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The art and science of influencing your customers' experience

Maya Angelou, the author, poet, dancer, actress and singer, has said, "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel".

This quote means a lot for companies that are trying to make their brand memorable and to create customer loyalty. Your customers will not judge your value simply based on how innovative your product is, but on the experience you create for them. Great companies widen their focus from products, service and even solutions to address the customer experience.

You can use both art and science to strongly influence your customers' experiences.

Today, I'll piece together the clues left by great service companies and will take you on a tour of the five key steps to creating a memorable customer experience.

Discovering your customer journey

Take a look at what your customers need to go through in order to receive your product, service or solutions.

Starbucks charted the "customer journey" to see and understand exactly what their customers need to go through, where the contact points are, the length of the interfaces between the customers and their brand and what or who has the best chance of creating memorable experiences for the customers.

Information from your customer journey is a great source of valuable insight about your customers.

Define where you can make an impact

This is the art of understanding the "moments of truth" for your customers. Brian Solis, the author of "What's the Future of Business: Changing the Way Businesses Create Experiences", explains that to shape a meaningful experience, you need four moments of truth.

Zero. Your customers learn about you through Google before they interface with your products or outlet. They grab their laptop, mobile phone or some other wired device and start learning about a product or service they're thinking about trying or buying. What they find will influence their next steps.

First. Your customers see your product and form impressions.

Second. People feel, think, see, hear, touch, smell and sometimes taste as they experience your product over time. It's also how your company supports them in their efforts throughout the relationship.

Ultimate. People share their experience with others, most likely through media, which creates the cycle loop back into the zero moment for other customers. Many companies now ask whether they do well enough in creating positive and memorable events or artefacts to allow people to snap and share their positive experience when encountering their products or service.

Design the service

This covers the activity of planning and organising people, infrastructure, communication and material components of a service to improve its quality and the interaction between service provider and customers. It can involve artefacts and other things including communication, environment and behaviours.

A good service designer will play the roles of conductor and facilitator, bringing in knowledge and expert ideas from multiple disciplines like market research, consumer psychology, marketing and public relations, interface design and process improvement.

Deploy your design into practice

With technology, you can and should ease transactional activities with your customers to create the convenience that they value. But don't forget that your customers also value the personal touch and collaboration with people.

Within the customer journey, define where your people can add value and make a difference. These people should be equipped with standard behaviour guidelines or "scripts".

The art in creating these scripts is to make sure the employees get the main ideas while still providing a degree of freedom to allow them to adapt to the customers' behaviours, personalise their service and be creative about shaping the customer experience.

Develop your system, structure and culture around customer experience

Ritz Carlton uses the tradition of the "line-up". Every single hotel, everywhere in the world, every partner and every shift takes around 15 minutes every day to deliver development and important messages to the staff. Part of the line-up is a "wow story", which means talking about great things that their people have done to wow the customer.

In summary, to influence your customers' experience, gain insight of your customers' experience using the customer journey map; define when and where your customers' moments of truth occur; design your touch points well to ensure positive experiences, especially during those moments of truth; develop your people by giving them flexible yet tangible guidelines; and align your system, structure and culture to allow and encourage your people to deliver positive customer experiences.

Orapun Parapob Gilman is a principal consultant at APMGroup. She can be contacted at Orapun_p@apm.co.th.


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