Responses for experience-led recovery
Refresh your places
All physical places need refreshing regularly, but lack of time or resources often pushes this out. Now, you can keep your employees usefully employed with such tasks, even substituting for contractors. You can, for example, deep clean the environment, take inventory, reorganize stock, repair furniture or equipment, or even just repaint.
Remember that working areas need every bit as much attention as customer areas, assuming you want an employee experience that encourages them to stage a great customer experience. Moreover, all processes need continuous improvement. Technology needs steady upgrades and people need ongoing learning. Now is the time to take care of such needs so that when things open up, you can put your best possible foot forward with employees who are fully engaged. Start with that view of the first impression you want returning customers to have and work your way back.
Redesign your offerings
Next, redesign what you offer your customers, again starting from the goal of staging an engaging, memorable experience across every interaction.
For example, so many contact centers have a voice response unit (VRU) that exists to delay, drive away, or otherwise deny service to customers. Consider these prime candidates for redesign. Take a clue from Zappos, whose Customer Loyalty Teams (not customer service representatives, for Zappos recognizes that every service interaction is a relationship opportunity) do not measure average handling time, allowing team members to spend as much time as they need to help their customers. They aim to create a personal emotional connection with every customer, for loyalty and greater sales.
Then look at your offerings. How can you provide greater economic value in what you sell to customers? Are your experiences engaging and memorable?
In seeking where to redesign your offerings, again start with the experience you want to create. In the preview to our 2020 book, The Experience Economy: Competing for Customer Time, Attention, and Money, my co-author Jim Gilmore and I talk about the five core characteristics experience designers should focus on to enhance the value they create for their customers:
- Robust: expanding the experience to hit the sweet spot of entertainment, education, escapism, and aesthetic realms of experience
- Cohesive: fitting all the elements into an organizing principle so that everything hangs together throughout the experience, from front to back
- Personal: connecting with each customer to create an experience consisting of individually customized components
- Dramatic: designing the time that customers spend with you to not be flat, but rather rise up to a memorable moment and then back down again
- Transformative: bringing together the set of experiences required to help customers achieve their aspirations
When redesigning your offerings, look at each of these characteristics to determine how you could create greater value for your customers and therefore greater economic value for your company.
Renew your capabilities
Maybe it's counterintuitive, but recessions are often great times to invest in new capabilities that will prepare you for the future. While competitors hunker down and think only of today, now is the time to discover new opportunities, create new capabilities, and be the one to shape the future.
During the 2001–2003 recession, for example, Apple increased its R&D investment markedly, introducing the iPod, developing iTunes, and beginning the project that led to the iPhone. Apple also opened the very first Apple Store, which it then rapidly expanded. This was the time when the rejuvenated Steve Jobs took Apple beyond being a manufacturer to also become a premier experience stager. And when you combine this excellence – amazing products combined with a remarkable experience – that's where the magic happens.
This is particularly important if you have noticed customers viewing your goods and services as commodities to buy at the lowest price. When your customers get used to the taste of commodification, they will demand price concessions all the more. If you don't lower your prices, then they'll buy from competitors who chose to go down that slippery slope.
The greatest force of commodification ever invented? The internet. That frictionless marketplace means that customers can instantly compare prices from one vendor to another, and that tends to push them down to the lowest possible price. And again, COVID-19 has shifted more people online.
So, one particular set of capabilities to renew is your digital strategy. To forestall the forces of commodification, you cannot just focus on providing time well saved. Yes, you want to provide ease and convenience for all service aspects of what you offer online, but you must incorporate that within a strategy of offering time well spent. That's the value people seek with experiences. Therefore, you must develop the capabilities to design the time that people spend with you digitally and ensure that they value that time – not just the goods and services they order and receive.
Of course, don't divorce your digital strategy from your physical interactions. The experience you want to stage for your customers must be the connective tissue that unifies your enterprise.