Going to the movies used to mean deciding what film you wanted to see and picking a cinema. Today, moviegoers can also choose their seat location, whether they want a private nested chair for couples, and can even select dinner entrees and drinks to go with their rom-com. That’s an elevated customer experience — and the topic Bridget Brennan will explore as it relates to business events and other industries in her keynote presentation on June 13 at PCMA’s Education Conference in Cleveland.
“We are seeing how there are all sorts of innovative, transformational things happening in the world of customer experiences, and I am going to be bringing these best-in-class examples to bear in my presentation at the conference,” said Brennan, author of the best-selling Why She Buys: The New Strategy for Reaching the World’s Most Powerful Consumers” and CEO of the Chicago-based Female Factor consulting firm devoted exclusively to female consumers.
Brennan, who is currently at work on a book focusing on customer experiences, said that she has found that the power of human-centered customer engagement “is underestimated and under leveraged. Great experiences are still remarkable and people want to have them,” she said, adding that that is particularly true in the digital age.
A way to think about it, Brennan said, is an experience that most people are familiar with — like that example of going to the movies at a high-end theater. “You’re still seeing a movie,” she said. “The product is still the main product, but the experience around it is evolving to differentiate from what happens when you’re watching a movie in your living room. It’s a really interesting example of what it means to be transforming the customer experience — keeping the fundamentals but evolving to stay relevant in our modern age.”
GETTING EMOTIONAL AND TECHY
Brennan also plans to discuss motivators for driving emotional engagement and how those relate to the business of conventions and meeting planning. Emotionally engaging experiences, she said, help any business stand out. To win, businesses must take the best of the visceral connections made in a human-to-human environment but power them with the convenience that today’s technology provides.
Live events provide an ideal example. “If you go out to a big music festival, yes, you are in the mud and you’re engaging with other people and you’re sharing this incredible experience,” Brennan said. “But you expect there to be really good Wi-Fi. Because you want to take a picture of it and put it on Instagram and show everybody what you’re doing. So [for businesses] it’s sort of being able to fire on both cylinders. That’s what’s so exciting. You go there and you get the special experience, but when [a business is] able to meet the new standards that almost everyone has for customer engagement from a convenience perspective, that’s when you can really set yourself apart.”
That convenience perspective is driving customer decision-making. One of today’s macro trends, she said, is called “double duty, half the time.” This has to do with the blurred lines between work and home life, “and the time compression,” she said, that comes from that.
The fact that so many people are challenged by time constraints has spurred the “convenience revolution,” Brennan said, giving rise to app-based businesses like Uber. “A lot of these app-based businesses that have really caught fire in the past decade are very service oriented,” she said, “instead of product oriented. These new experiences are solving for a lot of inconveniences that have always been there that we never really thought about much.”
So while customers may not have previously given much thought to how to get shared rides on demand or doing grocery shopping via an app, they’ve now come to expect such conveniences. And as conditioned consumers of convenience, participants approach their event experience with the same mindset.
“People’s expectations don’t really change across categories,” Brennan said. “So, if you have a really seamless, wonderful experience ordering a pizza [online], that might impact the way that you view buying financial services. We are applying new benchmarks across all sectors.”
WHY FOCUS ON WOMEN CONSUMERS?
Key to any discussion on customer experience is the role of women’s economic power and how to meet and exceed the needs of women as decision-makers, Brennan said.
“Women are typically driving 70 percent-plus of all consumer buying decisions, with a combination of their buying power and influence,” Brennan said. “And that’s because women don’t just buy for themselves. They’re out in the marketplace buying for, or making decisions for, their kids if they have them, spouses and partners, their elderly parents, their in-laws, their businesses, and it’s in this capacity that women drive so much consumer purchasing.”
As such, Brennan called women “the gateway to all other consumers.” And because they have “very high expectations of service experiences,” she said, “when you meet or exceed women’s expectations, you’re actually making all of your customers happy.”
Bridget Brennan will be closing General Session speaker at PCMA Education Conference 2018, being held in Cleveland on June 10–13. For more information, visit pcmaeducon.org.
Learn more about Bridget Brennan at bridgetbrennan.com.