Let’s get straight to the point: Experiential relationship management - or XRM - is the process of managing the personalized experiences you deliver to your customers.
Offering personalized experiences is nothing new - this is something small businesses have been doing for years. Why would you choose the sandwich shop three blocks away instead of the Panera on the corner? Because the sandwich shop three blocks away always remembers your order. Why would you drive to the toy store to purchase a birthday gift for your kid instead of ordering it on Amazon? Because the cashier at the toy store is going to ask how your kid is - by name. And why do you stick with the same hairdresser year after year, even if she moves salons? Because that particular hairdresser is the one who knows exactly how you like your hair.
Offering personalized experiences is nothing new - but, in the past, it’s often been the purview of the mom-and-pop shops, as in the examples above. That’s not the case anymore - and, if it is for your company, you’re behind the times. According to Deloitte, brands most likely to survive are those that can “provide a tremendous variety of offerings while maintaining, or reviving, the personal touch of a mom-and pop corner store.”
The experience economy is here, and that means that, as McKinsey & Company puts it, consumers don’t want to just buy products and services anymore. They want to buy into an experience - and they expect that kind of experience to be delivered to them by even the biggest brands.
So what are the four key pillars of an XRM strategy?
- Providing unique experiences
- Offering human-to-human connections
- Building personalized relationships
- Managing experiences at scale
Let’s dive into each of these in more detail.
Providing unique experiences
When we talk about customer experience, we’re generally talking about the kind of service that a customer receives. Was it good, bad, or average? How would the customer rate their experience on a scale from 1 to 10?
That’s not what experiential relationship management is about. Or, rather - it’s not the only thing it’s about. Experiential relationship management isn’t just about delivering a positive experience - it’s about delivering a unique and positive experience.
If you walk into a store, ask a staff member for help finding the item you’re looking for, and are led directly to it, you’ve completed a transaction - and the experience of doing it may even have been positive! But you haven’t had a unique experience that goes beyond a transactional exchange. Now imagine, instead, that you booked an appointment to visit the store, and then are greeted by name by a staff member who has already picked out some items she thinks you might be interested in. That is a unique experience - and that’s what experiential relationship management is all about.
Offering human-to-human connections
It’s almost impossible to provide a unique experience without putting a human at the center of it - and this is another key element of an XRM strategy. Artificial intelligence, machine learning, automation, etc. are all the rage, but they’re only going to get you so far. Ultimately, your business is designed for humans - and humans trust other humans more than they trust technology designed to simulate humans. PWC’s report on customer experience has some key statistics that really drive home this story:
- 75% of consumers want more interaction with a real person as technology improves.
- 82% of consumers want more human interaction when purchasing products and services.
- 71% of consumers would rather interact with a human than a chatbot or some other automated process.
The important thing to remember about this is that a human-to-human connection doesn’t even have to be in-person! Video communication is a great way to get that personal touch - without making customers leave their homes.
If your growth strategy is centered around technology, we applaud you - it should be. But if you’re relying solely on that technology to manage your relationships with your customers, then you’re missing a big piece of the puzzle. A solid experiential relationship management strategy can make sure you fill that piece in.
Building personalized relationships
The great thing about a human-to-human connection is that you can use it to provide a relationship that is truly personalized. And we don’t mean personalized in the creepy way that Amazon follows you around the internet based on what’s in your cart - we mean really personalized: like a store associate knowing your style and being able to suggest a new pair of boots based on the skirt you bought last week, or a financial advisor remembering that you might need a college fund for your school-age child.
In the age of social media, targeted ads, and more, consumers are at a point where they expect brands to know what they want. And when brands can give their customers what they want, they see the difference. According to BCG, retail companies “that implement personalization initiatives and become best in class in delivering personalized experiences can quadruple the revenue lift they receive from their personalization initiatives.”
But it’s not just about retail - even though “personalization” does tend to be associated with that particular industry. In fact, there’s evidence of similar benefits around personalization for financial services institutions: For example, BCG has found that “for every $100 billion in assets that a bank has, it can achieve as much as $300 million in revenue growth by personalizing its customer interactions.” That’s another key thing about experiential relationship management - it isn’t industry specific. Any company is going to benefit from managing personalized experiences for their customers.
Managing experiences at scale
Arguably the biggest thing that makes XRM different from personalization strategies of yore is this: It has to be done at scale. Again, to call back to Deloitte’s take on it - it can no longer be just the mom-and-pop shops that deliver these kinds of personalized experiences. The challenge is for all brands to learn how to scale up their operations so that they can make unique, human, personalized experiences possible for their customers - even the brands who have millions of them.
And that is where technology comes in. You can’t replace humans with technology - but you definitely can, and you definitely should, use technology to make those humans even better at what they do! Managing experiences isn’t just a matter of telling employees to do it - you have to arm your staff with the tools they need to do the job right.
So how do you get started with XRM?
If you’re ready to up your XRM game - or start one from scratch! - it might be time to consider investing in an XRM platform. But don’t take our word for it. We recently commissioned Forrester Consulting to measure the ROI of JRNI’s experiential relationship management platform at a $3B revenue company with over 200 locations - and the statistics speak for themselves (143% ROI! $4M in benefits! Almost 2000 staff hours saved per year!).
Intrigued? Want to know more? If you’re not yet ready to take the experiential relationship management leap, but want to read up a bit more on the topic, we recommend these valuable resources:
- The ROI of appointments (eBook)
- How to improve bank branch performance (blog)
- How to use personalization in retail (blog)
- How to increase credit union member loyalty (blog)
And, of course - we at JRNI are all about personalization. So if you have a question about experiential relationship management, or just want to chat, we’re here for that human-to-human connection. Follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter, and don’t be afraid to give us a wave!