In our customer experience consultancy, we spend a lot of time educating people about the components of a great customer experience. Some companies get it and they’re creating an emotional connection that brings them loyal fans.
But many others look to technology. If customers just had a gadget that could do more or electronic kiosks they could play with in the store, or a virtual reality app – well, then the customer experience would be great. But technology alone is never the answer.
To explain why, I’ll use comments about customer experience that the presidents of Royal Caribbean Cruises and Build-A-Bear Workshop and the former CEO of Sprint offered in a recent roundtable discussion.
Royal Caribbean: Dream Vacations
Adam Goldstein of Royal Caribbean said the changing role of customer experience involves digital enablement that benefits customers without being intrusive. As I’ve written before, cruise lines and theme parks are working hard at developing digital devices to make things easy for guests and even anticipate their needs.
Goldstein said his company strives to give every guest a dream vacation. Management is committed to this and it’s carried through to the staff that interact with passengers directly.
Goldstein has hit on a key point about customer experience. It’s about human interactions, and to get those right, you must create a company culture that prioritizes customer service and satisfaction. Employees who deal with the public must have support from management, and the training, ability and incentives to go above and beyond. Digital technology can enhance the customer experience. But it’s only part of the equation.
Build-A-Bear: Emotional Touchpoints and Memories
Sharon John of Build-A-Bear talked about weaving content and storytelling into the customer experience, possibly through virtual or augmented reality in their stores. Then she said that the goal is to engage customers so they build an emotional bond with the brand. For example, there’s a ceremony where customers place a heart inside their new stuffed animal. It’s these kinds of moments that create memorable emotional touchpoints that enhance a customer’s experience.
From the sound of it, Build-A-Bear is doing some things right. First, it recognizes what our research has consistently shown: that a customer’s experience is based largely on emotional factors, not on rational elements like price. At Beyond Philosophy we use a metric called Emotional Signature to measure a company’s level of engagement with its customers. Build-A-Bear knows you can buy a stuffed animal anywhere, but people go to their stores (and pay more) because of the emotional experience. John’s comments also touch on one of the central points in the book I recently co-authored with Prof. Ryan Hamilton: customer memories are one of the most important components of long-term value for a brand.
Sprint: Emphasis on Profits
At the other end of the spectrum, Dan Hesse, former CEO of Sprint, tied customer experience to mobility and connectivity and profitability. At Sprint, they tied their employee compensation system to reducing churn and the number of calls people made to customer care. They spent time showing customers how to use their phones in the store so they wouldn’t have to call with issues.
Hesse didn’t talk about customer emotions. Rather, it sounds to me like Sprint wanted to save money by reducing the number of interactions it had with its customers. This is pretty much par for the course for telecoms, which I’m sorry to say have consistently pursued a “customer experience” philosophy of improving their technology while cutting customer service costs.
This only helps a company in the short run because it completely ignores the fact that customer experience hinges on the emotions created by a human interaction. When emotions are positive, you build loyalty and long-term value. When emotions are negative (as they so often are when dealing with our cable and cell phone providers), you destroy value and do nothing to make your customers loyal to you or your brand.
In the end, the companies that win with customer experience are the ones that embrace customer experience as a core company value and give their employees motivation and incentives to provide great service. Technology can help, but it’s no substitute for truly caring about your customers.
What about your company? What’s your customer experience philosophy? Share your thoughts in the comments box below.
Take note of Goldstein’s point and ensure your company culture and employee engagement is all it could be. Register now for our FREE webinar on Employee Ambassadorship: Realizing and optimizing stakeholder value. The Author, Michael Lowenstein, and I will demonstrate how companies can keep a consistent customer focus and optimize economic performance.
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Colin Shaw is the founder and CEO of Beyond Philosophy, one of the world’s leading Customer experience consultancy & training organizations. Colin is an international author of six bestselling books and an engaging keynote speaker.
Follow Colin Shaw on Twitter @ColinShaw_CX