Experience Economy: Go With the Flow

There’s a lot conversation from the design world about the customer journey. Each design firm has its own version of how customers travel through the place, be it physical or digital. What many have in common is the attracting of customers. In the physical world, they label the outside environment of the place as Attract. They explain, “The design must draw people inside in order for them to do business with you.”

However, if your institution is looking for ways to participate in the emerging Experience Economy, you’ll want to begin staging Experiences for customers. And you should start by using a different design criteria terminology—one that better aligns with experiences. Instead of trying to attract customers, think in terms of enticing them. Enticing suggests that you’re providing the customer with a call to action—rather than merely attempting to stand out from the masses and be noticed.

In the economy of Experiences, enticing is the act of luring a customer in. It speaks to something special, unique, even other-worldly. Enticing is also the first phase of the flow of an Experience. It is the cue in the outside world to beckon the customer inside and teases what awaits inside.

Take the Build-A-Bear Workshop stores. The façade around the entrance way is their enticing zone, which allows them to begin telling the story of customized and personalized teddy bear creation. It speaks to customers, telling them that “here is where your dream bear becomes real.” It is enticing them to come and build a bear of their own.

Following along the flow of the Experience, the customer transitions through the second phase—or liminal space—called entering. It may not sound as exciting as enticing, yet it is as critical as any other phase in the flow of an experience. It is the phase—be it a distance or span of time—that guides customers into the world you’ve created. It transitions them from the outside and into your place. The entering is one of the most overlooked phases in business. It is commonly treated as merely the doorway in or out of your business and yet, to the Experience stager, it can be key to establishing the Experience. Imagine if Disneyland or Disneyworld didn’t have its deep gates and Main Street to establish its world. How believable would it be as the Magic Kingdom?

Entering is also where the stager begins changing the environment through the five senses. Sound and visual cues are strong ways to begin shifting a customer’s perception from the outer world to that of your business and the Experience. As with enticing—which establishes the promise—the entering begins to shape the promise. In this phase, it is crucial that it must reflect the brand and the Experience being staged.

Once the customer has entered, the engaging phase of an experience begins. Engaging is as it is named, the point where the customer engages with the business, brand, and staff—and where the promise established in the enticing phase begins to be fulfilled.

At this point, most services or goods providers see this as the end of the customer journey.

Yet in the Experience Economy, the engaging phase is followed by the exiting phase. Exiting—like entering—is usually an overlooked phase of the experience. Although it’s not as exciting as the engaging phase, exiting is critical to reinforcing the memories created during the engaging phase. Here the business has the opportunity to provide a token of the Experience.

In many museums, for example, this phase is represented by the gift shop or souvenir shop that’s well located for visitors as they are exiting the museum. It can even serve as a moment when they take photos with others in front of the marquee or display. It is a place that offers the opportunity to create a reminder of the engagement.

For banking, the exiting could be as simple as a handshake and a branded folder holding documents of a transaction. Or it could be the nice pen used to sign a loan. This phase is another liminal space, like that of entering. It is the transitional segment along the Experience Journey, leading from the inner world of your business back out to the outer world.

Finally, the last phase of an Experience is that of extending. It is that point where the engagement is extended beyond the place. Take Starbucks as an example. As a customer leaves the café, they typically carry the drink in a branded cup beyond the business out into the public view. Some customers even purchase Starbuck travel mugs as memorabilia of the experience. In banking, it can be a follow-up piece sent later that is personalized for the customer around the type of engagement they had—or a handwritten thank you note when adding a new product or service.

It is important to understand that the extending phase then becomes the enticing phase for the return visit. It can also become a means for customers to share their experience with others. It can be used to help transform customers into brand ambassadors and entice others to experience what is offered.

Here, a note of caution.

Working through the flow of the experience is not about a checklist of things to do along the way or build as needed. A clear strategy needs to exist—one that incorporates all five phases of an Experience harmoniously. Design and develop the complete flow of the experience before engaging customers to the Experience that will be staged.

 

Originally posted on ABA Bank Marketing, June 19,2017

Experience Economy: Primer

Originally posted on the ABA Bank Marketing site on May 15, 2017

Some may not know what the experience economy is about—or how it emerged. This article provides a primer on the concept of the experience economy.

In the early years of our country, agriculture and livestock were the mainstream of commerce. This period was known as the agrarian or commodities economy. People lived off the land, raised livestock, and mined the earth for resources like gold, silver, and coal.

After the agrarian era came industrial manufacturing, driven by the ability to mass-produce goods from those same commodities. Goods that had once been crafted individually could now be assembled and produced in mass quantities—increasing affordability and consistency. Banks adapted to this new goods economy by facilitating the use of currency and coin for the exchange of commodities and the regulation of cost.

As technology advanced and people began living in larger cities, a third economic model emerged—the services economy. And over time, banking shifted its focus again, no longer providing currency in exchange for silver ore or gold dust. Instead, banks became financial service providers, delivering services that members of the public cannot provide for themselves. As such, banks provide funding for homes, cars, and equipment. In addition, they offer a system of secure and regulated financial exchange in the form of checking or debit cards. They also provide safe and secure storage of documents and personal items of value. Through this model of serving consumer needs, banking increased its value to its customers—at least for a time.

And so, the pattern continues. Just as the commodities and goods economies ran their course, the service economy has also been surpassed. Over the past 20 years, there has been a growing trend by consumers to move away from spending on things or paying others to do things for them. The focus has now turned to paying for activities.

The experience economy had taken root—and it offers a greater value than all previous economies combined. A business focusing on experiences can increase the value of its offering by staging activities around the goods and services it provides.

People want to do things and are willing to pay up for that opportunity. Companies like Viking Cruises offer personalized river excursions. Car companies are creating unique driver experience centers where customers can drive high-end and exotic cars—both physically and virtually. Nike offers customers the ability to completely customize and personalize pairs of shoes for a fee. Even toy companies, like Lego, stage huge Lego conventions for the public so they can share their designs and learn about other’s creations—all designed to add value of the goods and services they offer.

What this means for banking.

So how can banks leverage this economic development? First step is to increase their value by staging activities that are not only customized, but personalized to each customer. Digital technology offers the greatest opportunity to achieve this. As described in the first article of this series on the ABA Bank Marketing site, if it’s digital, it can be customized. If something can be customized for the individual, then it has greater value for the customer and in turn, for the bank.

In addition to leveraging the digital world, banks can leverage their physical space by adapting branches to focus more on the purpose of customers’ visits. It’s no longer necessary for branches to revolve around performing basic transactions.

Think about staging activities around what your customers seek and need—and what goods and services you excel at providing. Use that knowledge to change the bank’s physical space to better stage personal experiences and unique engagements that support the brand. This will differentiate you from other banks. Make the shift from doing for the customer to doing with the customer. In the experience economy, it is all about staging engaging interactions that increase value for customers.

Signature Moments

Have you ever wondered if there was something more you could do to extend your brand or message? Well, there is.

One opportunity that is usually overlooked is at the point of when your customers are exiting your business. Add a signature moment that adds that little punch to the engagement. As a Visual Translator, I find that taking photos of attendees at the wall acting as if they are doing the work, is a great piece of memorabilia and a signature moment for them. It also gives me another chance to communicate my brand and my work through various channels the attendee wishes to use. It’s both branding and a signature moment.

Take a look at your business. When is there an opportunity to add that moment outside of the normal business transaction? Now fill it with something that is uniquely you.

Banking on the Experience Economy

Banking on the Experience Economy

Elevating the Value

Let’s face reality; banking is a service business. Banks provide customers with financial services and charge for doing what their customers cannot do for themselves. In today’s market, banking is faced with a wide and expanding range of competition that is forcing price to become the primary defining factor at best. Unfortunately, fighting on price creates no greater value for the business, only volume with decreased margins. If there is no real difference in the eyes of the customer, there is no loyalty. Moreover, the idea of great customer service is not a differentiator, it is what is expected.

In the Experience Economy, it is much more than efficiency or performance ratings of service delivery, it is about a personal customized offering to the individual and staging memorable engagements. It is a shift from doing for a customer to doing with a customer. This is a deliberate strategic change from ‘time well saved’ in the service economy to ‘time well spent’ in the experience economy. Moreover, that time well spent being engaged, should come at a premium price.

The question before us is this; can a service economy industry like banking be elevated to that of an experience stager? We believe the answer is a definitive yes given the desire for change exists.

 

 

Staging Experiences with Bank Customers

In the book “The Experience Economy” by B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore, the phrase “Work is theatre and every business a stage” is used to frame up the key idea that staff have roles to perform and that the environment becomes a stage for the performance. To achieve this idea, banks need to refocus away from merely delivering efficient service to staging engaging experiences with their customers. The environment must be aligned with the brand promise and support the bank’s culture. Banks need to avoid rehashing older delivery models or duplicating another bank’s design to create activity. The physical and digital place must be a manifestation of the bank’s brand and purpose.

 

Transforming the Culture

The hurdle for banking in the Experience Economy is that it requires an honest assessment of the culture across the whole of the organization. The evolution to an experience begins always with the strength of the people. No brand statement or great environment design can create a memorable engagement without the efforts and intention of the staff. This must happen at all levels and all channels of customer interaction. The more staff is engaged with the customer, the more memorable the experience.

 

3S Model: Satisfaction, Sacrifice and Surprise

One method to begin the journey to becoming an experience is applying the practice of the 3S model: Satisfaction, Sacrifice and Surprise.

  • Satisfaction: First, begin by finding ways to improve satisfaction for the customer. Find out what they like about the current interaction with the bank and expand those ideas. Improve on what is already being done and eliminate the customer’s dislike.
  • Sacrifice: Next, identify customer sacrifices and barriers between what the customer wants and what they must accept because of limitations, efficiencies or selection. Begin removing these sacrifices to enhance the interactions with the customer. Remember, it’s about what the customer really wants and not about being limited to selecting from a menu of what is only offered. One major method to removing sacrifice is by leveraging digital channels. As more and more functions and processes of banking become digital, the more customizable they become. The more customizable an experience/event can be, the more personalized it becomes and eventually, the more customer sacrifice is removed. Being digital means being customizable.
  • Surprise: Finally, add in a surprise during the interaction. Surprises can be random or planned. Take the idea of opening an account. Imagine allowing the customer to create their own unique banking package that fits their needs. Then, because options can be digital, this particular blend of service and features gets named after them and becomes a pre-designed package offering that others can choose. It also creates conversation for the customer with their connections and an experience they are willing to share.

For banking to evolve from the service economy to the experience economy, it will take deliberate action. It is a shift in thinking that is interactive and intentional. The experience economy is a very purposeful level of interaction and takes practice, performance and focus. Just imagine if Starbucks stopped being an experience and commoditized the experience by just serving preset coffee drinks. No more getting your order the way you want with the extra shot or soy versus milk. No more customization of ingredients so that it’s your personal latte and no one else’s. How fast would the value of Starbucks fall?

The key to being an experience stager is knowing that experience is unique to each customer, and the customer becomes the product in which the engagement is designed around. To become an experience, an organization must create a unique difference through the engagement, the purpose and deliberate staging of the engagement in order to create a memorable and valuable event in the mind of the customer. Creating memories through experiences creates increased value and revenue.

We are in the era of the experience economy, companies who do not adapt or evolve from goods or services will be replaced by companies who can stage experiences in order to add greater value to their offering.

 

 

Guided Change

I have written, tweeted and even presented a fair amount about change. Change in personal, business and organization environments. The one thing I have not shared is that desired change is guided.

change

Many speak about change as if it was a package you can just pull from the shelves, It’s not. Proper change is a guiding process which requires outside supporter, experts and journey guides. No desired change happens in a vacuum, we all need someone else to guide us along the path, because each of us travels at a different rate and course. There is no one single plan that can work for everyone.

Over the past many years I have worked with some powerful teams help clients with change. In every interaction, the clients that were the most successful had a clear picture of what change would look like and feel like. By creating what they wanted to become and mapping it out, could individuals, teams or whole organizations understand the path that they needed to take and the obstacles to overcome. Most importantly, they knew they had a guide to help them when they faltered or got off course.

Take as an example of personal hardship and eating disorders. a young woman who had fallen into a ritual of poor eating to fit in with the crowd. When she finally realized, after great pain and medical issues, that she needed to change, she found a guide coach who could help her change, not change her. Soon she was on the road to who she wanted to become, and not what others wanted her to be. Read her story here and see how she is now helping guide others along the path she once traversed. The Unpolished Journey.

The second thing I have rarely shared about change is that it is never over. Change is ever evolving as time passes and events unfold around the change that is happening. With change, you can only describe what you believe you wish to become, map the path and begin the journey. Change is not a destination, but truly a journey where new ideas and revelations are revealed that may take you even further. As with Morgan Blair, founder of The Unpolished Journey, her journey of change rippled out around her, changed her from traveller to guide.

Now let’s take an organization who needs and wants to change. Healthcare organizations are being forced to change. These organizations are being directed from external forces. This method of change is not good nor will they control their outcomes. This is a spiral down and not a journey forward. Companies like Starizon are gathering people to help make change a positive path. Even the team members that help the transformation are called Guides and the client as explorers. In change, we explore options and possibilities and our guides help us, never lead or dictate the paths taken.

Change is transformation. We move from one state of being to another. Transformation is the journey we take to self discovery and change. Just as illustrated below, change is only possible in the future state, the past is unchangeable. In order to cross the gap of change, We need to redefine our purpose of why, map the process of ‘How’ to achieve ‘What’ we want to become.

Change Deltasm

To learn more or chat about how mapping your bridge to the future, just contact me when you decide that you want to take control of your own change.

Business Alignment

No matter if you’re a small business, large corporation or non-profit, there are connections in our purpose, communication and the places we connect in. I have written before on the importance of alignment and I am going to do again, but this time I want to break down the idea into steps.

I believe that the three key principles in all businesses are these; Culture, Brand and Place. The principles are not free-standing as some would treat them. No, all three of these are linked in an interlocking pattern. Adjust one and it affects the other two.

Take culture for the first example. What you and those around you believe about the same goal or outcome is your purpose and drives your brand message and the promise your communicate to others.

3 Thoughts on BPC 1

Your promise to others needs a place that reflects this promise and helps facilitate your interactions with others. Your brand frames what your place should be no matter if it is physical or digital. The real message here is that both your physical and digital places should reflect your brand and not merely be a trendy place or a copy of someone else’s place.

3 Thoughts on BPC 2

As I stated at the beginning of this post, all three are connected and each reacts and influences the others. The place where you interact must also support the belief and intention of your culture. It must stimulate those who enter to your belief and help become the stage of your people to communicate your message.

3 Thoughts on BPC 3

It is very important to always remember that these three principles apply to business, play and home. What you believe is reflected in how you speak and what you speak about. Your place becomes a manifestation of those ideas. It is very important to always remember, that all three principles either nourish the whole or jeopardize the possibility of growth and success.