How Customer Experience Moves From Offline to Online
While focusing on the online customer experience is critical because so many customers choose to engage with companies online, it is also important to remember that offline experiences can quickly come online so they too need a brand’s attention.
In this post, we’ll focus on offline experiences that can move online, and what brands can do about it.
Offline experiences become online experiences when customers decide to share, and the impetus to share is fairly clear, as explained in this equation:
The first step is determining whether the company has met, exceeded, or missed the customer’s expectations. That outcome causes the customer to feel some sort of emotion – he or she is happy (or pleasantly surprised) if the company goes above and beyond and exceeds their expectations, but sad/disappointed/angry if the company misses expectations. Unfortunately for brands, customer expectations keep rising, so just meeting them can cause a “meh” response (neither positive nor negative) and very little willingness to share.
The more polarized the elicited emotion, the more likely the customer is to share his or her experience online. That’s why we often see both really positive and really negative product reviews or social media posts. Very few people ever go online to share that the experience they had was just OK.
So what can brands do? The answer is to focus as much on the offline experience as the online experience, since the former may quickly become the latter.
An interesting example I observed during a recent trip to Las Vegas was a garbage receptacle in a high-end pastry shop in one of the large casino hotels on the Strip. I first noticed the size of the hole in the countertop; most of the time in a fast food restaurant or coffee shop, the receptacle is so small that there’s no way you could dump an entire tray of garbage and not create a mess. This receptacle was quite large, and in fact dumping the garbage was an easy and seamless experience. On a whim, I tested to see if the tray itself would fit in the hole; it would not. This means that some designer actually took the time to think about the ideal size of the garbage receptacle – big enough to handle the dumping of a tray, but small enough to prevent the tray itself from falling in. Brilliant!
I realize that no one is likely to post on social media about their garbage dumping experience, but the point still holds true: A well-designed customer experience can lead to the exceeding of expectations, which leads to customer happiness, which increases the chances of sharing.
Compare the garbage receptacle example to the electrical outlet on some planes, when available at all, that is so far underneath the seat that you have to bend all the way forward until your head is in your lap. While there may be myriad reasons why the outlet is located there, the customer experience is uncomfortable to say the least, and likely increases the chances of people sharing their experience online. (Luckily, newer planes have found a better location for the plug — behind the tray table.)
Another favorite example occurred recently when I was waiting for a conference call to start. Rather than the boring, repetitive old hold music that everyone is used to, I heard this:
The song is called “I’m on Hold” by Alex Cornell, and it left me hoping that the person I was waiting for would continue to take her sweet time because I wanted to hear the rest of the lyrics! Once again, someone took the time to take a blah experience and make it memorable, and what a difference that makes. It exceeded my expectations, put me in a great mood, and made me want to share the experience on my social media channels.
There are countless other examples of offline experiences that may be shared by customers online when they are particularly good or particularly bad. Brands should consider the physical and digital aspects of customer experience, as well as the interplay between them. Be sure to consider every interaction you have with your customers – via mail, phone, chat, in-person, or other channels – and make those interactions the very best they can be.