Rory Sutherland must be one of the finest raconteurs we have.
On a recent appearance on the Diaries of a CEO podcast he talks about the importance of customer experience and perceived value as a key differentiator for brands today.
He argues that if Eurostar wanted to improve the experience of its service for its passengers one option would be to make their trains go faster.
This feels like the best thing to do that will result in the highest levels of passenger satisfaction.
This sounds great in principle, but to achieve it would require huge capital investment, engineering innovation and lengthy timescales.
Another option to improve the passenger experience would be provide great food, free wifi, comfortable seats, clean toilets, excellent service etc.
The latter would be much more achievable than the former and would probably yield similar results from the perspective of reported passenger satisfaction and loyalty.
So following that logic perhaps customer experience is one of the most cost effective strategic areas of focus for organisations because it provides a relatively fast and cost effective way of directly improving customers perceptions of the value that products and services provide them.
Sutherland also argues this has an environmental benefit too.
By improving their perceived value of an experience we are improving something through intangible means that manifest as how someone thinks about something – so it doesn’t exist per se and thus generates no detrimental environmental impact to create, maintain and dispose of.
Perceived value is a hugely interesting area.
Trying to get to the bottom of what people perceive to be the value that they will get from a product or service helps you to focus your marketing on the things that matter the most to people.
So much of this comes from the nuance of communication, the language and imagery that is chosen and the story that is told that creates the narrative around the value of products and services.
I see this a lot in my work.
Peoples behaviours and actions are hugely influenced by what they believe to be true and how they perceive things as opposed to what the actual truth might be.
I remember a research session where a customer of a food delivery service noticed a photo of a delivery van driving in the snow and said “They look great, they will deliver to my elderly mother whatever the weather’ – the truth was quite possibly a different story.
In a recent research session I asked someone how they wanted a financial report to make them feel.
They talked about wanting to feel like their life savings were in safe hands, that they could trust the company and feel like it was something that they no longer needed to worry about.
A well designed report will reinforce these feelings and beliefs whereas a poorly designed report will quickly raise questions, unease and possibly a loss of custom.
In order to design successful things we have to develop a deep understanding of the way that people perceive the world around them, their preconceptions and beliefs as these are the things that will ultimately drive their behaviours.
Once we uncover these sorts of beliefs we can get to the bottom of what people really care about, the questions they have and what they need from the products and services they use to meet their real needs.