We’re now living in a so-called “new normal” for more than a year because of the Covid-19 global pandemic. Each one of us experiences this new normal in different ways.
As business owners, we have to adapt how we serve our customers depending on how they live through their new normal. We are now called to shift from simply providing customer service to creating customer experience.
In this article, we answer three main questions:
- What is customer experience?
- How does a profound customer experience look like?
- How can small businesses offer an innovative and exceptional new-normal customer experience?
What is customer experience?
Customer experience is not the same as customer service or customer care.
Customer service is the advice or assistance a company gives its clients. On the other hand, customer care relates to how well clients are taken care of when interacting with the brand, whether through social media or other channels.
It’s important to note that individuals may not even be customers during the brand interaction.
What about customer experience? Customer experience involves every interaction between the customer and the brand at every point of contact or touchpoint.
Brands have many different touchpoints with individuals, and these cover the entire customer journey. This journey begins when someone makes their first inquiry. Moreover, it extends even after they use the product or service.
Consciously or not, customers evaluate each touchpoint with the brand. It’s how they decide whether they will continue doing business with the brand or not. This underscores the importance of customer service.
If a person has a profound customer experience with your brand, they may decide to continue doing business with you. Therefore, our ultimate goal is to create a profound customer experience for each of our clients and prospects.
Why is customer experience important?
Here’s a quote by Maya Angelou:
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Why is this quote relevant to our discussion of customer experience?
You see, we can’t just tell people what our brand is and expect them to believe that. That’s not how it works.
Instead, how you make your customers feel is what makes the strongest impact.
People’s memories of an experience often involve emotions—how they felt at moments in time. The customer experience involves how you make your clients feel. And that’s what they will walk away with.
What you’re doing at every single touchpoint with your client is you’re creating a mini-customer experience. These mini-experiences add up. And then, all together, all of those different experiences that involve deep emotion create brand loyalty.
What are the dimensions of a customer experience?
According to Gentile, Spiller, and Noci (2007), there are six dimensions of the customer experience.
1. Sensorial dimension
The sensorial dimension addresses sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell to arouse aesthetic pleasure, excitement, satisfaction, and a sense of beauty.
One example is that some handbag brands add a specific scent to their products. So, when they deliver any gift to their customers, the gift comes infused with their branded scent. The customer then subconsciously comes to associate the fragrance with the brand.
2. Emotional dimension
The emotional dimension generates moods, feelings, and emotions that hopefully positively influence the customer’s image and attitude toward the brand or company.
You generate this emotion. When you create a touchpoint with your customer, how do you want them to feel afterward? Do you want them to feel relieved? Enlightened? Entertained?
You’ll want to consider this question before deciding what kind of customer experience you’re creating.
3. Cognitive dimension
The cognitive dimension relates to experiences requiring thinking. It engages a customer’s creativity.
It is similar to the emotional dimension. The emotional one activates the heart, while the cognitive one stimulates the brain.
When you interact with your clients, are you activating their minds? Are they thinking, being creative, and running through their head the different scenarios and memories they have relating to this experience?
4. Pragmatic dimension
The pragmatic dimension comes from the practical art of doing something or using a product. It is the art of doing, and it involves action steps. It’s the physical part of doing something while using the product.
Any kind of unboxing belongs to the pragmatic dimension. Let’s look at unboxing an Apple product as an example.
When you open an Apple product, everything lines up just so. When you pull the box apart, you’ll see that there’s just enough space. This creates the feeling that they had taken care of every single step along the way when they made their product.
5. Lifestyle dimension
The lifestyle dimension affirms the beliefs and values shared between the brand and the customer.
When you create a brand, what happens is you’re making a set of shared beliefs and values for your brand and the customer.
For example, Apple’s “Think Different” slogan, part of Steve Jobs’ early marketing campaigns, means they want you to think beyond the ordinary. It implies that people who use Apple are out-of-the-box thinkers. They’re extraordinary; they’re “rebels.”
Disney is another example. The House of Mouse is a brand that relates to the family—its shared belief is the importance of taking care of and spending quality time with your family.
The lifestyle dimension is about confirming the values a brand shares with its customers. It’s about making people raise their hands and say, “That’s me. I identify with that.”
So, when you create customer experience, you’ll want to think about what beliefs and core values are going into your brand. Your implied values will make people who believe the same things come to you.
6. Relational dimension
The relational dimension encourages experiencing the product or service together with other people.
This is how we observe, live through, anticipate, and participate in a customer experience in a community. Some products and services are meant to be used independently and alone. And then, there are others where this relational dimension becomes extremely important.
For example, let’s say you’re going to a Disney park. The experience will vary depending on who you’re with, but you probably wouldn’t go for it on your own. People go there with their families or friends. This means the relational dimension will be crucial here.
What is a profound customer experience, then?
We mentioned earlier that our ultimate goal is to create a profound customer experience for our clients and prospects. But what exactly is a profound customer experience?
Any experience that involves ALL SIX DIMENSIONS is considered a profound experience. So, a profound customer experience engages all of the emotions and senses.
It brings you to the point of creativity, firing up your imagination. And it’s pragmatic—you’re immersed in it, you can feel and touch it, and you can use it.
It has a lifestyle component, where you feel its impact on your core values. You believe in it. And it’s relational, one that you experience in your community.
How does a profound customer experience look like?
Disney provides what is considered a great example of a profound customer experience.
The Disney guest experience
Disney is in the business of creating magic for guests to experience and remember. Walt Disney’s vision is driven by a common purpose that every member of the Disney organization is taught:
“We create happiness by providing the finest in entertainment for all ages, everywhere.”
How do they do this? Disney attracts guests of all ages, from all walks of life, and from all countries. It’s a tourist attraction for the parks’ host countries: the United States, Japan, France, China, and Hong Kong. Seven out of 10 Disney guests are likely to return to the park a second time.
When you go to one of the Disney parks, here’s what people really love and experience:
- The parades and the castle fireworks shows
- The character meet-and-greet
- All the different characters at live shows in the park, like Lion King and Moana.
- The interactive themed attractions, such as creating your own lightsaber in Savi’s Workshop, the new attraction at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge
Disney’s guest experience is a range of various experiences within one bigger experience. It definitely hits all of the different dimensions of a customer experience.
Moreover, Disney does it multiple times in different ways so that people can experience any part of it as much or as little as they want. This creates a deeper level of loyalty.
How does the new-normal Disney guest experience look like?
Disney closed down parks at the height of the pandemic, with some slowly reopening depending on the health crisis status in their respective countries.
As they couldn’t open in full capacity, they offered alternatives—they shifted from in-person, dynamic experiences in the park and took it all online.
Disney took advantage of their digital assets: their blogs and social media. They launched the #DisneyMagicMoments campaign and released virtual tours of the Disney parks. It was a brilliant way to be immersed and experience the parks in a digital environment.
This campaign also encouraged guests to share photos and videos they took during their Disney vacations. It got a lot of people sharing their memories. They got into reminiscing and sharing the last time they went on a Disney vacation. That way, people could still relate as a community and share their experiences.
Disney also launched #AdventuresatHome, a DIY at-home adventure pack that allows fans to experience Disney travel adventures at home. They produced six adventure packs featuring Montana, South Africa, the Rhone River, Iceland, Greece, and Alaska. They published those in the Disney parks blog.
Each adventure pack includes:
- The Disney shows to catch related to each area
- A recipe developed by Disney chefs that you could cook at home
- A simple board game with downloadable printables
- A high-resolution photo of beautiful scenery or landscape from the area
The Disney new-normal guest experience is genius. The company shifted quickly during the pandemic by offering something new that people could share with their families while in lockdown at home. People aren’t just reliving things they had already seen, and they weren’t just looking at their own photos from before.
The Disney online experiences are interactive and highly engaged. Moreover, they bring some relatable elements to the Disney brand. The recipe touches on different senses, and the board game touches on different dimensions. The core values are brought in—that Disney is a fun brand that you experience with your family. It has all six dimensions of the customer experience melded into one.
What about small businesses?
Obviously, Disney is a giant entity with a considerable capacity for delivering profound customer experiences. But what can small businesses offer as innovative and exceptional new-normal customer experiences?
First, as a small business owner, you should keep in mind:
- What do your customers need and want from you?
- What pain points can you solve? How can you delight?
- How do you bring the customer experience to your clients safely and conveniently?
These are notable examples of how some Sacred Fire Creative small business clients shifted during the pandemic:
Asian Mint is a restaurant business that serves Thai cuisine in Dallas, Texas. They were shut down right away by the pandemic, though eventually, they got to do takeout and delivery.
One of the most significant shifts they did to cope with the pandemic was offering ChefMint kits. People were at home, but they still wanted to spend quality time with their families in a restaurant setting.
The ChefMint kits made it easy to cook Thai food at home and replicate the experience of dining at Asian Mint. The ingredients were pre-packaged, the recipes were included and worded in an easy-to-follow language. The dishes can be cooked in 20 minutes or less. Anybody within the Dallas area could get these kits delivered in cooler bags. Anybody throughout the US could also order these kits with dry ingredients and recipes.
ChefMint became a way for Asian Mint to increase its outreach. It brought the Asian Mint restaurant experience into the home kitchen.
Nikky Feeding Souls
Nikky Feeding Souls is another brand from the owner of Asian Mint, Nikky Phinyawatana. Before the pandemic, she took small groups on tours of Thailand to experience the culture and cook the food. When the pandemic hit, she created her “Escape to Thailand” series, a virtual Thai cooking, culture, and travel experience. She had ChefMint kits mailed out, along with different kinds of small gifts and little notes about Thai culture. Then she wrapped up the whole experience with live webinars in group settings so that people could experience it together.
Cindy Briggs Workshops
Cindy Briggs is an internationally renowned watercolor artist. She’s been teaching art for 20 years through plein air or live, open-air workshops in places like Italy and France. She had workshops scheduled up to 2022.
With the pandemic, Cindy canceled her plein air workshops and took these workshops online. Cindy had been doing online classes before and simply expanded the workshops.
Through these online workshops, people experienced Cindy through videos, live webinars, and exclusive Facebook groups. Her students got PDF lists of everything they needed for the class and detailed video instructions they could watch on their own time from the comfort of their homes. The advantage of these videos is Cindy’s students can rewind them, speed them up, or go back to a section if they want to. And they can watch one section over and over.
In live webinars, Cindy starts a painting from scratch, and her students can paint along with her. She also gives specific feedback on work submitted through her Facebook group.s.
Gymnastics is a sport that people need to do in a gym. However, with the pandemic requiring gyms to be closed, OMEGA Gymnastics transitioned online. They did Zoom classes where their kids trained from home.
One of the things they did differently was their distance learning program. Following all Covid cleaning and distancing protocols, OMEGA opened a section of the gym for a small number of students. They could come in during the day, do their online classes, get help with homework, and get some time doing movement in the gym. Through this distance learning program, OMEGA provided students technical assistance, helped them stay focused during classes, and got them active during breaks.
The new normal is upon us. Our customers expect, and even demand, customer experiences that fit their perception of the new normal. It’s up to us business owners to adapt and create the experiences they’re looking for.
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