The Future of CE: Post Purchase Experience Creation

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I was recently in a client meeting and was asked the question of where the future of customer experience is going. This was a tough question to answer because where I think CE ‘should’ go, and where it ‘is’ going might be two different things. The reason they may be different is that marketing managers in charge of CE are still focused on managing existing experiences, instead of creating new customer experiences. So, unless consultants and CE thought leaders can convince them otherwise, the future may simply lay in improved customer service.

But, I believe the future of CE should be in experience creation. As an industry, we will continue to manage customer service and existing experiences, but never get them perfect. I expect the law of diminishing returns will eventually set in on managing existing experiences. So, creation of new experiences will be the true CE differentiator of the future. When something positive and unexpected happens to a customer, it creates instant word of mouth value. People talk about new experiences – they rarely talk about expected experiences unless they were bad ones.



Easton (sports equipment maker) is an excellent example of a company that is utilizing post purchase experience creation to its advantage. I can comment first hand on Easton. I bought a graphite hockey stick from them last year. It broke during a game after a couple of months which is considered normal wear and tear by most manufacturers who only technically cover manufacturer’s defects. I did not have the receipt anymore, but I had heard that Easton really cares about their customers. Their website will give you a customer return number if you have a complaint or warranty return, which is impressive in itself. So, I sent the stick to them, COD, in 2 pieces. Literally 48 hours later, a new stick arrived by Fedex (a newly created experience) at my house – no questions asked. It was the most painless and impressive process I could imagine. I didn’t even pay any shipping charges. I was expecting a response to take weeks, and to find out that without a receipt and because of the stick’s age, that I was out of luck. They created a true emotional bond with me through that experience.

As a society, we now expect a lot from brands and companies before and during a sale. We are programmed that way. But, we have very few (or many negative) expectations post sale. This leaves a huge gap for differentiation through post sales experience creation. Overall, according to our customer research, the opportunities to win through CE exist (smallest to largest) as such:

(least opportunity)
Experience Management: Purchase
Experience Management: Usage
Experience Management: Pre-Purchase
Experience Management: Post Purchase
Experience Creation: Purchase / Usage (tie)
Experience Creation: Pre-Purchase
Experience Creation: Post Purchase
(most opportunity)



I do believe that all parts of the customer experience need to be managed, and mined for creation opportunities, but the fastest way to differentiate now, and well into the future, will be through post purchase experience creation.

5 COMMENTS

  1. Mark,

    I agree with your main point. When business recognize that customers extract most value during the consumption or use, their approach should change. Unfortunately, most businesses still think value transfers when money changes hands. By enhancing the consumption experience businesses can increase desire and thus demand. They also create a reason for customers to become advocates.

    Jim Barnes outlined what he called the 4P’s of the customer experience in a paper calledd “Customer Experience: More Important Than Ever in Tough Times.” His 4 P’s differentiate between the experience customers have in Process, with People, in Performance and through the potential Possibilities.

    Jim’s paper is part of a multi-author publication I edited and can be download for free at: http://www.customerfutures.com/downeconomypublication.

    John

    John I. Todor, Ph.D.

  2. Fortunately for us, Vargo & Lusch have been researching this topic for some years. Their work on Service Dominant Logic provides a robust framework for thinking about how to co-create value with customers throughout the end-to-end customer experience, including that all important post-purchase usage.

    Vargo & Lusch
    Evolving to a New Dominant Logic of Marketing
    http://sdlogic.net/JM_Vargo_Lusch_2004.pdf

    What amazes me is that it has taken us CRMers so long to recognise something that should be as plain as the nose on the end of our faces!. Don’t we talk to customers?

    I write about the coming of service-dominant logic in earlier blogs as far back as July 2007. Over 18 months ago.

    Graham Hill
    Customer Perceived Value Is Changing … and What to Do About It
    http://www.customerthink.com/blog/how_value_customer_changes_downturn

    Graham Hill
    Are Marketers Asking the Right Questions?
    http://www.customerthink.com/blog/are_marketers_asking_right_questions

    Graham Hill
    Marketers Are From Mars, Customers Are From Venus!
    http://www.customerthink.com/blog/marketers_from_mars_customers_from_venus

    Happy rereading.

    Graham Hill
    Customer-driven Innovator
    Follow me on Twitter

    Interested in Customer Driven Innovation? Join the Customer Driven Innovation groups on LinkedIn or Facebook to learn more.

  3. Mark: Regarding your comment about consumers having few expectations post-sale: my experience has been quite different, at least with collaborative B2B sales. Following significant investment of time and money on the both the buyer and seller side, I have found that customer expectations are actually at their zenith immediately after the order is signed. And, as John pointed out, many companies fall flat customer experience-wise because managers think that depositing the customer’s check is equivalent to diving into the end zone from the one-yard line. Score six points! Miss the extra point? Who cares? We’re ahead anyway!

    But your ideas about managing customer service and experiences, and the fact that we’ll never get them perfect got me thinking about definitions again. What, exactly, is a “perfect” experience? Even if we could define it, what would be the economic value if an organization could consistently deliver it? What would be the costs?

    Your blog includes an excellent illustration of how a company took a less-than-perfect experience (the shattered hockey stick understandably would cause a customer to question product quality), and turned it around to show you–and us–just how much the company cared (a lot, as it turns out!). Assuming the problem wascaused by a correctable manufacturing defect, the company would likely fix it, and customers would have a more “perfect” experience. But The Experience would seem a lot less remarkable to Easton’s customers.

    I’ve always thought that the true test of an excellent company is how they manage to please customers when events don’tgo right. Following that logic, pursuit of perfection (however defined) would probably result in diminishing financial returns. What’s the best answer? It probably depends on who you’re talking to–and what you’re asking . . .

  4. Andy

    The get it right first time versus get it righter the second time discussion has been going on since TARP’s work in the 1980s. It is tempting to think that delighting customers if something goes wrong is better than not getting things wrong the first time. Some research and a brief look at fully-loaded costs shows that this thinking is fatally flawed. It is always better to get things right the first time. If you want to see what the pusuit of perfection looks like, just look at Toyota’s 20 million improvements through Kaizen in the last 40 years.

    Graham Hill
    Customer-driven Innovator
    Follow me on Twitter

    Interested in Customer Driven Innovation? Join the Customer Driven Innovation groups on LinkedIn or Facebook to learn more.

  5. Andy & Graham,

    Sure, work at getting it right first but that is not always possible. Even if you consult with and listen to customers, it is still possible to get what they want wrong. Learning and listening is an interative process. So is the development of relationships customers’ value.

    If you screw up, customers want to know that you are listening and are genuine in your attempt to fix things. This is quite different from “delighting” customers.

    One way to look at Kaizen is that it is an internatl interactive process to get it right. It depends on a more open relationship between employees and management than exists in most command/control organizations.

    John

    John I. Todor, Ph.D.

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