Think about a recent mediocre customer experience, if you are struggling with this, think about a bad one.
What made it less than ideal?
Now think about a product or service you love, love enough to recommend.
Why do you love it?
Most people are to able come up with at least one brand in response to each of these questions. I like to ask these questions early in a presentation because of the emotional connection created by the ensuing responses.
I am asking you these questions in order to provide some important context as you read the rest of this post. Most of the time we approach this topic tactically. An owner or manager will sense there is something missing in the customer experience. This might be due to direct feedback or by learning of a good or bad experience elsewhere.
Let’s start with the most basic, obvious question.
How do you define customer experience?
Are customer experience and customer service the same thing? What makes an experience good or bad? While this question may feel too basic for some, it’s an important question to ask. Here is why – many think of customer service and customer experience interchangeably.
They are not the same thing. Customer service plays an important role; however, the customer experience is the sum of all interactions with a brand according to Wikipedia.
Think back to the first two questions I asked at the beginning of this post. I’ll bet there was some emotional connection either good or bad depending on the question and your experience.
What kind of customer experience do you want to provide?
This answer to this question is not as obvious as it may seem. I would challenge you to go beyond a simple word or cliché like memorable or world class. While noble, clichés often have a wide range of meanings.
Instead think in terms of a narrative. If you picked a random sample of your customers, employees, and suppliers, what kind of experience would they describe?
When thinking about the kind of experience you want to provide it’s wise to consider the alternative experiences available to your customers. Do you want them to feel simply like a sale or like they are part of a community?
I like the way Craig Jamieson, my fellow contributor, expresses it in his post describing social sales as more than one click engagement.
One click engagement represents a transactional mindset; it’s focused on being efficient, making the sale then moving on. Sales are important; however creating valued relationships is more profitable since engaged customers buy more, stay longer and tell others.
Who Owns the Customer Experience?
Ok, I’ll admit this is a trick question. From an organizational or brand perspective, we are always looking for an owner, and by owner I mean someone or some group that’s responsible.
Some organizations have a senior executive who is responsible for the customer experience. Currently, there is some debate on the efficacy of having someone in this role. Those in favor feel this brings attention and process to the organization by raising awareness. In some instances, those in this role serve as representatives and advocates for the voice of the customer.
Those not in favor of a specific role feel that having someone with this responsibility sends a signal to the rest of the organization that they don’t need to be concerned, that it’s someone else’s job.
The most important challenge is defining and enabling all stakeholders to deliver on the customer experience you define.
Here are 5 design principles that social experience marketing.
How Will You Deliver It?
The most effective way to deliver a differentiating customer experience is to deliver a differentiating experience for your associates and partners.
Richard Branson says, “The way you treat your employees is the way they will treat your customers”. Haven’t we all experienced the contrast of being served by employees who were engaged versus those who didn’t really want to be there?
Culture plays a key role in the customer experience. Associates and partners must be empowered to deliver a consistent experience. If you haven’t already surveyed your employees, find out how they rate your products and services.
Another important factor is to understand the customer’s journey before during and after they buy. Mapping their journey helps gain perspective, especially if a cross-functional team works on the mapping process.
Mapping has many benefits; it can identify gaps in the experience that need to be addressed. Perhaps the most important benefit is the empathy created through the collaboration necessary to create the map.
Customer service is an important part of the customer experience. Remember to build collaboratively, involve as many stakeholders as possible.
How Will You Sustain It?
Once again culture serves as a cornerstone for reliably and consistently delivering and sustaining a great customer experience. This could be one of the biggest challenges.
Consistency has to be part of the customer experience design; it’s your brand. Culture norms, rewards and practices have to reinforce the value of a solid experience for customers and all stakeholders. At the same time the systems and processes in place must be adaptable based on inputs from all involved.
Leaders must constantly remind and consistently live out the essential values necessary to genuinely provide the customer experience.
Consider ways to harness the power of your employees as ambassadors.
I am not suggesting all employees should be turned into marketers; however, I am suggesting that there should be alignment between the values and functions of every employee and stakeholder. Why not take advantage of techniques that work in the marketplace?
How Will You Measure It?
One of the best methods for measuring the customer experience is asking two simple questions. The first is a simple 5 star rating scale. How many stars would you give us? By the way, this is the metric Google is most interested in.
The second question, On a scale of 0 – 10, would you recommend us to a friend or family member ( zero absolutely not and 10 absolutely)? This is the Net Promoter Score.
These two questions offer immediate feedback on the experience. Where possible, try to ask a follow-up question like “What would it take to get 5 stars or a 10? The answers will reveal areas of strength and gaps that need to be addressed.
A differentiating experience doesn’t just happen by chance; it’s a function of culture, design, and leadership. Companies of all sizes can create and sustain memorable customer experiences. Regardless of the size, it takes courage, commitment, and collaboration to achieve the kind of experience that will set your brand apart from the others.
Companies like Southwest Airlines, Trader Joe’s and Starbucks have demonstrated the difference a good experience can make. These companies aren’t perfect; however, they are continually monitoring, training, measuring, rewarding and adapting to ensure they continue to deliver on their winning customer experience.
What are other questions? Can you think of other examples? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below.