Why should companies care about giving their customers a good experience?
A friend once told me about a cab driver he’d met who had the experience of driving Bill Clinton. What stood out to the driver and stuck in his memory was not the contents of his and Bill’s discussion, but how Clinton made him feel like the most important person in his world at that moment, giving his full attention and engaging in a deeply meaningful way.
Though Clinton was in fact the customer here, the principle remains the same: When you create a meaningful and positive experience for your customer or client, the impression will last a lifetime. And if you don’t it could come back and bite you when you least expect it. And in all probability, it will happen in a very public space – either in the form of vitriolic Tweets or as You Tube videos that’ll go viral.
Well, maybe not all businesses will suffer the same fate. It’s unlikely that you will make a video spoofing the diner next door, the one with the surly, unsmiling staff and overpriced, bad food. At the very most you’ll post a bad review online and just stop going there altogether. Is that really such a bad thing and should the diner care?
The short answer is- yes. In his book, “The Greatness Guide”, Robin Sharma explains the importance of customer experience:
"The competition in today’s marketplace is not for customers’ money. The only real competition is for their emotions. Touch the hearts of the people you serve and they’ll be back for more. Engage their emotions and they’ll become your raving fans. Miss this insight and you may lose your business"
He also backs it up with plenty of solid examples. Why are we so attached to our smartphones? Why does it feel good when we walk into a restaurant and get treated like celebrities? It all results from being emotionally engaged with the product or service. The point is that all businesses, big and small, are increasingly based on relationship building and customers expect to be engaged in a way that makes them feel good about being in that relationship. And for a business to be really successful, it’s important to meet and ideally, exceed each and every expectation.
The next question would then be, how to make that “great” customer experience happen?
Here I’d like to draw from some key concepts that emerged from a recent customer experience design session at Catapult on this topic, which might provide some inspiration to others:
- Define the experience: Every business has some idea about the image it wants to project that ties in with how it wants its customers to feel about being in the relationship. It’s important to articulate this experience or vision and have it as a driver for the customer engagement process. A good way to do that could be to review the company’s culture and beliefs and brainstorm on how it could be a part of the value proposition.
- Map it out: It helps to have a map of what the client engagement process should look like right from the time it begins until such time it ends. Identify the terminal points, the critical touch points, the tasks or activities to be performed, the sub processes and the task owners. Link this map to the vision as defined earlier and have some metrics in place to assess the effectiveness of the process.
- Keep it flexible: Though it is easy to deconstruct processes down to the last detail and square it all away into neat little boxes in flowcharts, it’s a good idea to build enough flexibility around them to allow room for evolution and adaptation. Ultimately, every customer engagement and expectations will be unique and so the process might also vary in accordance.
- Communicate: Can’t stress this one enough. The key to a good customer experience is consistency – across the whole process and across the company. Once a client comes on board, they should be able to expect a uniform quality of service. Internal communication should ensure that everyone in the company – right from the CEO to the front desk receptionist- is in on the game otherwise there will be no consistency. Similarly, the external communication should also reflect the company’s vision and promise.
So, those were a couple of general points to help kick off the brainstorming process around planning for a great customer experience! To sum it up, it’s a really simple formula – treat your customers the way you would want to be treated in their place; with kindness and respect.