July 10, 2017 by NKD

The global art world is evolving. New markets, new clients, new tastes and new technologies are transforming the ways in which people experience art – and these changes need to be met head on.

NKD worked with an international auction house that was already doing well. They were a leading force in the global art community, with a strong brand and reputation. But, they could do even better. They had a vigorous focus on growth, and had identified client experience as a key opportunity to differentiate in the market.

The clients of today’s art world are looking for value beyond the actual product or transaction. What really makes the difference is the experience that you offer them. Experiences can be facilitated through the physical environment of your venues, or events that you hold. But, what can be most powerful is the experience of interacting with your people. The service that your people provide can make or break a customer’s experience, and it’s what keeps them coming back. That client loyalty and increased spend can make a real impact on your bottom line. 

What were the challenges?

 The main issue was that our client had no clear global vision or standard of service. There wasn’t a common understanding of what exceptional service actually is, and what the brand’s own take on it would be. Service wasn’t something that their people thought about; they were world experts in art above all, not providers of client experience in terms of service.

What makes service great is a human, flexible and individualised approach; knowing who your customers are is essential for providing a memorable experience. Our client’s people did not have an in-depth knowledge of client segmentation, and were struggling to adjust their behaviours and services according to the specific needs of customers.

Not only was service itself confusing, but the ‘people processes’ and structures that would make it easy to deliver were missing. For example, there was no standardised system for dealing with service breakdowns – and there were quite a few of them, with 26% of their clients experiencing problems at some point. 

What was our approach?

Our client’s people were passionate about art, but we needed to help them be passionate about service, too. This was challenging as the organisation had already been doing well without a priority focus on client experience. We needed to ensure buy-in from their people, which required a clear articulation of how well the company could do with a focus on service and client relationships. Once they were convinced, the changes that they truly needed could start happening.

We needed to make service a clear, and relevant, part of peoples’ day-to-day. What would really help make sense of service was to create a model of ‘customer centricity’, showing how service fits in with the whole experience our client was offering – and, importantly, how their people could make it happen. The model we created explained ‘customer centricity’ through a service concept and the systems and skills that would bring it to life. At the core of this model was a shift from being object-centric to being client-centric in their approach to service. The tools designed to implement this service, and recover it when things went wrong, ranged from personal capabilities to interpersonal skills and understandings. Customer experience was now something that people felt competent, capable, and perhaps most importantly, committed to deliver.

From our Discovery findings, we knew that service was something that didn’t come naturally to our client’s people. To develop a culture of exceptional service, we needed to inspire a mindset change – from valuing depth of knowledge to valuing depth of relationships. This new approach to client relationships would help ensure growth, keeping clients coming back again and again for that added value and an experience like no other.