Time: The New Currency

Since the late 1950s, the history of branch banking in America has been all about being in the midst of the population. No bank could survive without being accessible in a timely fashion. Convenience became one of the prime factors for locating a branch. The focus was to reduce the time it takes to get from point A to the branch. If it was by car, banks planned around the flow of traffic. If it was a pedestrian environment, banks planned the location along the path. This was all about convenience of doing business with the bank and to ensure that the customer did not have to go out of the way. If a bank was in the path, it made sense for a customer to bank there—it was about how to better save time.

Enter technology. Now, being in the path of customers meant being readily accessible in their hands. Most transactions are performed—not in person—but online and through mobile devices. Technology quickly became the ultimate time saver. This opened the question, ‘”Where do you locate now and what should the branch become?”

The best way to address this question is to change the framework of the question. Before it was about doing something for the customer they could not do on their own, now banking needs to refocus away from saving customers time to creating places where time is well spent. The only way to do this is by going beyond services that are tailored towards doing for the customer to creating things to do with the customer. Stage an engagement that is memorable and sharable that the customer does within the branch.

Here’s the idea. Take some ‘thing’ that is usually used at a bank and create some activity around that thing. This is called “Ing the Thing”, a principle in the Experience Economy. Take a normal action of a thing and create an engaging activity around it that people come to do or watch others do. Now, exaggerate the idea to make it a spectacle.

Look at the classic piggy bank. The piggy bank is a great ‘thing’ to ‘ing’. First, make it really oversized. Now, stage an activity around the oversized piggy bank that generates interest. Maybe it squeals when people put coins in it. It becomes a photo-worthy opportunity for your visitors and becomes a great fund-raiser. “The Piggy Bank That Is Saving….” Use whatever best applies. Saving—the action word—now takes on a new meaning and purpose.

 

Cracking the Safe.

Any object or thing can be a source of an experience if you take the action related to it and leverage it as the activity. Now the branch becomes a stage for an experience and a place to engage customers and make memories. Then you change from time well saved into time well spent.

 

Need help ‘Inging the Thing’ send me an email and let’s see what we can do together.

 

Past-Present-Future of thinkAbout

Had a wonderful and thought-provoking time at this year’s thinkAbout in Cleveland. Sadly, it’s the last event after 20 years. I am proud to say I have attended 10 of the 20 gatherings. It all ended at the place it began, Cleveland, Ohio.

The event was themed around time and the #ExperienceEconomy evolution and hosted by B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore. Each segment was separated by the past, present and future. Below are the visual translations.

The past was a tour from the beginning through last year’s gathering in New Orleans. Each city had a theme and usually had some tie in with the award winners. I have always imagined what city or place Joe and Jim would choose had I ever won an EXPY. Probably somewhere that embraced visual thinking or illustration. Oh well, its fun to dream.

The next day took us to the present in Jim and Joe’s wacky time machine. They shared the ideas and directions they were pondering for the next evolution of the Experience Economy. From time as currency to the Hinduization of the digital world. 32 million deities now transformed into 32 million apps on our mobile devices. When we wake to the chiming of our mobile devices it is the same as banging the pots to wake the deities. We do not worship them, we use them.

Our world view of the Experience Economy changed as Jim and Joe unveiled the next progression of thinkAbout, thinkAbout4U. A client focused gather mirroring the process of thinkAbout for Experience stagers.

We also discovered the last two award winners. For the EXPY, Carnival cruises took the prize for this year’s stager and for the EMA, Ty Koon received the honors as Experience Manager.  All in all, a great time of discussion, contemplation and investigation.

One thing I took away is that mobile technology is reigniting the lizard brain in all off us. We now react with Fight-Flight or Respond. This makes me wonder if we as humans are becoming the greatest experiment of Pavlov’s digital dog. (bing)

The second thing I took away is that Experiences should be designed to provide happiness, As goes of experience, we pay extra for that experience that makes us happy. No one pays to be made miserable, that’s called customer service.

Until next time, keep your eyes to the future and keep staging experiences that are photo-worthy.

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.

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.