Marketing folks seem to be hooked to buzzwords such as CX, short for customer experience, and UX, or user experience. The era of experiential marketing has truly begun and has its roots in the book The Experience Economy by Joseph Pine II and James Gilmore. The idea is that customers want more than the obvious product or service being offered; they want an enjoyable and rewarding experience in the process.
While marketers and business owners will undoubtedly benefit from focusing on designing and delivering a good experience, they are likely to overlook a critical element—the enduring value of many service experiences.
The staying power of service experience
Only a few service experiences leave a lasting impression on customers but when they do, the impact may be far more important to them than the experience itself.
College graduates may recall the sports events they were part of but are also likely to consider the lasting friendships and career contacts—even what they learned—as the enduring benefits of that experience.
A financial adviser may make the counseling experience enjoyable with pleasant surroundings, refreshments and friendly conversation. But most clients probably are more concerned about whether they will be financially secure and enjoy their retirement than they are about the advisory experience itself.
Healthcare providers may try to make hospital admission, a surgical procedure or medical treatment as pleasant as possible but chances are that the outcomes of such experiences – surviving a heart attack or cancer, taking home a healthy baby, resuming favourite activities and the lasting effects these outcomes have on the quality of life—will more greatly affect their satisfaction and loyalty in the long run.
Beyond here and now
The idea that enduring value is important to services marketers is not rocket science but it is ignored in most marketing discussions, mostly because marketing tends to over-emphasise the immediate here and now. Looking for customer satisfaction with transactions as opposed to a commitment to relationships is the priority.
We want to know how satisfied our customers are immediately after or during a service experience to respond quickly to dissatisfaction and address patterns as soon as they are detected.
But when customer attitudes are gauged during or immediately after a service experience and not at a point at which lasting value would be perceived, customers naturally will discuss only the experience itself.
They have no way of knowing what lasting differences that experience will make in their lives. It is only by focusing on lasting impact, measuring customer awareness and appreciation of that impact and the extent to which it is attributed to the service provider can marketers gauge how important enduring value might be.
If industries such as education and training, financial advisory and healthcare—those which have a significant impact on enduring value—want to exploit that value in marketing, they must modify their traditional marketing functions and add a few new ones.
In marketing research, marketers should observe customers and ask them about the lasting impact to learn what they like, gain and how much credit they give providers for it.
Armed with such information, they can change the way they deliver the service to improve its lasting impact and include elements of enduring value in the advertising, using actual cases, testimonials and word-of-mouth to make the information more powerful and credible.
Measuring enduring value
In addition to changing research, service delivery and advertising, SME marketers should track the effects their campaigns have, measuring the levels of awareness, appreciation and attribution in customers’ minds.
More than just monitoring such levels, they should strive to promote each of these ideas by reminding customers of how much they have benefited.
For example, marketers can find new customers by advertising how they can gain lasting value through service experiences and relationships but reminding customers of what they are gaining should improve retention and loyalty like many e-commerce players are doing.
Marketers can do this through the tracking system because when customers are asked about lasting impact, the questions and their answers will serve to heighten their awareness.
Marketers also may suggest ways customers can gauge the differences in their lives by asking the right questions or helping them calculate the effects in measurable terms.
Customers can also track the impact on their own, for example, by keeping a log or a chart of weight loss and the subsequent improvement in self-confidence and reduction in health risks.
Providers may send annual reports outlining each customer’s progress on financial security, health or other measurable quality-of-life factors.
Marketers should test different ways of reminding customers of what they have gained of enduring value as well as different ways of measuring enduring value.
There is no doubt that the service experience is essential to the marketing offer and delivery but it is only half of the equation when enduring value is also a goal.Internet Explorer Channel Network