The Buying Experience V.1 12 May 2008


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The Buying Experience V.1 12 May 2008

  1. 1. The Gemba Company Buying Experience Robert Jacobson, Ph.D. © Gemba Innovation 2008 Introduction The Company Buying Experience is at the core of every Company’s marketing and selling campaign. It is the constant, managed, always evolving relationship between a Company and its customers. Every Company’s Buying Experience has four elements: 1. Company themes are the basic ingredients of the desired buying experience that the company wants for its customers. 2. Once established, Company themes are translated into customer value propositions, arguments for the customer’s business. 3. Touchpoints are moments or events where a Company and its customers connect, where customer value propositions are offered. Touchpoints are identified, described, mapped, scored, activated, and measured for effect. 4. A score or composition shapes and relates the touchpoints, based on the Company themes and the customers’ prior experience, to create the overall desired buying experience. Another term used to describe the Buying Experience is the customer experience plan. The concept is the same. Each occurrence, situation, and location where a company and its customers connect (also its investors, suppliers, regulators, and other stakeholders) is identified and characterized. This is called an audit or a survey. Specialized designers then use different media of communication and other social tools to build a network of touchpoints and create experiences for their customers. Done well, this leads the customers to adopt desired behaviors, including buying products and services; and desired attitudes and beliefs, like Company loyalty. A Company’s Buying Experience development process is inclusive. It considers all connections between a Company and its customer in physical locations (e.g, stores), a virtual environment (e.g., on the Web), or in the customer’s own mind – for example, developing an attitude. With the exception of what happens in the customer’s head, all of these are touchpoints can be manipulated.
  2. 2. Many touchpoints are formal: advertising, public relations, and organized events, customer involvement in Company operations and new product development, and so forth. Other touchpoints are informal: gossip and rumor (now professionally called, “word of mouth” advertising), spontaneous events and occurrences (like assembling a product at home), talking on the phone with a service representative, reading an account in the paper that mentions the Company or its products, and when a customer uses a product sold by the Company. Retailing involves one set of touchpoints; maintaining supply and value chain relationships, another. Common touchpoints include listening to the radio, watching TV or cable, reading a billboard, sharing a rumor, attending public ceremonies, recommending the Company or its products to someone, and so forth. In fact, touchpoints are so many, the problem is not to find them, but rather to know which one’s to work with and how in any particular situation. Touchpoints are neither good nor bad. They are simply opportunities to continue a conversation with the customer that is intended to lead to a sale and continued business with the customer. Crafting touchpoint compositions is still an art form akin to brand management, though the number of practitioners is. We call them designers of experience (DoE).1 To be successful in this line of work, designers must have a keen understanding of human perception, cognition, and behavior; the ability to extrapolate futures from current conditions; and the ability to shape how others perceive, consider, emote, and finally act – thus, to design experiences. It is the DoE’s job to manage the touchpoints – gossip mills, online blogs, broadcast TV advertising, planes towing banners, riding a mountain bike, listening to a radio account, climbing a mountain – creating in the customer’s mind an impression that Company wants him or her to remember and act on, now or in the future. But because the customer can choose to acknowledge or ignore touchpoints (often unintentionally), and because a score can be interrupted or disturbed by “noise” in the information environment, the customer’s ultimate Buying Experience may differ from what the Company or the DoE intended. This is true of all marketing. There is no absolute certainty when dealing with human beings 1 Designers of experience are also called “experience designers,” but this can be confusing since website developers have used this term to describe what they do to the exclusion of designers working in other media. 2
  3. 3. Although the tools for designing experiences are still primitive, it is possible to imagine a future when the Company or the customer will be able to turn on or turn off touchpoints at will (perhaps for reasons of privacy). But the overall Buying Experience will survive, because it does not rely on technology alone but is created in the mind of the customer where perception, cognition, memory, anticipation, and action form continuously changing meanings. The Gemba Buying Experience Process Gemba’s process for crafting a client’s Buying Experience is straightforward. Before doing anything else, it’s important to organize a Buying Experience team comprising staff from all relevant departments and members of the executive corps. The staff provides specific expertise and labor; the executive members keep top management involved and informed, and muster necessary resources (including time allotments, funding, and official support) for the team’s success. Once organized, the team, aided by Gemba expert consultants, undertakes the following tasks. A. B. C. D. E. F. G. Define Develop Audit Compose Prototype Activate Evaluate Company Customer Existing the The the Full and Revise Themes Value Touchpoint Buying Buying Buying the Buying Proposition s Experienc Experienc Experienc Experience s e e e Score Here the tasks are presented sequentially, but in a complex organization, there may be several Buying Experiences operating concurrently. In that case, the team will continuously be working with Buying Experiences at different points in their development. The team therefore must be appropriately organized to permit dealing with different tasks simultaneously. A. Define Company themes 1. Collect information that describes the Company environment and situation: local, global, or both. These are its current coordinates. 2. Identify and describe trends in the world that bear on the Company’s operations and growth, based on its current coordinates. 3
  4. 4. 3. Divide individual and small groups of trends into clusters called meta-trends. 4. Based on the meta-trends, choose themes that describe the Company goals and aspirations for the future. These themes are the basis of the Company’s “marching orders”: its strategic, marketing, and Buying Experience plans. Themes can be as broad or narrow as a Company’s scope and aspirations. As an option, scenarios – portraits of alternative possible futures – can be created to test the themes and their implementation within these possible futures. How well do they play out for the Company and each of its key stakeholders: management, labor, investors, customers, and regulators? B. Develop customer value propositions 1. Describe how the themes, when implemented, translate into tangible benefits for the customers. These benefits can be personal, social, or both. 2. Test the benefits against customers’ current perceived needs using surveys, focus groups, or most effectively, by having customers work with the Company to describe these benefits (co-creation). 3. Adjust the benefits to meet customers’ needs, keeping in mind that these needs may change and that the Company can play a part in changing them. 4. Translate the benefits into customer value propositions – arguments that can be made for customers to adopt the Company’s themes as their own and ultimately, to buy the Company’s products and services. C. Audit existing touchpoints (also called “mapping” or “inventorying” the touchpoints) 1. Identify where the Company currently provides customer value propositions for its customers’ consideration, instances or events where the Company and its customers come into contact with one another directly or indirectly, by design or serendipity. 2. Describe these touchpoints and evaluate their effectiveness for the Company 3. Develop a net customer asset index (NCAI) as a measurement tool – the proportion of existing and sought-after future customers who are positively affected by each critical touchpoint. 4
  5. 5. Calculating on a continuous basis the Company’s overall NCAI is one way to measure the effectiveness of its Buying Experience. Individual touchpoints can be evaluated with touchpoint type- specific metrics. D. Compose the Buying Experience score 1. Fully understand how the most important touchpoints contribute to the Buying Experience (plus or minus) and then determine how they can be harmonized for greatest effectiveness. 2. Decide where Company resources can best be deployed among the most important touchpoints to ensure that the Buying Experience is achieves its purpose. 3. Score the touchpoints, optimizing those that provide greatest value to the Company, neutralizing unproductive or negative touchpoints, and creating required new ones. 4. Review the score to ensure that there are no inherent conflicts and that all essential touchpoints are covered. The team does a virtual walkthrough accompanied by representative sample customers. E. Prototype the Buying Experience 1. For each type of touchpoint, on a controlled basis, “turn on” the experience (e.g., store personnel adopt new techniques, advertising broadcasts the message, internal Company procedures – like enhanced CRM systems – are initiated, and so forth). 2. The team visits all physical and virtual touchpoints to ensure their proper operation. 3. Customers are observed and interviewed to ensure that their experiences meet or exceed the intended consequences of each touchpoint. 4. Make necessary revisions to the score and adjust the touchpoints. F. Activate the full Buying Experience 1. Do all of the above, “turning on” the touchpoints to their full capacity (for example, extend services prototyped at a few stores to an entire chain of outlets or from a few webpages to an entire website). 5
  6. 6. 2. Monitor the touchpoints as before. 3. Be prepared to make quick changes where unanticipated insufficient or negative results are produced. Have alternative solutions already prepared or procedures in place for their rapid development, prototyping, and deployment. G. Evaluate and revise the Buying Experience 1. Apply the NCAI and determine the effectiveness of the Buying Experience per se. 2. Calibrate the NCAI findings with conventional objective measures of business success like sales per product or per line, revenues, gross income, and EBITA (earning before interest, taxes, and amortization expense), per period and over the entire run of the Buying Experience. 3. Calibrate the NCAI with conventional subjective measures of business success like customer satisfaction, employee moral, competitors’ reactions, press coverage of the Company and its products, policy developments, and communications online (e.g., in forums and chat rooms) and offline (word of mouth). 4. Make revisions in the continuing Buying Experience; prepare for the next Buying Experience that proposes similar customer value propositions; or repeat all of these steps to create a new Buying Experience that better responds to changing themes within the Company, changes in the business environment, the pursuit of new customers, or any combination of these factors. Timing the Buying Experience Endeavor Each company will tackle the challenge of creating useful and productive Buying Experiences at its own pace, depending the degree of urgency it feels and its resources available for the task – keeping in mind that few major investments get cheaper with time. Larger companies have many more touchpoints to incorporate in a Buying Experience score than do smaller firms, but they also can bring to bear more labor and greater investment. Each company must look to its own needs in carrying out this relatively new process, unless a competitor beats it to the punch, in which case it may be forced to move quickly. On average, from start to finish, a single, discreet Buying Experience will take a small company three months, a midsized company four to six months; and a large company, six months or more. This does not include prior decisionmaking to go ahead with 6
  7. 7. a Buying Experience project, nor does it include evaluation of the Buying Experience from a larger strategic, post-Buying Experience perspective. But these things should be occurring constantly, anyway, so that the Buying Experience can be slotted into a company’s schedule without a great deal of external involvement (for example, by executives or staff who are not part of the Buying Experience team 7