There was a time when making good products was sufficient to succeed in the business world, but that is no longer the case. While making good products (or services)—things that people want and value, of a quality they expect and at a price point they are willing to pay—remains essential to the value proposition, it’s just table stakes today. What customers want are “experiences.”
So what is an “experience,” and why are customers’ expectations of that experience different from those of the past?
While we have always provided customers with “experiences,” the term has taken on a whole new meaning. To miss the subtlety of this shift (actually, it’s not that subtle at all!) could spell disaster for many companies.
Let’s start by considering what influences a customer’s experience. For me, experience is a simple balancing act:
What I expected to get vs. What I perceived I received
Delivering an experience in the past was fairly straightforward. I will use a fictitious scenario involving a can of soda to illustrate my points.
Suppose that I promise to supply you with a can of soda that has 50 bubbles per square inch. You buy and drink that soda, and as long as the bubbles per square inch are approximately 50, you are happy. If you detect fewer than than 50 bubbles per square inch, you are unhappy and probably won’t buy my soda again. If you perceive there are significantly more bubbles, you are delighted and recommend my soda to all your friends. It’s a simple, tried-and-trusted process of customer satisfaction.
In this case, the experience consisted of a few key elements: the soda, the can (its look and feel), the ambiance of the store where you purchased it, the friendliness of the server, and so forth. But also consider what influenced both sides of the equation above:
- What I expected = the advertising that promised 50 bubbles per square inch
- What I perceive I received = my tasting the product and “counting” the bubbles
Now let’s consider a customer’s experience in today’s hyperconnected, social-media-driven world. Today, both sides of the equation are influenced by a whole world of participants—literally!
- What I expected = the advertising that promised 50 bubbles per square inch, web-based product reviews, my social-media network, information regarding your company and its work practices, and so on.
- What I perceive I received = my tasting the product and “counting” the bubbles, add-on products and services (the third-party can holder, the free bubble-counting app), feedback from my social-media friends, etc.
My point is, both sides of the experience equation are heavily influenced by today’s hyperconnectivity. In the past, my expectations of that soda were almost entirely based on the advertising to which I was exposed. You told me it had 50 bubbles per square inch and I had no way of determining if 50 bubbles was typical, above, or below standard for soda. I had to take your word for it that your description of “the best soda in the world, with more bubbles per square inch than any other soda” was accurate.
That’s not the case today.
In my next blog, I will discuss how to approach the customer experience in our hyperconnected world.