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Experience pioneers reveal what CX plans should be prioritising today - and tomorrow


Joe Pine and Lou Carbone are two of the most influential figures in customer experience management. Here they share what's hot, what's not and what's next in the world of CX.

26th Jan 2021
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From time to time, I participate in speaking engagements and, in the time of COVID-19, virtual speaking engagements. I recently participated in a webinar with two other leaders in our field, Joe Pine and Lou Carbone. I learned a few things that I would love to share with you, regarding where we are now with customer experience and, perhaps more importantly, where we are heading. 

Who is Lou Carbone?

Lou Carbone is a customer experience expert and speaker, and founder of Experience Engineering™.

If you haven't already, I suggest you read his book Clued In: How to Keep Customers Coming Back Again and Again. In it, Carbone shares his methodology for designing clues into your customer experience that signal to customers that you have what they want, so they come back for more. We hosted him to discuss this on a podcast not long ago.

As a pioneer in our field, Carbone was one of the first to point out that you have a customer experience no matter what; the difference is that some organisations are deliberate (or haphazard) about what that experience is. He was also one of the first proponents of having an "outside-in" approach regarding the experience that you deliver to customers.

Carbone thinks that the phase we are currently in is arguably the most exciting time for customer experience management advancement, because people are more sensitive to the experiences they have in their lives. Furthermore, it has brought awareness that an organisation can manage its experience to create an emotional bond with customers.

Who is Joe Pine?

Joe Pine is the author of The Experience Economy that started it all. As another pioneer for customer experience, Pine works with his colleague Jim Gilmore at Strategic Horizons.

Pine and Gilmore have been working with clients worldwide to stage experiences that provide value for customers longer than I have, which is saying something. Pine believes organisations should understand that experiences are a distinct economic offering, not just better service.

An authentic, distinctive experience is more than providing good service or being "nice." Pine says customer experiences should be memorable, personal, and emotionally engaging, so customers value the time they spend with your company. In other words, Pine says if customer service is time well-saved, customer experiences are time well spent. 

CX mistakes from the past

The three of us, along with moderator Chantel Botha of Brand Love, discussed in the webinar and a recent podcast some of our past experiences working in this industry, where we are today, and where we are going. Botha began by asking us where we have failed and what we learned from it. 

When it comes to failure, my most significant is assuming that people are in the same mindset as mine. For instance, when I presented to a German insurance company about how they should use emotions in their experience, the clients asked me for proof that it would work. Unfortunately, at that time, I didn't have any; I just believed that it worked, with or without evidence. Everyone did not share that mindset, and they still don't. You have to prove it works. 

When I shared my story, I learned that Joe was empathetic to my plight. Often, he explained, he would have clients acknowledge that their philosophy was innovative but then ask who else had tried it. Pine found this frustrating because if it's creative, it means that not a lot of companies had tried it. The challenge he encountered was getting senior leaders in interested organisations to feel comfortable enough being the first ones to take CX as a value enhancement in the marketplace - even if it might lead to failure.

Failure is an always-present possibility, Pine says, because you aren't sure how it will land until you get a real, live human being in the experience. Pine says he tells companies to save some of the budget (around 20%) to fix things in the experience that didn't produce the reaction you wanted. 

Carbone says that he has failed in the past by confusing the issue for people, clouding the real meaning of what customer experience is. 

Carbone's primary philosophy works with constructs around 'Clue Consciousness' - which describes how their unconscious processing of CX signals drive customer behaviour. These clues affect our emotions, shape our attitudes, and guide our actions. 

Many organisations confuse process improvement and defect elimination with what experience management is, per Carbone. He says we need to begin to understand customer emotions and what stimulates them. Managing that critical aspect creates real power in experience management. Building systems that align the clues and signals goes well beyond process improvement. Customer-driven organisations that are inside the mind and heart, and soul of the customer are the goal. 

CX expectations for the future

Joe Pine believes that the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the shift from physical to digital experiences. However, he also feels that the future of customer experience is the fusion of the two.

An example of what he means is the platform Twitch, where people play video games while recording it and then show it to other people. The critical experience of Twitch is the social interactions that people have watching somebody play a video game. With all the possibilities of what Twitch and other platforms provide, Pine says we will see fewer people going to live events, whether it's a conference or a festival or a concert, and many more people attending it "live" online. Those watching the live event online will also interact and have a different (and potentially better) overall experience with the amplification of that live event.

Pine says that the current crisis is accelerating is the recognition among people that what we really value are those shared experiences we have with our loved ones, friends and colleagues. We want more of those and less stuff that sucks up our time, which we don't want to waste. We spend that time on the meaningful experiences that we value.

Business is operating on an "industrial age" platform but living in the "fusion economics" age.

Carbone thinks that the future holds an understanding that experience management is a way of doing business embedded in its values. He feels that business is operating on an "industrial age" platform but living in the "fusion economics" age. Fusion economics refers to a time in business when we have a greater depth of knowledge of the science and art of experience, what Carbone refers to as experience management 2.0.

Carbone says that experiences are no longer linear but more like a pinball machine, presenting challenges in creating consistency with an emotional bond. Moreover, it is not a siloed responsibility but instead runs throughout the organization and across departmental lines. For instance, a restaurant client of Carbone's combines the HR and Marketing departments because they realised that their people were their single greatest asset. Carbone says fusion economics enter into an era of virtuality, which understands the elements and role of technology and how to humanise it. This age requires understanding the delicate balance needed for human nature and needs and how the technology works well with these (and how it doesn't).

Perhaps most importantly, this age requires the realisation that product attributes, features, and benefits have less influence on consumer decision-making than what customers process unconsciously, emotionally, and from the perspective of the total experience.

CX in the present

Next, the discussion turned to what people can do or focus on right now to prepare for this future. For my part, I reiterated how I think a focus on how your efforts to create an emotionally-engaging experience for customers leads to results. After all, why would anyone support all this if you cannot prove an ROI? In addition to results, I would also encourage people to consider things like the customer's lifetime value vs. the costs involved with implementing the changes to the experience you propose. Often, by comparison, the value of keeping that customer for the long-term far outweighs the expense in the short-term.

Carbone urges business to consider the William Arthur Ward quote that said, "The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails". Carbone says it is time to adjust the sails of CX. He urges businesses to deepen their understanding of the new order and let go of industrial-age thinking that looks at the experience as a service and instead becomes customer-driven and going beyond customer-centricity.

The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.

Carbone also thinks it would be wise to understand how customers think versus what they think by delving into unconscious thoughts and emotions. Finally, he recommends adopting a vision of a return on strategy and creating experiential value that will result in ROI. It is crucial to become champions of customer experience and convince people that building a culture that understands that the ultimate value the organisation creates is in the experiences they provide. 

Pine agrees that you should have the right mindset like Carbone suggests. If you have that, Pine says, then everything else can follow. The first thing that people can do is recognise that you're in the experience business, not services. The second thing is to determine what you would change if you were to charge an admission fee for your experience. Pine says this is crucial is because when you "charge admission," it inspires you to create an experience worth having.

Pine also encourages people to understand that because experiences happen inside of us, it's a reaction. Pine says there is not enough focus on customising to the individual customer, the target of that customer-centricity. If you customise your goods or services and your experiences, you'll thoroughly engage people. 

We have come a long way with the concept of customer experience from its beginnings back in the late 80s and early 90s. What has not changed through all of the transformation is the need to be deliberate about what you are trying to deliver and the emotional connection with customers you want to create. That is a foundational element that true "pioneers" of customer experience believe. That can set up your organisations for success to elicit the customer behaviour you want that provides the customer-driven growth you need. 

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