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When Marketing Isn't Enough

I was fortunate to attend a two-day workshop recently with the Temkin Group called Driving Customer Experience Transformation. I participated as part of a small cohort of 15 organizations from a variety of sectors, mostly corporate, with professionals from across the U.S. and South America.

I had been in the meeting room just a few minutes when I asked Jeff from Terminex (yes, the pest control people!) what he was hoping to learn and why Terminex is interested in improving their customer experience strategies. He said, “We can no longer outsell our competition. We used to be able to hire the best, most driven sales team and provide them excellent training, and they could outsell our competitors. Now, we must provide better service and leave customers feeling positive about our products, service, and employees.” I’ve been thinking about his response and how it applies to arts and cultural organizations since I returned.

I think we spend much of our time in the arts and culture, and maybe other social sectors, trying to “out market” our competitors. I know nonprofits tend to bristle at the word “competitors,” but on any given day, we are competing for people’s time, money, and attention. We seem to have a philosophy that if we just post more often on social media, purchase a few more ads, or make our message a little more compelling, then we will have more ticket buyers, members, and donors.

The truth is this: All of our marketing efforts can be blown up in a second if we encounter a grumpy usher or an uninformed ticket seller, if we can’t easily find parking, or if we aren’t thanked for our gift. The list of experience faux pas could go on and on. We’ve all had them with other products and services we purchase.

While the corporate sector is trying to figure out how to get us to have a memorable experience with an inanimate object, arts and cultural organizations are in the experience business. It’s what we do best - produce, present, and curate experiences. Yet, from my perspective, we have a lot to learn when it comes to designing those experiences to keep people coming back and bringing their friends.

There are proven strategies for intentionally designing experiences that result in helping customers leave emotionally satisfied and excited to tell their friends. The customer’s perception of their interaction is key. You can’t make them feel a specific way.

Customer experience (CX) is defined as the perception that customers have of their interactions with an organization. According to the Temken Group, there are three key pillars to this framework:

  • Success – The degree to which customers can accomplish their goals.
  • Effort – The difficulty or ease in accomplishing their goals.
  • Emotion – How the interaction makes the customer(s) feel.

For example, if my goal is to plan an evening out with my spouse, I need to be able to successfully find information about events we might attend. Then, I need your organization to make it easy for me to interface with you, whether it’s electronically or face-to-face. My customer experience will be based on several factors, not the least of which are: 1) Am I able to easily find and purchase tickets?; 2) Is the price right for my budget?; 3) Do I know where the event is located and will it be easy to park and find my way inside?; and 4) What should I know to prepare for the show?

Then, and most importantly, the fifth question: How will my spouse and I feel after the experience ends? Will we feel happy, satisfied, and closer to each other, or will we be angered by something that went wrong? (Remember the crabby usher.) Research proves that the ending of an experience is most critical to how we will remember it. In addition, it’s the most critical component for building brand loyalty. In fact, emotional factors influence future purchasing decisions six times more than relational factors. How we make people feel matters!

To quote Walt Disney, “Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends.”

 Questions for further consideration:

1.       What are your customer’s ultimate goal(s) when they engage with your organization?

2.       How can you make the process of purchasing a ticket, becoming a member, or making a contribution easier?

3.       In what ways can you intentionally design a “happy or satisfying ending” for your guests?

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