We are all consumers engaged in buying decisions. So why take off our “consumer hat” when we walk into our place of work?
We shift gears in the workplace, delivering sales and engineering spiels to customers that sound traditional, stale and status-quo.
That’s not what delighted and engaged us when we went to the Apple® store over the weekend. Our customers were at that Apple store, too.
What would happen if we created transformative deliverables that we generated, collaboratively, with our clients? Through customer engagement? Just like at the Apple store?
I spoke with Maria Vedral and Bob Dean, experience economists, about how customer experience transforms the value of your customer offering in a post-recession economy.
Customer experience, or the transformative power of customer engagement based on the progression of economic value, was presented by Joe Pine and Jim Gilmore in their seminal 1999 book, The Experience Economy, re-released in 2011 by the Harvard Business Review Press. It’s one of the top 100 business books.
“Those businesses that relegate themselves to the diminishing world of goods and services will be rendered irrelevant. To avoid this fate, you must learn to stage a rich, compelling experience.” (p. 39, updated edition)
Dean explains that Progression of Economic Value (POEV) chronicles the transition of product and service delivery from commoditization (agriculture and manufacturing of goods) into customization (delivery of services, moving towards experiences) into transformation.
Think about where your company appears in this continuum.
Part of the problem, according to Vedral and Dean, is that client experience will never exceed employee experience.
Have you ever had a poor experience and asked yourself whether the employee was happy working for that company? Your clients may be asking themselves the same question. Especially when dealing with lean post economic meltdown companies with too few people doing too many jobs with insufficient resources.
Dean spoke of how Apple provides great employee experience which, in turn, translates into great customer experience. Employees see, on a daily basis, that their implementing customer engagement is a critical part of the Apple corporate culture. And customers benefit from this employee epiphany.
While modeling your manufacturing company after Apple seems like a stretch, guess again. Are your internal customers happy, let alone engaged in collaborating with each other, in your traditional, siloed corporate infrastructure? I didn’t think so, either.
But what if your employees pay their cross-functional collaboration forward – towards your customers? And what if the solutions they provide to your customers are achieved in creative collaboration with your clients?
You just may end up with a solution that is far greater than the sum of the parts. And loyal customers as well.
Customer loyalty isn’t about customer satisfaction. It’s about understanding customer sacrifice.
The status quo equates customer retention with customer satisfaction. Dean feels differently. Customer satisfaction has become an industry to itself. JD Power wouldn’t exist today if it weren’t for their coveted rankings. But what do these rankings really mean?
Dean asks you to consider whether your customer base feels they make sacrifices in order to do business with your company. While they tell you they are “satisfied”, customers may only be satisfied with mediocrity.
Think about the airline industry. We pay our money, we take our chances and we sacrifice. All we get is a 5-point customer satisfaction survey after our flight about how well you felt the airline met their own expectations… not yours. They may pay you off in miles if you complain. But they don’t eliminate your sacrifice, do they?
According to Pine and Gilmore, when a business recognizes customer sacrifice and actually eliminates it, that customer will become loyal and resistant to price.
Elimination of customer sacrifice becomes your real differentiator.
In Vedral’s case as a provider of enterprise ERP solutions, she found a software application allowing her to facilitate client discovery across multiple geographic locations, simultaneously. In some cases, this was the first time her customers had worked collaboratively!
Dean perceives that this aspect, using this software, defined Vedral’s customer offering. The customer comes away impressed. They tell Vedral that she helped all the stakeholders buy in to this process. She’s now more proactive checking in on customers and tells clients that is just the first of many experiences during their working relationship with her company.
Over time experiences differentiate Vedral’s professional services firm, resulting in great referrals. She is communicating authentically that she and her team really care. You don’t get a lot of caring communicated in a customer satisfaction survey.
Customer experience and customer sacrifice change the way your customers want to work with you. And the way you work with them.
Vedral’s goal is to blaze a new trail so customers say to themselves: we want to do it like her company, SilverEdge.
Dean has created a Score Card where a business leaders can assess their current customer and employee experience and take the steps to move towards transformational experience.
Bob Dean and Maria Vedral’s recommended reading list:
The Experience Economy, B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore
Duct Tape Marketing: The World’s Most Practical Small Business Marketing Guide, John Jantsch
All For One: 10 Strategies for Building Trust Client Partnerships, Andrew Sobel
Maria Vedral is President and Founder of SilverEdge Systems Software, Inc, an award-winning Deltek Premier Partner. Under her leadership, SliverEdge has successfully implemented more than 400 client systems across Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin.
Bob Dean is a senior executive and catalyst in aligning learning and talent development with business strategy. He has held senior positions with Heidrick & Struggles, Grant Thornton, and Ernst & Young. Bob is now serving as a business innovation consultant to professional services organizations. In 2006, Bob became one of the first ten people in the world to be certified in the models and frameworks of “The Experience Economy”.
Babette N. Ten Haken, Founder & President of Sales Aerobics for Engineers®, LLC, is the catalyst for your business transition, startup growth and professional development. She was named one of the Top 50 Sales & Marketing Influencers & Bloggers, 2013-2016. Her book, Do YOU Mean Business? focuses on breakthrough business collaboration strategies and tools.