Today, businesses are competing for the attention of consumers in the marketplace. Just think about the times you read a news headline in 140 characters, reply to a text with an emoji, or skip a YouTube ad after 5 seconds. Our attention is dwindling under the average attention span of a goldfish.
How can companies leave a positive and memorable impression on consumers?
Let me start by drawing on this concept of the Experience Economy. (Pine, J. & Gilmore, J. 1998)
Coffee can be offered to the marketplace depending on how value is added and customised.
- Coffee as a commodity: This is traded on the commodity market as a raw material. The beans are undifferentiated and traded based mainly on price.
- Coffee as a good: A manufacturer can roast, ground and package the beans in order to be sold in supermarkets. These are standardised and branded physical goods.
- Coffee as a service: A coffeehouse company can brew your coffee for you. A service is delivered and is served according your preferences.
- Coffee as an exper ience: Serve that cup of coffee in an immersive experience of smell, taste and a pleasurable environment based on intellect, emotions and senses and you have staged a memorable experience. Starbucks is an example where they invest in ambience, atmosphere, comfort and free WIFI of course! These experiences are distinct economic offerings and require stimuli to keep us engaged.
- Coffee experience through transformations: Transformations are the highest form of economic offering which consists of customising an experience to create a learning experience. The learning elements must be truly personal and aligned exactly to what the customer is looking for.
A transformation is a unique custom-built experience with an education element to it which results in a changed individual.
Transformation and coaching experiences
Starbucks is a prime example of an empire with digital at heart but it’s not all just about serving coffee in a cup. They have recently opened another of their up-market Starbucks Reserve brands in the Marina Sands of Singapore.
In a Starbucks Reserve, you’re greeted by welcoming hosts equipped with a tablet, with a backdrop of digital screens and visual art projections on the wall. Furthermore, there are no queues so that you can avoid any hassle. Once seated, you can have a barista explain different types of coffees in a setting which is reminiscent of a chemistry class.
Digital ordering methods and mobile payment processes are in place to facilitate the experience. There are also wireless charging stations and Wi-Fi is available throughout for all of your devices. The lights are dimmed in the evening to create a particular ambience, and they even serve alcoholic beverages on the evening menu which complement the food choices, which is something unlike your usual coffeehouse.
The Starbucks Reserve roaster and tasting room in Seattle is a transformation piece. It transforms a coffee novice to a coffee connoisseur by guiding customers through the journey of a coffee from bean to cup. They have clearly gone out the way to create not an average Starbucks but a combination of a showcase, theatre and a museum, staging an experience for people and transforming people who want more than just a regular black Americano.
Now, we all know the importance of compelling customer experience, however, the implementation of this is not an easy task. There tend to be three main barriers to realising great customer experience.
Firstly, business plans need to have customers at the heart of the organisation in order to deliver a compelling customer experience. Starbucks mission is "to inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighbourhood at a time". Good to know, but how? The mission statements will need to be translated into objectives, strategies, tactics and operational plans.
Secondly, customer experience cannot just be a thumbs-up from the boardroom without plans to engage the employees and ensure a programme is in place to manage the change with outcome-focused objectives.
Lastly, metrics are often inaccurate and focus on operational measures rather than perceived customer value.
Much of this thinking can be encapsulated in Customer Satisfaction Strategy, which highlights two main features:
- Subtlety works; companies can look at nuances, gestures and words to create customer experience which in turn inspires longer-term customer value
- Consistency is key: creating a consistent customer experience will help in bringing in more customers over time