Understanding Your Customer’s Experience: Are You in Orbit or Just Flying By?
The experience economy dictates that we get to know our customers intimately, not just execute a “fly-by”.
We’ve all been transfixed by the amazing precision of the New Horizons spacecraft in locating an object the size of Manhattan 4 Billion miles away. Even more staggering is the fact that it is a one-shot deal, a fly-by which can never be repeated.
But this week saw another spacecraft in final maneuvers: Osiris-Rex went into orbit around an asteroid where it will spend a leisurely two years in orbit. The spacecraft will take high-resolution images of every square inch of the asteroid. During the summer of 2020, the spacecraft will briefly touch the surface to retrieve a sample and is scheduled to deliver the sample to Earth in September 2023.
This got me thinking about the way that companies engage with their customers in the Experience Economy.
Are you executing a fly-by, or really getting into a close orbit with your customers?
The Fly-by Approach
Most companies engage with their customers just once, at the point of sale. Perhaps through a simple survey which in a follow-up email, which most customers ignore — I know I do.
A more sophisticated approach may be through a loyalty card program, but that tends to focus on just the transnational nature of the interaction. What did the customer buy, how much did they pay.
Neither of these approaches allow the deeper questions to be asked, such as
— “Why did the customer buy?”
— “How did we do in meeting their expectations?”
— “How could we improve?”
These questions remain unasked and unanswered. It’s as though a New Horizons scientist, after seeing an image of the surface of the rock, asks “can we zoom is a bit closer”? No, you can’t: the spacecraft is already millions of miles away. In the same way, a Customer Service Manager can’t ask a follow-up question such as “Did Mrs Jones bring her husband to the store that day?” Mrs Jones has left the building and is now miles away.
The Close Orbit
The mission planners on Osiris Rex had the luxury of a much closer object, shorter radio lag and more fuel, so they could design their mission very differently. Different orbital trajectories can be programmed as the scientists learn more about the asteroid, every angle will be photographed, conflicting data can be corrected.
This is the type of close relationship that companies need with their ever more demanding and fickle consumers, yet at the same time balancing that with their concerns about privacy and their desire that brands that they engage with should “not be creepy”.
Osiris Rex had a very different mission profile than New Horizons, which had a trajectory built for speed and distance. It didn’t have the fuel to stop and get into orbit with Pluto, Charon and other bodies as it zoomed past. NASA had to make a trade-off between the two approaches.
The Experience Economy
In the Experience Economy, it’s not just about what you know, but your ability to act on that insight with confidence and speed.
Think about ways that companies try to understand their customers, suppliers or employees. Most tools show broad feedback but lack precision and speed. The timely process of surveys and manual feedback collection can take months to collect and analyze data. By the time decisions are made and products fixed, it is too late.
It can feel like a scientist staring wistfully at New Horizons receding into the distance wishing “if only I had asked that question a bit differently”.
At SAP we believe the next evolution of enterprise applications has begun with a real-time connection between the system of action and the system of record. You need both the trajectory to visit all of your customers, yet at the same time the ability to develop deep relations with them so you can deliver the experience they want.
No longer do companies have to make a choice between the fly-by and the close orbit.