On The Value of Remembering
The customer is always the main character of his or her customer experience story but—usually—not the only one.
How Stories Were Once Created
There was a time when I would lug around a fancy SLR camera and several lenses on every trip I took. With only 24 or 36 shots per roll of film, I spent a lot of time managing my film budget and carefully composing my photographs to make best use of what I could afford. I took a picture of the entrance to Disneyworld, a few shots of Mickey and Space Mountain, and a lot of pictures of my family. After waiting a week or two for my film to be developed, I chose the best pictures and arranged them in a little photo album. If I was shooting slides, I’d mount my favorite ones in a carousel making sure to put them in the right order. Whether album or slide tray, the right order told the story of my vacation.
The advent of digital photography and, more importantly, the addition of cameras to mobile phones, has profoundly affected the nature and practices of photography. The cost of film and film processing is no longer relevant. Digital storage is cheap and “processing” is immediate.
Lost in this sea of inexpensive digital images is any notion of story. Without curation and review, a folder full of photographs tells no discernible narrative, at least, not to anyone with limited patience and interest in your travels!
Evolution of Stories through Curation
In the business of guest and consumer experiences, particularly in the businesses of travel and hospitality, stories are important. Stories are how we remember and describe experiences. Businesses dependent on repeat customers are actually relying upon their customers to remember their good experiences. For these types of businesses, it would be very smart for them to help their customers create and memorialize stories about their experiences.
How might they do this?
Consider the elements of a good story:
There is no need to carefully compose photographs when taking 20 or 200 of them. This is not necessarily a good thing. Especially when 200 costs no more than taking 1; with 20 or 200, one of them is bound to be good. As a result, rather than summarizing a trip with a couple of dozen carefully curated and ordered shots, the conclusion of a trip now typically results in hundreds or thousands of photographs that are rarely, if ever, reviewed and possibly never even viewed again! Perhaps a handful, make it onto a Facebook, Twitter or Instagram posting.
Theme & Plot
The implicit theme for any customer experience story should at least be “this company provides good experiences”. In developing the rest of the story, the other elements should serve to support this theme. The plot for a customer experience depends on the specific type of business involved. For a theme park, the plot might be “a successful four day visit to Wallyworld”, whereas for a retailer, it might be “Manny finds the perfect shirt”.
The structure of a customer experience story tells what happened during the experience. Here, the company trying to help develop the customer’s story can provide great value by keeping track of what the customer has done, when they did it, who they did it with, etc. A theme park operator, for example, can help to remind the guest about which attractions they visited on which date. The operator might even supply automatically captured photographs of the guest during a log flume plunge or roller-coaster drop.
The customer is always the main character of his or her customer experience story but, usually, not the only one. Customers interact with business employees. In the travel and hospitality businesses, customers might also interact with other customers. With adequate “instrumentation”, businesses can discover and infer relationships between staff and customers or between customers and other customers. These characters, if important enough, can also be featured in the customer’s story.
As to setting, here the business is much more likely than the customer to have a good stock of visual and other assets to describe the setting.
The Value of Remembering
Now, imagine customers are using an app to book and plan their experience and to take photographs during their experience. Imagine, too, the business providing the experience is well instrumented with an experience framework such as Level 11’s orchestr8 platform to provide guest location services. In these circumstances, the business has everything it needs to help customers create rich, well-crafted, stories describing their experiences. This might take the form of a photo book or a video or an online slideshow. It might combine stock photos or footage from the business interwoven with photographs taken by the customer. It might also contain personalized content detailing what the customer did and who they met on the trip. A combination of automatically generated content and minimal customer-driven editing would result in a well crafted, well produced, narrative of the customer’s journey.
Such a narrative might be postable, in 10 second form, to social media sites. A one minute version might be shown to friends while the 30 minute version only to close family.
Clearly, this is most relevant to travel and hospitality; I probably don’t want a video describing how a bought a shirt online. On the other hand, even the on-line shirt merchant would probably do well to provide a summary of the shirts that I chose to look at, the one I bought and the name of the chatbot that helped me out. When a company impacts their customers' experience and remembering capability in an unforgettable way, customers are much more likely to return for future business.
Manuel Vellon is CTO and Partner at Level 11. He provides the practice-wide vision for our software engineering efforts while anchoring the team with his over 25 years of leadership, experience building, and leading high performing engineering teams.