Customer Experience and Value Engineering

AUTHOR: Michelle Badenhorst, Head of Customer Experience (CX)

Value Engineering

South African consumers are first and foremost seeking savings opportunities. Even though they are very loyal to their brand, price could be the ultimate factor, causing consumers to move to a cheaper brand.  However, the consumers’ perception of “value for money”, is the biggest determining factor when making buying decisions and ultimately drives customer loyalty. Thus, the perception of “value” is not only based on low prices.

From a business perspective, a company should be able to gain profits while ensuring customers receive value for their money. The challenge lies in the manifestation of benefits:  Customers often don’t see or perceive the real “value” they get when interacting with a brand – therefore, companies should find a way to clearly articulate the complete set of benefits and value to their customers.

Customer experience management is the process of engineering value and balancing what customers deem valuable with what a business considers valuable. It’s the art of balancing customer expectations with business profitability. If there is a lack of value engineering, customers feel devalued and become disloyal. This means organisations need to re-connect with their customers ensuring they become partners in the value creation process.

Companies can leverage this opportunity by creating a cohesive end to end customer experience with key components: products and/or services. Due to the huge price battle between competitive brands, the superiority of customer experience is becoming the new competitive advantage.

Customer Experience

Steve Jobs said, “It’s technology married with liberal arts, married with humanity, that yields the results that make our hearts sing.” Very few companies use a systematic approach to design and deliver high-value customer experiences that you would want to sing about.

In this very competitive market, companies need to know and understand what customers deem valuable, as value creation is a commodity and not a differentiator. The experience is the value proposition and not the by-product. Value is created through a multi-dimensional, well-integrated, and intentionally orchestrated experience.

“An experience occurs when a company intentionally uses services as the stage, and goods as props, to engage individual customers in a way that creates memorable events.” Customers perceive experiential value both rationally and emotionally. Companies like Starbucks found a way to create emotional economic value that goes beyond the physical characteristics of their product. They manage to create value on a deeper emotional level by engaging sensory information and memories. They carefully manage the full spectrum of customer interactions entrenched throughout the coffee experience to intensify and regulate how customers feel about their experience, brand and themselves.  It’s for this reason that companies must value hard-earned experiential trust – a diverse, but highly noteworthy form of equity.

95% of consumers’ decision making are unconscious and second nature. The physical characteristics of a product or service has a lesser effect on consumer buying behavior than the unconscious sensory and emotional elements originated from the experience. This confirms the need for a systematic approach to managing sensory and emotional elements emanated throughout the experience.

Value Engineering and the Customer’s Emotional Journey

Many companies still fail to recognise the influence of customers’ emotions in their buying behaviour and don’t have the slightest idea of the importance of customers’ feelings when making decisions to buy or not to buy. They rather choose to create journeys or processes that is sufficient from  a business perspective. They look at the customer experience from inside the business, using a typical Inside-Out Approach,  rather than an Outside-In Approach with a customer-centric focus.

One of the Customer Experience Management (CEM) lenses, is the emotional journey. This will help to understand how your customers are feeling at each touch point and even indicate the intensity of their emotions. Using a CEM Framework will give you the opportunity to not only identify your customers’ emotions, but also to meticulously reflect and design an experience that will create happy and positive emotions throughout the customer journey.

The question is, which emotions should our customer experience be evoking?

Colin Shaw from Beyond Philosophy refers to the emotional connection a business has with its customers as an Emotional Signature. The first step is to identify what emotions you want to evoke and then to carefully design an experience that will evoke these emotions throughout each touch point.

Often the emotional journey will look something like this:

Research has shown that there is a strong correlation between customer’s emotions and their loyalty. The reason for this is that customers value the ‘reality’ they perceive and feel, and in turn, their emotions influence their loyalty.

To manage your customers’ emotions effectively and predict their buying behaviour, you need sufficient data relating to your customers’ emotions. This is where Predictive Analytics prove to be beneficial.

Sources:

  • July, 2016, “South Africa’s cautious consumer” (http://www.mckinsey.com/industries/consumer-packaged-goods/our-insights/south-africas-cautious-consumer)
  • Lewis P Carbone, “How to keep customers coming back again and again”
  • Lewis P Carbone believes that “the value and willingness to pay increase as you move from a commodity to an experience”.
  • Lewis P Carbone, “How to keep customers coming back again and again”
  • Brain Solis, “X: The experience when business meets design”
  • Beyond Philosophy, Clued In: How to keep customers coming back again and again