A Heart & Head Approach to Understanding Customer Experience
Knowing what experiences matter to different customers at different touch points can frazzle the mind. When we’re not delivering the right experiences, we can’t improve the outcomes we’re measuring against. And we can’t improve the outcomes we’re measuring against if we’re not measuring the right things, because if we’re not measuring the right things, we can’t deliver the right experiences…and so it goes on.
Senior Consultant at C Space
Aidan Borer is a C Space Senior Consultant, ex-Bose Corporation researcher, Industrial Design grad and customer experience phenomenon. He’s your go-to for customer strategy projects including segmentation and journey mapping. Aidan’s biggest C Space accomplishment is being at the forefront of an award-winning customer experience project, where he coached creative teams on how to become more customer centric. When he isn’t reading about cognitive psychology or geeking out over data visualization, Aidan can be found enjoying live music, binge-watching RuPaul’s Drag Race, or attempting to fill the hole in his heart with avocado toast.
“I know my Net Promoter Score matters; I just don’t know how to change it” is something we hear from clients a lot. It can feel as though the answers to the big questions – such as, “what data really offers insight?” and “which activations will move the needle?” – are getting further out of reach.
It was exactly these questions that we were asked to tackle for an out-of-home entertainment company just last year.
The company had recently implemented a Net Promoter Score (NPS) tracker and identified four variables with strong correlation to their score: the friendliness of the staff, cleanliness of the park, condition of the equipment and time spent waiting in line. While these functional aspects of the experience are important, our hypothesis was that they weren’t measuring what matters most to customers – the way an experience makes them feel.
The trouble is that if you ask a customer to describe a low point in their experience, they will tell you that they waited in line too long. What they won’t offer up (or often even realize if unprompted) is how that wait made them feel – like their time was being wasted or they felt ripped off.
These topics are uniquely challenging for customers to articulate. They aren’t lying when they tell you that the long line was a pain point – they just aren’t giving you the full story or the key to solving that moment of friction. It’s really all about feeling like their time is being respected or that they feel smart and proud for choosing to bring their families to the park.
The light bulb moment
So can we forget the functional stuff (the time spent in line) as long as we can make people feel good about it? Not at all.
What we’ve found through our research and through our work with clients is that the tangible and intangible aspects of the experience are inextricably linked – it isn’t that one is right or wrong, but understanding both gives us the fullest picture. That nuanced understanding reframes how we approach remedying the friction point of the long line and creates a new lens for looking at other opportunities for improvement.
For example, rather than reorganizing logistics (at great cost to the business) to reduce queue times by 2.5 minutes, what if kids were offered healthy snacks and entertainment (at lower cost to the business) to help them wait more happily, making mom feel smart and proud for choosing that park over another?
So how can we bring together the tangible and intangible aspects to provide clarity?
In the case of that out-of-home entertainment client, we started by creating a snapshot of their competitors’ customer experiences (using our Customer Experience Code) to help identify the white space opportunities that would offer an advantage. The competitors all scored similarly to our client, which told us they weren’t delivering a differentiated experience.
However, things got interesting when we looked at the gaps in scores between different kinds of customers. Unsurprisingly, kids had a great experience and so did dads (they’re basically big kids, after all), but moms were suffering. We knew through wider research that mom makes the decisions about outings yet she seemed to be the least well served, so we knew that improving her experience was the key to unlocking change.
We decoded the emotional aspects of the experience to bring it life, asking more than 1,600 guests across four geographic regions to score their recent experience at the park on the four functional experience variables, as well as our emotional variables. To decode the elements that would drive recommendations, we carried out a regression analysis to determine which tangible and intangible variables drive the greatest degree of variability in the NPS score. A qualitative deep dive on our online community added context to these “Experience Drivers” and allowed us to develop an actionable roadmap for where to focus efforts and improve the experience.
In doing so, we were able to identify six variables that actually drive guests’ likelihood to recommend. On their own, these variables had stronger predictive power than the functional variables our client had been tracking. But in combination, our Customer Experience Code variables together with the functional variables substantially improved the predictive power of the model. Equipped with this knowledge, we could provide a full picture of the experience and clearly identify where to focus.
These findings, and others like them, gave our client the power to bring together a cross-functional team of marketers, designers and customers to build new services and programs focused on what would drive value for customers and for the business.
One of the most challenging and valuable activities of a marketer is helping their organization define what they stand for, how they want to grow and whether their decisions are adding real value to customers and to the business. So, when these activities are undertaken with an incomplete understanding of what matters to customers, the result is an incomplete solution and a lack of focused effort. However, by considering both the tangible/functional and the intangible/emotional aspects of customer experience, we are able to clearly see what matters… and (finally) move that NPS score.
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