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Experience Points featuring speaker, author and coach, Neen James.

Avtex Chief Experience Officer, Kurt Schroeder sat down with VP of Marketing, John Seeds to discuss key takeaways, and share what stood out about how to create exceptional experiences for customers. In this episode, Kurt and John discuss subscription models, satisfying customer needs, a regular vs remarkable experience, and how to properly leverage data to build personalized experiences.

Fake or Fact

[John] One of the themes that we talk about a lot at Avtex is that you're not just competing on the basis of your service or your products anymore. It's the experience you wrap around that. In this example, it's a product delivered as a service, right? What are some things that organizations can do to think about how that experience becomes more personal as it crosses the threshold?

[Kurt] I think there's a couple of things. One, don't let the business benefit overrun the hard work around how you want to design this experience. Because it's the experience and the rendering of that experience that's going to keep people connected and engaged.

Second, you only get one shot at this. One of the things that we know Apple does, as an example, is they have over 40 people that just concentrate on the product opening experience. Don't shortchange what the box looks like. Don't shortchange how you put the product into that box. Don't shortchange how that looks and feels and what the experience it creates is. I think sometimes organizations rush to get something out there to beat the competition because of the revenue opportunity. But you have to do the due diligence around, what does this look like? Do some research. Understand the persona of your target audience and what they might be expecting.

[John] I know that some of the people listening might say, “Well I'm never going to do a delivery service or a subscription service that's delivered to my consumer's household because I'm B2B.” What are some things that you recommend that clients ask around formulating not whether they should create a delivery subscription model, but how they should rethink or expand outside of their current confines for what an experience should look like?

[Kurt] I used to say think about what people consume, and obviously if it's food or beverage, that one's pretty easy. For example, I shave every day. Well, maybe not since COVID, but I used to shave every day. Razors, shave cream - that's daily consumption. I think what helps businesses think about whether they should do this or not is to really think about the concept of consumption and expand it beyond what our normal consideration of consumption might be. Then it is pretty easy to determine what kind of model we can come up with that would create a consumption model.

I do find it interesting though: if I know a website, I order a subscription and I get a box delivered at my door - brands will call that engagement. They can say, "Oh I have monthly engagement with that customer," but do you really? Or are you just dropping something at the door and hoping that they see your brand? I think the thing is to really figure out how can you pair that model with personalization and engagement, so there is a two way engagement, not a they've signed up and now I just keep sending stuff. The other piece here is that if your customer has a problem with their subscription, it should be extremely easy to solve. Don't make it hard for people to modify their subscription. The reason that people purchase a subscription is because it's effortless. Neen said, "Look, I don't have to curate it and it shows up on my door." Well, make sure that the effortless experience you are providing extends throughout the entirety of the customer journey.

What Happened?

[John] One thing that struck me from this episode: customer experience is the perception of your brand, and that it includes all the engagements throughout the lifetime of a customer, even after they leave your brand and if they come back to your brand. I think that's an important concept to level set on. One of the things that you talk about a lot is that there are two factors in really driving customer perceptions to a positive, which are warmth and competency. Can you elaborate on those two components and how you heard that come to life in this example?

[Kurt] In an experience or journey, there are two needs that a customer has. One, they have a functional need, which is "what am I trying to accomplish?" The other need that customers have is an emotional need, which is "how do I want to feel?" We believe that customers want to feel respected. They want to feel honored. They want to make sure that their time is valued. They want to make sure they feel valued as a customer.

What we know from research is that the two things that drive that are warmth and competency. Are you genuinely and authentically warm? Are you good at what you say you're good at? The best thing that an organization can do is understand what genuine and authentic warmth looks like, so that they can meet the emotional needs of the customer.

One think I want to bring up from this episode: I commend Wayfair on Carol's story. It would be easy for Wayfair to say, "It left our dock right on time and undamaged. This is the FedEx problem." So, kudos to Wayfair for owning the entirety of the customer experience, even if the issue caused was not done by them. I think that's a really valuable lesson to take away for people. Own the entirety of the experience.

[John] I think that that hits on another theme, which is own not just the entirety of the experience but the integration of all those experience points along the way. The responsibility shouldn't be on the customer to integrate that experience together if they're doing business with your brand.

Thinking about this and hearing the story and your comments on warmth and competency really hits home on some of the foundations that as Avtex we've grounded our business in, and the way that we help clients is around designing that experience and then orchestrating to that design. Those two components really being intertwined in a way that you can't do one without the other.

[Kurt] Let’s go back to warmth and competency, or the question of how can we equip our teams to be authentically and appropriately warm? One of the ways that you equip them is to leverage the different tools and technologies to help orchestrate the experience and make it not only effortless for the customer but effortless for the employee. Because when it's effortless for the employee, then they can concentrate on effective listening and deliver authentic and genuine warmth. However, if your employee is there doing screen Kung Fu because they have to go into eight different systems to look things up, they're concentrating on being competent just to answer simple questions, and they can't be warm. I think the challenge for organizations is to focus on how they can orchestrate their technology to make it easy for employees to deliver competence.

Think Fast

[John] So one of the fascinating things in this episode is the conversation around data, and how it's everywhere. I just a disturbing documentary on Netflix about how our data gets used by companies, so I'm trying to keep my aluminum hat off my head as I talk about this subject.

[Kurt] Yeah, but you look so good with it on.

[John] Well, I know. Thanks.

[Kurt] Thinking about data, what comes to mind is the work we've done at Avtex with credit unions. Credit unions have a ton of data on their members, and so there's a great deal of opportunity to personalize engagements. With that amount of data, credit unions have to be extremely careful about how much personalization they do. One of the questions that brands should take away from this is the need to ask, “if I have all that data, to what level should I personalize?”, instead of focus on what you can personalize.

We actually did a study for a consortium of credit unions that we do work with, and what we wanted to know was, do credit union members expect personalization? Obviously, yes. But what level of personalization do they expect? We found a fascinating correlation that the more complex the financial product, the more personalization customers expected and the less complex that financial product was, the less personalization. I think that's where organizations need to be very careful with the data that you have. So, do we have enough data? Probably. But then the question is, where do you use it?

That's why journey mapping is so important. It lets us look at customer touch points and say, "Hey, where can we personalize? Where can we improve this experience because of personalization, and how do we apply the data that we have to deliver that?"

[John] Thinking about journey maps, can you talk a little bit more about exactly how we're finding this information? I think that sometimes it can be a little bit confusing.

[Kurt] It's pretty straightforward. When you do a good journey map, you've done the work to understand the customer journey, the pain points in the journey or the moments that matter in the journey. Those things expose themselves pretty readily. Once you interrogate those pain points or moments that matter, you can understand, "Well, how do we fix this? How do we leverage the data that we have to solve this pain point and make it better?"

There's a huge opportunity to personalize things and solve people's pain. If I’m a customer, I shouldn't have to tell a brand who I am when I call. You should know my phone number, and be able to connect that to my name. If I am always ordering products, A, B, and C, why am I ever seeing products X, Y, and Z? If I've already disclosed my buying behavior and what my preferences are, why are you showing me anything else? I mean, there's no reason that we can't dynamically render website content specifically for the buying behavior that that customer expects. Why am I having to wade through all these other options when they don't apply to me?

I think the other thing that we need to concentrate on is, and Neen brought this up, the importance of doing the research. Let's go ask customers what they prefer. Sometimes, customers don't know what they prefer. They don't know what the choices are. We can learn a lot about those preferences from the data we can collect. We can also ask customers about some of their preferences, and when those two things combine, it can be extremely powerful.

[John] There's a concept that is absolutely critical to this, that what authenticity achieves is trust. You can build that trust through personalization, through understanding, and through empathy - but that trust is a core tenant of a successful brand/customer relationship.

[Kurt] Trust is so important, especially right now. We are in an environment where trust is harder and harder to obtain, and brands are harvesting and using so much information, even to the extent where some personalization just irritates me. Now, if I Google something, the next time I go on Facebook, here's all these ads for it. Personal data presents a great opportunity to solve pain points, but misusing it can also break trust.

[John] Well, now I'm going to have to go sleep in my aluminum hat.