customer experience

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author: @aestranger

Reading time: 10 minutes

Customer Experience & Gamification: what you need to know

Customer Experience, it’s something that keeps marketing and salespeople awake at night, contemplating and considering how best to engage and retain their customers. In a previous post, we explored User Engagement, which gave a high-level overview of how to engage people in a general manner. In this piece, I would like to go through with you in-depth what you need and what you need to do in order to engage your customers and deliver a worthwhile experience to them, with the use of gamification.

Customer experience or CX, for those unfamiliar, is the term used to describe how your customers interact with your business or organisation. This is the C2B or customer-2-business relationship. And for your business to be successful, this relationship needs to be of a positive nature. If you offer a positive customer experience then that means that your customers will trust you, remain loyal to you, return for more business and likely recommend you to others as well.

Therefore, it is incredibly important for your organisation to invest in good customer experience. If you need more proof then do have a browse through this CX Guide from McKinsey & Co on how and why it is important to keep your customers happy and engaged with your business. Or have a look at these statistics on how important good customer experience strategies will be in 2020 and the coming decade.

Customer experience strategies, however, can be very dry sometimes, and they can even become a little impersonal when they start to focus on the customer as an unknown entity who needs must be met in order to garner a profit. Gamification can be the solution to providing a more personal touch when developing a customer experience journey. Using the techniques and motivational levers inherent in gamification can help you improve and augment your CX, so that you can have the edge to beat your competitors, regardless of how big they may be.

 

Customer Experience

 

To clarify, the customer experience is not a single aspect of what your customers may deal with using your product or service. It is rather a descriptor for the complete holistic view of everything that the customer will see, do, interact with, receive from you and gives back you.

Too often businesses confuse Customer Experience with Customer Service. Customer service is just one facet of the customer experience, an important one, but just one component. And naturally, the next step frequently is to gamify just the customer service part, usually by using PBL’s (points, badges, leader boards) for either the customer or the person delivering the support service. These will motivate either party in the short-term but are empty trinkets and will not necessarily improve the overall customer experience for the long-term.

Rather everything of what you do with the customer must be considered. And unfortunately, it does appear that delivering and receiving a good customer experience is an uncommon occurrence. Many organisations, despite good intentions, when they add superficial gamification to the customer experience tend to miss what the real pain points are that give customers a bad experience. Badly gamifying an experience will not solve long wait times, misunderstood customer needs, a lack of a personalised touch or worst of all; it will certainly not solve employees that are rude to the customer.

Though if these do occur, they are good opportunities to gain feedback and try to solve these pain points from your organisations perspective. Providing gamified training sessions are an option to solve these and more your organisation’s culture towards a more positive customer-focused one.

Developing a good customer experience

 

To develop and gamify a good customer experience, we need to go through the various steps of any gamification process, which we explain in detail in our book Press Start:

  1. Who you are?
  2. Customer personas
  3. Experience journey
  4. Feedback
  5. Metrics

 

Figuring out who you are

Maybe surprising to some, but the first step in creating a better experience for your customers is by getting to know who you are as a business. And defining what the vision is within your organisation for interacting with your customers.

Defining the vision can be your core company values that every employee (should) know. Or the organisation’s key message or motto, or if for some strange reason you are lacking these, then it is a great opportunity to develop a new strategy that will embrace the idea of being more customer-focused from that day forward.

The benefit of discovering and defining who you are will aid you in the future in developing the desired behaviours that you want your teams to have when they deal with customers. And this can also be the first step to slowly moving to a more positive and inclusive company culture, where both employees and customers are valued equally. Since the only way to truly have loyal and happy customers, is if your employees are happy and loyal and are therefore able to deliver the personal touch to your customers.

The next step from defining who you are is to connect your business goals with your customer’s goals (Griffin, D. & van der Meer, A. (2019), Press Start, p194). Knowing and aligning these goals with each other will allow you to build holistic gamified customer experience, as you will know what the end goal is for your customers, and they will also be highly motivated to join you in achieving their own goals.

Essentially what these steps do is to create the foundation to a coherent and consistent experience for your customers. Consistency and coherence are incredibly important when gamifying an experience, as it will set the tone and theme of the experience, informing every decision you make when choosing the gameplay type and the game mechanics that fit with that theme.

 

Customer personas

As with any good gamification project initiative, you will need to get to know your customers and from there create and develop customer personas. These personas can represent a large section of your target audience and will allow for your organisation to connect and empathise with the relevant persona.

In general, you can leave the persona like that, a high-level description, however for an effective customer experience strategy, you will likely have to a go a little further than creating a generic persona stereotype. For good CX you will actually need to develop persona characters with a recognisable personality that represent the persona group. This could take shape by giving your characters a name, age, gender, visual features such as hair and eye colour and a background as to who they are. Doing this is a fun exercise in creativity, but it will also help your teams, customer-facing or not, to emotionally connect with the customers that they need to help.

The added benefit of developing fully formed customer persona groups is also that it will allow you and your organisation to shape and guide how your customer community forms around your brand. Guiding like-minded customers to form a community around your brand is another way of guaranteeing brand loyalty. Remember to promote and allow for modes and methods of communication between these individuals, the intrinsic motivational lever of belonging is only effective if people can connect and communicate with each other.

Delivering the experience

This might be counterintuitive for some, but to develop and deliver a good customer experience, you will need to start with the end goal in sight and work your way back to create the best journey for your customers. You need to know what your customer’s goals and desired outcomes are. Once you know these, you can work backwards through everything you’ve done up to this point and ensure that your customers desired outcomes align with your own.

Working backwards also allows you to know what the end condition or win-state is for your customers. From here you will have a better understanding of what gameplay to use and which game mechanics you need to implement to engage your customers effectively.

Some examples of how gamification works with your customer’s experience journey are by gamifying the product exploration of what you offer. Not every customer may know what they specifically want from you, so making this step more enjoyable will help them focus and engage with your brand. It may not be gamification in the strictest sense, but Apple does a very good job of making the product exploration for things like their iPad a visually fun experience.

Other ways to gamify is by creating an interactive journey for your product, much like Autodesk did for their free trial software for 3dMax. Or gamify the marketing experience, or create an interactive troubleshooting system for your customers, this can also improve the overall customer service experience for them as well.

Within these, you can consider using some short-term gamification techniques such as implementing progress indicators, personalised avatars and loyalty program systems. These should be there only to aid in engaging your customers and support everything else you are doing for your customer, and not simply empty, shiny objects to trick a customer into staying.

With that said, also bear in mind that the experience does not need to be, nor should it be something complex. Customers specifically enjoy simplicity, ease of access and fun when they choose to undertake an experience.

When delivering your customer experience, the journey will likely take place across multiple platforms and channels nowadays. Remain aware of this, as customers will come from everywhere and you must customise for each avenue and maintain the same level of quality for each channel. The main focus for many organisations at the moment is on mobile customer experiences, and that many customers prefer a self-service experience when dealing with this platform. This is a great intrinsic motivator, as customers want to feel in control over their choices, and rightly so. Therefore incorporate ways to empower them and let them feel a sense of Mastery over the experience that you are offering.

If you wish to explore in greater detail developing an experience journey, then in our book Press Start we take you step-by-step through a larger framework on developing an experience journey for your customers.

 

Customer feedback

The penultimate aspect of any customer experience is customer feedback. You need to always be checking in with your customers. You may think that they will get annoyed if you keep checking in, but loyal customers want to give feedback on their experiences, especially if they feel and know that their feedback is being listened to and acted upon.

Ensure that you do regular feedback assessment runs, I would recommend at least once a month. Doing it once a year may be less work, but you will not have an accurate account of what your customer’s issues and pain points are.

In order to get feedback from your customers, the best tools to use still are ones such as surveys, or if you have the time and manpower, checking social platforms. You can also perform interviews with your customers and do focus group interviews (Griffin, D. & van der Meer, A. (2019) Press Start, p176). Another method is to use a Net Promoter Score system or NPS. It can be a very effective tool to determine the state of your customers.

Beyond the fact that your customers will feel involved in the process when you request feedback from there, it is also useful information for you and you should act upon it to keep improving the experience. The information gathered can be used to help educate and train your teams to improve their interactions with your customers. Using the knowledge you gain from the feedback, you could organise face-2-face training sessions, coaching and eLearning possibilities so that your teams can continue to improve is the best investment you can make for your organisation and continuing customer experience strategy.

Metrics

The final piece I want to touch on with customer experience is metrics. Everyone loves metrics, but measuring the ROI of your customer experience, as with any engagement process, is notoriously difficult to do. Using an NPS is one way of doing it, another is the HEART framework when using gamification within your customer experience strategy. We explore quite a number of measurement systems in our book Press Start.

Other metric systems that you can implement with your CX are Customer Effect Scores or CES for evaluating the difficulty of an experience, or Customer Satisfaction Scores (CSAT), this is very similar in a way to the NPS but is a more specific form to determine a customer’s satisfaction or dissatisfaction with certain points in the experience.

 

Final Thoughts

 

Some last things I want to leave you with when you are considering developing a gamified customer experience strategy. Keep in mind the design and prototyping stages of the experience. You want to avoid delivering a badly designed experience. Form and function go hand in hand when dealing with CX, and has created a great experience, but one that is badly executed will cause issues. Therefore always prototype and test everything as thoroughly as possible.

So, to recap what you need to do and know about gamified customer experience design:

  1. Good CX improves customer loyalty, brand awareness and brand dispersion
  2. Helps you in defining your goals and clearly focusing on your customer’s goals
  3. Aids you in properly defining who your customers and how best to connect with them.
  4. Focus on the end goal of your customers and develop the gamified experience backwards so that it reflects their needs and maintains consistency.
  5. Be actively engaged with your customers constantly and consistently, always improving based on their feedback.
  6. Use the right metrics for the right aspects and use them wisely.

For more on engaging people, users, customers and more on gamification, please do have a browse through our blog section and do check out our book.

I hope that this piece has given you some food for thought and helped improve your own methods or at least offered a different viewpoint to consider.

Please do check out the other posts on æStranger.com, and please do leave a comment or contact us if you have some ideas of your own that you wish to discuss or if you would like to see other topics discussed.

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