The Anatomy of Wow!

Over the past year, I’ve had the chance to post a wide range of thoughts on the ways that organization’s can leverage a deep understanding of their customers in order to design and engage customers in experiences that drive the growth of their business.  I recently took the opportunity to step back and reflect on the most important things I’ve learned over the past 25 years.  This post summarizes those most important things.  I’ve tried to make this concise… but will provide links to other posts that provide more insight.

 

Designing Influential Experiences

Wow Experiences exert a powerful influence on how people think, feel, decide, and act… because they’re designed from the mental model of the experiencer not the mental model of the provider.  Wow experiences create a high level of commitment, energy, and “word of mouth” by improving peoples’ lives.

  1. Wow Experiences change how people feel and are designed from a deep understanding of what people desire.  People don’t buy products or services, they buy Desired States.  What Emotional Outcomes should the experience generate?
  2. Wow Experiences deliver Innovative Solutions to people’s underlying, end-to-end problems. Finding these solutions requires getting below-the-surface of existing touch points.
  3. Wow Experiences generate viral stories.  Prime the story people will tell around an influential Experience Storyline.
  4. Wow Experiences resonate with the seemingly irrational ways people decide.  Design experiences that shape Preference Construction and overcome Behavioral Barriers.
  5. Wow Experiences are pleasantly surprising.  Design a small set of highly differentiated Signature Experience Elements.
  6. Wow Experiences are engaging and personal.  Enable people to Co-create and Personalize the experience, as well as, Influence and Collaborate with others.
  7. Wow Experiences recognize everything communicates!  Eliminate negative cues and align positive cues to influence the story and how you make people feel.

 

Delivering Influential Experiences

Customers’ experiences with any organization result from the behavior of a self-reinforcing, deeply entrenched organizational system.  Traditional approaches to defining and implementing a new experience fail because they underestimate limits imposed by legacy mindsets, processes, systems, and culture.

  1. Wow Experiences start with clear description of the intended experience – from the customers’ perspective. Align on an Experience Specification that describes the customers’ emotional & rational outcomes.
  2. Wow Experiences rely on Experience Value Management to focus improvements on fundamentally shifting the economics of customer relationships.
  3. Wow Experiences require shifting organizational behavior. Surface the Unwritten Rules that predispose the organization to deliver the current experience.
  4. Wow Experiences require specific employee experiences not just “engagement.” Diagnose how employee experiences reinforce Unwritten Rules and design specific Employee Experience Interventions to shift those Unwritten Rules.
  5. Wow Experiences require the holistic design of enabling Processes, Structures, and Management Systems.
  6. Wow Experiences have a limited shelf-life. Continually Refresh and Preserve a differentiated experience.
  7. Remember that, no matter what business you’re in… You’re in the Hospitality Business!

 

Here are a selection of links that provide some more insight into the points summarized above:

Why Customer Experience Initiatives Fail?

The Customer Experience Does Not Happen at Your Touchpoints

Cognitive Ergonomics: Designing Experiences that Fit the Customers’ Mental Model

Personae-Driven Customer Experience Design

Optimizing the Most Critical Elements of the Customer Experience: Customer Choices 

Cognitive Ergonomics: Customer Experience and Our Search for Meaning

No Matter What Business You’re In, You’re In the Hospitality Business 

Helping Customers Lose Wait

How Employee Experiences Drive Organizational Behavior

Adaptive Customer Profiling: Integrating Quantitative and Qualitative Customer Analytics

Most business leaders now recognize that organic growth is a direct result of their ability to deliver a differentiated, compelling, and increasingly personalized customer experience.  Effectively delivering such an experience is dependent on the organization’s ability to understand what attracts customers’ attention and what drives customers’ behavior. 

As you know, recent advances have lowered the investment threshold for consolidating and analyzing the massive amount of data that most organizations’ have about their customers.  Predictive modeling can then be used to make increasingly effective and individualized decisions about the treatment of customers.  For example, these approaches can be used to leverage customers’ past behavior to predict: the value of each customer, how likely that customer is to respond to specific offers, that customer’s price sensitivity, or how likely that customer is to attrite, as well as, what retention actions are likely to be effective.  (See:  Using Predictive Modeling to Optimize Customer Relationships)

Despite the enormous potential, purely quantitative approaches are insufficient.  In particular, quantitative customer analysis has natural limitations, including:

  • Trying to predict the future based on information about the past
  • Data gathered at a limited number of customer touch-points rather than an end-to-end understanding of the customers’ experience, including the more important non-touch-points
  • Surface level behaviors rather than a deeper perspective on customers’ motives, goals, plans, as well as, how they think and feel about their experiences

Trying to understand the customer based purely on quantitative analysis can feel a little like trying to determine how the furniture upstairs is arranged…  by tapping on the ceiling!  Obviously, you’d get a much clearer picture if you just went and took a look… rather than trying to infer what’s going on through indirect and limited data sources.

In addition, inferences drawn from purely quantitative approaches are prone to interpretation errors.  Without an adequate qualitative context for understanding the data, we’ve seen too many organizations draw conclusions akin to “Our customers in South Florida are born Hispanic and die Jewish.

The most powerful results come from the synergy between qualitative insight and quantitative analytics.

  • Qualitative Insight: Leveraging knowledge from in-depth research, observation, elicitation, as well as, listening to the conversations that take place between customers in emerging social networks.  This qualitative insight is used to frame and guide quantitative analysis.
  • Quantitative Analytics: Leveraging patterns in demographic and transactional customer data in order to predict, classify, and optimize elements of the customer experience. This quantitative analysis is to validate, refine, and populate the context created via qualitative insight.

In practice, organizations and the functional departments within them tend to have a strong bias for one of these modes.  More “left brained” organizations or functions emphasize the quantitative approach and feel uncomfortable with going out to actually observe what’s happening with customers.  More “right brained” organizations or functions emphasize the qualitative approach, are out living with their customers, but also tend to make decisions that aren’t supported by sufficient analytical rigor.  As a result, it’s difficult for organizations to put together the pieces in a way that generates a holistic perspective on the customer.

In our customer experience work with clients we are beginning to create Adaptive Customer Profiles that can be used to integrate quantitative and qualitative knowledge about the customer. 

An Adaptive Customer Profile is…  

… a formal knowledge representation structure used to capture the customer intelligence necessary to effectively customize communications, effectively assign service resources, optimize the presentation of high probability offers, and adapt pricing to customers’ price sensitivity.

Adaptive Customer Profiles for a given business situation generally include:

  • Descriptive Information:  Identifiers, demographic characteristics, etc…
  • Potential and Current Value:  The expected and current value of this customer.
  • Customer Network Information:  The customers’ role and placement in an influence network of customer relationships.
  • Personae Classification:  The degree to which the customer demonstrates an affinity for one or more personae classes that exist in the marketplace.  These personae classes are an extension of psychographic segments that define the predominant “mental models” in the marketplace.  These personae are characterized by shared customer goals and preferences, goal-directed behavioral patterns, cognitive schema, and temperamental characteristics.  These temperamental characteristics include the customers’ orientation towards novelty seeking, harm avoidance, reward dependence, and persistence.  (See Cognitive Ergonomics:  Designing Experiences that Fit the Customers’ Mental Model)
  • Relationship State:  The level of attachment this customer feels towards our business as evidenced by their transactional and interactional behavior.
  • Context Sensitive Behavioral History:  key behavioral indicators derived from inquiry and order history, service records, etc…

Adaptive Customer Profiles are derived through an integrated set of qualitative and quantitative activities.  Qualitative work includes customer observation and elicitation (See:  Observation and Elicitation:  We Like to Watch!) in order to uncover insight that is used to develop an effective personae classification scheme.  Quantitative work involves predictive modeling focused on the leading indicators of customer behavior and measuring the affinity that customers demonstrate for one or more personae.

For example, we are working with a leading healthcare organization to design an integrated patient-physician experience that can adapt to the fact that different patients have fundamentally different mental models associated with their health and the consumption of health related services.  Some customers will be high novelty seeking naturalists; some will be low persistence avoiders; some will be more high harm avoidant active consumers, etc…  The experience design integrates an Adaptive Customer Profiling module that identifies the extent to which each customer fits one or more of the common personae that exist in the marketplace.  Based on that Adaptive Customer Profile, we can then customize patient communications, instructions on courses of treatment, the presentation of wellness programs, etc…

We are also developing a similar personae classification scheme focused on Mass Affluent consumers of financial services.  Almost every financial services company is currently targeting this valuable “segment.”  The issue is that, by its’ very nature, the “Mass Affluent” segment is an exceptionally diverse group of individuals that only share the fact that they have assets and/or income above a certain level.  Companies that attack this market with a mass market mentality will almost certainly lose.  However, financial institutions that can target meaningful sub-segments of this market with a highly differentiated offer can create an experience that is attractive and differentiated with a substantial group of these customers.  You might imagine a hip and differentiated “I Hate to Plan” themed experience for the sub-segment of Mass Affluent customers that are Avoiders… or a more conservative, goal-driven experience customized to the customers that are Achievers.   A financial institution that embeds an Adaptive Customer Profiling process in their interactions with customers could more effectively customize the experience to the customers’ goals, behavior, mental model, and temperament.