Customer experience: an original approach to communicate efficiently

Customer experience

At a recent meeting of the French national association of marketing professionals (Club Adetem), Fréderic Lobermann, Director of Marketing and Public Client Experience at Orange, Daniel Le Doujet, Head of Sales at Système U Sud (French supermarket chain) and Audrey Pedemay, Head of Studies at IDECO, shared their views and visions of how to use the analysis of ‘customer experience’ as an original approach to creating new offers and communicating efficiently.

First of all, the definition

Customer experience is all about bringing the consumer into the universe of the brand, providing a unique and unforgettable experience. The product itself is just one element of the experience. It can be applied to products, services and also to marketing. It is important to understand consumer behaviour, in order to create an emotional bond with the brand. One way of doing this is to understand and visualise the “customer journey” (the different stages of a customer’s interactions with a company/brand), and to identify what can be improved at each stage of the journey.

A bit of history

The concept first appeared in 1982, but has recently started to be increasingly talked about in the media, as traditional marketing has evolved into “Experiential marketing”. It’s all about creating an emotional bond between the consumer and a product/brand, with the aim of getting the consumer to engage with the brand, or even to defend the brand. Social media obviously plays a big role on this today. A concrete example of this was given: the FNAC (French retail chain selling cultural and electronic products) spent one year studying customer behaviour in their stores. Data-mining analysis enabled the group to identify buying patterns, “people who buy product A often buy product B”, and therefore they re-organised their stores in order to optimise the customer journey and make the user ‘experience’ as smooth as possible.

Frédéric Lauberman explains Orange’s experiential vision for the general public.

Orange believes that brands need to rethink traditional KPIs, which are often focused on internal objectives and forget the customer. One example of an experimental KPI being used by Orange is the number of “dropped calls” (interrupted phone calls). The aim is to have as few as possible, to ensure that the consumer experience is as smooth as possible. Frédéric insisted on the importance of having a global customer journey, even if several people or departments are involved within the company at different stages. For the customer, the journey must be simple and unique. It’s important that the different teams within the company work together, constantly bearing in mind the full customer journey, not just their specific section. Orange is a huge actor in customer relations, handling millions of interactions per year: the challenge is to get everyone to work together with the same focus on customer experience. The group has deployed a new strategy since March last year. The priority is to remain the market leader by proposing an incomparable experience to customers, rather than trying to compete on prices or technology. The customer is at the heart of the strategy, and everyone, including the top management, is behind it with the slogan “listen first, then act”. The change may appear simple, but it represents a radical change in the company, across all channels, products, and professions.

The importance of social media

Frédéric explained that one of the biggest problems with the notion of customer experience is the ever increasing need for immediate reactions. The digital revolution has compressed waiting times, making consumers impatient, but sometimes we still have to wait 20 minutes on the phone… there is a massive gap between new consumer habits and the unified management of customer experience. One of the solutions for this may be “empowerment”. It’s about giving the consumer the power to be autonomous, by using Apps for example. We are also seeing more and more C to C interactions on social media, where customers can be encouraged to help each other to resolve problems.

Daniel Douget of Système U, also presented his brand’s approach, underlining the importance of having a smooth customer journey. Actors in the world of supermarkets are constantly trying to differentiate themselves, by using various emotional ideas in customer relations. There has clearly been a shift from mass marketing to personalisation. Again the importance of data mining in this approach is underlined, taking into account all data, from customer loyalty cards to check-out receipts. This enables brands to identify clusters of customers that behave in similar ways. Super U has also implemented a ‘co-creation’ tool, which enables customers to propose improvements to existing products or to propose new products.

It is a mine of information for the company in terms of innovation and a strong source of satisfaction for customers, who can see that they are listened to and understood. The challenge for supermarkets is to regain interest compared to local stores or net giants, such as Amazon. Several experiments were described by Daniel, including innovations aimed at stimulating all five senses in their supermarket stores, which online brands will not be able to reproduce. The tests have not yet led to nationwide implementations, but the results are encouraging. Daniel noted that the ability of brands to react and adapt to new needs expressed by customers is very important. In the supermarket industry, this is perfectly illustrated by the “Drive” services that are being increasingly developed. Although it only corresponds to 4% of the market today, the figure is likely to increase sharply, as it clearly corresponds to a strong expectation from consumers.

Audrey Pedemay explained that it is vital to be able to measure customer experience, if you want to be able to improve it. There are several types of insights that can be used, including customer opinions, expectations, level of engagement, customer satisfaction, or customer effort to name just a few. They can be obtained from the analysis of data from all of the channels used by customers to give their opinion, and also from the behaviour of customers at each physical contact point.

In conclusion, the transformation within most companies will be deep, and will impact everyone within the company. Everyone has a share in responsibility for customer experience. It is not easy, as there are multiple types of customers, so the customer experience needs to be optimised. The main aim would be to personalise as far as possible for each profile: Agents, advisors, sales staff, should all adopt a similar position and have the right sales pitch. It is also clear that it is vital to understand fully your customers and their journey, so that each person in the company knows at which stage they’ll be contributing. At the end of the day, the aim of the company is to increase its income, and the best way to do that is by offering customers a unique experience that will make them fully satisfied!