By Serge Blockmans
Today, you can order a book online and have it delivered to your doorstep on the same day. You can watch your favourite shows on Netflix or Amazon Prime anytime you want and when you order a pizza you can track the delivery on your smartphone. It is the new model of the experience economy and it changes the way we think about customer experience (CX).
To meet this growing demand for exceptional customer experience, businesses in every sector have to connect their data and intelligence on a single platform that integrates seamlessly into all their core business processes.
PWC highlights in its Hotels Outlook 2018 – 2022 that gaining better customer insights and thereby providing guests with personalised services is recognised by the hotel industry as a core business goal. Competition in the hotel sector is putting pressure on businesses to differentiate themselves. Their marketing and the experiences that they offer must be different to reinforce a competitive advantage in the market. The report highlights that some hotels in Kenya now offer bespoke, luxury experiences whereas others have focused on amenities appealing to short-term business travellers. Others bring in Michelin starred chefs to operate restaurants as distinct businesses within the hotel environment and some offer a warm cookie at reception or boast exceptionally comfortable mattresses. These differentiating factors contribute to the experience and make it memorable.
The experience economy means that it is no longer the company or the organisation that is the driver of innovation, it’s the customer. We find ourselves in the age of customer intricacy where an organisation is no longer the implementer of new products and services. Startups such as M-survey, whose motto is ‘know your customer’, took advantage of the mobile economy in Kenya and is now one of the leading service providers of customer feedback solutions.
The four themes of the experience economy, which form the backdrop of cross-silo experiences, are essential to drive economic value from CX investments.
The first one is Discover, which has two sides. As a consumer I expect a company to anticipate, allow me to navigate easily, personalise, and make my interactions natural. This applies no matter who or what I am interacting with. And as a brand, you must be on a constant path of discovery that is informed by data and intelligence gathered at every interaction point; who your users are, what they really want, how to reach them with the right messages, at the right time and the right channel. The pace of this theme is crucial. For example, it took television 13 years to reach critical mass in the U.S. Smart speakers did the same in only two years and they support voice-driven discovery, which is expected to replace the traditional user interface in many different devices.
The second theme is Engage. The traditional top down model is flipped in the experience economy. There is no longer a structured learning path. Brands don’t control information and marketers have finally accepted this. Perfect information is available from every available source. Engagement, and the platform that powers it, is an important choice for any business. Therefore, companies that look ahead engage with their customers.
The third theme is Consume. Changes are happening in the channels we use to make purchases and the levels of self-service expected, and this is changing the nature of what it means to buy and own. While B2C digital commerce is an established part of the experience economy, B2B commerce will probably have a higher level of growth over the next ten years. The influence of B2C commerce and its ease of consumption – just click once to put the item in the shopping cart – is now the B2B expectation. Complete product information, product comparisons, written and video reviews, pricing and discount information, shipping options, fulfilment information – we want that same convenience we feel when the delivery person is walking up our driveway with the groceries we ordered just two hours earlier.
Also, consumption today goes beyond just self-service. There is an all-out assault on traditional ownership. Airlines, for example, aren’t buying jet engines outright, they are paying per hour of use for the engine, maintenance, and upgrades. It is clear we are moving from one-time purchase-oriented business models to recurring relationship-based business models.
The last theme of the experience economy is Serve. If you look at service, it is clear that the traditional break it / fix it model doesn’t cut it anymore in the experience economy. When your product doesn’t work, or your service is unavailable, you can’t make it your customer’s problem. Therefore, leading organisations use predictive techniques to automate diagnosis and repair. A leading water and energy solutions provider in East Africa is using IoT devices in its products and sell this as a service to customers who cannot afford the downtime due to the irrigation of crops. Customers now have access to critical data that they can use to make informed decisions before undertaking any activity and the provider can monitor pumps, solar equipment at risk and is able to deploy field agents to take care of repairs.
Moving forward, an integrated and unified CX platform that supports ‘Modern CX’ – that is CX for the experience economy – is no longer driven by the CMO or CIO. It must be fully managed and supported by the CEO. Finally, in order to succeed in transforming the CX function, it is crucial to truly understand your industry. All of this will enable an organisation to develop new, innovative and effective ways to attract and retain the modern customer.
(Serge Blockmans is the Sales Director at Oracle).