyone is used to having many experiences throughout the day. If they’re scrolling social media, your leads and clients are being “marketed” to with live streams, videos or images. Corporations are moving toward providing people virtual experiences and with technology tools. Granted, we’re in the early stages of these types of moments, but it’s already started. If you want to buy a diamond ring, you can see the ring virtually on your hand by supplying a photo. You can also see how furniture will look in your home with apps and a VR headset. Think out of the box and discover creative ways to bring your products and services to market.
Net Promoter Score (NPS)
If you’re not using it already, consider looking into your Net Promoter Score, or NPS. This measuring tool goes beyond simple customer satisfaction. The index calculation, based on the responses of your customers regarding how likely they would be to recommend you to others, helps you understand and predict future revenue growth. The best type of sales you can make are those based on the recommendations of others, particularly if you can predict revenue growth.
Humans haven’t changed since the publication by Pine and Gilmore in the HBR article. The only thing that has changed significantly is how technology has transformed our lives and the world writ large. Humans, however, have always wanted the same thing in a product or service. Consumers want the experience they have with your business to match the expectations they had in their mind when they first inquired about your product or service.