Traditional notions of the customer experience revolve around the customer interface and ‘after the failure’ service. But the customer experience is much broader than just the web site, product content and which throat you choke when something goes wrong. An effective and expansive customer experience is one that taps into all the sources of value beyond just solving a problem or enabling an opportunity to address the values associated with how the customer looks and feels about themselves and in front of others.
Extending the customer experience to look good and feel good characteristics expands the range of value creation opportunities and customer crushing failures. The introduction of information, connectivity, mobility, etc. into the organization creates the raw materials for supporting an expanded experience. The only question revolves around the degree to which your organization is willing to think outside the window, beyond the contact center and the marketing plan.
Anticipation is one of the elements in an expanding customer experience. Not surprisingly Apple provides an example of how simple it is to incorporate anticipation into the experience.
Anticipation starts the experience before they get the product
Incorporating anticipation into the experience positively presupposes the customer by engaging them personally in what is normally a marketing intensive pre-sales/pre-delivery process. Rather than wading through marketing materials, propaganda and other information about the general product, I can be personally involved in knowing where my product is and how it’s working its way to me.
I ordered the third generation iPad when it came out, aka the iPad3. That is no surprise, but shortly after ordering it I received an email confirming the order and with the shipment tracking number.
On the surface there is nothing special about that, but I have been back to that email a few times just to see where my iPad was. First it was loaded in Shenzhen, then through Hong Kong, then Anchorage and at the time of this writing it is in Louisville Kentucky.
The shipping status changes drive anticipation by reminding you that the thing you want is on its way. Each update is almost like getting a little post card from a family member coming half way around the world. It costs Apple nothing, but by sharing information with me it builds anticipation that reminds me that I have something coming my way.
Anticipation changes the nature of product releases
We all know how the company builds anticipation around its product launches with cryptic invitations, tight communications and a deafening silence that generates a furor of speculation. The anticipation in the pre-announcement space is critical to gain free advertising, pique interest, etc.
Anticipation enables Apple to do something few other companies can do. It relieves Apple from having to announce and potentially miss a release date. This topic came up at a recent meeting of CIOs and discussions about on time performance. One CIO said that of course Apple has missed a release date… but then I countered when has Apple recently even announced a release date? The answer was that no one could recall.
Looking in from the outside, Apple seems to only formally announce a release date when they know they will be able to ship. It is forgone conclusion that they will hit the date because they do not set the date until they have the product. Sure the company has an idea of when it will release product, it has plans, etc. But these are strictly controlled creating a whole industry of Apple and Apple supplier watchers who guess at what will come out.
How can Apple get away with this, a company that does not make firm, long lead-time commitments to its products? First, Apple has a type of cadence that has set expectations that new products will come out on about an annual cycle. The company also uses anticipation to make people forget about how long its been since the last release and focus all of their attention on anticipation of getting the new product. It’s here becomes more important than it’s late.
Anticipation can be a powerful part of the customer experience when done well.