Saturday, October 17, 2015

Win-Win Customer Journeys -- With Dialogs about Value

Competing on Customer Journeys is a very interesting article in the 11/15 HBR that presents an emerging marketing paradigm, one that provides just the context for a further step of proactivley ensuring the journeys are maximally win-win. The subtitle is "You have to create new value at every step" -- my work on FairPay suggests a way to enrich the customer journey to do that much more explicitly and effectively.

Edelman and Singer explain that:
The explosion of digital technologies over the past decade has created “empowered” consumers so expert in their use of tools and information that they can call the shots, hunting down what they want when they want it and getting it delivered to their doorsteps at a rock-bottom price...  
Rather than merely reacting to the journeys that consumers themselves devise, companies are shaping their paths, leading rather than following. Marketers are increasingly managing journeys as they would any product. Journeys are thus becoming central to the customer’s experience of a brand—and as important as the products themselves in providing competitive advantage.
They suggest how this can enable "a 'loyalty loop,' ... a monogamous and open-ended engagement with the firm:"


I suggest that this is a big step forward in developing long-term profitable customer relationships, and that it meshes well with the similar kind of continuing feedback loop that drives FairPay. The idea that FairPay adds is to insert "dialogs about value" into each cycle of the journey after the "enjoy" step -- when the consumer knows the value of the experience -- and to adapt the pricing based on that. The enables participative personalization of the value proposition, as a simplified form of value-based pricing:
  • Buy
  • Enjoy
  • Value (added -- dialogs about value, to personalize the value proposition)
  • Advocate
  • Bond
Without this added step, the loyalty loop does not fully realize a central driver of engagement and loyalty -- a proactively personalized value proposition that is win-win for both the consumer and the firm. Without this we just perpetuate the idea that the firm decides on value propositions and tries to coax consumers into accept them. Adding explicit value assessment into the loop engages the customer more deeply and enables the firm to serve the customer far more effectively. This participative element builds consumer loyalty by demonstrating the firm's commitment to learning exactly what each customer values in varying contexts, and seeking to deliver it by customizing the value proposition to match.

Edelman and Singer go to the threshhold of this, and we just need to add this one more step (emphasis added):
We’re now seeing a significant shift in strategy, from primarily reactive to aggressively proactive. Across retail, banking, travel, home services, and other industries, companies are designing and refining journeys to attract shoppers and keep them, creating customized experiences so finely tuned that once consumers get on the path, they are irresistibly and permanently engaged. Unlike the coercive strategies companies used a decade ago to lock in customers (think cellular service contracts), cutting-edge journeys succeed because they create new value for customers: Customers stay because they benefit from the journey itself.
As emphasized on this blog, the driving goal of FairPay is to make price=value, over time. When it comes to value propositions, firms remain coercive, effectively saying: "We give you this value package for this price. If you don't like that, how about this other value package for this other price? If none of our options suit you, we are not listening -- you will have to settle or go elsewhere." FairPay dialogs about value open a new dimension of adaptivity and dialog to personalize value propositions based on individual context, needs, and value perceptions. These dialogs about value become central to the journey, and a key driver of the loyalty cycle. How that is done is shown in the sidebar, and expanded on in the Overview and More Details pages.

Adding this focus on value does not just increase loyalty, but promises to dramatically increase profitability as well. The article presents an example about Sungevity, a provider of residential solar panels:
Sungevity is ... using what it knows about its customers to extend the journey... With granular data on each household’s energy use and habits, Sungevity can advise people one-on-one about managing their energy consumption, and it can recommend a tailored package of products and services to help them reduce their dependence on the grid and reap savings. ... Ultimately, the firm plans to integrate its services with home-management networks that can automate energy conservation (adjusting lights and heating, for example) according to decision rules that Sungevity develops with each customer. Another project is to create conservation-oriented customer communities. 
The value step I propose would bring value pricing into this journey -- in a uniquely simple and lightweight form -- to enable Sungevity to evaluate the savings their services actually deliver to the customer, and to engage in dialog with the customer to share a portion of that value with them. Rather than expecting the customer take a risk that they will get a predicted value, and discounting the price they are willing to pay to allow for that risk, Sungevity can design the journey to share the risk, measure the realized value, and share in that value. Examples of how effective such value pricing can be are in this other HBR article.

FairPay is a very natural extension to the customer journey perspective. Edelman and Singer explain that "The move from selling products to managing a permanent customer journey has required mastering the four capabilities that all companies will need to compete: automation ...; personalization ....; contextual interaction ...; and journey innovation .." The same four capabilities support FairPay as well. 

As the new "logic" of customer journeys becomes accepted in marketing, the related new "logic" of FairPay" and its adaptively win-win value propositions should become increasingly accepted as well. Different levels of FairPay empowerment may be applicable to different consumers and different business contexts, but a more explicit focus on value can benefit almost any customer journey.



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