The past decade has seen several changes in the business environment and markets are flooded with several “me-too” brands, making the consumer perplexed and further increasing his/her search time. With new brands encroaching the mind space of the customers and displacing the existing ones, the only differentiation the brands can rely on for lasting advantage is the experience that lingers in the customer’s head.
marketing insights with WILBERT MANYANGA
Providing a meaningful experience is a challenging task for companies and they need to incorporate a CEM (customer experience management) culture by managing their customer, brand and their operational processes. CEM would not be possible without managing employee experience because they act as an interface between the company and the customer. It is important to gain insights regarding perceptions of customers through research, so that changes can be incorporated to improve experiences. To achieve strategic competitive advantage, organisations must adopt policies and strategies that promote and enhance the experience environment.
History of customer experience
The concept of customer experience was first brought into focus by Holbrook and Hirschman in mid 80s. The notion has extended experience as an important factor in understanding consumer behaviour. CEM recognised the importance of experience as a way to create value for both companies and their customers.
An experience is a personal occurrence, often with important emotional significance, founded on the interaction with stimuli which are the products or services consumed. Marketers must create unforgettable experiences at various interactions that take place between service providers and their customers. These kinds of experiences are termed as extraordinary experiences. An experience occurs when the customer has any sensation or knowledge acquisition as a result of interactions with different elements that have been created by the marketer. The best relationships with customers are those that are emotional in nature. Companies need to cultivate stronger bonds with customers to ensure pleasant customer experiences. Positive emotions are crucial in creating memorable or extraordinary customer experience.
Defining customer experience
The customer experience originates from a set of interactions between a customer and a product, a company, or part of its organisation, which provoke a reaction. This experience is strictly personal and implies the customer’s involvement at different levels. Its evaluation depends on the comparison between a customer’s expectations and the stimuli coming from the interaction with the company and its offering in correspondence of the different moments of contact or touch-points.
There are stages and steps a customer goes through when interacting with a company throughout the customer life-cycle called touch points. Each of the touch points described what the customer experience was like in a pre-, during and post interaction. After admitting to the service, the customer would get cognitive experience. Touch point includes all interaction stages, describing what the customer experienced in the products, service, communication, venue, employees, process and technology of the stores. The results of customer life-cycle would be a customer experience that had an impact to customer loyalty.
Customer experience is the internal and subjective response customers have to any direct or indirect contact with a company. Direct contact generally occurs in the course of purchase, use, and service and is usually initiated by the customer. Indirect contact most often involves unplanned encounters with representatives of a company’s products, service or brands and takes the form of word of mouth recommendations or criticisms, advertising, news reports and reviews. Accordingly, experience is characterised as internal and subjective to the customer. There is need to consider both direct and indirect contacts and identification of all touch points to deliver total customer experience. At these touch points moments of truth are experienced and organisations can make or break it.
Customer experience management
CEM is the process of strategically managing a customer’s entire experience with a product or a company.
Organisations will benefit from the customer life time value (CLTV). CEM is about continuous long-term relationships with customers.
Managing customer experiences is an integrated approach to create distinctive customer value through systematic design and implementation of various context clues. These clues emanate from the product or service itself, behaviours of people, service providers and other customers and the physical environment in which the service is being offered. CEM is the evaluation of valuable experience from the satisfaction of people, process, and product or service. CEM can drive customer loyalty step-by-step to buy, spend more, pay more and recommend products to other customers.
The mindset of customers has changed, they seek experiences instead of being content with an ordinary transactional relationship with the company. Marketing today is focusing on selling experiences and winning the soul and heart of customers, therefore, company products and services must have a spiritual connection to customers. This will create a love mark in the hearts of customers. CEM provide a new means of competition.
How can organisations effectively implement CEM
l Increasing value co-creation through active participation of customers.
l Customer survey feedbacks.
l Customer engagement through digital platforms, social media, web-based applications, live chats, co-browse, blogs and video logs.
l Self- service assistance
l Train and empower the front office and back office so that they meet or exceed customer expectations.
l Incorporate customer relationship management strategies
l Call centre with interactive voice response (IVR) system and the intelligent customer front door (iCFD)
l Empathetic and acknowledge difficult situations with upset customers
l Proactive notifications via SMS or email.
l Designing the “services cape”, customer journey mapping, service transaction analysis, customer experience analysis, walk-through audits and sequential incident technique.
l Experience-based design
A superior customer experience is a result of emotional management of service interface, retail atmosphere, assortment, price, alternative channels, retail brand, cognitive experience, affective experience, social, and physical experience. Superior customer experience result in higher customer satisfaction, more frequent shopping visits, larger wallet shares, and higher profits.
*Wilbert Manyanga is a marketer, banker and motivational speaker. He holds a BTech Honours) International Marketing. He is an MAZ & IOBZ member and also holds a Certificate in Customer Services and a Diploma in Banking. He can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org
This article was contributed on behalf the Marketers Association of Zimbabwe, a leading body of marketing professionals promoting professionalism to the highest standards for the benefit of the industry and the economy at large. For any further information kindly contact email@example.com or visit the website on www.maz.co.zw.