The year is 2018 and the world is finally waking up to the reality that we no longer live in the 20th century. For much of the last two decades, businesses have struggled to move on from the certainties of a century in which everything and arguably everybody had a place and that place was well-understood.
That world of gradual change has been swept aside by a world of permanent acceleration driven by digitisation, alongside the wholesale consumer adoption of smart mobile technology. According to Our Social Times, 53% of millennials would rather lose their sense of smell than their technology; more people own a mobile device than a toothbrush and grandparents are Twitter’s fastest-growing demographic![i]
In an age, therefore, where change is truly the only constant, how we experience the world—as consumers, employees, friends and family—is everything. That permanent acceleration means businesses need to stay ahead of their customers in their ability to anticipate the impact of new channels of communication, the speed of adoption and the operational challenges they present, as well as fully understanding the growth opportunities they offer. When we consider that 52% of Fortune 500 companies have disappeared in the past 15 years, the challenge of meeting and exceeding customer expectations through their experience of the brand is critical.
The power of a great experience, of course, lies in its ability to move us. There are obvious examples, such as concerts or movies, a piece of art or a breath-taking view. While some experiences may move us to change our world view, others might simply resonate “in the moment.” Common to all is our desire to tell others about our experience. Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram (to name just a few) provide the mechanisms to channel our reverie and reflections to our social circle and beyond.
The same is true of great “day-to-day” experiences in our lives. As customers, we are continually engaging with our preferred brands, whether they provide products or services. How great our experiences are through those engagements can move us no less than a music festival, exhibition or travel destination. We are also bombarded with new brands competing for our share of wallet for these products and services. Here too, great experiences are key to first impressions that will help win or lose our customers – and generate updates for our followers on social media and online communities.
When people are asked about a recent great experience, they will often describe it in emotional terms. It is no different as customers; we react emotionally when delighted or disappointed, less so when we are simply satisfied or dissatisfied. Because we react emotionally, it is also the people side of customer service that is so important to unlocking the power of great experiences.
Emotions are well-understood in face-to-face customer service but are less so when a digital voice or non-voice channel delivers customer service. It’s easy, however, to discover wonderful examples of customer service staff demonstrating kindness, empathy and problem-solving that have far exceeded customer expectations. These emotional interactions lead to positive benefits with the brands the service people represent.
If the past 20 years in business has been characterised by the near ubiquitous permeation of technology into every aspect of our lives, the next 20 will be shaped by those brands that achieve an effective and efficient balance between the creativity and emotional intelligence of their workforce and the use of technology, in whatever form, to benefit from the power of great experiences. In the words of the Carl W. Buehner: “They may forget what you said—but they will never forget how you made them feel.” Timeless.
By William Carson, Global CX Senior Consultant