Customer experience is crucial to business success. In fact, providing superior customer experience could be the key differentiator between you and your competition.
Salesforce found 89% of U.S. consumers are more likely to purchase again from a company after a positive customer experience. And the experience a business supplies is as important as the products and services it delivers.
But how do you go about excelling in customer experience? How do you pave a new path and build something that delights consumers and helps you stand out in a crowd?
As part of our 2022 Masterclass Series, we discussed the importance of innovation in creating customer experience with keynote speaker Duncan Wardle, whose expertise helps companies transform from being product-centric to customer-centric.
After spending 30 years at the Walt Disney Company, Wardle, the company’s former head of Creativity and Innovation, has gained real-world experience thinking outside the box.
Here are some insights taken on how creative thinking, aka innovation, can enhance the customer experience your company was born to deliver.
Q: How is augmented reality (AR)/virtual reality (VR) applicable to conventional businesses?
A: AR/VR changes our everyday interactions. Take banks for example. People will not go to physical banks 10-15 years from now. Look at the last two years of our lives.
Dining inside a restaurant was nixed for a short time, so Uber Eats, DoorDash and others brought meals to you and still do. Supermarket shopping, for many, went online and now Instacart and the like delivers groceries to your door. Days in the office was replaced by work from home, with collaboration possible through Zoom, Teams, GoToMeeting and other videoconferencing platforms.
Of course, we’re going back to physical place, even as COVID variants continue. However, 20% of the physical market is gone and this trend to go virtual will accelerate for three reasons:
- Technology — rapidly advancing tech allows us to do everyday tasks, like meeting with customers or watching movies, differently.
- Carbon emissions — we can decrease our carbon footprint, which is high on the radar of consumers, investors, boards of directors and other stakeholders. Five years from today, younger employees, in particular, will refuse to fly to a conference when they can attend one online.
- Safety — From 2005 to 2020, we witnessed outbreaks of Ebola, Bird flu, H1N1 (the 2009 swine flu), COVID-19 and more. Other viruses are coming, whether regional or global.
Therefore, I would suggest building a conventional business in Spatial or another virtual platform where people can transact 24/7/365 with virtual employees in any language they want. You’ve got to meet consumers where they want to go to create customer experience – and AR/VR is becoming more prevalent, particularly with younger generations.
Q: How else must companies change?
A: Stop asking, ‘how can I make more money?’ Yes, revenue is important, but you will be gone in less than a decade if that’s your key driver. Generation Z, which will comprise about 27% of the workforce by 2025, wants to work for purpose rather than profit. Sure, companies must make money to survive, but that shouldn’t be your primary function. Just because Wall Street has been around for 100 years, don’t think it will dominate how you employ people and get consumers to buy your products and services.
Tying back into the last question, Disney, for example, would have gone under had it ignored some of the more recent pre-COVID 19 outbreaks just named. In 2015, many of us sat in a room and asked, ‘what if a pandemic forces us to close our theme parks, Disney cruise lines and movies releases?’ We had to prepare ourselves for a move that would impact most of the company’s revenue.
Disney had the courage to ask the hard question at the top of its game, ultimately to invest in offerings that could reach consumers in their homes. Welcome to the world of Disney+ and the revenue that propped the company up during the pandemic. Disney created new and now customer experience – any company can do the same with the right mindset.
Q: Can you provide a bad example of innovation?
A: One of the most successful innovators on the planet is Sir Richard Branson, CEO of Virgin Group.
Although he’s launched more than 400 companies under his brand, many have failed, including Virgin Cola, Virgin Mobile, Virgin Cosmetics, Virgin Clothing, Virgin Cars and Virgin Megastore. Yet he has a net worth of $5 billion and is known as someone who takes risks. But rather than being known for his failures, Branson is known for being an entrepreneur who takes risks.
So, the takeaway here is to give employees a Monopoly-like get-out-of-jail-free pass encouraging them to take smart risks. But also let them know if those smart risks fail, their job and salary will not be affected. Encourage them to share what they learned through innovation.
Q: How can a company leverage employees to get the best out of them?
A: Most customer-facing companies — 99.9% of them — boast being customer-first. Customer experience is essential! But you must put employees first. If you don’t put employees first, who do you think will take care of your customers/guests when you aren’t around?
Think, too, about bringing employees who normally don’t cross paths together to spark an idea. Put them in a physical ideate room — call is the Greenhouse or something else playful – tell them there are no bad ideas and let them create. You could do the same thing in a virtual room and let people join in as avatars and have fun while innovating. If given the chance, they could create experiences that resonate with your customers – ones better than you ever imagined.
Think about the future of your customer experience
As you consider ways to create better customer experiences, remember these words of wisdom from Duncan: “The most important, employable skill sets within the next decade are creativity, intuition, curiosity and imagination.” We encourage you to foster these skillsets within your own organizations to help deliver holistic, future-ready customer experience programs that will solve both today’s problems as well as what lies ahead.
Should you have any questions along the way, we’re here to help.