Are news media companies providing the experience that keeps customers coming back?

I’d like to think I’m cool. I’m hip. I’m with it … which, by default, means I’m none of those things.

Fine. I admit it. I am now “of a certain age,” which comes with its own privileges along with now being “ma’amed” out of respect instead of sass.

One of these privileges is that, as a consumer, I know what I want, and dammit – I deserve it.

As a consumer, I no longer blindly accept what is offered. I specify. I request (politely), and if it isn’t possible, I then insist with a bit more of the afore mentioned “sass.” 

Interestingly, once you get past the shocked businesses and surly sales people, it becomes part of your consumer DNA. You gravitate towards businesses that are supportive of your requests. They care about your experience.

It is part of what they deliver: experience.

This hit me while speaking with a friend who was recently promoted to national customer experience manager for an audio/visual company. When she told me about the promotion, I asked: “What the hell is a customer experience manager (CEM)?”

Upon a bit of Googling, we realised that it is one of the fastest growing positions within service companies. There are currently more than 300,000 customer experience manager positions available on LinkedIn alone for North America.

The role: To always have the customer’s experience (desires, needs, perception, concerns) top of mind and view a company’s strategy, customer interaction points, products, services, and policies from the point of view of the customer, not from the employee’s perspective.

A CEM is right brain, focusing on a company’s value to the customer, assessing the people, interactions, and emotional value of the experience, versus the left brain, which is the internal-looking, systems-and-transactions-focused, functional-value-assessing role of its counterpart, CRM.

The goal is to garner more engaged customers who value the experience you provide them. Loyal customers. Customers who don’t go to you because you’re cheapest, or give them free X, Y, or Z. Rather, they enjoy the experience you provide.

Here’s a crazy thought: What if, as news media companies, we partnered our CRM directors with CEM directors? What if we focused on the customer’s experience, and our value to them, as we envision our future and try and fix our present, instead of looking internally to “slow the bleeding?”

We remain legacy beasts in so many ways, focusing on “quality journalism” – providing bigger and more special newspapers or content. Is that really what the consumer wants? Is anyone reading the feedback left on your Web sites, shared with your CSRs on the phone, or e-mailed directly to your inbox?

Take Starbucks. It is coffee … that people wait in line for and pay more for than a foot-long sandwich. Why? Ultimately, in your Starbucks experience you’ll never hear “no.”

You want a tall, half-caffeinated, non-fat, extra hot drink with extra foam and three pumps of sugar-free vanilla in a venti cup? You got it. You’ll pay for it, but you got it … along with free wifi, a groovy vibe, plush chairs, and a feel that’s uniquely Starbucks.

They listened, they delivered, and people pay … Heck, they wait in line and pay for it. Repeatedly.

Starbucks’ goal is to become the “third place” in our daily lives, because people don’t want a “cup of coffee” that suits all. Your Starbucks experience is about how you consume your beverage, the environment, the experience. Check out this Fast Company article about the very topic.

There are a lot of “certain agers” out there – and even more Millennials and whatever comes after them – and they’re all even more entitled than we’ve earned the right to be.

They want what they want, how, when, and where they want it. It isn’t about the price. It’s about the experience, how their interaction with you is about them, and how you listen and give them what they want.

I’m hopeful for a news media future where I can have my foo-foo US$7 coffee, while reading my print subscription to the Sunday op-ed section, the fashion section, and the local events section, while consuming the rest of my news content on my various mobile devices the way I’ve told my newspaper I wanted.

And I’ll pay for it ... because it’s what I want, dammit.

About Maria Terrell

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