Harnessing the Power of Managed Customer Experiences

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Harnessing the Power of Managed Customer Experiences

Research has shown that memorable experiences, as well as ensuring positive word of mouth, can drive customer decisions as much as or more than price and functionality.  The emerging field of “customer experience design” aims to ensure that customers have positive “touchpoints” with companies while buying and consuming their products and services.  To that end, marketing consultants have created useful tools and frameworks such as “journey mapping,” “service blueprinting,” and so-called “problem-solving mindsets.” Meanwhile, academics have studied customer engagement models that focus on managerial variables such as employee selection, training, rewards, and service culture.

However, recent research suggests that there have been few if any, meaningful improvements in customer experience over the past decade.  That means that despite the insights gleaned about customers through advanced technologies and data analysis, something still seems to be missing for most companies.

According to Harvard Business School Professor Stefan Thomke, “Customers want their choices to align as much with their feelings and senses as with their values and ethics.  The rational approaches taught at most business schools are not enough.  Creating memorable experiences for customers requires a bit of emotional magic.  People like to think of themselves as logical, but the truth is that emotions inspire decisions.”

In fact, a Forrester Research study found that for B2C customers, loyalty is driven more by emotional factors than by rational ones.  Another study, by CEB Marketing Leadership Council and Google, suggests that this may also be true in B2B decisions.  When they surveyed 3,000 B2B buyers across 36 brands and interviewed 50 B2B marketing organizations, they found that appeals to emotions have twice as much impact on favorable decisions as appeals to logic and reason.

The payoff can be huge.  A report from Gallup suggests that organizations that optimize emotional connections outperform rivals by 26% in terms of gross margin and 85% in terms of sales growth.  They cultivate emotionally engaged customers who are less price-sensitive, less likely to buy from competitors, and three times more likely to recommend and repurchase.

Notably, today’s customer journey is not just a matter of a few touchpoints as the consumer systematically narrows choices...

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