I just got back from London, where I gave one of the keynote speeches for Forrester’s European Consumer Marketing and Financial Services Forums which were co-located at the Park Plaza Riverbank. It was a great event. The content was strong and the attendees seemed really engaged. It was also wonderful seeing my European colleagues and clients. And I always like visiting London.
My speech examined how to focus on customer experience in these difficult economic times. I used film clips to make the point that customers are like film viewers; they form their opinions based on visceral reactions to a specific set of scenes (a.k.a., moments of truth). So in these tough economic times, firms need to be even more attuned to the emotional side of customer needs and focus on those key scenes. I went on to discuss this environment in conjunction with the three principles of Experience-Based Differentiation:
- Obsess about customer needs, not product features. In a changing economy, consumer needs change. Their basic needs don’t disappear, but their priorities shift and they look for creative ways to satisfy those needs. So it’s more important than ever to research what’s going on in the lives of your most important customers.
- Reinforce the brand with every interaction, not just communications. In a down economy, many companies are developing contingency plans and cutting budgets. So it’s easy to lose site of your brand’s core tenets. Don’t let this happen. Make sure to use your brand as a framework for making these decisions and keep reinforcing the importance of your brand with employees.
- Treat customer experience as a competence, not a function. Firms can’t forget that customer experience is like a film; customers interact with front-line employees (actors), but there are many people across the company (entire production crew) that create those moments (scenes). If senior executives don’t keep customer experience top of mind, than it will likely deteriorate. The result: Loss of customers (disappointing box office results).
I attended a number of other sessions, so here are some highlights from a couple of those speeches. I’ll also discuss some cool customer experience initiatives at Barclays, HBOS, and Credit Suisse in one of my next posts.
- John Micklethwait, Editor In Chief, The Economist
“New Politics Of The World Economy”
Micklethwait called his discussion a “paranoid prophetation,” and it was a bit depressing. He said that Obama had a temporary global mandate and history will judge him based on two things: 1) Did he deal with capitalism? and 2) Did he unite world leaders around Western ideals? He discussed a long-term shift of power and wealth to Asia and outlined five nightmares from the current economic environment; calling the fist three inevitable: Larger public sector debt, missed opportunities, mission creep from regulators, bashing of the rich, and geopolitical unrest (especially in Iran and Russia)
- Fred van Ommen, SVP Innovation Excellence, Philips
“Strategies Driven By Consumer Sense & Simplicity”
Philips maintains a database of more than 1,000 consumer insights that it can tap into for product innovations. They are constantly adding to those insights through the company’s ongoing experience testing labs: HomeLab, ShopLab, and CareLab. Philips has formal processes for infusing customer insights into innovation projects, including what van Ommen called “Value Proposition House” and “Voice Of The Customer Tree.” The firm looks for over half of its revenue to come from consumer products that it has introduced in the previous year and business products that it has introduced in the previous two years.
The bottom line: Focussing on key customers is more important than ever.