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As Bridget van Kranlingen, Senior Vice President of IBM Global Markets, has said: “The last best experience that anyone has anywhere becomes the minimum expectation for the experience they want everywhere.”

But what does, ‘last best experience’ mean? The term refers to a customer’s most recent notably excellent customer interaction, an experience that then registers in the customer’s unconscious mind as the best possible experience any consumer might have. This, in turn, becomes the experience the consumer will compare all their future experiences to, regardless of industry. In other words, if you create the last best experience, you're creating a lasting experience that sticks in the mind of the customers.

The last best experience that anyone has anywhere becomes the minimum expectation for the experience they want everywhere.”
Bridget van Kranlingen, Senior Vice President of IBM Global Markets

My Last Best Experience at Apple

As an example, my own last best experience was with Apple. My Airpod headphones had been causing issues during meetings, picking up on feedback and filling my ears with a staticky sound. I knew I had to take them in to Apple’s Genius Bar for repairs, which I was dreading a bit because we were in the middle of a pandemic and non-essential, in-person interactions weren’t at the top of my preference list.

Still, it had to be done. As part of Apple’s social distancing policy, all store visits had to be scheduled ahead of time, so I booked an appointment online. I was originally apprehensive about going into the store, but as soon as I stepped through the doors, Apple’s extensive, thoughtful COVID protocol set my mind at ease. The store was clean, the associates were masked and distanced, and the process was extraordinarily efficient.

I barely even had to describe my issue before the associate helping me offered to issue me a brand-new set of replacement headphones at zero cost. A shopping trip that might have been an inconvenience in the best times — and had a high potential to cause anxiety during the pandemic — turned out instead to be a white glove store experience. Apple had set the standard.

Why can’t my local mechanic give me an experience like that? Can you imagine if they could? Apple has set the bar high for my brand interactions going forward — they’re officially registered as my ‘last best experience’ and now, regardless of the product or the industry I’m interfacing with, I refer to that experience as the benchmark for my satisfaction with all others.

Great customer experience strategies are geared toward serving two needs simultaneously: functional and emotional. My experience at Apple served my functional needs of meeting the CDC’s suggested COVID safety guidelines and being available to help me fix my pain as a customer. Then it served my emotional need: the sales associate immediately understood my frustration and saved me time by offering me a brand new pair without further ado.

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Competing With Last Best Experiences

This — your customer’s last best experience — is your biggest competitor. Not the company that sells a similar product or service within your industry, but the organization that raised your customer’s expectations of the standard consumer experience.

We are now in the customer experience economy. In order to be successful, it’s not enough to provide a great product or a can’t-live-without-it service — you must differentiate on customer experience. Consumers are always comparing every new interaction against their last best experience, and that bar is constantly being set and reset by the leaders in customer experience strategy across industries.

Our society has gone from a mostly agriculture-based economy, where commodities were the golden ticket, to a more industrial, goods-based economy and then to a service economy — think Uber and ClassPass and thousands of other brands that provide services instead of goods. And now that service economy is being replaced by the experience economy.

We pay a premium for top-shelf experiences. Sure, we could make coffee at home, but isn’t it nicer to sip a freshly crafted latte in a curated space where we never have to do the dishes? (I can’t be the only one who misses coffee shops.) And we’re perfectly happy to pay ten times the wholesale cost of the beans and alternative milk for the pleasure of the experience.

Two years ago, research from Gartner found that 81% of marketing leaders believed their companies would compete mostly or completely on the basis of customer experience — last year, that belief was proven to be true, as customer experience surpassed pricing and product as the key brand differentiator across industries.

Successful leaders know that investing in customer experience helps their businesses differentiate and compete in an increasingly crowded marketplace. Don’t let your customers’ last best experiences happen with another organization.

Avtex is at the center of customer experience design and orchestration — we can help you level-up your customer experience.

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