Businesses are picking up on a new marketing trend sweeping the United States and Europe.
It is known as “customer experience” and focuses on the emotional experience a customer has when doing business with a company, which leads to positive word-of-mouth.
While it may simply be an age-old marketing concept dressed up with a new name, Christchurch marketing consultant Chris Bell, who is pioneering the customer experience trend in New Zealand, describes it as “the new commercial battlefield”.
Mr Bell points out the problem for most businesses today is to differentiate themselves from their competition in an environment where everybody is copying each other, offering similar products and services at similar prices.
He notes profit margins are falling, even for big companies such as The Warehouse and Briscoes, as they continue to compete mainly on price.
“As this world of sameness engulfs the commercial world, it will become more important for businesses to stand out from the pack,” he says.
The solution, according to the new philosophy of customer experience, is to work at giving customers a “memorable experience” when they visit a business. This includes not just traditional customer service, but the whole experience that a customer feels emotionally when dealing with a company.
For example, Mr Bell says in the retail sector, the initial impression when visiting a store, the store layout, the interaction with staff and the after-sales service all make up the total experience that a customer takes away from the business.
This experience will largely determine whether they visit the store again.
Mr Bell says the biggest spin-off from providing a memorable customer experience is the positive word-of-mouth it generates, which no amount of advertising can buy.
“Companies that embrace this philosophy will have a competitive edge in future,” he predicts.
He notes surveys in the United States and Europe show more than 90 per cent of business leaders are now embracing the concept of customer experience and regard it as the next competitive battleground.