The 1920s were an era of growth and prosperity. Coming out of wartime there was a boom in consumer goods fueled by electric grids and automobiles in the United States.
The 2020s are likely to be just a dramatic and will mark another change in consumerism in the service landscape.
For the last four years I have shared my thoughts and recommendations for your Customer Experience (CX) success, and this year I am happy to publish my latest installment. Over the years I have discussed the ever changing experience landscape, the need for end-to-end service thinking, and how to use consistency as a trust builder with your customers.
This year you will see some dramatic shifts and recurring themes from previous years, so let's talk about what continues to be relevant and what is evolving.
Your Customers Will Be Looking for Experiences
I asked my nieces what they wanted for Christmas this year and most of their wishes came down to creating memories and connections rather than "things." I thought this was interesting. They wanted to build a droid at Disney or make a cooking video with me or go on a trip to the beach with me and my wife. I thought this was a fascinating departure from the days when kids just wanted a Red Ryder BB Gun. So we settled ultimately on a weekend getaway to the Tampa Zoo and Aquarium, complete with a behind the scenes penguin interaction. When they opened the box and saw the itinerary they nearly burst with joy.
This is something you should expect more in your marketplace. I am seeing growing emphasis on the experience of cooking food as a group and enjoying theme park annual passes together rather than just collecting "stuff." So be sure that you are connecting your products to an experience and your service to a need so that you can deliver solutions to your customers.
Finally remember that "experience" will continue to be the intersection of quality, hospitality, and ease of use.
Your Team Experience is the Path to Your Customer Experience
While organizations have put countless resources into their customer's experiences, they still tend to under-serve their employees. That isn't to say that they don't put some effort into engaging their teams, but it is still widely seen as an "HR issue" rather than a business need.
This single fundamental shift in thinking has made some organizations very successful. Of course, treating your team well is the right thing to do - but it is also a sound business practice. When you think about winning the battle for your team's discretionary effort, this is where it begins.
Take time going into this new year to ensure that you have enabled your team with the tools, training, products, and resources they need to be successful. Also ensure that you are listening to them, staying connected to them, and following up with them regularly.
Finally, remember that this matters for all levels of your organization. It is easy to look to your front line associates - and this is the mission critical piece - but don't stop there. Don't forget to set aside time and budget to train and engage with your mid-level managers, General Managers, and Area/District Managers.
How you treat your teams is how they will treat their customers - so make this even more of a priority in 2020.
Customers are like divining rods for authenticity. They can tell genuine from canned and cookie cutter from custom during every service moment.
Your customers want more than just perfunctory service. They want service that feels like it is from the heart and not from a playbook. The secret here is actually more training, not less. Now this may seem counter intuitive, but this is how you build confidence and competence.
Make sure your team understands the key behavioral moments needed to provide great service. Train the body language. Practice the greeting. Role play the conversation.
Then empower and trust your team to make all these key moves their own. Encourage them to let their personalities shine through. Coach them to embrace the spirit of your steps, behaviors, and services but to use their best judgement.
This is going to take an evolution in certain pieces of your strategy. You will need to ensure that you are selecting the right talent for your roles and then trusting them to run the plays in a way that feels genuine to them and authentic to customers. This is how companies like Zappos serve customers so well without a script or time limits. You bring in the right people, train them intentionally, and engage them thoughtfully.
Customers Want It "Just for Me"
Customers don't want the same experience the person in front of them just had.
They want a consistent experience that feels thoughtful with just enough customization to make them feel special. At a visceral level that is really what we all want - to feel special and valued.
This is why there is such power when Starbucks calls your name to hand you your latte; even if you provided a fictional name, it still feels special. And yes, I have indeed been called Harry Potter and Walt Disney in coffee shops around the country.
Personalization comes in many forms, but never forget that using a person's name is the most impactful place to start. You can also take the time to get to know your clients and customers well enough to anticipate their needs and understand the problems they are trying to solve.
Finally, find ways to learn your customer's preferences in a way that respects their privacy but also allows for a deeper level of service. This could be accomplished through tech where you know their preferred method of communication or shipping preferences.
I think about how Hilton knows at which properties I prefer the complimentary breakfast and where I prefer points. I don't have to ask - they just know based on my profile and my previous selections and it just happens. It makes it easier to choose Hilton when I travel because I feel like they know me and understand my needs.
Tech and the Integrated Experience
Technology and innovation are still going to be differentiators for your customers - as long as it works. Customers will continue to look for innovative approaches to solve problems. They want to be able to ask Alexa or Google for information on store locations, menus, or activate their security system. Now with Alexa Auto on the rise, think about the potential for on-the-go services that can be accomplished hands-free.
But there is a catch. The tech has to work really well and has to solve a problem. Whether you are using chatbots, some other form of AI, or self service kiosks, they have to make sense for your customer experience and integrate well into your process. For example, I have seen self checkout become a huge success in grocery stores and food marts. However, I was in a home improvement store and no one was using them because the items being purchased were too large to be scanned at the kiosk. That shows that the business rushed to get them to market but didn't think about how they fit into the guest experience.
Always ask if it is tech for tech's sake or if it really does make your customer's lives better. This is also a prime opportunity to look at the customer journey and map the key touch points in your business. This is the only way you are going to be able to determine if you are adding or reducing friction when you add in technology or process.
These five core items are going to be important in every marketplace.
No matter your industry - from healthcare to higher education to retail - your brand needs to align with these trends in a way that makes sense for your customers.
We will check in each quarter to see how these trends are progressing and discuss how the market will continue to evolve.
We will take this journey together to ensure that customers remain at the center of your thinking to drive growth and business results.
Tony Johnson, CCXP Customer Experience (CX) Leader | Author | Speaker
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