Podcast: Creating great customer experiences - in the real world

By Doug Bolton

Podcast: Creating great customer experiences - in the real world

We've written about customer experience quite a bit in the past, but we've almost always focused on online experiences. The focus is on what it's like to use a particular site or service, how easy it is to do what you want to do, and how you feel about the brand after using it.

However, despite the pandemic essentially almost all in-person events over the last two years, physical experiences in the real world are just as important. Whether it's a short meeting in an office or a major industry conference, the experiences and impressions that customers take when encountering a company face-to-face can last for a very long time. 

Now that the IRL world is making a comeback, I thought it was time to talk a little bit more about offline customer experiences on the pod - for that reason, I invited Annika Eriksson to join me this week. She's recently started as a project manager at Zooma and has a long background in creating these kinds of experiences. 

We spoke about the effects that a positive physical experience can have on an existing or potential customer, how companies can improve the physical experiences they create without much budget, and, of course, how companies can learn from their successful physical customer experiences and apply them to online.

Enjoy! You can listen to our discussion on the podcast platform of your choice - you can find all the links you'll need below and a full transcription of the episode that you can read if you're in a rush. 

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DB: Welcome, Annika, to The Onlinification Pod.

AE: Thank you, Doug. Very exciting.

DB: Yeah, great, you're a totally new guest. I thought we needed some fresh blood in the podcast. In the last year there was a lot of Anders and Stellan episodes, which is very nice, but there's an awful lot of them already that we have. And Tobias and Daniel have become fairly regular guests, but I thought I would get someone new in for a change as well.

AE: And it's a new experience for me as well.

DB: Yeah. Have you never starred in a podcast before?

AE: No, no, no.

DB: Okay, great. Well, I'm sure it'll go well. It feels like a good start, so let's get cracking. I thought today we would talk a little bit about customer experiences and you know, often at Zooma when we've spoken about customer experience before, we talk about customer experiences online like, you know, how, how does this contact form work on a company's contact page or something? But obviously, probably when most people hear this expression, they think of actual experiences that you experience in the real world. And that's why I invited you on because I know you have a bit of background in that, so maybe you could just explain a little bit about your past.

AE: Yeah, I have a background in both actually, because many years in PR and marketing where sometimes it's about launching a new car and it's very sort of hands-on, physical, experiencing the car. But I did also launch the first websites at Volvo, and that was all about then trying to adapt great physical experiences to the online world, which in many senses people are still trying to do. But then, of course, when you did this in the beginning, it was very much sort of relating the same kind of processes that you have physically into the digital world before you started to see all the added benefits that you could get from an ongoing relationship rather than a sort of single point of action that didn't really have any continuation. But then I also worked with physical experiences quite a lot the last years, and that was quite a lot about credibility. I mean, its credibility, even if it's online or offline, doesn't matter, but when it's the type of customer experiences that we did where people come to visit Volvo, it's probably the only time in their life they do this. We have to make sure that this is the best experience ever for that group, that particular hour, that particular time when they are there. So everything we did had to be with that mindset, that even though we do this five days a week, 8 hours a day, anyone who comes here only comes here once. And whatever experience they have when they leave, that's what they carry with them. That's what they tell their friends, that's what they're telling their colleagues, etcetera. So a lot of it had to do with making sure that whatever it is we decide we want to introduce them to in terms of different focus areas within the brand, it had to be credible. It had to be done in a way adapted to that particular group or particular category because you can't sort of meet people if they're in eighth grade in school and then coming to Volvo to visit the factory. You can't address them in the same manner that you do with a group of suppliers who've worked with the company for 15 years and know quite a lot already. So we had to make sure that we adapt the message to whichever group was there and always sort of gave them the feeling that this is the first time we're telling this, and we love being able to tell you this story. And that was all about the people who worked there, the brand communicators, as we call them, the guides, the ones actually delivering that message to the people in front of them. They had to carry that whole feeling of addressing this specific group because if you come there and you feel like you get a sort of very generic experience, and it's the same for anyone, they don't really care who I am, that wouldn't be very good. So we put a lot of effort into making sure that every guided tour, every visitor group got an adapted experience. So that was as much as we could adapt it to that particular group of people.

DB: Yeah, I think it's quite hard because it's kind of hard to define, I imagine, because again, going back to the online thing, when we talk about an online experience, then it quickly gets quite practical, like it's how quick it is, the page load and that kind of thing. Whereas with this kind of thing, you're trying to reflect some kind of brand values and like an actual experience, and it's a bit harder to put your finger on.

AE: Well, yeah, there is that. I think there's a great connection between how you do personas because then you decide that's a generic description or a collective description of a group of people or a wanted type of person. It's kind of the same that we did because we actually only divided them into, I think, six categories. You're either student supplier, customer, potential customer, but that's basically everybody who's not already a customer. Private visits and internal visits, people from within the company. So those who are the different groups, and that's what we tailored it to. You can't do it for every specific. You can always adapt a little bit for each specific. But we had these six major typing sort of kind of like personas.

DB: And how would things differ between, say, potential customers and suppliers? What was it that you wanted to instil in each of these groups?

AE: I guess if it was suppliers coming, we wanted them to feel that when they left, they really wanted to continue being suppliers, to feel that they have a good relationship with Volvo. If it was students, we wanted them to feel that, if they were at the age where they have to choose their continuous studies, choose something that you have which is useful if you want a job at Volvo, if you're a bit higher up in the ages and you're actually sort of going over to possibly start working, we want you to apply for a job with Volvo. So then we wanted to convey that this is a really great place to work. If it was a dealer who came with customers, it was all a lot about instilling confidence in the brand and giving them the feeling that they're seeing something that maybe not everybody gets a chance to see. So it's kind of a little bit of VIP. So it's, it's, it's really not that difficult. You just have to look at whatever activity it is. In our case, it was people coming to Volvo to do a physical visit, look at it through their eyes and see what would I want to have from this? Why am I here? And then sort of create the adoptions after that.

DB: Yeah. It seems like the thinking is quite similar when you compare it to designing online experiences. And you did some of that as well, didn't you?

AE: I did, yeah. That was in the early ages of the internet. And back then, it was more about the wow factor. It was all about getting as many clicks as possible. And you didn't have the way where you can continue the relationship in the way you can now with CRM systems, etc.. So it was all about getting as much exposure as possible, not really being able to go into a process. I mean, Volvo of course worked with CRM systems and funnels and whatnot already then, but you couldn't really connect that from an IT point of view. It's still probably a challenge for many companies to connect their online offer to backend systems and which is super important I think, because that's really when you start doing whatever it is you want to do with your target group.

DB: Mm hmm. I can kind of miss those, you know, early Internet days. I used to work for an industrial company that on an old version of their website, had little games, like little flash games, you know, like arcade games, which, I don't know whom they were made for, but I guess the idea was just to have something a little bit exciting, you know.

AE: Yeah, that's the thing. I mean, this is more anecdotal than anything, but I remember going into budget meetings with my colleagues, and I was the only one who worked with the online stuff and I would have like a huge list of things we're probably going to do, sort of. And they were used to doing this for that model, and we're going to do this for that model, and it's all very sort of planned. And then they looked at me and said, "you have no plan." No, I know, but it's because we don't actually know technically what we will be able to do in six months time. So how can I make a plan if I make a plan and then the new technology shows up, and I'm not going to do that because I have a plan? That's not how it works. And that was that it was quite difficult for my somewhat more traditional colleagues to realise that that's how we had to work. Because I mean, this is at the time when Java was new, Flash was new. There was so many things that came that all of a sudden, we could do something technically that we actually couldn't before. And some of it ended up becoming cars driving across the screen with a message, and other things became the first live stream in Europe ever transmitted. So some were just small and fun, and some were a lot bigger.

DB: Yeah, yeah. Just to go back where we were to what we were talking about with the different groups of visitors and how the approach was tailored for each of them, that seems to be something you can clearly translate to online as well. But I don't know, maybe it's been a bit harder to understand typically for companies that, you know, if you're trying to create an experience online or just give information, then you need to focus on what's relevant for the visitor and maybe not what you would want to share. Like, you know, in your example, it would be like, you know, giving a group of schoolchildren the same tour or a presentation as you would to a group of car dealers or something like that.

AE: Now, it's all about, I mean, it really is the same thing. If you don't know who's coming and why they're there and what opportunities they give you, then you can never utilize it or maximize it, or you can never fill the full potential of that possible relationship because you if you don't care who's coming, you have no idea how to tailor your message. And today you really can tailor it already. When I first go on the site, it could be basic, I mean, tailored to languages, for instance, or whatever else, cookies or tags or whatever they might already have on me. So I think there's a lot more you can do with tailoring than is already being done. Then of course, you have the backside of that, people who don't want to be pre-identified or identified at all, etc. But that's a choice you can make them. It's not a problem. Yeah.

AE: I usually try and get some kind of tips or takeaways in the pod, and in this case, I think it would be obviously we've been talking about Volvo, which I presume has quite a large budget for this kind of thing. But maybe if you're a company and you're trying to create some kind of real-life experience, maybe now that the pandemic seems to be over and stuff like that is back on the menu again, I suppose, what should be in your focus, even if you don't have perhaps the world's biggest budget?

AE: Yeah, I think. I mean, if you have less money to spend on it, make sure you spend it right. So spend some time, some time on identifying who it is you wish to communicate with, how to reach them, what would they like to hear, to become interested and to stay talking with you? So don't sort of just go everywhere, identify who you want to address or who it is you want to be interested enough to come to you and then focus on that.

DB: Sounds easy.

AE: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Kind of depends on what business you're in, I'm guessing. You know, if you have a business where you can clearly identify your preferred target groups or then do that. Not all businesses can do that. Maybe, but if you can do it, then spend your money there. Yeah.

DB: Excellent. Well, thank you very much for joining us today. Thank you. I appreciate it. And we'll have to have you back on in another episode in future.

AE: I look forward to that.

Doug Bolton
Doug has been a Content Producer at Zooma since 2021. Originally English, he now lives in Sweden.
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