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GLOBAL 2016: Aprons and algorithms both needed to meet “Gen Picky” expectations for service experience

People still the make the difference
in physical and digital store experience
by Tim Greenhalgh
Chairman and Chief Creative Officer
@timghalgh @FITCHDesign
It used to be acceptable, for a great many people, to stand in the pouring rain with your arm held aloft hoping a yellow sign on the top of a cab would come by and the driver would spot you through the wipers and condensation. You’d jump in, explain where you need to go, and on arrival, fumble in your pocket or purse while feverishly working out the right level of tip to offer and making sure you didn’t lose the receipt, which was either the size of a postage stamp or a club flyer. Now…  you wait in the warm, knowing exactly when the car (make, model and reg number) will arrive - you know the driver’s name, he/she knows yours, where you’re going, you say hello, they say hello and goodbye, it’s paid for and a digital receipt arrives 30 seconds later, with a map of where you went to remind you.
Perfect - the physical, digital and human worlds working neatly together - everything much more rewarding and easy. Except, now when we see the little car icon on the screen indicating whereabouts the driver is on his route to get you - you scream, “Why did he go that way, if he’d taken the first left he would have been here in two minutes, not three.” There’s no pleasing some people.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a baby boomer, Gen X, Y or Z, we are more demanding and expectant than ever - we live in a user experience world where OK is no longer OK.  Today the experiences we have are directly related to the service we perceive we’re getting. This becomes even more important to the younger end of “Generation Picky” - the millennials and the Generation Z’s are shifting dramatically in their appreciation of, and spending habits with, brands and retailers.
It all went a bit Piggly Wiggly
As we all know, service has changed though the years, from the classic and charming over the counter service, (sepia images and rose tinted glasses moment) where aproned shopkeepers knew you, and all that you liked, and would graciously get you the products from their vast array of stock - conversations would ensue and new products would be verbally promoted – “We’ve just got this in, you eat them at breakfast - they’re called Corn Flakes" – a very social and human experience. But it was inefficient, and we were increasingly in a hurry, and so the emergence of self-service, firstly in the wonderfully named Piggly Wiggly Supermarket chain in Memphis Tennessee. We helped ourselves in aisles and paid at checkouts.
We now, typically, live in a hybrid environment of self-and-automated service, where products are picked for us to collect or have delivered - but now as the omni-channel world ensures everything is connected and ever more efficient, this seamless approach is only the plumbing or the “Science of Experience.” How do brands and retailers ensure the “Art of Experience” is not lost? To quote a friend of mine, David Roth:  “You can’t omni-channel your way out of a poor proposition."
The Art of Experience
In 2015, a Harris Research Report found that 78 percent of millennials prefer to spend money on experiences over buying products, which seems to confirm an earlier hypothesis, reported in a 2014 Harvard Business Review article titled, “The Ultimate Marketing Machine,” which asserted, “The most important marketing metric going forward will be ‘Share of Experience.’”
Today consumers are as interested in what they can achieve with you as what they can buy from you and as such it would seem inevitable that more than ever we need to understand their mind states and heart states and marry those to the most suitable interactions and user experiences that deliver the reward and ease they are looking for.
At FITCH we believe there are four basic emotions that consumers go through when they are looking to engage with a brand or buy a product or service. At any one time we believe they are Dreaming, Exploring, Locating or Achieving (DELA). These heart/mind states go from “I have a strong desire,” to, “I am not entirely sure what I need,” to, “I know what I want” and finally, “Is this brand, product or service offering me more, or a reason to use or buy again?”
The importance of aprons
Once the insights have been gained into people’s DELA heart/mind states the art comes in understanding how best to create a meaningful and memorable experience or service. For this we need to understand the different roles that a physical or digital execution can offer. But as with all great TLA’s (three letter acronyms) the third element is probably the most important - how we build in the human factor - So PHD (Physical, Human, Digital) becomes the art.
The role of physical is changing but it still offers the best in terms of tactility and sensorial moments, which for many brands is important - digital is increasingly the way people choose to go and for good reason - it provides ease, ultimate choice and the algorithms ensure we never miss a beat - it anticipates and satisfies our needs and wants - but the aprons still need their day and sadly for many brands staff are seen as a cost or a functional need - whereas in an increasingly undifferentiated brand world they are the linchpin that unites the physical and digital aspects of any future service experience.
By the way, when the driver did eventually arrive, two minutes later than I thought - he explained that there had been a collision at the traffic lights.  Thanks Larry and I gave you five stars for saving me time.

Action Points for building service experience culture

  1. Look to other categories that approach service in different ways than your own - The hospitality industry might offer the financial sector a whole new way of dealing with customers.
  2. Use a UX, or User Experience, approach to creating the experience - Be clear on the pain points in the customer journey and design around them.
  3. Understand that experiences are becoming social currency, markers on people’s timelines – will your service experience be something worth Instagramming or Tweeting?