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Building a Case for Getting Better
Every once in a while I’m looking through my files and I find something that was once shared only with one customer that has great relevance to anyone who deals with a customer.
That happened the other day. I was looking for something in particular and I ran across some notes I’d made for an executive of a large company that I was coaching. He was on his way to Hawaii to meet with the rest of the management team and he wanted some help writing a speech. He wanted to convince the rest of the team that the "Customer Experience" was so critical to their business that they should be making a large investment in training everyone who touched the customer to go above and beyond, to add discretionary effort, to go the extra mile.
I’m editing my notes down a bit, so I don’t take up too much of your time today – but if you’ve ever had trouble getting your boss or your team to understand why this "experience thing" is so important, here’s your opening argument – all prepared for you – just fill in the [ ] with your information and add your own insights.
Customers become "regular" customers when we provide them with what they need, when we provide them with the product they seek at a price that is fair in a way that is easy for them to get it (process) and in a place that pleasant for them to visit. But, they become "loyal" customers when we consistently create a Positive Emotional Experience for them. Loyalty is an emotional attachment, one with a big pay back. Single digit increases in customer retention and loyalty cause double digit increases in profit.
Customers get attached when we provide for both their Business needs (product, convenience, safety, price etc.) and their Personal (emotional) needs (courtesy, respect, trust, to feel welcome, important, recognized, secure, cared about, comfortable etc.).
According to studies that were done originally by the Rockefeller Institute and then by US News and World Reports, 68% of the customers that quit going back to a company quit because they think, perceive or feel that the company does not care about them. In short when they feel a company is indifferent to them or their needs, they are open to leaving that company.
Customer satisfaction is not enough! 60 –80% of customers who defect reported that they were "satisfied." Repeat business comes from going beyond customer satisfaction to customer delight which leads to customer loyalty.
According to B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore, authors of "The Experience Economy" the key to differentiation in the market is Experience. They call experiences a "fourth economic offering." Beyond commodity, beyond goods and beyond service is experience. "When a person buys a service, he purchases a set of intangible experiences carried out on his behalf. But when he buys an experience, he pays to spend time enjoying a series of memorable events that a company stages – as in a theatrical play – to engage him in a personal way." "Companies stage an experience whenever they engage customers, connecting with them in a personal memorable way" [Ed. Note: Think Geek Squad, Starbucks, Southwest Airlines]
The "commodity mindset" is about providing a function. To differentiate in today’s crowded marketplace, you need to create an experience for the customer that will make them feel good about doing business with you. According to Pine and Gilmore, "… while commodities are fungible, goods tangible, and services intangible, experiences are memorable." [Ed. Note – I had to look it up too – fungible means freely exchangeable for goods of like nature – they can buy it somewhere else.]
Experiences are created within the customer. They are sensations and feelings that are evoked by the interaction with the customer. Experiences can be positive or negative (and they cause a physiological change in the customer’s body.) The creation of consistently positive experiences is the key to loyalty.
The value of the customer experience lingers in the memory of the individual that was engaged by the event. Customers walk away with indelible impressions. Impressions are the "take-away" of the experience.
At [ Insert your company name here ] when the customer walks away with the impression that here they are valued, they are cared about and appreciated, they are more likely to want to come back again and to tell their friends to do so as well.
At [ Insert your company name here ] they are treated differently. They are made to feel important, welcome, comfortable – special!
Success hinges not only on finding the right products (or services) to sell, displaying them attractively, making them easy to buy, and having facilities (even in cyberspace) that are clean, convenient and safe – but on the quality of the people that touch them.
They must be willing to interact and engage the customers at a different level than they have in the past. They must be skilled in the arts of relationship building and solutions focus. They must be positive, upbeat and have the "can-do" attitude the customers crave.
They must be committed to the [ Insert your customer focused philosophy here ] and passionate about carrying out your mission. They must CARE about the customer.
While many businesses focus on increasing transactions you need to focus on building relationships. Relationships are built with businesses over time with companies (and brands) that people trust. They trust that they will deliver on the brand promise over time, consistently. [Hmmmm… what’s your brand promise?]
When customers experience "a little extra" they are more apt to spend a little extra.
When a customer trusts a supplier they are more apt to take a product recommendation from them. "Have you tried our [ product/service yet ]?" "Did you find everything you were looking for?" "Do you need [ value added service or product ] while you are here?" You can ask a lot of good questions, with a reasonable prediction of response when the customer is a "regular" and the company is trusted.
There are only a few ways to increase revenue – get the customer to come back more often, get them to buy more of what you offer, or get them to recommend your offerings to a friend. All are more easily accomplished in the context of an ongoing relationship that feels good to participate in. Make sure every person in the company understands that by creating consistently positive customer experiences – memorable enough to differentiate you in the marketplace – they all become part of the organization’s success.
Hiring right, orienting care-fully, educating well, listening often and openly, and creating a great place to work and do business with is the job of every leader, in every organization when your goal is to thrive.
So there you have it –an outline (of sorts) for a speech that one of my clients paid a fair amount of money to receive. He has since been promoted in his organization and stays in touch from time to time. When you adopt this leadership mindset in your organization you’ll advance as well. Get out there are start promoting the Customer Experience in your organization today.
Build a "case" for continuous improvement in your organization. The customer’s needs are continuously changing – your skills need to keep up. Especially now.
If you’re not getting better, you cease being good.