Summer is still shining upon us, encouraging us to orchestrate a fanfare of holiday escapes, weekend breaks and social gatherings in outdoor terraces and backyards.
However, these days people seem to be dealing with these coveted moments in a very different way. They increasingly seek the enjoyment of carefully designed surroundings, the adventure of exploring more exotic destinations, or the thrill of adrenaline-rushing activities. Indeed, all of this is reflected also in my choice of holiday destinations, from the always-on-the-go tour of faraway countries, trekking through local villages and unspoilt landscapes, to the all immersive relaxation of sunny seaside resorts, dwelling in lush surrounds and the bliss of crystal clear waters, or to the exciting rush of skiing down snow-white mountains away from it all.
Even in the comfort of our own home, we enjoy the great weather by increasingly delving into sophisticatedly spiced meats or delicate fish barbecues, colourful tropical cocktails, perfectly chilled prosecco, trays of Mediterranean delicacies and generally MasterChef-style cuisine, to indulge ourselves and our loved ones and absolutely to impress our guests. The humble BBQ of hotdogs with ketchup and hamburgers in a bap we grew up with, is no longer good enough for many of us. It no longer offers the type of social and culinary experience we all have come to enjoy and expect. Whether pretentious or self-gratifying, our intentions are always about achieving and delivering a memorable and immersive social experience. About fully enjoying those precious personal moments with all our senses, wrapped up by the warmth of this prolonged and satisfying sunshine.
In the midst of the era of the Experience Economy, simple events and humble interactions no longer tick our boxes or tingle our palate. Whether driven by this trend or the nonetheless related one of healthy eating and fit lifestyle, even McDonalds has progressively moved towards more refined and fresher food and created better experiences, e.g. by introducing queue-busting digital order placing devices, comfortable table service and more engaging kids toys and activities.
But more importantly, sub-optimal service and broken processes are no longer tolerated. Customers want more than just products at good prices, but expect everything to be wrapped up in a perfectly packaged experience, in a carefully designed way.
Yet, many organisations still leave this to chance
They open up shop and expect customers to flow in and raid their shelves, just because… They get set up online in a clunky way and expect customers to go through lengthy processes and slow steps to purchase their services, just because… But reality is different. Even for long-established brands, accidental experiences that happen by chance are no longer good enough. It suffices to take a look at the UK Retail sector, which only in the last few months has seen many big brands wobbling, when once upon a time they were leading… House of Fraser, Marks & Spencer, Toys’r’Us, Maplin, Homebase, Poundworld. The list goes on. From the higher end to the more price-driven side, they have all been struggling, because in my view, they all failed to truly understand their customers and therefore design a value proposition and a customer experience to meet their needs.
I think it is somehow paradoxical that, reinforcing this glorious UK summer, the Greek islands’ sunshine has been the theme of the last few months through the tunes of the ‘Mamma Mia, Here we go again’film, which has left most of us walking away from the movie theatre humming the notes of the memorable “Take a chance on me” song. While we would all be happy to ‘take a chance’ on the dream-world of long-lost love or on the certainty of Greek summer sunshine, we are definitely no longer willing to unnecessarily chance a repeat bad shopping or service experience, or indeed even an average one. Why should we? After all, there are plenty of other options out there, and many are accessible from the comfort of our sun-lounger, using our mobile devices without even having to interrupt the sunbathing.
No strategy, no design
Let’s be honest: how many organisations have a clearly defined customer strategy? They may have business ambitions, brand communications, operational standards, but how many have defined what type of experience they want to deliver to their customers, in order to fully meet their needs? But if they do not have a clear customer strategy, how could they possibly deliver a coherent, meaningful and differentiated customer experience? If they don’t know what the deepest needs of their customers are, how could they possibly meet them? If things are left to chance, how do they expect to be able to build lasting customer relationships and the loyalty required to survive in our current hot climate?
“Take a chance on me?”
“Mamma mia, no!”