In 1984, Ridley Scott directed the much-praised “1984” ad for Apple, referencing George Orwell’s famous 1948 novel by the same name. The payoff line in the ad goes: “On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you’ll see why 1984 won’t be like ‘1984.’” A truly ground-breaking commercial that helped launch a computer that changed the paradigm of personal computing in many ways. Two years earlier, in 1982, Mr. Scott directed another dystopian film, albeit a slightly longer one. It was called “Blade Runner”, starring Harrison Ford and Rutger Hauer, and took place in Los Angeles in the year 2019 (which, as we know, is coming up in two years). Now, many of the predictions Scott made in Blade Runner has not come to fruition, thankfully. And surprisingly, especially one of the typical sci-fi predictions (also seen in the recent “Ghost in the Shell”, in “Back to The Future II”, in “Minority Report”, and a number of other films), is that we will have lots more advertising everywhere. There would literally be billboards floating in the air if Scott and his sci-fi peers were right.
Luckily, they haven’t been. And they won’t be. The reality is that we’ll see less “advertising” in the future. More personalised communication, and less catch-all mass communication will be the norm, and advertising in it’s traditional form will disappear. In this regard, Steven Spielberg’s “Minority Report” came the closest, but the film still presents us with a disruptive view on connecting with people – that if we just hurl enough ad messages at people, they will respond. Which is funny, because the opposite is actually true. The less hurling and in your face communication is, the more we can hope to connect with real people, the more we will gain their trust, and the more likely they will be to buy our products and services.
I have many times talked about how holistic customer experiences will replace advertising, or at least surpass its importance in branding. Especially through the use of technology. Let’s look at how these experiences can be built. Not just as add-on to todays business practices, but as complete transformations into customer-centric operations. Let’s look at the steps that can be used to achieve this.
Define the problem. Problem definition is key to actually understanding what to do. How are you customers struggling in their lives – both the big things and the small things? What are their desires, hopes and dreams? What are their hurdles getting there? Finding problems in the real world is key to successful customer experience, product or service. Most product launches that fail, fail because they do not solve any problem. Same with start-ups. Same with new service launches. So I don’t care how “creative” your idea is. The problem you are solving is the key. Spend time analysing people’s everyday challenges, and that’s where you’ll make money.
Find your customer experience purpose. What is it that your company can offer better than everyone else? What’s your purpose? Consider your brand Ikigai. Ikigai is Japanese for “reason for being”. We use it to look at how your purpose is a combination of what you love, what you’re good at, what you can get paid for, and what the world needs. By focusing efforts in these four areas, the offering can be more focused in terms of actually assisting your customers throughout every touchpoint. This is what makes a difference to consumers, not what you’re tagline is (most companies fail to live up to theirs anyway).
Develop solutions that can simplify and humanise customer interaction. Jeff Goodby of famed advertising agency Goodby, Silverstein and Partners, once said; “If your solution is something your friends or family might come up with, throw it away”. Well, in looking for customer engagement and solutions to real-world problems, we can almost consider the opposite: If your solution is something your friends and family would use, you’re probably onto something. Usefulness is intuitive, it’s immediate and it doesn’t lie. If people can’t understand what your product or service does, or how it improves their lives, they are not going to be interested. If it’s too cumbersome to use, they will walk away. Success comes through level of necessity, paired with ease of use and user experience.
Empower and grow staff. This is perhaps the most important key to successful customer experiences. Give staff the opportunity to help the customers. As much as technology is useful to make customer interactions simpler and more engaging, nothing beats staff that solves problems on the spot – or at least finds solutions and gets back to you promptly. having someone smile, and ask what they can help you with, then actually help you – that feeling is unbeatable, and the word of mouth effect is a lot bigger than you’d think. Peer recommendations is key to long-term success, even if you can’t measure it on the spot. This is why companies like H&M and IKEA have exceptional lax return policies. Not because it doesn’t come at a cost – but because it carries a huge long-term benefit.
Together, these four simple steps, can help you hone the customer experience you provide. It’s about combining insights, technology and human touch, into a powerful experience that people appreciate and remember – it’s not always a question of flash, it’s mostly a question of usefulness and human touch.
Erik Ingvoldstad is the Founder & CEO of Acoustic.
Follow Erik on Twitter @ingvoldSTAR, follow Acoustic at @AcousticGroupSG
Don’t miss out on insights, ideas and opinions from Acoustic, sign up for our newsletter here.