As a brand engagement agency, our brand ambassadors tend to meet more of our clients’ customers and prospective customers than our clients themselves. We have the power to influence the choices customers make – and sometimes even change their lives. Take this story from Paddy, a brand ambassador for our Samsung Galaxy Studio campaign at Westfield London and Stratford City.
“Jim was wandering around the studio when I struck up a conversation with him. He didn’t appear to be particularly interested in the product we were promoting. However, in the course of our conversation, he told me that he’d heard about Skype and wanted to call and see his sister in Melbourne whom he hadn’t seen in 40 years.
“I spent some time with him going through the steps of how to make the call, before he set off to buy a Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 from John Lewis. The following weekend I saw him approach the stand with the biggest smile on his face and he thanked me from the bottom of his heart, as he thought he’d never see his sister again.”
By focusing on the customer’s needs, Paddy delivered a life-changing experience – and sold a Note 10.1 into the bargain.
Shift in focus from brand to customer
The point of this story is to reflect on the role of customer experience in what we do. The majority of experiential marketing is focused on brands and products – bringing the brand to life in the design of the experience, ensuring that staff understand product features and benefits and delivering against objectives that are usually focused on driving product trial. That’s all great, but I would argue that ‘brand experience’, while obviously important, should not be the primary focus – far greater emphasis should be placed on embracing the ‘customer experience’. This may seem like a purely semantic difference, but it’s more than that – the language we use reflects the approach we take.
By taking a customer experience-focused approach, Purity has been able to open up new ways of working in a number of areas:
Brand ambassadors as experience enablers
The interaction between ambassador and brand, despite more often than not being the single most important element of the customer experience, is all too often an agency’s last thought when designing the experience. Whether agencies like to admit it or not, the norm is to treat staff as low-skilled workers.
Training typically focuses on the product/brand, with some minimal guidance on how to interact with customers. Brand ambassadors very rarely receive anything like the levels of training and development offered to staff working in stores or contact centres.
To us that’s all wrong, particularly in an era when staff are now making a career choice to become brand ambassadors. While they’re taking their careers seriously, I’m afraid to say that most agencies don’t support their ambitions by providing clear opportunities for development and progression.
Purity has taken positive steps to address this. For example, we’re working with Cheil Worldwide, the integrated communications agency, to develop a customer experience programme for Samsung.
This complements product-focused briefings from Samsung with customer experience training from a specialist consultant from a retail background, hired by Purity. We have adopted a collaborative approach to this project that involves all stakeholders, including the team in the field. Their input and contribution is equally as valid given their day-to-day engagement with customers.
In addition, we’ve developed a structured, customer experience-focused talent development programme that incorporates all staff irrespective of level and involves regular appraisals, motivating incentives and projects structured to enable us to retain and develop the best people.
We strongly believe that educating our talent to become customer experience professionals increases the quality of the service they deliver and their ability to influence customer behaviour.
Personalising the experience
No medium has greater capacity to personalise the experience than face-to-face, but too often I see homogenous experiences that don’t differentiate between customers. The experience we deliver should be either a) the beginning of a customer’s experience of a brand or b) the development of an existing relationship.
Most experiences I see don’t even distinguish on that level, never mind customising the experience according to the customer’s profile, stage in the journey and individual needs.
By focusing on the customer, we’re more able to understand where that individual is in their journey as a customer (or a prospective customer) and deliver an experience that develops the relationship. We should be designing experiences on this basis and integrating with our clients’ customer-experience programmes.
Measuring the experience
Focusing on the customer experience has caused us to rethink how we evaluate our work. The most widely used measure of customer experience effectiveness is Net Promoter Score (NPS).
NPS is a customer loyalty metric which asks one simple question – ‘how likely is it that you would recommend [company] to a friend or colleague?’, with the answer scored from one to 10.
By subtracting the percentage who are ‘detractors’ (scoring 0-6) from the percentage who are ‘promoters’ (scoring 9-10), NPS gives a clear measure of a company’s performance through the customer’s eyes, at each stage in the customer journey.
Companies such as Apple, Virgin Media, Philips, Vodafone, Lego and P&G are successfully using NPS to enhance the customer experience.
While measuring NPS should ideally be a company-wide initiative, executed at an operational level throughout the customer journey, we think it’s a beautifully simple means of focusing our minds on the customer experience and measuring our effectiveness in driving brand advocacy.
Aligned with our clients
Finally and most importantly, by focusing on customer experience, we’re actually aligning ourselves with our clients. Client organisations are increasingly organising themselves around the customer – the number of chief customer officers (CCOs) or equivalent role has grown from 30 in 2003 to 450 today, and there are many more heads of customer experience.
CCOs are working in companies such as Everything Everywhere, Dunkin’ Brands, Oracle, Coca-Cola, SAP, Hibu (Yell) and Pepsi, focusing on understanding the customer journey from acquisition to retention, personalising experiences and aligning systems and processes across multiple channels to make themselves easier to do business with.
We believe that experiential marketing should be considered as one of those channels.
In a multi-channel world (or omni-channel as it’s now being called), we’re no longer delivering ‘promotions’, but instead we’re another channel for brands to deliver positive (and in Jim’s case, life-changing) experiences to their customers and prospects. It’s time we focused more on enabling our people to deliver personalised customer experiences that inspire brand advocacy.
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