What is a meaningful customer experience?
“70% of the buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated”, reports a study by McKinsey. In other words, 70% of the business has something to do with how you make your customers feel. It is indisputable that we are in the experience economy.
However, what is not clear is how we define customer experience. An experience is a process we are conscious of and involved in as it happens, and hence it is very personal. It cannot be forced upon anyone what he or she experiences. Therefore, an experience cannot be created but can only be designed. And a design that is consistent across the breadth of touch-points and connects at customer’s deepest level of desires can evoke those experiences successfully.
In a previous blog-post on “Why Does Customer Experience Matter”, I had explained that an experience has to be holistic and unifying across all the touch-points a customer interacts with your brand – what is also known as the breadth of the experience. In this month’s article let us focus on the second element, depth.
Depth of customer experience
The depth at which a business should connect with customers through delivery of an experience depends on what factors influence our decisions (see below).
At the outer most layer of our psyche are the rational decisions of functionality and price-point. Does this product or service do what I need and is it worth the price? Beyond these logical decisions, some companies market emotions to customers. How does it make me feel? Emotions are harder to quantify, and they certainly do not last long. They are mostly used in advertising and marketing messages. Coke’s “Open Happiness” is a prime example of it. Deeper then emotions, is our desire to identify with some groups and standout from others. Is this product really Me? For example, I am a mac guy (as opposed to a PC guy) and I identify with Coke more then Pepsi. At the deepest level of our being are our values and belief systems. Does this product or service fit into the world I have created for myself? Does it give me a sense that life’s worth living? Steve Diller and Nathan Shedroff, Professors at California College of Arts, San Francisco, have identified 15 such meaningful experiences derived from our value systems that are cross-cultural, relatively stable, and applicable to a wide range of our decisions (for detailed explanation of these meanings take a look at www.makingmeaning.org).
To name a few examples of companies successful at evoking such meanings in people’s lives,
Nike is in the business of evoking Accomplishment and not just selling you shoes,
Disney is all about Wonder and Happiness and not animated movies or theme parks,
Furniture giant Ikea is selling you Beauty, and also Accomplishment by taking the do-it-yourself movement to an entirely new level (you pick up and assemble your furniture),
Our own Taj group of hotels is not selling you a room, but making you feel Validated, that you are worth the pampering you get by their excellent service,
When you use P&G’s Gillette, Ariel washing powder, Duracell batteries, or Pampers diapers, you can be assured of their products integrity and honesty (Truth)
And no such list is complete without a mention of Apple (Beauty and Community) and Starbucks (Creation and Truth), pioneers of end-to-end consistent, holistic, and authentic delivery of experience across the breadth of touch-points.
The meaningful experiences listed below are not the only ones to pursue, but is a good starting point. Only by a thorough qualitative and ethnographic deep dive into customers’ lives can a company uncover what is it that their customers truly desire.
In summary, by designing an experience that is consistent and holistic across the breadth of touch-points, and that connects with customers at a deeper level of meanings, a company can climb the ladder of experience economy, away from the fear of commoditization, and build a foundation of loyal customers.
Steve Diller’s Bio can be found here https://www.cca.edu/academics/faculty/sdiller
Nathan Shedroff’s Bio can be found here https://www.cca.edu/academics/faculty/nshedroff
Meaningful Experience are defined at http://makingmeaning.org