Edition 01

Creating customer experience

25th September 2009 By Jens Ørnbo no comments

From 1990 to 2000 the number of products available to the world doubled.

When products and services look alike and cost the same, communication becomes more challenging.

Clean your restrooms
Some time ago, an American advertising agency advised its client, a fast food chain, to realign its advertising budget towards keeping its restaurants clean.  Following the unusual, though sound, advice, the fast food chain invested in a thorough cleanup of its restaurants, instead of a traditional advertising campaign.
Soon after, the restaurant’s customers noticed the change, spread the word to others, and became frequent patrons.  The fast food chain staff too unwittingly developed more trust and confidence in the company which took its business seriously.  Higher profits bear out the positive results.

The story vividly illustrates the impact and value of experience as a crucial factor in bringing messages across to audiences, in this case, the customers and staff of the fast food chain.  The agency and the company were able to pinpoint the factor that made the most difference in generating continued motivation and support from both clients and employees.

Renting foreheads for advertisements
We live in a time where organizations can easily avail of a wide variety of the most direct, indirect precise, subtle and truly ingenious communication tools.  The average consumer today receives thousands of messages on a daily basis from different angles such as the TV, newspapers and magazines, the internet, posters and billboards, radio, SMS, direct mail, athletes patches, etc.  Yes, even the forehead of British students can now be rented for advertisements. Such is indicative of the desperation to utilize any two-dimensional surface to grab consumers’ attention.

From 1990 to 2000 the number of products available to the world doubled.  When products and services look alike and cost the same, communication becomes more challenging.  How, for instance, can one product be different from another and the rise above the clutter of advertising when they all have the same or similar messages.

Storytelling creates experiences
Many organizations have chosen to link their product or service with personal sketches, stories with characters, and the like, on both TV and in printed, riding on the popularity and endorsement of such characters and stories in order to elevate the product’s awareness.  Often, however, these are totally dissociated from the real experience of the company, the product and its employees.

Buyers rituals become more important
For the longest time, marketing gurus have insisted that not only is the actual purchasing activity vital for business, but, more importantly, also the ritual through which the purchase is made.  The ritual, or the process, is the client’s actual purchase experience.  Whether it is the tourist’s unforgettable bus ride in Copenhagen, a shopper’s encounter with a most helpful clerk in a store, or a company’s representative’s engaging phone conversation with a supplier, a positive purchase experience is always credible and valid.

This experience makes the communication real, associating feelings with the purchasing process.  This then becomes the basis for the positive story, sent via word-of-mouth and other informal exchanges, or told through the press or advertising.

Communication is basically transferring a message from point A to point B, and back, resulting in impact, comprehension and retention — factors to achieve maximum understanding and motivation for action.

This too is the process of education.  Information can be obtained easily from numerous sources.  Yet we have to process the information, experiment with the lesson, realize the idea, and make and accept our own conclusions.  Only then can we understand the concept and be motivated to act on it.

Forget about the easier routes
So why do many organizations limit their marketing communications to just passive messages on TV, print, and direct mail, instead of also creating an optimal experience for their customers?  The former can be likened to old-fashioned style teaching which uses repetition.  This is the easier route.

Surely, it is less difficult than what the winners do — the much longer process of having to analyze the client, train staff in customer service, develop a communications plan, and devise messages, to send out through various means.  Once the analysis, the strategy, and the message are in place, the customer can then come into the picture, and the purchasing process is experienced.
At this point, the recipient of the message ceases to be just a passive spectator of the message, but an active participant.  Good relations are created; stories are told, and exchanged.  Only after these steps can the various passive media types, i.e. TV and print, be defined and utilized.

Trustworthy relationships
Thus, that American advertising agency which advised its client to create an experience for its clients through clean restaurants, realized the premium of experience.  For its part, the fast food chain understood the basis for good stories.  In the end, the unusual tact worked for both agency and client.  The fast food chain was able to develop a participative clientele, which helped promote its business and eventually increased revenues.  The advertising agency in turn developed a trustworthy relationship with its client, and bagged the advertising campaign to promote the fine and clean restaurants via traditional communication channels.

About the author: Jens Ørnbo

Jens Ørnbo is a Director & Partner with 3rdDimension. Based in Copenhagen, he is also the co-author of the book Experienced Based Communication.  For more information about Mr. Ørnbo and 3rdDimension, check out http://www.3rddimension.dk

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