Elixirs, Fixers and Snake Oil Mixers

Experiences, Experiences, Experiences!

It’s what everyone is taking about these days. Customer experiences, patient experiences, employee experiences and even user experiences. They seem to come in all shapes and sizes. The strange thing is, there appear to be so many “Experience Designers” and “Experience Specialist” it’s almost as if it’s the Wild West of the Business world.

Are they really selling you a solutions or is it a bit of snake oil wrapped up as an ‘Experience’?

The problem is that you, the business owner, can’t tell if these solutions are Experiences or marketing stunts bottled as experiences. Worse yet, it maybe the same old Great Customer Service concept renamed and repackaged as customer/patient/employee/user experience because so much has been written about the Experience Economy in the press. Be cautious about what you are being sold. Experiences, as economic offerings, are not stock solutions.

A true Experience that drives economic value must be created for each individual business. The Experience is a reflection of your brand and the brand promise. Experiences are about the customer doing something and time well spent with your business. It is not just about providing a solution about delivering a good or great customer service. The customer already expects that from you. No my friend, it’s about staging an interactive engagement that is memorable and creates economic value.

During the past few years large retailers have shuttered and closed. There has been much reported that consumers have shifted their attention away from things and to engaging experiences. One of these has been Toys-R-Us. In an attempt to save their business, TRU attempted to infuse experiences into their stores in order to drive more traffic back to the physical place. Many speculate that the digital shopping realm kept this from happening, and this maybe true to some extend, but I feel there is a larger issue.

The experiences TRU were providing had two major failures. The first was the experiences were not a reflection of their brand or the brand promise. These experiences were provided to TRU by outside vendors with the intention to drive sales for their goods. The experiences were not about TRU, but about those companies that sold to TRU.

The second failure was that the experience solution that was created were digital VR experiences where the children could see and interact with digital versions of the physical toys. Something that they could do in the privacy of their homes. They didn’t need to go to the store for the experiences. In addition, if they came to the store, those experiences would have been better if they were able to ‘play’ in the store with real toys.

TRU’s whole brand is wrapped up in the idea of toys, thus their name “Toys-R-Us”. Unfortunately, the experiences provided had nothing to do with TRU being all about toys and the things you could do with these toys. The TRU experience should have been an experience with the toys that kids could not do at home. TRU should have been the destination location for playing with toys.

So, if you are considering hiring a specialist to design an experience here are some simple things to keep in mind.

  • What is the customer doing in your place they can’t do anywhere else?
  • Is the experience focused on time well spent and being memorable?
  • Is the experience a manifestation of your core brand promise? (is it yours?)
  • And finally, is the experience customizable and personal to the customer?

True experiences are a value all to themselves. Customers are willing to pay more because of the experience. So when thinking about evolving from the Goods or Service economy model to that of Experiences, make sure the consultant or design firm understands you, your customers and what engagement reflects your brand. Avoid the Dr. Transformos of the world, because they are out there ready to sell you anything you are willing to believe in to make your business healthier.

Want More Customers, Stop Marketing!

Improve customer retention and enhance your bottom line by not spending money on your current marketing efforts. Stop throwing money at a low return in hopes of improving response over previous efforts. There is a better way to get a more significant ROI on marketing budgets.

Over the past few years, I had the pleasure of developing many visual concepts for B. Joseph Pine II, co-author of the Experience Economy and Infinite Possibilities. Many of the visuals that were created were from the very ideas from the books that Joe had written. The best part was—that with each drawing—I felt I was gaining a deeper understanding of every concept that Joseph Pine and James Gilmore had created. I was given a unique look into the world of modern economics, and I can tell you, there were many concepts to tackle and many sketches to create—over 500 to-date.

To carry out these 500+ illustrations, there was a lot of time spent discussing the meaning and history behind these ideas. Discussions and debates over how best to bring them visually to life. Granted, not every drawing that was created fit his presentation needs, but that’s a big part of developing a visual library around a well-known publication—conveying the concept visually.

It was during one of these discussions that Joseph presented a new concept around marketing. A concept so anti-tradition, I knew instantly that it would be controversial, and the push back from marketers and the business world would be great. The visuals needed to clearly support the idea. That idea, in his words, was ‘companies need to stop marketing, start customering.’

Stop marketing and start customering?

What is customering?

This idea is a dramatic shift in the traditional order of things. As Pine clarified, marketing was a process of pushing information out to the masses in hopes to attract customers. There’s nothing new about this process of marketing. Every company does it. It is typically the key way companies believe they need to communicate their brand message. His concept meant reversing the process of connecting with a better method called “customering.”

Much like the concept of human-centered design, customering was about seeing each customer individually and not stereotyping them into “market” groups or segments. His idea was that people want what they want—when they want it—and that each customer is unique. It is this uniqueness that marketing techniques fail to address successfully, and eventually accept low percentage returns on the effort. 

The Experience is the Marketing

Pine’s idea was to forego massive marketing campaigns and to direct your attention towards each customer you now have. Deepen the relationship through customized and personalized engagements. Stage experiences for them that are memorable and sharable. In Joseph Pine’s words “the Experience IS the Marketing.”

Every day the news reports another retailer shuttering, a bank merger, malls closing, and companies forced to close their doors because customers are no longer shopping as frequently in their stores. With the digital world expanding, more and more customers are buying online to save time and companies are faced with a surmounting dilemma of how to increase physical traffic. The solution is no longer in marketing, rather the solution is in customering—the staging of experiences in order to have customers spend time and create sharable memories.

Staging Experiences

The companies that stage experiences have a greater opportunity to capture the hearts and wallets of each customer they engage with. This engagement—or experience—also becomes the core of the stories the customer shares with their friends, family, and co-workers. Experiences create stronger brand connections that all the marketing dollars can ever produce. Experiences create customer loyalty. Again, as Pine says, ‘the Experience IS the marketing,’ and the customer becomes your brand ambassador.

If you want to learn more about the Experience Economy, staging experiences for your customers, and leveraging your marketing dollars more effectively, then give me a call.

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.

 

 

Attracting Customers Is Not Enough

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In the Experience Economy, the authors use a flow process. Over the years of working with them, assisting clients with customer and employee journey maps, I realized that the first stage of most journeys begin with “Attracting”.

Attracting is good, yet the idea of attracting merely means you want them to notice you and nothing more. This term creates no call to action. Because of that and that I tend to never let an idea go, I rethought the whole initial process and change the beginning from Attracting to Enticing.

Look at an experience or business you have. Are you merely trying to attract attention or is it that you want people to enter your business? Me, I want to entice people inside. I want them to engage not merely notice. Enticing truly means you are actively generating interest that is sparking curiosity in the mind of your prospect in hopes to make them your customer.

If you would like to learn more or remap your customer journey, let’s chat.