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5 Foolproof ways to go bankrupt with Customer Experience

Customer Experience (CX) can make or break your business, and, if you don’t look at it strategically, you run a serious risk of it making more harm than good and actually breaking you.

What may appear like a great idea, in essence, can often cost dearly if not sense checked against the wider realities of business. It’s important to bear in mind that customer experience isn’t an end in itself but merely a means to an end, one strategy, one path towards a greater goal: business survival and growth. Sadly, sometimes an ill-calibrated focus on customer experience can lead to the opposite effect and some disastrous consequences.

Here are 5 fool-proof ways of making sure your business throws its hard-earned cash out of the window by focusing on the customer (I also thought of calling these cardinal sins but I couldn’t bring myself to add two more items and risk making this article too depressing). Use this as a checklist, alarm bells should ring in your head if your business is guilty of any of these!

1.     Exceed their expectations. Consistently

Exceed customer expectations and they will be delighted and will become raving fans, right? WRONG!

This is wrong in many, many ways and could do with its own article, but in a nutshell:

First, not every part of the experience will satisfy customers. Some elements, known as hygiene factors in HR research or dissatisfiers in marketing research will not drive satisfaction up when present but will generate dissatisfaction when absent, such as a working payment page on a website or a clean store in the real world. There is no point in making the shop cleaner than a hospital room because your customers won’t notice nor would they care, it just need to be to a certain level and this will suffice.

Even where exceeding expectations is possible (known as satisfiers or motivators), research from Dixon, Toman and Delisi (The Effortless Experience) identified that delight rarely occurs and often costs more than the ROI it generates. Rust and Oliver (Should we delight the customer) tells us that exceeding expectations of customers raises the bar, for both satisfaction and delight (intuitively, you probably knew that) and that while the cost to delight further in the escalation will rise gradually, delight will do so at a decreasing rate. In other words, it’s a losing battle. They do however call out that while it hurts a firm to delight its customers, it hurts their competition more, which still doesn’t make it profitable.

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The higher you raise the bar by exceeding their expectations, the more they will expect, costing you more in operating cost and shrinking your margin, potentially to the point of making your customers unprofitable or the business model inviable.

Finally, remember that as we are loss averse, it is a lot more painful to fall short on the promise made to the customer than it is delightful to exceed it. By raising the stake, you are making your life a lot harder and your failures a lot more painful – and both situations will be more expensive.

Raising Expectations = Raising Costs & Slashing Margins

2.     Fill a leaky bucket (acquisition before retention)

An article in the Harvard Business Review pointed out that the cost of acquiring a new customer (CAC) is anywhere between five to 25 times more expensive than customer retention.

Not only is this backed by an assortment of studies, it also makes sense, rationally and financially speaking. In most cases, a customer spent money on you because you spent money on bringing them in first (advertising, branding, PR, referral schemes…) and any money you get from that customer will first offset the CAC and then contribute to your margin. The longer you manage to retain a customer, the more profitable that specific customer will become to you, this is often measured under the label of customer lifetime value (CLV).

Now, imagine that half of your customers leave your company within 6 months, and that it takes you 8 months to recoup your investment to acquire them. The math won’t add up, you will be out of pocket and you will frantically accelerate your customer acquisition efforts, leading to more leakage.

It’s as if you were running yourself a bath but you forgot to put in the plug or there is a hole at the base. Water (customers) will fall through, and the bath (revenue) will be far lower than your capacity would allow, which means you may not have the luxury of actually enjoying the bath (profit).

Conversely, if you plug the hole first, and then run the water, more will stay in and the tub will be fuller. The same goes with customers. Fix reasons for churn before you grow the input, or you will simply continue losing money, at a greater magnitude.

Retention > Acquisition

3.     Putting your customers first

This is probably the most controversial one for someone working in customer experience to say but putting your customer first is a mistake. You should put the business first, first. The goal of every organisation is to generate value through its activities, which is frequently measured in terms of revenue and profit. There is no point giving every customer the five stars VIP treatment if it is self-evident that the organisation will never recoup that money direct or indirectly. It needs to be a win-win for it to work: offering better experiences to the customers must generate enough value in return for the organisation, directly or indirectly, in the short, medium or long term to justify the spend.

I am not saying to only invest in improvements that are obviously quantifiable (because you won’t transform much), but you need to account for the organisation’s perspective rather than having a myopic focus on the customer. It needs to tie back somehow to what’s in it for the organisation?

Yes, a large transformation programme that completely overhauls the customer experience you deliver can and MUST include things that aren’t easily quantifiable or justifiable, as part of the bigger picture. You will still need your leadership to take a leap of faith in unlocking resources for this, but if you have set the scene and articulate focus on the customer cannot come at the detriment of the business, you are probably on the right track.

Don’t be customer-centric, you risk omitting the business from the equation.

4.     Technology ahead of people & processes

It is tempting to think one can throw money at the problem and it will disappear. This urge is what vendors tap into when they claim their product has the solution and will solve all your woes, if only you purchased it.

Now, the fact of the matter is that most of these vendors do have a leg to stand on, but they conveniently tend to omit a key factor: implementing anything is hard work and, more often than not, organisations will tend to do a half-baked job at it, trying to cut corners and do the bare minimum, expecting to experience all the benefits that they were promised.

Not quite. Technology can be, and is, a crucial part of the solution, but it is not the only part of it. A much bigger and more critical part is around people & processes. A transformation done well starts with the processes to diagnose, iterate, or revamp and with the people contributing to this process. Technology is also a part of the process but isn’t the be-all and end-all that it is often thought to be.

After all, if you still have your couriers throwing parcels on your customers’ roofs but you spent millions on technology, all you’ll get is a prettier screen showing you the wrong info (because thankfully ‘left it on your roof’ isn’t an option on the tracker for any courier company). Focus on your process as a whole and do not make the mistake of neglecting the cultural/people aspect.

You can put lipstick on a pig, your customer still won’t be happy with it.

5.     Measure for a goal you don’t have

Did you know that if a plane was facing even one degree off when readying itself for take-off, this would completely transform its trajectory? We are talking massive impact, in terms of sometimes hundreds of miles. Something of the magnitude of a flight leaving San Francisco towards New York City making it to Miami instead (don’t quote me on the specifics, it’s purely illustrative).

What does that have to do with customer experience? Everything. What you measure has a direct influence on where you get to. No matter what people out there tell you, there is no single best CX metric, just metrics that are more or less appropriate for your aspirations.

But the question is, where do you want to be? Do you want a loyal fanbase or raving fans? These aren’t the same. Net Promoter Score (NPS), if used correctly (which isn’t always a given), could give you an indication of having raving fans, but would be a poor measure of loyalty. If you are a car marker and ask me at purchase how likely I am to buy another car in years’ time, you won’t get much relevant information.

The key is to identify where you want to be and find which measure will get you the closest to that. It doesn’t have to be one of the mainstream measures, all that matters is that you identify what you want to be known for, how you want your customers to behave and you measure the closest thing possible to that. What you measure will dictate the insight you get, the analytics you run and the recommendations you make.

One degree off-course is sometimes the difference between safe harbour and landing in a different country. Know where you want to go and make sure that’s where you are pointing towards.

There you are, five ways to transform your customer experience strategy as a sure fire-way of regretting you spent money on it instead of another initiative. If you are at a loss for how to do customer experience properly and would rather want it to generate value for your business both short and long-term, consistently, you’re in luck: at the time of writing, I’m on the market for a new role!

So whether you are looking of getting serious with it or need a sounding board as you don’t know where to get started, get in touch, I’m happy to share thoughts and guidance, no strings attached!

5 Reasons Why Live Agents Love, Not Hate, Chatbots

This was originally written during my tenure at Yellow Messenger, a cutting-edge conversational AI platform.

In any organization, whenever the front-line customer support staff hear that leadership is considering chatbot technology, there’s one fear that spreads like wildfire: “our jobs are at risk!”

It’s completely understandable, humans fear the unknown and, on the face of it, it’s a perfectly rational fear. After all, if part of my job is being automated, am I still able to justify the expense I represent to the business?

Interestingly enough, our experience shows that in the overwhelming majority of cases, this fear is entirely unfounded and, on the contrary, the advent of chatbots in an organization means a spike in employee engagement and a transition towards more challenging and fulfilling tasks. In other words: chatbots mean good news for businesses, their staff, and their customers. There are no losers.

How People Leaders Reconcile Chatbot & their teams

Over the years, we talked to several customer support and operations executives, and it is always quite refreshing to notice that they aren’t following the caricature out there that it’s all about the money and people don’t matter.

Quite on the contrary, we lost count of the number of leaders that said something to the effect of

“I understand chatbots can reduce the workload for my team and that it could mean, in principle, that my team would be too big for their workload, but I see this as a great opportunity instead. “

“I will be reducing the size of my team, but I have decided that no one will be made redundant through it. Employee turnover, particularly in front-line type roles is on the higher side, so I can simply let things run their natural course and not replace people who decide to move onto their next challenge: my team will gradually reduce in headcount over time but it will always be because individuals have decided they wanted something else, never because they were shown the door, and that’s really important to me that we keep our great colleagues as long as they want to stay.”

“The second point that I keep in mind is that instead of having a scarce mindset and think about keeping service standard to the same level, I see this as an opportunity to give more value to my customers and deliver even better experiences, now that my team is more relaxed and has more time to dedicate to those customers who genuinely need the support of my team, leaving plenty of space to delight them without the threat of AHT hanging over their heads.”

5 reasons live agents do love chatbots

When live agents understand the perspective shared above, they immediately relax and focus on getting the most from the opportunity, as they realize it brings a lot of value to them as well. Indeed, here are 5 reasons why live agents can truly thrive with the help of this technology

  1. They don’t need to handle the more frequent and most basic queries. 

Truth is, those repetitive queries aren’t agents’ favorite: they do not challenge them, do not require any effort, and essentially leave them numb as they can answer on auto-pilot. When those queries are filtered out by the first level of resolution that is the chatbot, they know that chances are, every time a customer comes to them, it won’t be as straightforward to solve, it will prove a challenge, it will be a problem that genuinely deserves and requires the problem solving and emotional intelligence combo, which is where live agent thrive. With a chatbot, agents have more of these and less of the ‘boring’ questions to answer, win-win.

  1. There’s less pressure on SLA

As the chatbot is handling these predictable and repeated contacts, the standard of services ceases to rely solely on live agents as the load is now shared with the chatbot. This means, in effect, that there often is less pressure on human agents to adhere to extremely harsh SLAs that were only as demanding because the budget available to the function did not keep up with the demand for the said function. The chatbot solving this equation means the team can be more relaxed and perform with less pressure from daunting KPIs, allowing them to go above and beyond for customers who need them to.

  1. Less vulnerable to surges

While this is a generalization, the other aspect that we frequently see is that a 40% increase in inbound queries no longer represents a surge in tickets for an individual agent to respond as 80%+ of that additional volume is likely absorbed by the first filter. No more running around like a headless chicken while the house is on fire because the house simply won’t get under fire – and if it does, it won’t last long as the chatbot will catch-up swiftly.

  1. Teamwork and collaboration

Here’s where it gets really interesting: humans and robots can form an alliance and work for hand in hand. With the help of the virtual colleague, the live agent no longer needs to know every single thing about the organization, it just needs to know a portion of it and know how to ask the chatbot for the other fraction. Why learn a super complex and precise set of rules by heart (or look for 5 minutes on the systems) when all that is needed is knowing how to ask the bot about it? Farewell putting the customer on hold or looking for a supervisor, the chatbot has the agent’s back at all times, making the agent more efficient even when the bot can’t handle the issues on its own.

  1. Pride & brand ambassadorship

When a business invests in cutting-edge technology like chatbots, it sends a very powerful message to its employees: we care about delivering great service, we care about being consistently great and we want you to be fulfilled at work.

Sounds like a stretch? It shouldn’t! After all, the business has invested money to better cater to customers and in the process, took away from live agents the parts of the jobs that they least enjoyed. Not only that, freeing their times up enables the live agents to upskill, to specialise, to troubleshoot with more time and more resources. Counterintuitively, investing in chatbots is a powerful way to invest in the front-line, their know-how, and their expertise. And the cherry on top of the cake, who wouldn’t be proud to work for a brand that is at the cutting edge and adopting disruptive technologies like cognitive AI chatbots that better the lives of everyone involved?

Everyone’s a winner

This is the real power of implementing technology like ours in a business as there are literally no losers in this situation.

Customers get faster and more consistent service, 24/7 across their channel of choice. And if their needs are more complex, live agents are genuine expert problem solvers to save them.

Live agents are freed up from mundane tasks and are enabled to become genuine experts and upskill themselves. They are more engaged and take more pride in their work, as their time is now a premium: it is restricted only to those who genuinely want or need to talk to a human.

The head of the department is able to deliver better results at a lower cost and therefore helps the business to succeed and can push the roadmap forward.

And the business as a whole unlocks the ability to operate with a lower cost base, making it less vulnerable to downturns whilst increasing their capacity to invest in furthering the business and growing even further, thus creating additional shareholder value, sales, and jobs.

Literally, the only ones who lose out with this are the competitors… and those who wait too long to implement such technologies.

Cognitive AI Chatbots are enabling communication (and e-commerce) to revert back to its roots: Conversations

This was originally written during my tenure at Yellow Messenger, a cutting-edge conversational AI platform.

In its 5 million years of existence on Earth, humankind has radically transformed, at an ever-increasing pace. It is generally acknowledged that we have transformed our lives more in the last 100 years than we have over all those millions of years ago.

One of the hallmarks of this transformation is communication, from disorganised grunts and cave paintings all the way to today’s latest social media applications and augmented or virtual reality events and media.

Communication being the foundation of the social species that we are, it naturally became the foundation of trade, as trade can’t happen without an agreement that an exchange is mutually beneficial. Trade itself transformed radically from exchanging objects and services, where one person would only exchange with another if they had exactly what they were ‘on the market’ to have an intermediary system, called money, that propelled commerce to the next level by erasing the reciprocity requirement. At that time, the conversation at the stand then became a question of negotiating how much of that currency would one part with for the desired product, in other words: haggling.

Fast forward a few hundred years further, and things started taking the shape they have now, where the increased economic movement and population coupled with ever-growing companies led to standardisation. One does not haggle with a big corporate and thus; the conversation was relegated to pleasantry and potentially awkward exchanges, as conversations lost the power to influence how much money they had to part with.

The way commerce works today is fundamentally against human nature

Then came what we could label the fourth shift in commerce, where the conversation essentially disappeared with the introduction of new intermediaries such as catalogs, shopping channels, and eCommerce portals. In this fourth stage of commerce, the conversation was relegated to exceptions, only coming into the picture if something was not right (delays, returns, or complaints). The conversation became labeled with negative outcomes.

We argue that while conversations have been relegated in many industries to exceptions for the sake of scale, consistency, and efficiency, this is essentially trying to shoe-horn fundamentally social creatures away from the social aspect.

 “It was so enjoyable filling this form to say my shoes were the wrong size. So many drops-down boxes and radio buttons, I had such a blast” said no one ever. 

Consumers still can have a conversation if they so wish, but it usually involves a rather lengthy set of on-hold music while agents are serving other customers (a scenario made far worse by the pandemic the world is experiencing), and not every organization will embrace their phone lines as a sales channel as it typically represents the most expensive channel in their support strategy.

In other words, conversations have lost the prestige they once had, the influence and power they had, and business became far more transactional in nature, especially if compared side by side with the first two iterations of commerce, where negotiating and finding a mutual ground was at the pinnacle of it all.

Thankfully, there is a better way & consumers want to experience it! 
We firmly believe that it is time to go full circle and go as close to the original roots as feasible without having businesses compromise on their top or bottom line. We know that going back to the roots and adapting to how we function as human beings are not only more engaging and deliver better experiences; it has genuine ROI as it reduces costs and improves business performance.

Conversation Automation

The way this can be done is through a conversational interface, either in a chat window, on your favourite messaging application, or through the phone.

We call this conversational commerce and we hail this as the future of e-commerce, where a business is powered by conversations rather than forms and checkout processes across several pages.

Xiaomi Conversational Ad

In a nutshell,

  1. A user lands on any of your websites, your mobile app, your WhatsApp, your Facebook Messenger, or your web app.
  2. They write, in their own words, what they are looking for
  3. The Cognitive AI assistant absorbs the information, extract the requirements from the user and revert back with either a selection that matches the criteria or follow-up questions to qualify what the person is looking for
  4. The user and the AI assistant continue the conversation until the user lands on what they want with the help of the assistant who answers queries they have and helps them refine the search
  5. With the choice made, the assistant offers products that normally go well together or people tend to buy in tandem, offer some type of promotion, or maybe even some upsell to convert a higher average shopping basket.
  6. The shopping assistant takes on the required details (shipping address, shipping method, preferred payment method)
  7. The assistant takes on the payment & confirms the transaction
  8. The user, delighted, purchased exactly what they were looking for and potentially a little more.

From a technical perspective, what happened is that we layered that agent on top of the existing infrastructure, very much like a live chat agent would do. They have access to all the same information to aid the customer.

Evidently, this is where the comparison stops as the virtual assistant has a virtually unlimited bandwidth for concurrent conversations, is much faster at reviewing the inventory and items specifications against client requirements, and before long, would sit atop millions of similar conversations to inform its judgment and decision making in the interaction.

Yes, it is a machine and no it cannot capture and correctly react to every single thing that the people can throw at them, so unless your conversational designer trained it to have a defined preferred music genre or a favourite movie, it won’t go in that small talk avenue, unlike a human.

It does not mean the conversation cannot be humanised, on the contrary. The virtual agent can still assume a persona and be faithful to a brand’s tone of voice and add as much personality as the brand ought to have.

One easy way to sort the wheat from the chaff in terms of humanising a conversation with an AI chatbot?

The Swear Test. We find that users like to test the patience of bots and try to trick them and one of their favourites, and we must acknowledge, probably the most enjoyable way of doing so is by swearing at it. Very few humans would be on the receiving end of abuse and not at least acknowledge this as part of the context of the conversation.

Which means that, if it doesn’t understand the user, thinks it is the user’s name, or continues as if that was a valid answer/input, you know you are dealing with a technology that lacks the sophistication and maturity to genuinely deliver humanised conversational commerce.

The chatbot or virtual assistant should be able to answer threats and abuse however you’d like your brand seen reacting to such behaviour. For example, it could answer with just a single image and leave it at that (worth noting that none of our clients has gone for this yet), like the below.

chabot meme

The 5th shift in communication brings the biggest benefits to date :
As we move towards a conversational economy, businesses will see dramatic results. Indeed, there are several reasons to rejoice at this new approach for both the customer and organisations.
Starting with the customer who can finally go back to a more unstructured approach, as they can say, in their own words, in their favorite channel, what they are looking for, and let the seller do the work of interpreting, refining, and short-listing suitable products. It will also benefit from the rich insight gathered through technology and data, as they are offered the most suitable complement to that purchase or enticing promotions and upgrades. The entire customer experience will just become far more natural, seamless, and all-around enjoyable.

And from the perspective of the business, the cost to serve that individual customer will decrease further again, the conversion rate will shoot up. Exception handling, when required, will be focused solely on the more challenging and intellectually stimulating scenarios rather than routine ‘wrong size’ type of queries, amping up the engagement of employees and further boosting customer experience through heroic service recovery.

To illustrate this point, one of our clients has not only saved millions in operating costs (which was the reason to engage in the program all along), they successfully generated on top of this several millions of dollars in added revenue that can be traced back directly to the chatbot – needless to say, the ROI figures for this specific client are nothing short of awe-inducing.

Are you ready to experience the power of omnichannel conversational commerce and reap the benefits it brings to innovative organisations? Wait no more, get in touch with our team… before your competition does!

Everyone Deserves an AI-enabled Personal Shopping Assistant

This article was written during my tenure at Yellow Messenger, a cutting-edge conversational AI platform.

Retail brands of all sizes have been working hard to make their customers feel like queens and kings. Some go the extra mile of delivering an exclusive, dedicated, and tailored experience that makes the shopper, feel like they are the center of the brand’s universe.

Nothing beats having a retail brand dedicating resources to support customers in a very personal way in helping them find the perfect products, the products that make customers feel like a million bucks. It makes customers feel important like they matter more than others, and this kind of social proof can be intoxicating to many many more buyers.

And this kind of intoxication pays off. In a big way. As a matter of fact, I am sure that this setting probably increased the price tag of wedding dresses by at least 30%.

So why shouldn’t every organization attempt to do so and reap the rewards of a higher spend by their customers?

If you notice, while personalization is something that all stores offer, a personal shopper is more elite. Why? Because a personal shopper has to understand each persona, their needs, and their taste, before really making a suggestion to the buyer.

Far from us to state the obvious, but it’s expensive. And to add to it, it is far from being scalable as a model: it requires a lot of training and product knowledge and, in a space where staff turnover is on the higher side, it just never breaks even. That proposition simply isn’t viable for the overwhelming majority of retailers.

We are obviously talking about traditional brick-and-mortar retail in these scenarios but eCommerce can land itself to it just as much. If anything, we see eCommerce as a significant enabler to change the status quo as it has the infrastructure to host thousands of people at the same time, looking at the same catalog, purchasing and making global payments from all around the world by integrating software solutions offered by companies like FastSpring (https://fastspring.com/global-payments/) from the comfort of their own homes. But while it can physically cater to thousands of people at the same time, it still doesn’t solve the equation of a personal shopper being dedicated to, well, one shopper.

This is where artificial intelligence and natural language processing come into play. This is where AI technology starts to challenge the status quo and, we argue, empowers savvy organizations to bring personal shopping to the masses.

Meet the Virtual Personal Shopping Assistant

Chatbots optimized using various text annotation tools have been around for a little while now and most people are fairly familiar with the concept. The chatbot is a piece of technology that helps users with their queries, more often than not, in a customer support environment.

But personal shopping isn’t customer support, it’s literally at the other end of the customer journey. Fortunately, chatbots are no longer confined to customer support and have been seen driving outstanding results across a variety of scenarios. eCommerce personal shopping is just one of these situations!

The virtual personal shopping chatbot is an AI-powered chatbot that enables organizations to offer a tailored one-on-one consultation to their clients at a scale never seen before.

By marrying up natural language understanding (in other words, understanding what people mean to say, what they are asking rather than looking at the words they use) to an extensive catalog of SKUs and well-structured feature sorting capabilities available in all major e-commerce software providers, chatbots are able to evolve and transform themselves into genuine advisors to consumers.

Instead of putting your customers through never-ending scrolling, you can help your customers land on exactly what they want to see by curating content through a conversation with them, showing only a few relevant items they are looking for, rather than having them search for them like a needle in a haystack.

yellow messenger personal shopping assistant
Yellow Messenger Personal Shopping Assistant

Putting ourselves in the shoes of our customers, which scenario would you prefer? The exchange illustrated above or going through 72 pages of 30 items to find that perfect item?

The capabilities of today’s AI chatbots go a lot further than just listing features out and can even read and make sense of images as part of the personal shopping experience, helping people understand the right style for them, personally.

Is there a business case for this?

Typically, when I share this vision, there is a clear pattern in how they react to it.

  • Step 1: Wrapping their head around the concept, incredule this is even a thing
  • Step 2: Amazed at the possibilities that technology brings to them and their business
  • Step 3: Concerned of how prohibitively expensive must be, ask about the financials

Let me start with the bad news: very few organizations have today the technology to pull this off. It requires a lot of computing power, very smart engineers, and cutting edge AI and machine learning know-how to get remotely close to delivering on this promise.

The good news, however, is that this isn’t as prohibitive as you may think. And the truth is, it does end up paying for itself through an increase in revenue and overall lower operating costs.

If we go back to its core, a chatbot takes over operations that are currently/were once handled by a human customer support agent and delivers on them at a faster rate, at greater scale, and at a lower cost.

Savvy organizations who want to invest in a virtual personal shopper ai chatbot understand that this is just one way of getting ROI and growing revenue and that customers’ needs are a lot more varied than just helping them buy the right product. They need help with order status, returns, customer support, frequent questions, and so on.

While it wouldn’t be viable to invest in a bot for just this one thing for most organizations, an all-rounded ai chatbot can handle all the above cases as well as the virtual personal shopper at such a scale that even though we are talking about delivering a rapid, premium and tailored service to customers, it often turns out to be a no-brainer investment, where the savings generated far outweigh the investment allocated to the technology.

The true ROI of AI technology is found in volume and its application across several processes or, as the industry would have it, use cases.

The reality of the matter is, it’s not because the technology is going to enable a revenue-enhancing premium service to your customers that the price, will too, have to come with a massive and prohibitive premium.

After all, we are Yellow Messenger, not a famous British luxury retailer, and we are on a mission to help forward-thinking organizations 10x their results, not their costs.

The personal shopper has gone virtual and eCommerce will perform much better for it.

CX Speaker talks on 3rd party engagement

Engagement lessons from Orlando, the world’s entertainment capital

Besides from being a CX Speaker, I also publish articles such as this one on the CX Network, a leading platform for senior CX and Marketing leaders.

Back in 2016, I wrote an article sharing that the biggest misconception around customer experience back then was that marketing would fully own the customer journey design.

This is quite simply couldn’t be further from the truth for most businesses. Remember how that crying baby spoilt your last flight? Remember these insane people on boxing day sales?

Your experience likely suffered tremendously because of factors externals to whoever orchestrated your experience – it’s unavoidable. Businesses need to take the environment into account when designing experiences.

Most recently, I witnessed a masterclass in engaging those who aren’t on the payroll and having them buy into being a part of delivering great experiences – something I was fascinated by as a CX Speaker.

Let’s take a trip to Orlando, Florida.

Enter the Tourism industry

Tourism falls victim like no other to this inability of owning one’s customer experience: the local population is part and parcel to a tourist’s experience.

As a city, region or country, you rely on the locals (thousands or even millions of them!) to make a good impression and you rely on the local businesses to deliver amazing experiences, so travellers return and tell their friends.

Tourism associations such as Visit Orlando have to ask themselves a question: how do they ensure local residents recognise the part they had to play in this tourism experience and committed, as a community, to deliver the best experience they could?

After all, places gain reputations because of their people and these are incredibly hard to lose.

Take Paris, as an example.

The capital of love for many is also the rudest place on earth for tourists and fellow French citizens rank Parisians as the biggest moaners in the country.

Such a reputation does not play in their favour when people decide where to spend their honeymoon or their next family holiday, all that because of the locals: that’s how important a role they play in the success and prosperity of cities as touristic destinations.

Back to Orlando.

Numerous families travel to Orlando because of the theme parks in the surroundings: Disney and Universal being the big two to come to mind.

I do empathise with the residents. Imagine how trying it must be for the locals to see hordes of small children in princess dresses or superhero outfits taking over their city over the peak months when the weather is at it’s best. If anything, it’s particularly challenging in Orlando because the theme parks never really stop, so the crowd may shrink but it remains a big crowd in absolute numbers.

It is therefore critical to ensure the locals support tourism and play their critical part, in keeping the magic alive throughout the year and save their town from becoming ‘The Paris of the Americas’ (take it as a dramatisation of your trusty CX Speaker there!)

Now, I’ll confess, I wasn’t able to locate any clip online, so I am trying to recall what I saw when I went there myself earlier in 2018. Other useful disclaimer: I’m sharing first-hand experience without any evidence of a broader strategy even being in existing – this may be nothing more than my own musing.

 

Getting the local on your side: What’s in it for them?

Imagine a popular hangout for locals who swear by the Orlando Magic and the Orlando Solar Bears (basketball and ice hockey respectively) and your trusty CX Speaker! This is their home turf, this is where they go every weekend or so.  What a better place to have an intimate heart-to-heart communication with the area’s residents, right? Very few tourists and many people priding themselves on their great city – the perfect brand ambassadors.

As we waited for the hockey game to start at such a hangout (which the Polar Bear won in the extra time, GO BEARS!), a Visit Orlando video was played. In this video, they were talking tourism: how Orlando is the most visited city in the United States, how colossal the number of visitors is and how magical the theme park experience is for these tourists.

Up to that point, one could think it was an ad geared at tourists, which could warrant others taking the mickey (see what I did there?) out of them for promoting Orlando as a tourist destination to both locals and tourists who already ‘bought’. Not great targeting…

However, what came next was the real stroke of genius: it transitioned to a What’s In It For Us narrative, showing how much tourism actually brought (and still brings) to the city, from financing their state-of-the-art sports venue, to the jobs it creates locally as well as the infrastructure it helped financing such as highways (or motorways, depending on which side of the pond you’re on).

It became a showreel of how beneficial tourism was for the local population (all thanks to tourism taxes) and why great tourist experiences represent a win-win situation for everyone – something I’ll certainly recycle next time I’m called upon to work with another organisation as a CX Speaker.

This is true excellence in facing the truth that a tourism board or a city cannot control the residents who have a starring role in the experience tourists have in Orlando. It not only shows how important tourists are for the local economy, but it also demonstrates in very practical terms what the residents get in exchange for sharing their home county with tourists.

Offering resident-only perks

And if this wasn’t enough, a few days later, with my attention turned to finding out other clues of this Resident Experience Strategy I came across another facet of the Visit Orlando strategy.

While listening to the radio, I picked up that many advertisements were geared towards locals specifically with very attractive offers. When I say geared to them, I’m talking discounted yearly pass for theme parks or cheaper services or discounts for those who could produce proof of residency in Florida. This preferential treatment is just another way of getting the local population on their side and engage them in this mission of providing a magical experience to tourists.

This gesture could be compared (albeit loosely) to employee benefits: ‘because you live here, you are part and parcel of delivering an experience to our tourists, and we want to thank you for it, with these discounted venues’.

Orlando demonstrates it understands one of the key tenets in customer experience: you can’t fully own your end-to-end customer journey design, so you might as well create partnerships that will enhance this experience so that everyone, from the city to the locals to the customer (i.e. tourist) benefit.

This strategy is so powerful, I, as a CX Speaker, can comfortably claim that Orlando is very unlikely to become The Paris of the Americas – mission accomplished!

Time for reflection: how will you deal with those people who influence your experience but aren’t on your payroll? Expanding your employee engagement to those not working for you may well be the differentiator you’re needing.