The Purpose-Driven Customer Experience

The days of simple processes and quality products are gone. Welcome to the new age of customer experience.
Customer Strategy

Let's talk about eggs. If we go to Albertsons or ShopRite and purchase a dozen eggs, the price will be $2.59. If we opt for cage free eggs at Whole Foods, we are looking at a price tag of $4.99 or more. This is nearly a 100 percent increase in the price of eggs. By my own calculation, both eggs will deliver the same amount of cholesterol to my body, and the omelet I will make of them will most likely taste the same. So why is it that rational people opt to pay 100 percent more for what is seemingly the same commoditized product?

Welcome to the new era of customer experience: the purpose-centric experience. The reason why consumers pay more for cage free eggs is because of their belief system. They believe that humane treatment of chickens is part of a better world in which they want to live. We no longer pay for selfish experiences that soothe our emotions and heighten our senses. We are entering an era of responsibility and purpose. An era in which consumers view their experiences in the context of their own community, and the impact and footprint their experiences leave on the world. It is this sense of purpose that elevates the value of the experience in their eyes and actually creates a greater value, one they are willing to pay for.

While organizations are seeking to simplify their experiences, providing more digital self-service options to consumers, the evolving new frontier is in purpose-driven experience.

Tanushree Mitra and Eric Gilbert of Georgia Institute of Technology conducted a study to investigate the language of Kickstarter. The crowdfunding site features a diverse set of new ideas from starving artists with new music to electronics inventors seeking seed money. This site is all about selling the new and convincing people to shell out money for a change yet to happen. It is selling the dream of change and convincing people to buy it. (You would agree that paying for future change is probably the highest level of commitment to it.) Pebble, the e-paper watch, is a great example of how 18,000 people shelled out money for what was originally a $100,000 campaign that ballooned into $2.6 million in just three days.

Mitra and Gilbert's research was focused on identifying the key phrases and words that are associated with the most successful Kickstarter campaigns. They studied 20,000 phrases in 45,000 Kickstarter campaigns.

Their conclusion was striking. In the top most successful phrases were four categories:

  1. Reciprocity - returning a favor and human dependency
  2. Scarcity - a sense of limitation of the item
  3. Social Proof - the idea that people depend on me
  4. Social Identity - belonging to a social group

In three out of the four phrase categories, we can see a pattern. Three out of the four successful phrases emphasized impact on others and connection to others. Selfish, individual benefits didn't deliver the same level of success. It is the relationship to others. It is the impact and connection to the other that drives our willingness to venture into the new and to support change. It is by placing ourselves in the context of others that we can view change favorably. This is exactly the essence of core cause.

By developing and understanding our impact on others, we can elevate the overall experience to become more meaningful. Knowingly or not, the Kickstarter supporters responded favorability when the pitch was not about a selfish benefits, but about social impact and reciprocity. It was about the linkage and connection with others.

The impact we make on others is the key driver of our desired experiences. Consumers were willing to bet on brand new, unproven ideas as long as the impact on society, and not just on them, is positive.

The new frontier of experience design ought to include customer's values and purpose and support their sense of meaningful existence in the community and world in which they are part. It is not just with language but with actions that we need to infuse the customer experience with authentic meaning. The days of simple processes and quality products are gone. Simple, empathetic smiles are nice, but meaningful, purpose-driven experience is power.