The Customer Experience
The New Competitive Battleground
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According to research conducted by Gartner, the world's leading information technology research company, 64% of consumers indicate that the customer experience is more important than price when it comes to the brand they choose. Hence the quote from Jerry Gregoire of Dell that says, "The customer experience is the next competitive battleground." To further drive home the point that it's the customer experience, not the tangibles of the offering, that provide brands a competitive advantage is data from another Gartner study conducted in 2016 that shows 87% of firms in the future expect to compete on the basis of the customer experience. None other than Steve Jobs, whose Apple empire was fostered by building an engaging customer experience, noted that "You've got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology, not the other way around."
What is the Customer Experience?
A customer's experience --notice we refer to a singular customer, not an average or typical customer-- represents the blending of every interaction a customer has with your brand. This customer experience can be a one-time occurrence, such as a visit to your website or personal training session, or it can be an accumulation of engagements with your brand, such as 100 visits over the past year. It is essential to understand that, for the vast majority of customers, if not all, an experience is an emotional or intangible outcome from what is often a very tangible set of interactions or touchpoints (e.g., booking a reservation online, taking a group exercise class or waiting to use a treadmill). Seth Godin was clear about the value of creating memorable customer experiences in driving sustainable business growth when he said, "People do not buy goods and services. They buy relations, stories and magic."
Experiences can generate a gamut of emotions, ranging from sheer exhilaration to memorable to joyful to boring to disappointing to rage-inducing. From a business perspective, we want our customers to have experiences that are favorable and memorable, such that they generate love, loyalty, worship and spend; not experiences that create unengaged, disappointed customers and a dwindling supply of clients.
Delivering, or staging, club or studio experiences that generate the emotional outcomes that lead to love, loyalty and spend are not unlike the experiences that occur organically when you visit, let's say the Grand Canyon or Paris, or are staged such as those in Las Vegas or Disneyland. What we do know is that these memory-making experiences, in particular those that are staged, have several elements in common, those being:
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