Owning Your Customer's Experience (Part 1)

Courtesy of HotelManagement.Net 

The world has changed. Customers now have all the information they need to decide.

With an attention span of 90 seconds or less (at 140 characters each time), business as usual ain't gonna work for the Facebook and Twitter generation. The game has changed from word of mouth to world of mouth.

In other words, nobody's gonna believe your marketing spiel.

Beginning on this ominous note, K C Blonski of AchieveGlobal shared at the recent Singapore Experience Conversation (organised by STB) that customers are now look for value beyond product and price.

Consider the following:

- 72% cite customer experience as the greatest driver of more spending;

- Companies enjoy a 39% increase in sale when customers respond to employee suggestions;

- 86% quit doing business because of a bad experience - up from 59% 18 months ago;

- 84% polled will tell others of a bad experience - up 10% from last year.

Physical amenities alone can no longer differentiate your business from others. Consider how the 1980s Mirage resort with a volcano in Las Vegas was supplanted by Treasure Island with a pirate ship upfront. This was subsequently upstaged by Bellagio with a huge musical fountain. And so on and so forth.

So how can one differentiate one's business?

The answer is people! They make all the difference.

If one looks at travel websites like Agenda, Tripadvisor, Expedia, Yelp and Travelocity, a common theme emerges. Guests who rave about their holiday experiences frequently talk about the staff responsible for creating those "moments of truth". 

More specifically, we need to deepen our relationships with customers and own their experiences. This should be done in two ways:

1) The Business side: ensuring that guest expectations and perceptions are matched, and satisfying them with operational efficiencies. This provides the base level of service.

2) The Human side: where perceptions should be a lot higher than expectations. Focusing on this dimension means going beyond the basic standard of service.

In focusing on the human element, companies should consider 3 key areas of interaction:

1) Transactions: Make it memorable beyond core service delivery;

2) Sales/queries: Build trust and confidence beyond delivering quality service;

3) Problems: Make them right. Reassure and rebuild that relationship, inspiring confidence on an individual level.

The benefits of positive customer experiences are plentiful. They include increased revenue opportunities, strengthened customer loyalty, reduced risks of service failure (customers are more willing to forgive you), improved productivity, and increased capacity to acquire, retain and grow customer relationships.

To progress towards owning the guest experience, companies should progress along the following continuum:

1) Do Nothing (not very advisable);

2) Manage - manage transactions at individual level;

3) Impact - impact the experience through customer feedback; and

4) Create - Strategically create customer experiences.

A quick tip to consider is what one's EXIT experience will be like. In planning a Disney theme park for example, Disney Imagineers are obsessed with every detail from entrance to exit, ensuring that every defining moment is carefully managed.

So how does one integrate these lessons into a whole?

Well, join me for part 2 of this post as Blonski shares some thoughts behind a customer experience strategy.

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