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The proposition is the experience!

Create a totality of experience to get a satisfied customer

Entrepreneurs, marketers and businesses often talk about the customer value proposition. The term is popularly used to describe how a business’ core product or service is designed to be used by the customer. This is only partly true, as it overlooks the need for a totality of experience approach which ought to be adopted by any business offering any proposition in a competitive environment. It is not just about how great the product is, or what great value for money it offers, or how it is promoted, or through which channels it will be sold – it is about the totality of the experience the customer is being sold.

A fantastic personal experience!
Anyone who has gone shopping in an Apple store will likely have experienced what can be called ‘a totality of proposition experience’ and here’s a typical scenario.

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“At the end of December, I made my customary trip to Northern California to spend the holidays with my family. As so often happens, I was once again requested by one of my colleagues to pick up from the US one of the new release gadgets – this time the latest version MacBook Pro laptop, ahead of their availability in the region. I decided to make the purchase on a weekday after the holidays, as I wanted to avoid the mad shopping rush during the holiday period. I went into an Apple store in Walnut Creek in Northern California. I was greeted very pleasantly by all the sales associates who made eye contact with me. My focus normally would have been to get the best deal or the best value for money. The difference between this particular trip to the store and the previous ones was that I was not worried about the amount of money that I was going to spend.

I was specifically requested to get a particular model for which I expected to be fully reimbursed by my colleague who had requested the MacBook Pro. So with no money worries, I focused my full attention on the workings of the store and keenly observed its staff, surroundings, service and types of customers.

Under promised and over delivered
For starters, I felt the shop was conspicuously located in downtown Walnut Creek. It seemed to be a universal trait for Apple stores to be so strategically located. I have been to their stores in Tokyo, London, San Francisco, San Jose and others. For example, the store in Tokyo is located in the Ginza shopping district, considered one of the most expensive real estate addresses in the world!

My other observations were that the store was enticing and welcoming. Even if you had not planned to buy anything from Apple, I bet that passing through the street where the store was located would have drawn you in. The store was brightly lit and all the electronic gadgets were well placed with enough space for someone to walk around. The prices and the model numbers and specifications were clearly displayed. Although that particular store in Walnut Creek appeared to be busy, I got the sense that I would get immediate attention and service as the number of sales associates on hand seemed more than adequate. In other words, I sensed that I would not be hassled nor would I be confused nor would I have had to wait long for someone to assist me.

I was approached by a young lady who introduced herself as Raven. She had a very bright and pleasant personality about her. She was courteous, professional and extremely knowledgeable. Since I knew exactly what I wanted, she did not hassle me with a lot of up-selling and cross-selling tactics that you would experience in other stores. She had what seemed to be a mobile gadget (an iPod Touch) through which she placed my order and transacted the payment. She inquired if I wanted a receipt which she offered by email
as well as handing me a hard copy version. She showed me my email address displayed on her hand-held and which was already stored in the system (based on my previous purchases) and rechecked with me to confirm if she had the correct email address.

About two minutes after the order was placed, she logged on to a desktop system (which of course was a Mac) near her and confidently announced that the box would be delivered to me in about another three minutes. She explained that the stock was coming from upstairs hence the delay. I assured her that three minutes was not a delay at all. Imagine my surprise when I was handed the box roughly two minutes ahead of the promised three minutes. What an amazing experience – a classic case of under-promising and over-delivering. Just imagine that! My colleague was fully aware of the product and the model and thought that Apple offered the best value for money. I walked into one of its stores and picked up the merchandise and had one of the best shopping experiences that I ever had (and I hate shopping)!”

Looking closely at the detailed end-to-end experience of the customer cycle is a winning formula – and one that’s needed to dominate the marketplace and delight your customers.

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When we examine the totality of proposition experience that Apple has designed for its customers in this way, it is abundantly clear that it is not just the technological superiority of its cool gadgets that Apple is marketing, but rather a perfect end-to-end customer experience.

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The customer value proposition is the totality of the end-to-end experience of the offer.

Simply put, the structure of a market affects the behaviors of all the companies that play in it.”

John Lincoln, author

So what is the customer value proposition?

The customer value proposition is the totality of the end-to-end experience of the offer. This is a framework that we should seriously consider when designing the proposition. The proposition experience needs to account for every element of the customer lifecycle, from the time the customer gets to know of the product or service, to the time the customer leaves you. Let’s consider what’s involved:

Getting to know and understand the customer
• How do we make the proposition known to potential customers?
• How do our messages and advertisements look to the customer, and how do they make them feel?
• What is the visual experience that the target customers will experience?
• Are our messages friendly, easy to understand and differentiated from our competitors?
• How do we make sure the customer will only receive a call/message if the proposition or service is appropriate and relevant to them?
• How do we make sure that we make calls /messages to customers only during appropriate times?
• How do we make sure that our sales or service agents can explain the benefits of our proposition, the relevant specifications and options available, and if it is suitable for a specific customer?

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Buying or purchasing point of sale
• Do our customers have easy access to a sales channel of their choice to purchase the proposition?
• What is the buying experience in the store, through a website or a call centre?
• Are our buying processes simple, clear, non-bureaucratic and easy to understand?
• Are our prices transparent, predictable and honest?
• Are all our front-line staff fully trained to explain and make the buying process easy?
• What is the delivery time period? Is it complicated? Is there a long wait for delivery of the proposition?
• How do we make sure the order capture process takes less than x number of minutes using a single form which can capture all options and scenarios?
• How do we get your customers to sign a single contract with a single set of terms and conditions for a bundle of services?
• How do we make sure that once the customer has completed the purchase that our sales agent goes through a checklist of information to set the customer’s expectations about next steps?
• How do we make sure our customer knows where he or she can go to get information about the status of their order once it is placed?
• What is the delivery time period? Is it complicated? Is there a long wait for delivery of the proposition?

Delivering the goods/activating or enabling the service
• How quickly can the customer start to use the service?
• Is the signing on process easy and simple?
• How will the customer be informed of any change to an appointment/service start date?

The user experience
• How do we welcome customers once a service is activated and or enabled?
• Is the proposition easy to use?
• Is it complicated and cumbersome?
• Is it confusing?
• Is it easy on our sales and service staff to explain?
• How can we make sure the activation process feels unified and cohesive like the customer is receiving a single product, rather than a group of separate products stitched together?

Invoicing and/or billing experience
• Is the invoice easy to understand? Is it confusing? Are bills delivered promptly?
• How can we give the customer a choice of billing options?

Payment experience
• How do we make sure our customers have a choice of payment channels local to them and/or preferred by them?
• How do we confirm to a customer when their payment is received and when it is allocated to their account?

Customer contact experience
• How can we make sure customers are able to reach us?

Leaving
• How does a customer leave our service and get refunds and final bills?

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Leveraging the four key marketing elements is critical to the design of the overall proposition.

Seize the opportunity and laugh your way to the bank!

Businesses large and small are guilty of limiting the allocation of resources to the important aspect of proposition lifecycles, and this might be a tremendous opportunity for you to differentiate for competitive advantage.

Planning and thinking seriously through the end-to-end experience of the customer cycle is a winning formula that is required to dominate the marketplace and delight your customers. It calls for continuous scrutiny and constant refinement and will pay off handsomely in the end.

You will not only be delighting your customers but could be laughing all the way to the bank!


JohnLincoln.oneThe business growth hacker

 

 

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