Experience and Empowerment

There are two words currently occupying the top of the business vocabulary: Experience and Empowerment.

Experience is related to senses, process and result.

What is the experience that a customer expects when dealing with a provider of products or services?

When interacting with a supermarket, the experience customers want is that of finding options of products, in a constant way (avoiding out of stock), in clean and organized stores, in a way that facilitate their choice and that processes are simple allowing them to perform the required activities, both outside and inside the store in the most efficient and convenient way possible.

When interacting with a bank the experience the customer expects is that of easily solving their needs of collection, payments or transfers, credit, withdrawals, investment, and balancing by visiting the bank branch, using an ATM or via remote access.

When interacting with a service station the desired experience would be that of easily, safely and quickly filling up your vehicle, checking the radiator, tires and water, use the restroom and, perhaps if in a trip or facing intense traffic, have a coffee and / or a snack.

In common, the answers above point out directly to what should be the basic delivery of any of these businesses. What greatly affects experience is the difference between expectation and outcome.

Empowerment, in turn, is related to freedom, authority and room for making decisions.

Using the same examples above, experience can be greatly affected by the lack of "power" in the front line, that is, the lack of freedom or authority on the part of those dealing with customers.

In a not so distant past several companies adopted the inverted pyramid model. This organizational model challenges the traditional hierarchical model by empowering the employees closer to customers with greater decision-making power and authority. Management, in this model, becomes a facilitator. The theory behind it, is that such an organization becomes more adaptive and therefore more effective. I had the opportunity to work in an organization that advocated such a model and, indeed, it is a model that by empowering, it engages and, at the same time, makes employees accountable.

Technology has enabled companies to automate processes and business rules. Doing more and better with fewer interventions and hence fewer mistakes. On the other hand, there is a real possibility that this will lead to withdrawal of line staff. We experience such examples as clients when interacting with a bank manager or supervisor or with a supermarket manager. Their possibility of assisting customers solving a problem is very limited.

We talk a lot of experience and "empowerment," however, both words should be rephrased.

Experience is the difference between expectation and outcome. A "zero" result, in this case, is already very good and a positive, bad!

Empowerment, in turn, is more easily experienced when the experience is simplified, meeting the expectations of the client!

Recently, I have been visiting in Italy two retail operations that meet the expectations of their current customers.

The first operation is Carrefour Carugate (Milan), a store opened in in 1972 and remodeled in 2015. The big change, besides the incorporation of technology of equipment and displays, is the area of meat, fish, fresh foods, fruits and vegetables. This area was designed to stimulate the senses and organized as if it were a street market and even offering the possibility of consumption on the spot.

The second operation is Carrefour Urban Life (Milan). This is an express type store that offers at the ground floor coffee shop, bakery, ready-to-eat sandwiches and drinks stand, sushi station and a bar in the background. On the upper floor there is a space that contains armchairs, benches, working table and even a "meeting room". In this space products purchased at the ground floor can be consumed and orders can be placed. This space allows both leisure and work, emulating the concept of third place inaugurated by Starbucks (the first place being the house, the second the work and the third one ...).

And what is the relation of these two visited operations with experience? Everything! Experience is related to expectation and outcome. And the outcome will be as good as anticipating the customer's expectations. And this is done by analyzing consumption patterns, demographics, family arrangements, health concerns, income, beliefs and profession. Both operations articulate a physical delivery of what customers expect, even if customers do not know how clearly to articulate this.

And that's the big challenge of any business, to get to know how to identify and read customer expectations and, at the same time, articulate a concrete response!

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