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How to Evolve Customer Experience from Transactional to Transformational

Disney, Starbucks, Amazon… What do these companies have in common?

Despite operating in different industries, their business models have many similarities: laser-focus on customer needs and wants; personalization of offers and messages; rigorous measurement and optimization of marketing. All of these brands consider service excellence as a critical enabler of their growth strategy, and accordingly, they have mastered the art and science of customer experience management.

Of course, Disney, Starbucks, and Amazon are not the only companies that focus on creating compelling customer experiences (CX). By 2017, 89% of marketers expect customer experience to be their primary differentiator. Despite perceiving customer experience as a critical factor to generate sustainable growth and expecting it to become their differentiator, researchers have shown that less than 25% of companies excel on generating memorable experiences.

Where is the gap between expectation and reality of customer experiences?

Crafting a compelling customer experience for today’s ever-changing customer base is not an easy task for companies. Now more than ever, customers are adopting multichannel shopping behaviors, seeking an abundance of choice and assortment and demanding consistent, yet differentiated, experiences across all channels. 

In a recent HBR Webinar, Denise Lee Yohn shared how many companies’ definitions of customer experience is incomplete and they don’t have the necessary tools in place to approach, design, and manage the full customer experience. Moreover, many marketers still confuse the concepts of customer experience and customer service. The reality is that the scope of customer experience extends far beyond the traditional definition of customer service – that is, the transactional moments when employees are providing direct service to customers.

“It is about the bigger picture of what happens before and after these service interactions.” – Disney Institute via HBR

So how do we define customer experience and how can companies evolve from transactional to transformational customer experiences?

Customer experience can be defined as the cumulative impact of every touchpoint a customer has with your brand. It is the combination of those discrete moments throughout the Customer BuyWay that, when brought together, drive the customers’ preferences, loyalty, and willingness to become brand advocates. 

It is critical to have the right Story, Strategy, and Systems in place to harness the power of Transformational Marketing and turn sales transactions into memorable customer experiences. If you follow these three steps, you’ll begin to transform how customers experience your brand and your business:

1. Create a Clear, Compelling Story 

Branding is all about storytelling. The advertising images, colors, and copy may be part of it, but the heart of the brand story is the “Why” – why you do what you do, and why that matters to your customers. Having a simple and clear Story, and telling it in six seconds, is required to ensure ruthless consistency in messaging across all channels.

In the 1950s, Walt Disney’s vision was to create a place where adults and children could have fun together — to create happiness. That’s the “Why” for Disney. And to this day, that’s the philosophy that drives all services that Disney provides: to create happiness through a sum of memorable moments, exceeding customer expectations across all interactions with the company.

Amazon is another good example of a clear story that drives compelling customer experiences. Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, set a goal “to be the Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online.” That is Amazon’s “Why” as well as their mission statement. The company is awarded for having top customer service year after year. How do they do it? By focusing on the “Why”, Amazon was built from the ground up purely based on ruthless consistency and unyielding philosophy of serving the customer across all departments. For Amazon, customer experience is too important to leave to just the service department. Everyone in the organization owns the responsibility of generating remarkable customer experiences. 

2. Develop an Integrated Strategy 

The next step to transform customer experience is to develop an integrated marketing strategy. If a customer has a bad experience in one channel, it will affect customer expectations in other channels, and ultimately it will tarnish the overall brand image. Therefore the brand Story, really the promise of the brand, must be delivered with ruthless consistency and incorporated into every aspect of the customer experience, at every touchpoint.

In order to create an integrated marketing strategy, it’s key to map out the Customer BuyWay to understand when, where, how, and why customers engage throughout their personal journey across the organization. The ultimate goal is to develop a plan for every touchpoint.

The TopRight Customer BuyWay


It’s vital to identify and define your target customers clearly by segmenting and creating ideal customer profiles and buyer personas. Personas are based on customer interviews, quantitative survey data, and customer behavioral analytics. By understanding your customer profile and the multiple interactions throughout their BuyWay (as displayed above), you’ll be able to create personalized experiences to ensure that your Story reaches your customers in formats that they consume and through channels that they prefer.  

3. Align the Systems (People, Process, and Technology) to Execute Strategy

The processes, people, and enabling technologies required at every customer touchpoint must be fully aligned to successfully bring the brand to life. According to a recent article published on Forbes, cloud computing, mobile capabilities, social media, and artificial intelligence are among the key shifts in technology that marketers must embrace for improved, next generation customer experiences e.g.:

  • Cloud computing enables marketers to create and manage campaigns without dependence on internal IT support or the constraints of legacy systems;
  • Mobile capabilities provide immense new opportunities to engage consumers and enhance cross-channel campaigns;
  • Social media provides a direct channel to listen, engage, publish, and analyze with pinpoint precision;
  • Artificial intelligence empowers brands to discover relevant insights, predict future behavior, proactively recommend next actions, and even automate tasks.

Starbucks’s move to put Systems at the heart of the brand is paying off as revenues grew dramatically in 2016, up over 18 percent in the fourth quarter alone to $4.9 billion. The brand has aggressive plans to roll out even more innovative digital features in the near future like “mobile order and pay” which has been a huge hit with customers and has streamlined their coffee drinking experience.

“We’ve added this capability that provides significant convenience to the consumer, but we’ve done it in a way that does not take away from or prevent the full Starbucks experience. And thus far, I think we’re seeing great results, great reception, and we’re very confident that we’re on the right path”

Howard Schultz, CEO, Starbucks

Likewise, Disney has rolled out innovative, new technology to enable fun, relaxing, or inspiring experiences. The new “Magic Bands” are wearable devices that provide over 30 million guests a “friction free” and personalized experience at their Orlando theme parks, hotels, and resorts.

By crafting a clear Story, developing an integrated Strategy, and aligning the people, process, and technology Systems you’ll enable remarkable interactions between your brand and your customers, evolving from transactional to transformational customer experiences. Learn more about the 3 steps to transform customer experiences and how to bring simplicity, clarity, and alignment to your brand’s Story, Strategy, and Systems in our latest eBook Transformational Marketing: Moving to the TopRight.

Access my free copy of Transformational Marketing ebook

Subscribe to the blog and follow @TopRightPartner on Twitter.

Photo credit: Flickr

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