Recently I joined a select group of people who hold the qualification “Certified Experience Economy Expert”. I was the 225th person in the world to earn that title — and the first person in Australia. I’m now starting to share the key concepts I learned with businesses in this part of the world, concepts that brands such as Disney, Ikea, Benetton and LEGO use to create new experiences for their customers.
The Experience Economy Certification is a week long course held in Minneapolis in the USA. It focuses on providing frameworks and models that can help businesses understand their customers, analyse what high quality, profitable, customer experiences mean for their organisation and learn how to lead the change required to deliver those experiences.
So why go to Minneapolis, the home of the late Prince’s Paisley Park, to do a course on customer experience?
Sometime back in 2008 I started watching TED Talk videos. What started out as passing interest quickly became an obsession with learning from the bite sized chunks of knowledge in the online presentations. Many of the videos had a great impact on me but one that was published in 2009 really resonated and changed the way I looked at the work W3 Digital does. It was a video called What Consumers Want by Joseph Pine. The talk discusses some of the key concepts that Pine, and his co-author James Gilmore, put forward in their book The Experience Economy. What I took away from the TED Talk was a way of thinking that would allow businesses to take advantage of digital technologies to innovate and transform their activities around the consumer. So after meeting Pine a few years ago, reading his books, and using many of his frameworks, this year I decided it was time to dive into all of the thinking in much more detail.
The Experience Economy Course covers a lot of material, more than I could cover in an article, but I have highlighted below some of the key takeaways.
Do you know what your customers want?
For brands to differentiate in today’s market conditions they must orchestrate memorable events for their customers. Over time that memory itself can become the product — the “experience”.
Understanding your customers well enough that you can deliver an experience so good they would be willing to pay for it as a separate offering is at the core of the Experience Economy thinking. This understanding only comes from investing in analysing customer behaviours and insights and learning what they will and wont pay for.
Is your company prepared to deliver great experiences?
In delivering value to customers companies are always moving through various stages of development . Initially there is a stage of invention, where a product, service or experience is designed. Then the company must extract value from the invention, so structure and efficient process are put in place. Then, as the market evolves, the business must create cross functional teams and agile processes to remain competitive. Finally, businesses can increase profit by delivering high margin customisations for individual customers, otherwise known as mass customisation.
Knowing where your business is on this continuum is vital for creating and delivering your customer experience. From a digital perspective these stages are reflected in the design of a “digital maturity model”.
In the rush to deliver “personalisation” some businesses don’t spend the time required to create the structure and processes necessary to succeed.
What it takes to lead customer experience change
High quality, integrated, customer experiences have become the battleground for differentiation and business model evolution in today’s marketplace. Designing experiences requires a business to focus on the needs of the customers, take risks and reward innovation. In many cases this means programmes of business transformation.
Leaders in this position need to address all the core aspects of successful organisational change such as clear communications, capability development, well designed reward programmes and employee engagement and participation. Leaders need to be active, visible and accessible.
There also needs to be a strong narrative around the customer and experience design process. Programmes like customer journey mapping help this but not all stakeholders can participate in those workshops. What is needed is a set of simple frameworks that all stakeholders can connect with. This is where the Experience Economy material becomes so powerful. The thinking can be applied to any market or area within a business.
Combined with digital innovation the Experience Economy has the power to transform organisations and connect with customers in entirely new ways. It contains the concepts that enable businesses to design a clear, simply communicated path, in a very complex environment.