We’ve all had interactions with companies that swing from awe-inspiring to just plain awful – with most businesses landing somewhere between.
The truth of the matter is SMEs that traded solely on relationships and good customer service just aren’t going to cut it any more. And the data backs it up.
PWC’s latest customer experience report, Experience Is Everything, highlights that the people who look to you for goods and services expect more than just service with a smile.
It found 51% of consumers expected better experiences from companies from which they bought, and 43% said they would be willing to pay a premium for the privilege. A clear-cut 80% of customers said speed – and thereby convenience – was the most important factor when dealing with a business, and knowledgeable service (not just friendly service) was coveted by about the same amount.
However, something that is deeply underrated by owners but highly valued by customers is when businesses offer something truly different. About 65% of consumers say they craved unique experiences when they dealt with businesses, and that’s something Lisa Renneisen – the co-founder of Brisbane event company Bright Humans – knows a thing or two about.
So much so that her and her co-founder Nadine Zrinzo changed the name of their business from Bright Conferences to Bright Humans – better reflecting the fact that their company had evolved to provide not just event management services, but exceptional customer experiences and human-led design for their conferences.
“I guess, as time went on for us, the events were always the vehicle but they weren’t what drove us,” Lisa says.
“So we were really driven by creating these outstanding experiences and delivering this learning and this content to people. And we just felt events were this beautiful way to do it. So that’s what really excited us.”
“And I guess that’s kind of what transitioned us into them becoming Bright Humans, because we didn’t just want to be about running events for the sake of running events. We wanted to create these outstanding experiences that might impact the ecosystem and then help to drive the community forward.”
But how did their customers – even their friends and family – take the change that repositioned them from an events company to something with far more depth but potentially also more nuance?
“It was the simplest change we ever could have done,” Lisa says.
“We told a few people and they’re like, ‘Yeah. That’s way better. That’s cool.’ And then we told some other people and it was just so phenomenally accepted, and we were quick to drop Bright Conferences and just be Bright Humans.
“It’s really interesting because when we were Bright Conferences, people would often refer to us as just Bright. And now people actually say Bright Humans more because I think we left behind something that didn’t match up, and took on something that matched our brand position of creating experiences, not just conferences, to perfection.”
How can small businesses build amazing customer experiences?
The semantics are pretty simple, but Lisa warns it can quickly veer into buzzword territory if not focused correctly. She says human-centred design is about putting your audience or customers – their thoughts, feelings, actions, needs, wants, aspirations, fears, the lot – at the centre of the experiences you provide. And it’s no longer negotiable – it’s a must.
“For us, no matter what we’re doing, it’s seeing that people are at the core of what you do,” she says.
“I think there was a period for a while where we saw the learning at the events as being the key thing that happened in there. And then you kind of dig into things a bit further and you start to realise that people are really there for the other people.
“It’s that conscious design of an experience and knowing it’s not just enough to put out some chairs, get some speakers and hope that everything comes together. Everything is intentionally designed and that’s what we try to create for people.”
There’s no end to the tools, methodologies and pathways available for owners who want to strip back the layers of their business and look at where they can apply human-led design and better customer experiences.
But Lisa advises that it’s best to leave no stone unturned when looking at what you can provide for your customers.
“The methodologies we use go from start to finish of our events,” Lisa says.
“You have to design it that way, and you have to look at everything – the great big things you do, the little things you do, even the most miniscule interactions need to be thoughtful experiences.
“Because they are all opportunities for your customers to become more emotionally connected to what you do.”
Lisa is also mentoring business owners as part of the Brisbane Business Hub, and says while businesses are certainly in a much better mindframe to understand customer experience design and digital transformation, being too reliant on a static “plan” and overcomplicating things is still a problem for business owners.
“We like to overcomplicate things and we like to have a complete plan in place,” she says.
“Whereas my advice towards small business is to focus on the simple things you can do, get started and work your way through. Businesses can’t have, especially at the moment, a complete plan of where we’re going or what might be happening. You just kind of need to work with what you can and keep learning and keep growing that way.
“By all means have a plan, but get ready to change it fast and be flexible. Because even the pivots or plans that worked during lockdowns may not be what will get you to your next objective or goal. Our opportunity is in our ability to be creative while delighting customers in ways they may never expect.”
And that sounds like the kind of bright human experiences we all need.
Lisa is part of the Brisbane Business Hub mentor network – our community of business experts and industry thought leaders ready to connect with Brisbane business owners to support, collaborate and create opportunities leading to business recovery, transformation and growth. Find out more about Brisbane Business Hub and the mentoring service.