Every day, customers have millions of experiences with brands. These experiences surround all of us and make up a huge part of the fabric of our lives. The coffee we order every morning, the products we buy and rely on after the birth of a new baby, the support we receive when our phone stops working—these experiences matter. They affect our lives in more profound ways than we give them credit for. Often, they’re the difference between a good or a bad day.
Sadly, we still know relatively little about the impact these experiences have on people and, more importantly, what precisely makes for a great experience. They aren’t captured and analysed to the degree that they should be and that their significance warrants. Brands live and die on the quality of the experience that their customer goes through, but, so far, we haven’t taken that seriously enough—we haven’t created the tools, practices, and ways of working to meet that challenge.
And then there’s the problem of industries only listening to and learning from themselves. Brands are not casting the net wide enough when they are looking to design new experiences if they’re only paying attention to what they and their direct competitors are doing.
What we need is a more ambitious, systematic, and concerted approach to improving customer experiences.
A Periodic Table Of Customer Experiences
When the experience is, ultimately, what your brand is judged on, it makes sense to truly obsess about it. To have a team—either within the company or at an agency—whose sole job is to relentlessly analyse it, break it down to its individual elements, and then improve and optimise every one of them.
It could be the colour of the signage, the way your staff open a conversation with customers, the way the products are arranged, or the unboxing experience. Or it could be a moment in time, such as when customers first step through the doors, take a breath, and start scanning the environment for what they want.
Much of a customer’s interactions with a brand comes down to these small elemental details. Each plays an important role in isolation. But the way they interact and combine to form the overall customer experience is either where the magic happens or where the problems emerge.
I’ve found in our work at Wunderman that there’s a remarkable but simple power in approaching customer experience this way. Sometimes all a brand needs is a slight tweak to the unboxing experience, or a small change in how it structures a conversation, to deliver significant improvements overall.
Yet, with more sophisticated analysis, an elements-based approach can help you create truly exceptional experiences that go above and beyond people’s expectations.
By approaching it the way we do—looking closely at even the tiniest components and analysing how they interact to form the bigger picture—you can get a much more comprehensive view into how your brand is performing. And you can see the opportunities for improvement in almost every detail.
What A Food Stall In LA Can Teach You About Queueing
If you can analyse a customer experience through its elements, instead of merely comparing within your sector, you can also start to learn valuable lessons from unusual places.
Take a street stall in downtown LA. It may not have much in common with an international airline, but there is one element that is crucial to both of their customer experiences: queueing.
The way each approaches queue management could provide lessons for the other. How do they keep queues short, how do they prioritise, and how do they keep customers engaged when they have a long wait?
In many respects, it is the dramatic differences between the two sectors that make shared knowledge between the two so useful—they both approach the same issue from very different perspectives.
Without breaking down the customer experience into its elements, these opportunities for cross-pollination almost never occur. Consider what phone manufacturers could learn from a luxury brand’s unboxing experience, or what a chain of gyms could learn from a music streaming service about subscriptions.
Unfortunately, brands are usually presented with best practice examples for a particular sector only—or they will throw in some common examples such as Netflix, Uber, or Amazon—and the brand, therefore, has only a small bank of knowledge to draw from.
The Nectar Of Cross-Pollination
But what about all the other experiences that exist in the world? Companies are missing out by not looking at other brands’ experiences across every sector, no matter how niche or diverse. We recently made a change to some brand communications thanks to the principles we found in the design of a shower. That’s the type of cross-pollination of CX insights that doesn’t happen enough.
This approach is also an opportunity for more effective benchmarking. If you’re evaluating your customer experience only against your direct competitors, you may not be able to overcome the CX issues that are a problem in your sector.
Cross-sector learning matters because, if you only implement practices from your sector, you’ll only be as good as the best in that sector.
Making customers happy is one of the most important things for a business to get right. Wunderman’s 2016 study into Wantedness found that 72% of U.K. consumers only buy from brands that prove they care about earning their business. For those of us with a passion for crafting great customer experiences, the work we are doing is about as business-critical as it gets.
The smarter we can be and the more analytical depth we can go into, the better we will be at leaving customers feeling wanted, respected, and appreciated at every stage of the interaction.