Far too many business leaders think they can make a few one-off improvements to their organization's customer experience, and voilÃ , customer engagement will follow. If it was only that easy. "Customer experience is a journey, not a destination," Sophie Vlessing reminded attendees during her session at NACCM earlier this week.
Vlessing, senior vice president of strategic marketing and student experience at Kaplan University, shared her roadmap for taking a customer experience journey that leads to ongoing innovation:
- Start with customer understanding
- Innovate based on insights
- Engage throughout entire lifecycle
- Provide value-added content and experiences
- Inspire to build emotional connection and vision for future
- Leverage and enable student advocacy through social media
One of the innovations this approach led to at the university is The Kaplan Commitment. "We offer students the opportunity to try the experience for five weeks to make sure it's the right fit for them," Vlessing explained, adding that students have no financial obligation during that time.
Another innovation is Visionary Voices. Vlessing and her team interview thought leaders like The Secret contributing author Lisa Nichols and business leaders like LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner for videos shared on the Kaplan website and on YouTube. "These leaders provide inspiration and guidance to our students and prospective students alike," Vlessing said. The university also posts videos of student success stories--both user generated and professionally produced--so prospective students can make that more personal connection to the student experience and the benefits students have gained by getting their degree.
The university creates personal connections in other ways, as well. For example, it integrates social interactions throughout the student experience via social networks, its own online student community, and personalized mobile apps. Additionally, Kaplan personalizes its communications--from welcome packs to personalized e-card for birthdays and milestones like completing the first semester and graduation.
"Innovation happens in the customer experience when you understand what's important to customers, act on it, and communicate in ways that create personal connections," said Vlessing, a 1to1 Customer Champion. "It's about creating a collection of individual 'moments that matter' that build on each other over time to foster customer engagement and loyalty."