Welcome to the final installment of the three-part series on Customer Experience! In the last two blog posts, I identified three types of customers and the forum in which feedback is often shared, the internet and social media. So now that you have a good view of the landscape, let’s bring it home with what you can do to differentiate yourself, elevate your service game, and help your customers in new and creative ways. For most of you, I’m guessing this is the post you’ve been waiting for, so let’s dive right in.
Customer Experience Defined
When I talk about customer experience, I’m referring to the perception your customers have of your brand. There are two key components to this definition. First, it’s based on their perception. You may do the exact same thing(s) for two seemingly similar customers, and they may still receive it in slightly different contexts. Because of this, it’s important to be extra attentive when working with your customers. This will help you catch little nuances and preferences that will enable you to tailor the experience specifically to that customer. Even if the only differences are in the way that you listen and converse.
Second, it’s about your brand in its entirety. It’s not just the more obvious components – your product, your service, your installation, etc. It’s literally everything you do for the customer. Soup to nuts and everything in between. Consider the impact that each of your employees has on the customer. Granted, customer-facing positions have a direct and immediate impact, but every other position in your company has an impact if you follow its influence far enough up or downstream from where the work happens. Every one of your employees is responsible for your brand, is influential in the experience that your customer has with you, and has the potential to create Advocates or Assassins.
The Sincerest Form of Flattery
So, if everyone in your organization can affect your customers so profoundly, how do you begin to know what to focus on? One option is to begin by looking at who is already doing it well. In 2018, the following companies were identified by Forbes as the top 10 at customer experiences: Ritz-Carlton, BufferApp, Trader Joe’s, Harley Davidson, Amazon, Costco, Zappos, Dollar Shave Club, Disney, and Netflix. Whether or not you personally agree with the above list, these companies are regularly recognized for their customer-centric efforts. Some other companies regularly mentioned include: Chick-fil-A, Apple, Sephora, and Rackspace.
Once you’ve identified some companies you can model from, become a student of customer experiences. Pick one or two from the list above and take a good, hard look at what they’re doing that makes them stand out. For me, I’m an avid Disney fan. Why? It’s all in how they make me feel. When I’m vacationing at Disney, I feel like a kid again (still?). And they’re so good at it that they have me coming back year after year, Disney being a favorite vacation spot for our family. I’m not just drinking the Kool-Aid, I’m guzzling it and handing out glasses to others.
Creating Great Experiences
Modeling your behavior after others who are already doing it well is just one way to begin making strides in the arena of customer experience. Below are some other strategies:
- Make it a priority. Like anything else, it won’t get better on its own. You need to communicate your vision for customer experience, weave it into your culture, allocate resources to it, and allow it to trump other, competing priorities.
- Build a customer-centric culture. If there are boundaries on what’s expected or acceptable, make them clear. Your culture should be the guidepost for your employees. Reward the kind of behavior you expect, and hire based on culture fit.
- Empower your employees. Each of your employees can impact customer experience, so let them impact it. Give them the permission and resources to effect positive change.
- Gather feedback. Regardless of how you capture it, collect customer feedback. How else will you know how you’re doing? Regularly review the information you receive and use it to create appropriate action plans.
- Evaluate your progress. As you begin to gain traction, examine what’s working well and what’s not working so great. Carve out time in meetings for discussion, or schedule meetings if you don’t have a standing one. Brainstorm ideas and make it safe to try new things and fail.
- Be consistent. Once you find something that works, do more of it. This isn’t the same as doing the exact same thing for each customer. Rather, this is behaving in a predictable fashion. You don’t want erratic behavior to undo your good strides.
- Sweat the small stuff. Not all of what you do for a great customer experience will be big and splashy. Conversely, most of what you do will be small tweaks that have a powerful cumulative effect.
Customer Experience in Practice
There are many ways to improve customer experience, many of them as unique as your customers. The important thing in all of it, is to remember that you’re trying to create a memorable, special experience for each customer within their unique set of contexts. And by its very definition, special implies that it is not uniform, fair, or even equitable. You may not do the same thing for every customer, and that’s okay.
Everyone wants to be surprised and delighted. If you are determined to create amazing customer experiences, it will happen, but not without time, effort, and determination. As with any change, you will hit the occasional speed bump. Some may even be big enough to halt your momentum. But don’t give up. Keep getting back on the horse, your Advocates will come, and maybe someday it’ll be your company we’re hearing about on the Today Show!
A Note About Park Industries & Customer Experience.
At Park Industries, we strive to create exceptional customer experiences. It is through this continuous effort that we have learned a great deal. We are pleased to be able to share some of these learnings with you in the hopes that you will find the information valuable and are able to use it to enhance your own customer experiences.