Last week I attended Forrester’s Forum for Customer Experience Professionals. My favorite thing about these events is hearing stories about how people are making customer experience change happen in their organizations. There were four key themes that resonated for me. Below are some of my favorite stories to illustrate the lessons:
1. Know your customer.
Vail Resorts embraces the motto, “Live by your customers’ experience and do it often.” For them, this means actually being on the front lines. For example, they like to ride the gondola with guests to start conversations about their experience. This is much more than a, “How was everything?” kind of question, they’re in it to learn.
From this work they identified three pain points that they are now working to improve. They’ve been ideating around these and are picking five families to test the new approaches. Their process is to test, see where it fails, make changes, and then implement more broadly. A thorough approach that keeps them grounded in what works for their guest.
2. Start change from within.
In 2006, Audi was worried. Awareness and consideration were low and loyalty and JD Powers sales and service satisfaction scores were struggling as well. Customers were walking away and it was clearly time to redefine the customer experience. To do this, Audi started by focusing inside with their 15,000 employees and the dealer network. If they were going to capture the hearts and minds of customers, they needed to first capture the hearts and minds of employees.
Audi executives hit the road. They planned and executive a massive road show where executives helped reconnect employees to the brand values of the company. They shared personal stories with a focus on being transparent and simply having fun celebrating the brand.
The grass roots approach paid off. Today their metrics are the highest they have ever been. Loyalty is up 8 points and they’ve had 30 consecutive months of record sales. People across the company have a renewed sense of pride in the brand and focus on the customer. For example, in an effort to support the company goal of Creating Raving Fans the technical support team voluntarily took on longer hours so they would be more available to dealers in need of assistance.
3. Digital is a means to deliver better experiences, not the experience itself.
There were several great examples of this and one I particularly liked was Starwood Hotels. Starwoods knows that a guest who already has a reservation comes to the website, their needs are different. 48 hours before the guest is scheduled to check in the website will dynamically change to show things like weather, local events, and directions to the hotel. These contextual updates extend the Starwoods customer experience days before the customer ever even arrives at the hotel.
4. Innovation is often a slight shift in perspective.
Bertucci’s Italian Restaurant was struggling to appeal to younger guests. They conducted ethnographic research that revealed what they thought was important (pizza) wasn’t what this demographic cared about most. Instead, this demographic was most interested in an experience that was “shareable,” and not in the Facebook kind of way.
Bertucci’s responded by creating an entirely new business concept – 2 Ovens. Instead of pushing higher table turnover (the traditional restaurant method of boosting revenue), they pushed for greater engagement. They designed a menu that encouraged continued ordering throughout the evening. They created shareable plates and drinks served in carafes and pitchers. A whole experience designed to keep customers fully engaged in the experience.
The new concept took what Bertucci’s had always been great at – brick oven cooking – and designed an experience that highlighted this core competency. By infusing their existing brand with innovation they were able to share the best of Bertucci’s with an entirely new market.