29 February 2012

Surfing the experience WAVE 120229

Life is a journey. In each journey, every experience counts. Consistent, unique and positive experience brings solid result. But one negative experience could kill it all. Experience means different things to different people. Despite the differences, one thing is certain—experience does not equal service. Service is about how firm serves. Experience is more than service. A service without experience is not good enough.

Experience is important. It influences decision making. Every day user has access to unlimited information within limited time, so s/he has to make a choice. But decision can be costly. In order to maximize satisfaction, user minimizes efforts in making choice. One of the most effective ways is to have only one simple choice, and that is possible only with consistent, unique and positive (CUP) experience. With CUP experience, users would stick with the firm. The CUP experience is a win-win for both user and firm.

CUP experience is achieved through the WAVE. This big wave is made up of three small waves. The first wave is the firm. Consistent positive employee experience delivers a 1+1=1 impact. Each employee is engaged and aligned with ONE goal. The second wave is the user. Consistent positive customer experience delivers a 1+1>2 impact, for both customer and firm co-create value to achieve a win-win success. The third wave is the brand. Consistent positive brand experience delivers a 1+1=infinity impact, because customer advocacy builds sustainable mindshare and marketshare. Every wave induces impact, and subsequently produces cumulative powerful impact on customers.

The relationship among employee, customer, and brand is straightforward. Customer always goes first, because his/her satisfaction makes the firm. Employees are always the most important asset. Nothing is possible without their engagement. If the two waves run smooth, brand will last forever.

Touchpoint is about interaction. It can either make, or break. Touchpoint is everywhere. It can be tangible, or intangible. What gets measured gets managed. It is important to be able to manage touchpoint. In order to manage touchpoint, it is important to identify what makes a touchpoint, or in other words, element. There are 5 elements: people, information, environment, device, and output. Each touchpoint is formed when at least 2 elements interact. When a series of touchpoints adds together, they form touchline. Touchline is part of relationship. Not all touchpoints are created equal. Some are more important, some are not. But resources are limited. Firm needs to effectively allocate resources for critical touchpoint to ensure CUP experience.

Conventionally, experience is always related to 5 senses, but experience can definitely be more than that. Experience is all about LOVE, which is an acronym for touchLine, touchpOint, fiVe+ senses, and Expectation. Touchline is the end-to-end experience, and user usually recalls overall experience instead of bits and pieces. Movie is a good example. Touchpoint is a platform to create experience. Even the same touchpoint will produce different experience, because experience is in the eye of the beholder. Experience is everywhere. Only the relevant one will be remembered. The unique experience will never be forgotten. So an unforgettable experience can make all the difference. 5 senses are no longer enough. It is necessary to move beyond 5 senses (hand), to head to heart. Expectation is the basis of how experience will be measured. While managing expectation is important, fulfilling user’s need is more important.

“Customer first, employee always, brand forever.” Employee, especially customer-facing employee, is always important for s/he makes or breaks customer’s relationship with firm. Managing firm right becomes the critical first step to achieving profitable sustainability. Not only does it deliver positive employee experience, but it also attracts the right people to become part of the winning team. However, positive employee experience is the minimum requirement. It does not guarantee positive customer experience; it only helps deliver non-negative customer experience. Non-negative experience is rare in this world full of complaints. It requires a lot more to deliver positive customer experience…

A happy employee does not necessarily make happy customers. A happy employee is only a happy employee. Employee’s happiness only means that the employee will stay with the company, and say good things about the company, but there is no guarantee that a happy employee will strive for the best. Only accountable employee will create and deliver results.

It always starts with one. Without one, it is none. But it is just the beginning. One best fit will spread positive energy around, which creates strong team. When all individual team joins forces, a strong organization will be formed. And a strong organization is all it takes to win the market.

A winning organization is built through a process: C2PO, which stands for Culture, People, Process, and Output. Culture will attract right people to become part of the winning team, and it is made possible with great leadership who lives up to the vision, mission, values of the firm. It is important that the firm delivers positive experience from the beginning of the employee lifecycle, and it does not start when the employee reports duty. It starts when the employee becomes aware of the employer brand! Hierarchy of needs (HoN) will be different along the lifecycle, and task relevant maturity (TRM) needs to be monitored in order to support employee to be accountable and deliver expected results. Firm needs to provide the right platform for employee to perform. The process has to be designed in such as way that output will be produced in an effective and efficient manner. The most important asset is always the right employee at the right job.

“The highest good is like water.
Water benefits everything by giving without taking.
It flows in places men reject and so is like the Tao.
In dwelling, be close to the land.
In meditation, go deep in the heart.
In dealing with others, be gentle and kind.
In speech, be true.
In ruling, be just.
In business, be competent.
In action, watch the timing.
It is only because it does not compete, that therefore it is without fault.”

When everyone is like water, firm will become the most powerful ocean surf!

C2PO is what; CARE is how. It is important that firm CARE about employee. Firm should look after employee’s wellbeing by being Consistent, Authentic, Relevant, and Empathetic. Empathy is the ability to ask WIIFM, or what’s in it for me. It’s putting oneself in someone else’s shoes. Imagine how a blind person sees… Without empathy, positive employee experience is impossible. With empathy comes relevance. Relevance is the ability to deliver what is needed. When firm gives what employee wants, it touches employee’s heart. Authenticity is the ability to say what you mean and mean what you say. Without authenticity, relevance becomes irrelevance. But authenticity means nothing if it does not last. Trust is earned through consistency. Employee engagement comes from consistent authenticity. Engaged employee “say, stay and strive” – speaks positively about employer, stays with the firm, and strives to go beyond expectation.

With right CARE, firm will deliver CUP experience to employee. When employees feel loved, it becomes easier to align and engage with firm’s vision, mission, and values. Office is no longer just a place to work, but it becomes their second home. Employees are willing to go the extra mile to make, rather than watch, it happen.

No one can beat an organization full of energetic and accountable employees. However, it is only just the beginning…

Henry Ford once said, “It is not the employer who pays the wages. Employers only handle the money. It is the customer who pays the wages.” Building a team of engaged workforce is important, for it will protect the firm from delivering negative customer experience.

Who can resist CUP customer experience? It is the root of happiness, and it brings wealth and fame.

LOVE is element of experience. It is an acronym for touchLine, touchpOint, fiVe+ senses, and Expectation. To deliver positive touchline experience, firm needs to understand “how user gets what user wants.” A 4-step process involves: initiative need, search output, use value, and share experience. At each step, firm should employ 4Es to deliver CUP experience. The four Es are: ER, everywhere, extra mile, and enrichment. Everyone wants something ER: bettER, fastER, cheapER, easiER, newER, fewER, strongER… ER is what leads customer to take action. Product should be made available to where the user wants it. Or else, user will be tempted to switch. When user decides to go with the product, it is important to not only meet expectation, but also do just a little bit extra and make the experience unforgettable. Sharing is everything in the socially connected world. Firm should enrich user experience by responding effectively to both positive and negative experience. At each touchpoint, customer will “see, feel, think, and do,” and it involves 5 senses… or just 5 senses? It is no longer enough. 5 senses are just part of 3H, or hands, head, and heart. Firm needs to touch the heart in order to stay on top of mind of customer. Experience is evaluation of outcome against expectation, but expectation is hard to manage. The best way to manage expectation is not to manage it at all. Life is random, so should be experience. Firm should be consistently inconsistent in order to give something customer to hope for. That’s mystery. That’s magic.

LOVE helps firm understand how user gets what he wants. To ensure that LOVE delivers win-win result for both user and firm, it is important for firm to master WhOW. WhOW is combination of Who and How. For who, firm needs to identify target user. More importantly, the firm needs to understand both rational (what) and emotional (why) needs of target user. However, what is no longer good enough to win customer, for what can easily be copied by competitors. Why makes all the difference. More resources should be allocated for why. For how, the basic is to understand when the need is initiated, and where would the user prefer to get the need solved. At a more advanced level, it is how to wow customer and make every touchpoint unforgettable using LOVE.

There is infinite number of touchpoints along the consumption journey. Customer has every right to choose the touchpoint with CUP experience along the journey. Every move made by customer is determined by how the firm designs LOVE. In order to help customer move forward, firm needs to know what the customer really wants in the first place. It is important to begin with the end in mind, then along the process… be a scorpion: what is hidden is more interesting than the obvious!

At each touchpoint, it is important to figure out how customer interacts with the firm. Is it the first touchpoint? What element is involved in the touchpoint? What is the pain point? Is there any opportunity to make a positive difference in order to delight the customer? Is the touchpoint at the early or later stage of journey? Is it critical? Who owns the touchpoint?

Customer expectation always escalates. When the touchpoint does not deliver the expected outcome, the experience becomes negative. Negative experience is not the end of the story. What matters most is how the firm reacts to negative experience. Customers, be they loyal or not, expect the negative experience to be the LAST one. Firm needs to Listen thoroughly what went wrong, Assure that the situation will be fixed, Solve the problem immediately, and Thank for providing feedback. A complaint is a gift in disguise. Cheer up. Deal with the problem immediately can turn things downside up!

When every touchpoint delivers CUP experience, there is no reason for the customer to switch. Think of a keyboard with 26 characters. The firm needs to help customer get used to the keyboard. Once the customer gets used to QWERTY instead of DVORAK, it becomes difficult for the customer to switch back to DVORAK. It simply becomes a habit to stick with the firm. Customer not only buys from the firm, but customer will spread positive word of mouth. When confronted with a choice, the customer will make up reasons to stick with the firm, the one thing the customer really wants.

Positive employee experience is necessary for building an engaged workforce; positive customer experience is necessary for winning market share. However, it is mindshare that helps firm build to last.

A great brand is like religion. It goes beyond interaction between employee and customer; it is about interaction between mind and firm. A great brand touches heart. User becomes diehard fan, and he becomes the best salesperson for the brand.

A great brand not only offers CUP experience, but it also protects firm from any damage.

A brand ain’t nothing but a promise. Brand exists to fulfill need: cure pain of making choice and bring pleasure of everything er.

Brand experience is about mindshare; and mindshare is zero moment of truth. ZMOT is something that happens in the mind, so it is everywhere. It is difficult for the firm to control zmot, because it is almost impossible to control what and how customer thinks. What the firm can do is however find the North Star, the star that points the firm to the right direction of capturing mindshare.

Brand is a promise, and a promise made is a debt unpaid. Firm should honor the promises made in order to build to last, or else, it will be built to flip. In order to fulfill the promise, firm needs to know, flow and grow. First, the firm should know its edge against competitor. Without identifying its edge, the user won't be able to tell the difference of who’s who. There are too many choices available. Differentiate or die. So it becomes important to know i) who you are, ii) what you do, iii) why do you matter, and iv) what makes you different. “Why do you matter” address rational need, which is FAB, or feature, advantage, and benefit. “What makes you different” is about emotional engagement. Once the edge is defined, the message has to be reached out and communicated to the target audience. Here is the flow of communicating the positioning to the target audience. Who is the intended target audience? What is the most effective channel to reach the target audience given that customers are now everywhere, both online and offline? How to reach, rather than spam, them at the right place at the right time? When the message is delivered, firm has to fulfill and grow the promise in order to enhance its positioning and therefore negate competition. That is grow, and it is about keeping promise and beating expectation. The firm keeps promises by delivering positive customer experience. And how to grow promise? It is through sensuality (5 senses), intimacy (customer experience), mystery (random), and innovation. Peter Drucker said, “Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two—and only two—basic functions: marketing and innovation.”

When firm is able to know, flow and grow, it will enjoy profitable sustainability, which is also the result of improved share of wallet and share of market. It is like a virtuous cycle in the form of taiji: good begets good. Share of wallet will lead to share of market, and their interaction would lead to a critical mass. The end result is simply profitable sustainability.

Brand is about mindshare, and mindshare has direct impact on share of wallet. It is therefore important for firm to know, flow and grow its brand promise in order to stay top-of-mind with customer. However, there is always competition. Firm should negate competition through the use of innovation to make the brand ever more unique. This will ultimately lead to profitable sustainability.

According to Sun Zi, knowing and understanding the enemy and oneself, one can engage in a thousand battles without ever being in danger and win. Win with wisdom is the surest form of victory!

Surfing the experience WAVE is about managing firm, wowing user, and negating competition. When the firm is able to ride the wild surf, it will result in positive employee, customer and brand (ecb) experience. With consistent positive ecb experience comes profitable sustainability.

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