schneider + partners has over 25 years of experience helping creative and project based organisations to be even more successful in running their organisations and achieving their goals. This series of tips and supporting notes reflects some of the main issues that we have seen. Some are surprisingly elemental:
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Do you really know what it's like to experience your organisation? virtually and in reality? from before actually meeting with you for the first time, through an ongoing association with you, and after such an association is concluded? as a client / user of your services? as a prospective employee? as co-consultant? as a potential partnering or procuring organisation? …
Effectively designing and managing their total experience provides one of the few ways of achieving genuine differentiation and a sustainable competitive advantage in today's highly competitive, cost driven, rapidly evolving, internet driven environment
Get the experience right and your clients, customers, guests and others can become 'wowed', enthusiastic and loyal ambassadors. Get it wrong and they can be left disenchanted, dissatisfied, and looking for another provider. Miss an opportunity to engage them, and they can be gone.
Is the experience of working with you compelling? Does it positively engage the person's emotions. Initially does it leave them feeling that they really want to work or form an association with you? Once they have committed is it leaving them wanting to come back for more? Are they sufficiently enthused to be endorsing you and singing your praises to their colleagues and contacts? In many situations building and maintaining strong personal working relationships, friendships or 'involvements' can be the most effective way of creating barriers of entry to others. Just being satisfied is not enough.
Think through and map the total journey. Is the quality of their experience haphazard and inconsistent, or considered, designed and well managed? Does it vary from one sector to the next? between offices? for different audiences - staff, prospective staff, co-consultants, project managers, contractors, peers, 'friends', guests, visitors? Who is responsible for it? In today’s world there is a merging of the virtual and the real experience. How consistent is this in your case? The critical issue is the delivery of the promise, and minimising the gap between the expectation and the reality of the experience.
The standard of the required experience may set by your competitors. A seemingly minor issue may be thought to be insignificant, but it may also be a deal breaker. ‘Structural scratches’ can be sufficient to make a client go elsewhere, especially in a context where the competition is offering something as good or an even better service / experience.
How expectations are managed and how well problems are dealt with can also be critical. Nobel prizewinner Daniel Kahneman, highlights the difference between how we experience experiences and how we remember them. Distinguishing the experiencing self and memorising self he points out that it is the latter that makes decisions - seeing futures as anticipated memories. One implication is that the actions required on behalf of a client, for example during an architectural project whilst 'professionally' sufficient and correct, may not be the same as those required to ensure that a client will have the best memories and so is most likely to return for more or to recommend to others. Beginnings, changes, significant moments and endings can be particularly crucial. However good the body of the experience, if a client, customer, guest or member of the audience is left with unresolved problems and a bitter taste at the end of it, she/he is unlikely to consider you the next time. Likewise changes that simply stop people complaining may be very different to a memorable and kind gesture that leaves someone feeling emotionally touched.
In short, although it can be complex, there is a powerful business case for delivering a compelling experience. It can provide a source of genuine differentiation. It can result in enthusiastic advocacy. And it should make for a more effective organisation. The challenge is identifying and prioritising the most significant aspects and focusing on where improvements to the experience are likely to be most cost effective.
Manage the total experience:
client satisfaction is not enough