Top B2B companies recognize that their best sales opportunities deserve more attention than just an email or local account executive sales call. These top prospects need to be wowed by a higher-level personal experience that better communicates the seller’s strengths and core values.
These companies discovered that their best chance to close these major deals is to bring the prospect back to the hive. At headquarters or key facilities, they can meet top executives, more deeply understand company capabilities, and spend face-time digging into key business challenges and building relationships.
To make these high-stakes interactions succeed, businesses are building Customer Experience Centers to provide an interactive experience inside a highly designed space that elevates the client relationship and inspires the prospect towards greater partnership.
Sales & Marketing Goals of Customer Experience Centers
While closing high-end sales opportunities is the top goal of Customer Experience Centers and Executive Briefing Centers, there are other key goals that these locations achieve:
- Close higher-end sales opportunities faster
- Increase likelihood of winning repeat sales and expand upsell opportunities
- Strengthen relationships with key buyers and prospects
- Make a memorable impression that inspires visitors
- Enhance the company brand
- Demonstrate products, especially technology-driven products
- Gain insights into customer needs for future development
Keeping these goals in mind allows a company to better focus their own design criteria, and to justify the investment in creating these special spaces.
What’s the Difference Between a Customer Experience Center and an Executive Briefing Center?
An Executive Briefing Center is the more traditional term for two very similar facilities. Customer Experience Centers are more inclusive of client visitors who are key purchasing decision makers but not necessarily from the C-Suite. Also, the activity tends to be more collaborative in a Customer Experience Center, and more presentation-based in an Executive Briefing Center.
Finally, some of today’s start-up and digital leaders may chafe at being called executives, and many Customer Experience Centers are being built by technology leaders. An agile and more mobile startup prospective audience would probably appreciate more the Customer Experience Center environment over the older alternative. Customer Experience Centers are the next evolutionary step.
Design Elements of Customer Experience Centers
Customer Experience Centers are designed to persuade a key prospect or client to enter into a deeper relationship with the host company. To design the space, we find many of these elements commonly combined to create an uncommon experience:
- While sometimes located in their own separate buildings, Customer Experience Centers are usually a room within a larger corporate facility, where there is synergy to hosting it there
- Larger Customer Experience Centers may have separate rooms that flow together as part of the experience, including a lobby/greeting area, presentation room, group discussions, temp offices for visitors, and catered dining
- The largest organizations have multiple Customer Experience Centers, spread around the country, and even the world, with various footprints scaled to the size of the market opportunity
- Customer Experience Centers tend to have an open floor plan, to give a more welcome feeling, while sometimes divided into zones for separate product or technology solutions
- The walls (including glass walls) are partially or completely covered with two and three-dimensional graphics, to convey the company brand, products, history, and story
- The spaces include more and more audio-visual and computer technology, often very large and featuring touchscreens, to present to and collaborate with visitors
- Some centers are also designed to facilitate virtual visits from anywhere using remote technologies
- To highlight and demo physical products, Customer Experience Centers include product pedestals, showcases, and mounts – especially important for manufacturers
- To impress audiences and frame up technology, these spaces feature modern, higher-end furnishings, counters, lighting, flooring, ceilings, finishes, and sculptural architectural details
- These centers also include flexible seating that is able to scale up or down for various audience sizes
Customer Experience Centers: Examples from High-Tech Companies
Most of the top results for a Google search on “Customer Experience Centers” are web pages on high-tech company websites, describing their own Customer Experience Centers. These tech leaders describe the value of visiting them in flowing, persuasive prose, paired with gorgeous photos of their elegant facilities. Some of these companies let you sign up for a visit, while other companies only allow visitors by invitation, after one or more rounds of qualification.
High-tech companies sometimes build their Customer Experience Center to showcase their abilities with the latest tech, such as Artificial Intelligence, Augmented and Virtual Reality, the Internet of Things, Robotics, and more.
Here are profiles of 3 high-tech companies’ Customer Experience Centers, that feature strong strategic vision and excellent design.
Hewlett Packard Enterprise Customer Experience Center
Hewlett Packard Enterprise has many Customer Experience Centers around the world, to serve different geographic and vertical markets. They have many similar names to Customer Experience Center, such as Customer Innovation Center, Customer Technology Center, Customer Engagement Center, and Executive Briefing Center.
Hewlett Packard Enterprise promises many benefits to visiting one of their Customer Experience Centers:
- Uncover key opportunities that drive competitive advantage
- Engage in highly personalized discussions and dive into proven use cases
- Explore the most technologically advanced solutions and interactive demonstrations
- Collaborate to achieve a deeper understanding of key strategies and emerging technologies that can provide an entirely new way of thinking about the future of your business
- Help your business expand its capabilities and achieve business outcomes
- Optimize your technology investments and stay ahead in fast-changing industries
- Plan for future technology innovations and economic shifts and disruptions
- Start on your next business breakthrough
Hewlett Packard Enterprise even has a video to entice potential visitors to connect with them at one of their Customer Experience Centers.
Cisco Customer Experience Center
Cisco emphasizes that their customers are the focus of their Customer Experience Centers, by starting with the headline, “Our customers are our passion and priority.” Cisco offers a customized experience, with a changeable agenda determined in advance targeted to each visitor’s specific business concerns. This is a best practice that ensures visitors don’t get a canned presentation.
Cisco tells potential visitors they will experience interactive discussions, hands-on demonstrations, hear Cisco’s story, and leave with a “digital transformation roadmap.” As a Fortune 100 company, Cisco has 12 Customer Experience Centers in 8 countries located on 4 continents.
Rackspace Customer Experience Center
Rackspace’s slogan is “Fanatical Support” and they extend their mantra to their Customer Experience Center. Rackspace deeply understands and caters to all the stages their potential visitors go through. Rackspace anticipates and delivers by sharing:
- Why they should visit the Rackspace Customer Experience Center
- The 8 different areas that make up their Customer Experience Center, including a separate lobby, customer common areas, catering areas (the dining tables double as white boards!), meeting rooms, a selfie-station, and walls covered with graphics highlighting previous customer visits
- What to expect on your visit (including quotes from satisfied former Customer Experience Center visitors)
- Trip planning help, including transportation, airports, hotels, restaurants, and San Antonio places of interest
Rackspace even shows their awareness of the evolutionary shift from an Executive Briefing Center to a Customer Experience Center by the logo they created:
Customer Experience Centers: Examples from Manufacturing Companies
Manufacturing companies design their Customer Experience Centers to showcase their most advanced products, especially if they involve digital or revolutionary tech. Manufacturing companies tend to have more product display areas in their Customer Experience Centers. They can feature their production capabilities, and as they are older than most tech companies, also provide exhibits around their history. Here are four examples:
GE Additive Customer Experience Center
As perhaps the most disruptive technology in manufacturing, additive manufacturing (also known as 3D printing) is perfect for the hands-on, collaborative sessions visitors have at Customer Experience Centers.
GE Additive’s two Customer Experience Centers focus on far more than presentations. They are full-size manufacturing facilities that help visitors envision how their company could build their own products with additive manufacturing. Visitors get guidance on the additive manufacturing potential for their initial designs, all the way to actual production. They also can get training on all facets of the additive manufacturing process.
Honeywell Customer Experience Center
Manufacturers have to overcome the false assumption that the tech revolution has left them behind. Honeywell does that superbly with their three Customer Experience Centers. Visitors can experience how Honeywell automation and sensors can provide actionable data that boosts productivity and maximizes output, plus boosts safety and security.
Ricoh Customer Experience Center
At Ricoh’s 4,000 square meter European Customer Experience Center, they expand the use of their facility beyond just demonstrating their products to customers. “Extra” roles include:
- Test the viability of new output print media
- Accommodate a test lab for software and digital front ends
- Contain a research lab for specialist inkjet development
- Advise clients on lean and green manufacturing to reduce waste
- Provide a knowledge hub for digital printing technologies
- Provide custom print samples to clients
This multiple-objective facility use is similar to how many companies design their Innovation Labs to spread their costs and increase their return on investment.
Mack Trucks Customer Experience Center
Mack Trucks combines 4 distinct areas at their Mack Customer Center facility. Their Customer Experience Zone immerses visitors with high-tech interactive experiences to help visitors better grasp Mack’s story and product advantages. The Mack Customer Center also includes a product showroom, two test drive tracks, and a museum filled with vintage Mack trucks to help visitors connect to Mack’s heritage.
Getting Started On Your Customer Experience Center
Customer Experience Centers are the younger cousins to Executive Briefing Centers. While the focus on client communication has shifted away from a passive presentation towards a more collaborative interaction, the main goals are still the same: maximize large sales opportunities and strengthen key relationships. The design aesthetic has evolved to a Silicon Valley style, and the role of technology continues to increase. These are high-end facilities up to the task of the high-stakes meetings taking place there.
We would love to help you design and build your own company’s first Customer Experience Center, or add to your growing network of locations. Contact us today to get started.