The end of the experience economy

Thus, the customer experience is under severe pressure in a number of sectors. Customers are asked to understand longer waiting times. Sometimes clients do, but often they don’t. Think of all those frustrated Schiphol people waiting before they can check in, who risk missing out on their flight as a result. In these times of crisis, does it still make sense to work on improving the customer experience if you don’t have enough people to arrange basic operations?

Misery and frustration

I myself had bad luck last August when, back from vacation in Schiphol, after a transfer at London Heathrow, I was told what had happened to more than 8,000 other travelers at the time: Our bags with all our summer gear and valuable souvenirs did not arrive in Schiphol. A real horror after a great vacation and a good comeback. What you end up with from that moment on is a customer journey in which you are completely lost as a customer, being sent from one column to the next. Employees who no longer feel responsible due to all the misery and frustration of distraught customers and due to poor functioning of procedures, processes and systems.

The phone for lost baggage is no longer answered, because the airline can no longer handle the large number of questions and complaints. Whatsapp is still working, but answering a question can take between 1 and 72 hours, and if there is already a response, it is a chatbot that does not answer the question but at best redirects back to the site (where you actually came from, but She also didn’t have an answer to your question.)

Organizations that focus on customer experience

Thinking about relationships between organizations and customers has dominated since the end of the last century by focusing on the customer experience or customer experience. In the late 1990s, Payne and Gilmore laid the foundation for a global introduction to the concept of customer experience with their book The Experience Economy (1999). In the decades since the book was published, organizations have begun working on a large scale to improve the customer experience. According to Payne and Gilmore, people today are looking for valuable, enjoyable and memorable experiences. Since the publication of this book, customers’ experience with products and services has been greatly enhanced.

Organizations are beginning to pay close attention to improving customer experience, often by identifying customer journeys and moments of connection and measuring and improving the emotional experience. In scientific research, too, increased attention has been paid to customer experience and the question of how organizations can manage and improve this experience. In recent decades, much has been published in the marketing literature about researching customer emotions and measuring sentiment, but this has been applied mainly to the impact of, for example, advertising and commercials. Little research has been done on the emotions that customers feel during the service process before and after purchasing the service.

What we do know is that customer experiences are highly personal: what one customer likes may not appeal to another at all. In addition, the customer experience can vary in strength: sometimes the experience is very powerful, other times the experience is very superficial. Sometimes the customer experience is positive, other times it is negative. Some experiences arise spontaneously without much thought, while others arise more deliberately and last longer. It is essentially the long-term experiences, which are stored in the customer’s memory that influence the customer’s behavior in terms of customer satisfaction, willingness to switch and loyalty.

sustainability of the relationship

The reasons why organizations work collectively with customer experience are clear: If people have a positive feeling about an organization, they will not only be more satisfied, but also more loyal. If customers do not have any negative feeling about an organization, then loyalty is lower and willingness to switch to a higher competitor. In addition to increased satisfaction and loyalty, a positive emotional experience leads to a greater desire to share feedback with the organization and to recommend the organization to friends and acquaintances. Finally, a positive emotional experience leads to fewer complaints: if customers have a good feeling about an organization, they are more likely to accept it if the quality of service is lower. But perhaps the most important reason to work on the customer experience is to increase the economic value of the product or service. Customers are willing to pay more for a product if they are satisfied with it.

Customers have increasingly higher expectations

However, there is also a downside to striving for unforgettable customer experiences. As customers seek a positive experience, they are becoming increasingly critical of what is being offered to them. A customer’s experience with a product or service is determined to a large extent by the extent to which that customer’s explicit and implicit expectations match the actual performance provided. Customer expectations arise from the criteria the customer uses in the relationship with the organization, and from values ​​that indicate what the customer considers important. If the customer’s expectations are higher than the performance provided, the customer becomes dissatisfied. If the performance provided exceeds expectations, the customer is satisfied.

In general, customer expectations are somewhat ahead of the actual performance provided. That’s because customer expectations are influenced by the best-performing organizations in the market: If one company can deliver a product ordered online within 12 hours, why does another organization take two weeks? If one company can tell exactly when the technician will arrive, why can’t another company specify a day or part of the day? In the experience economy, the customer is constantly looking for unforgettable experiences.

People in their role as a customer of an organization want:

  • Digital: People want it to be digital as it makes the process easier;
  • Personal: People want personal connection when it matters most
  • Omnichannel: so people can easily switch from offline to online and back;
  • sustainablePeople expect organizations to take care of the living environment;
  • social networks: People share their experience offline but online privately;
  • Trustworthy: People expect adequate security of their personal data.

Few organizations are able to consistently exceed customer expectations. This is partly due to the law of diminishing returns: because a customer consumes a product more often, the return on that purchase decreases. For the same reason, customer expectations will grow relatively quickly in the early stage of the product life cycle. When a certain saturation occurs, the growth of customer expectations slows down.

Delicious customer behavior in a sustainable society

As organizations have gone to great lengths to improve customer experience across the board, consumers and citizens too have become highly focused on meeting their needs to the fullest, and organizations are doing everything they can to meet those needs. And on the search and find the utmost comfort. Long waiting times are no longer acceptable. This has always been the dominant paradigm in economic issues. “hedonism”or the moral dogma that pleasure (in the general sense) is the highest benefit, seems to have had its day in thinking about organizations and customers.

The question is to what extent pleasure behavior is still compatible with a sustainable society as we are experiencing it now. Society is currently characterized by a number of major crises: in the labor market, the housing market, problems with immigration, and rising energy costs as a result of the war in Ukraine. With soaring energy prices and sharply rising inflation, customers will have to settle into somewhat less luxurious lives. A sustainable society requires sacrifices: organizations must be satisfied with lower profits, and customers must be satisfied with “less” perfect service. Clients will have to accept that significant shortages in the labor market will sometimes lead to longer waiting times. Not a nice message, but a harsh reality.

From the customer experience to a sustainable and meaningful relationship with customers

At a time when organizations can no longer provide optimal services and prices begin to rise, the relationship that underlies interactions between customers and organizations suddenly becomes more important. A lasting and meaningful relationship can be defined as a relationship in which the parties can provide each other’s values, in the things that are important to the other. Organizations and clients care about each other and together ensure a sustainable society. It is a relationship that is driven by social and not commercial values ​​such as the desire to close the best deal (highest quality, lowest price, greatest comfort). Scientific research shows that if people have a positive feeling about a relationship with an organization, they are not only more satisfied but also more loyal.

If customers do not have any negative feeling about an organization, then loyalty is lower and willingness to switch to a higher competitor. Finally: if customers have a good feeling about an organization, they are more likely to accept it if the quality of service is a little lower. In addition to customer experience, customer commitment and customer engagement are becoming increasingly important. Commitment arises when clients are willing to enter into a relationship for a longer period of time, involvement means genuine participation expressed, for example, in helping the organization where possible, but also contributing to a sustainable community.

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