How To Create Delightful Customer Experiences

Apple's success lies in providing premium customer experiences every step of the way (courtesy of The News Chronicle)

In an age which some may term as the "experience economy", companies and businesses can ill afford to focus solely on quality products or low prices. The entire spectrum of engaging and enrapturing a customer through every single touch point becomes critical. It isn't just the transaction itself that matters, but the entire journey - from reading/hearing about your product, browsing your stores, speaking to a retail associate, purchasing the product, using the product, to the ongoing provision of customer service.

With the ubiquity of social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and blogs, customers are sharing their positive or negative experiences with a far greater network than ever before. Ignore these voices at your own peril.

Against such a backdrop, what can companies do to enhance their customer experiences?

In this article by experience designer Dane Petersen, a customer's engagement with your products, services or environments are affected by these human qualities:

Motivations: why they are engaged with your offering, and what they hope to get out of it

Expectations: the preconceptions they bring to how something works

Perceptions: the ways in which your offering affects their senses (see, hear, touch, smell, taste)

Abilities: how they are able to cognitively and physically interact with your offering

Flow: how they engage with your offering over time

Culture: the framework of codes (manners, language, rituals), behavioral norms, and systems of belief within which the person operates

Understanding these qualities in your customer would provide a useful first step in designing physical environments, service offerings and interaction points. A good way to do so would be conducting interviews or focus groups with targeted customers, as well as to observe their behaviours at existing outlets (or competitor outlets).

You should also examine your customer's complete experience as highlighted by this HBR article by Adam Richardson. Here Richardson highlights three key facets to take note of:

Customer Journey: A thorough understanding of the journey that your customers take with your company. In a car rental company Zipcar's case, it starts with informing customers of the service and then signing them up, with multiple stages flowing out from there.

Touchpoints: All the various points of interaction — products, web sites, advertising, call centres, and others — that support the customer through their journey.

Ecosystems: This relates to the integrated ecosystems of products, software and services that may open up new possibilities for customer journeys and experiences in ways that more isolated touchpoints cannot.

OK, so we've looked at the human factors from our customer's perspective, developed a map of their interaction points, and considered how we can design them accordingly. What's the next step?

The answer? Get your entire organisation and all members of your team on board!

Here, the 6 Laws of Customer Experience by the Temkin Group may be worthwhile to consider:

1) Every interaction creates a personal reaction - Experience needs to be designed for individuals and optimised, putting in place the right measurements and employee empowerment mechanisms.

2) People are instinctively self-­centered - Don't assume that your customers know as much as you do, seek to help customer buy things (not sell to them), and don't let organisational factors influence service.

3) Customer familiarity breeds alignment - Broadly share customer insights across the organisation, talk about customer needs rather than personal preferences, and don't wait for organisational alignment.

4) Unengaged employees don't create engaged customers - Training and development of staff is key, deploy technology to help your team members do their job better, communicate profusely, celebrate achievements and measure engagement.

5) Employees do what is measured, incentivised, and celebrated - Leave nothing to the imagination, define clearly what is expected, and look out for mixed messages. Ensure that measurements, incentives and celebrations are aligned.

6) You can't fake it - Anything below a 3rd priority is not good enough, don't start if you're not committed to a major customer service initiative, and advertise to reinforce rather than create a customer oriented positioning.

Engineering memorable and delightful customer experiences can be sheer hard work, since many of us are not intuitively wired to do so. Achieving it requires a keen understanding of your customers, how they interact with your products/services, and how you deliver it through your staff, website, physical stores, and any other touchpoint.

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