At last month’s G-Force in London, I sat down with keynote speaker and author Joseph Pine. We had a great opportunity to dig a little deeper into his book, The Experience Economy, and what it takes to deliver great customer experience today. Below is a Q&A recap of our conversation.
Q: Why do you think The Experience Economy, now in its second edition, has had such longevity?
A: The Experience Economy has such longevity because what we are talking about is not a fad, but a fundamental change in the economy. The second edition, published in 2011, shows that the Experience Economy is no longer coming, it is here. Goods and services everywhere are being commoditized, on a global scale, and consumers are looking for experiences. What businesses have to do to differentiate themselves is create an engaging, memorable experience.
Q: What is the difference between customer service and customer experience?
A: If you view your offering as truly an experience and realize that an experience is a distinct economic offering, as distinct as services are from goods, then you want to engage with customers, enhancing your relationship. In a contact center you shouldn’t rush to get them off the phone. Time is the key measurement of an experience – and you need to get customers to want to spend more time with you. One of the companies that has changed the game in the U.S. is Zappos. They do not measure how little time they spend per call, they celebrate the length of time agents spend on calls. They call out daily which agent spends the most time on a call with a customer, because they view that experience as being highly valuable. This concept is a reversal mindset as it is going from customer service to an experience.
Q: What is the role of the individual employee in customer experience?
A: In terms of employees, when your business is staging experiences, then work is theater. When your employees are in front of customers, whether in-person or on the phone, they are acting and they need to act in a way that engages the audience. So companies need to give them the wherewithal to act, help characterize their roles, and get them to act with intention – thinking clearly about every action they are doing and how they go about doing it.
Companies need to look at the “what” versus “how” of customer experience. What is the functional service requirement you have to do when a customer calls in? For example, resolve an issue, get a payment, or renew a contract. But, how you go about doing it can turn a mundane interaction into an engaging encounter.
Q: Do you think companies are encouraging this philosophy into their employee environment?
A: The key to an experience is that you are engaging with people – the employees – inside the company. A great example of this failure is what I call “theme restaurant disease,” where they have lousy food and ok service, but they think because the environment is cool, it’s a great experience – often it’s not. A physical place with a great environment is not enough. It’s the exchanges within that environment that customers have that engages them or not. The same is true for interactions on a website or IVR. The experience is built on top of service, which is built on top of goods, which is built on commodities. You need it all to have a truly great experience.
Q: What role does the contact center play in The Experience Economy?
A: The interaction with the contact center is often one of problem and resolution. The call center agent is either rescuing the customer or causing more problems. How this relates to the theater model is that with a great experience you need drama. When most people define the term “customer experience,” it means making it nice, easy and convenient – no drama. But, a true experience is quite different, for it is a memorable event. Therefore you want to heighten the drama; you can’t have a great climax without a meaningful crisis, meaning suspense or anticipation. When a customer calls into the contact center they are often already in crisis, and one of things that you can do is heighten the crisis, making resolution seem very difficult indeed. Then you solve it for them, rescuing them and creating a loyal customer.
Q: At G-Force you have seen demos of the Genesys Customer Experience Platform, what are your thoughts on a single platform that can manage interactions across the full customer journey?
A: It is very difficult to give true experience without a single platform. Particularly one that provides a single view into the customer, who they are, regardless of channel they use, or the time they interact. Companies need to know that the same customer calling into the contact center today is the same one who had an agent chat with them on the website yesterday. Then you can build in this customer relationship. I encourage companies to create a learning relationship, which can grow and deepen over time, and that is what a single platform can provide. Every interaction with a customer is an opportunity to learn, because when you learn you can better customize for that customer, and when you do that the customer benefits, and because they benefit they want to interact with you again, and so on. You need to reach and interact with customers individually, not think of them as market segments, as today every customer is his own market.