This isn’t a ‘get customers and keep them for life’ piece, nor is it a warning that if you don’t invest in customer experience your brand is most likely going to fail in the long run. Although a well strategized customer experience can build brand-customer loyalty and potentially boost the longevity of a brand, it’s not the focus of this write-up, nor is the intention to sell customer experience.
After all, you can’t sell experience, it is intangible. For the most part, this worries clients and companies alike, as they feel like they are the kid that Tom Sawyer tricked into painting the fence. It may be seen as a fad, or at the very best, something to splurge on if you’ve had a good financial year. After all, companies who consistently have good financial years are doing it.
But the link is not co-incidental, and you probably shouldn’t be waiting for a good financial year to invest in experience. With the current economy, and competition around every corner, good financial years can be few and far between, unless you are actively doing something about it.
Reason #1 Differentiator
You can tell someone about just how revolutionary your brand is, but until customers start experiencing it in every interaction they have with your brand – they simply won’t believe you. That’s sounds simple enough, yet companies spend millions on above the line advertising and nothing on experience building. Advertising is important, but without an experience, it’s tantamount to telling people there’s a cake sale and giving them sardines.
And then there’s improving service delivery, staff training, incentive programs and the like. Yes, good service is expected, great service is appreciated, and outstanding service is even talked about. But going back to the analogy, great service delivery is merely doing what you said you would. You told them there was a cake sale, and they arrived at a cake sale situated next to a busy highway. No matter how great the taste is, the atmosphere aspect is sorely lacking, and somewhat mixed with carbon exhaust fumes.
A hotel that puts expensive Belgian chocolate on their guest’s pillows instead of standard mints may be appreciated by its customers. But a hotel whose staff know exactly how each guest likes their eggs done in the morning, without guests having to ask – well that is a real differentiator.
It’s not about grand displays of love for the customer, it’s about researching the aspects of your brand that make customers tick, and enhancing those aspects to be more personal and more customer centric. But most importantly it’s about creating an effective strategy that is as manageable as service delivery or advertising, and in fact, fits seamlessly into both; a strategy so refined and subtle in its distinction to competitors, that it is impossible to replicate.
Reason #2 Profit Driver
Unlike increasing your advertising budget, or implementing specials and promotions, customer experience strategies look at a company holistically. A well thought out customer experience strategy takes into account every customer touch point as opposed to a singular campaign or project. It doesn’t address the masses, or focus on market share; customer experience strategies are designed to generate profit. In fact people are often surprised to hear that customer experience at its core is about leveraging human emotion to make everyday customer interactions more profitable to businesses.
Let’s imagine your current customer base as a quadrant. On the one axis we have their frequency of interaction with your brand and all its touch points. Instead of adopting a strategy that treats all 4 groups in the same way, an experience strategy addresses each group specific to their needs, and their value to your business.
Before you start throwing resources and time at dead ends, consider carefully who would benefit the most from the unique experience your brand has to offer. In fact, consider what you are doing currently to retain and grow your customer groups. How much time, money and effort are you putting into it, are you seeing a return?
Because Customer experience isn’t about market share, you don’t have to waste valuable resources on the problem customer group. The cost of maintaining unprofitable relationships isn’t worth the reward. In the old days, one might expect to find a revival strategy for these customers. But as far as experience goes, don’t make these customers your priority. While there may be a small percentage of problem customers who have potential value to your business, it is important not to be sentimental when it comes to market share. Like spring cleaning, one must find particular strategic reasoning, in order to make a problem customer a priority. And this requires careful and rigorous monitoring of your problem customer base.
Streamlined customer experience also addresses potential growth, adding value and growing business in customer groups where interaction and profit are lacking. It encourages customers to build a relationship with your brand over time, rather than a once-off sort of deal.
Remember all those resources you were wasting on problem customers? Well those resources can now be used to make profitable clients, loyal clients. You don’t have to treat them like royalty; you just have to treat them like people. On top of great service, experience offers casual customers an opportunity to bond with your brand.
Ideally an experience strategy turns customers with growth potential, into golden customers. These customers place incredible importance in the quality of their experience with your brand, in fact they are willing to pay a premium for it, and most importantly they are loyal to brands that recognise them as people rather than simply customers.
If your customer experience strategy truly speaks to customers, they become part of your brand. And the effort, time and resources spent on these customers are both rewarding, and profitable.
Finally, and this is a big deal, with products like the Customer Experience Dashboard, companies are able to link specific aspects of experience, within highly segmented markets – to financial return and profit. So you aren’t making decisions in the dark, you have a highly specific, targeted and measurable strategy that’s aimed at generating profit while adding genuine value to your brand.
Reason #3 it’s just nice.
Yes, business doesn’t run on nice, and neither do salaries and bills… but it’s also clear that brands that aren’t nice aren’t exactly faring well on sites like hello peter. There’s a real benefit in doing business and treating customers nicely.
It’s no longer possible for brands to act and think as a business delivering services and products to the masses.
The perfect example is a customer buying an air ticket on special. It’s a great offer, and the airline seems really reliable. But the flight is overbooked, and staff are forced to put passengers on later flights. Route A says that the employee should offer them free accommodation and meal vouchers and send them on their way, usually hopping mad. Route B, involves taking initiative and actually listening to the customer, taking time to understand their issues, and seeing them as a person, not seat 12A. While the employee ends up taking a bit more time and inevitably giving them the same offer, they will walk away less likely to never fly with the airline again. Partly because the customer was given a chance to calm down, but also because that employee is passionate about the brand, and understands the importance of conveying the values of their specific airline.
While brands should always strive to exceed customer expectations, sometimes mistakes happen. And often the best way to remedy a bad experience is with a good one. Brands that take ownership, show accountability, and empower both customers and employees, are brands that truly understand what customer experience entails. Yes, it’s about adding personal care and consideration, but it’s also about shifting the way in which you approach business.
The big picture
Investing in an experience means that your customers are spending their money on something that genuinely adds value to their lives, from the moment they start interacting with your brand. The follow on effect for businesses however, is a strong differentiator, increased and sustainable profit margins, and expense reducing strategies that actually yield results.
If not… why not?