Say hello to the Consumer Concierge

Friday, January 29, 2016 - 18:35

Guest post by Greg Abbey

As businesses aspire towards digital transformation with ‘customer-centricity’, acronyms including X have been hot. But one of the most compelling and must read publications has to be X: The Experience When Business Meets Design by Brian Solis, because “your brand is defined by those who experience it.” 

Over the past year, one of my key areas of focus has been blending brand purpose with design thinking, with a spotlight on the customer journey. By working with Consumer NZ and delving into McKinsey & Company research, it’s become apparent that this journey is the brand and can become so powerful that it fundamentally changes the consumer decision making process.

This is core business not a bolt on. So say hello to the consumer concierge! 

Evolution of decision making

Over the past 30 years, the consumer decision making process has evolved significantly. Let’s start by exploring the most obvious changes …

In the 1990s, we tried to ‘push’ people through the purchase funnel. This was a product driven and advertising led approach with mass broadcast to mass audiences. This no longer works!

By the 2000s, we attempted to create a customer loyalty loop. This was about targeted marketing by identifying key touch points. This is where many businesses remain and kind of works.

Now, we are endeavouring to differentiate through the actual experience. This is highly personalised marketing with the consumer in control. This works but for the majority is highly aspirational!

Satisfaction by touch point

Most businesses track customer satisfaction and drill down based on interactions with key touch points. This is important, but it doesn’t necessarily tell the whole story. For example, a customer might have 21 pleasant experiences with a bank across different channels in the space of a few months. In isolation, the customer is deemed to be ‘satisfied’ with each and every interaction.

However, the customer may be totally disillusioned with the sheer volume of interactions and / or transitions between channels and venting on social media.

That’s why looking at the customer journey helps to connect on a human level. This is much more qualitative and ‘small data’ based. For example, this could be about 1,500 observations about 15 customers as opposed to 15 questions to 1,500 customers. Rather than just the ‘business’ touch points, this also includes all those parts of the journey that we can not or do not see.

The customer journey map

The customer journey map is the foundational design thinking tool that helps to understand the current state. This tool allows us to truly ‘step into the shoes of the customer’ (… because the customer is more interested in their life than your business!) Most importantly, this focuses on the emotional not just the functional elements of the journey.

In order to arrive at the customer journey map, a fantastic approach is to conduct ethnographic interviews. Look to customers who span the segments you are looking to address in order to identify areas of convergence and divergence. The in depth analysis will ultimately help to capture the full context of the experience, including expectations and behaviours.

Resist the temptation to just get on with it and generate ideas. First we need to identify unmet customer needs. The journey map assists in the generation of new hypothesis. Because wherever there is a moment of truth, there is a deep insight. And wherever there is a deep insight, there is an opportunity as the best ideas connect most closely with a pain point.

The recent brand resurgence

With constant waves of technological innovation, brands have been playing catch up and scrambling to be relevant. It has not been uncommon for business leaders to feel like they're lagging behind competitors, rightly or wrongly. But now, leading and shaping the customer journey is rapidly becoming a decisive source of competitive advantage.

The customer journey can actually be an enjoyable part of the actual product! It can be the proposition. It is the brand. Most crucially, the customer journey can reduce or even eliminate the decision process!

That’s why 87% of people prefer to purchase from a brand with a personalised experience that is “seamless, enriching and assisting.” This is about putting the consumer in control of the experience. This is about predicting intent and suggesting intuitively. This is about learning behaviour and adapting the experience. As a classic case in point, think Amazon versus Borders.

So ask yourself, does you brand behave like a consumer concierge?!

Greg Abbey is CMO at the strategic marketing agency Steam Marketing