A good customer experience can increase the length and value of any buyer-vendor relationship. In a marketplace, where every product has a better or cheaper substitute, it becomes obvious that commercial success is tied to care, going way beyond closing sales.
Successful companies roll out complex customer experience strategies, adding value to their offering in greater service, up/cross selling, giveaways and loyalty-based bonuses. They also build ideologies and tell stories with underlying emotional charges that affect the way people experience and talk about their favorite brands.
At Beyond Philosophy, Industry luminaries define the Customer Experience:
A Customer Experience is an interaction between an organisation and a Customer. It is a blend of an organization's physical performance, the senses stimulated and emotions evoked, each intuitively measured against Customer Expectations across all moments of contact.
Processes like meeting delivery times, politeness in helpdesk communication, delivering quality items or packaging them along with surprise gift certificates are as important, as measurable. Quantifying the emotional impact of all those processes on a customer unfortunately isn’t. This is why storytelling and customer experience theories often get crushed by the reality of discounts, refunds, Christmas cards and the occasional free ride coupon. They do put a smile on everybody’s face, however, whenever there’s a chance to opt-out and get a less expensive or feature-rich offer and in turn customer loyalty flakes. A seemingly well tailored customer experience strategy, based on non-emotional incentives, just doesn’t cut it anymore.
Customer experience ideologists
New ideas in customer service and customer experience strategies are being thrown around by top industry experts. These people make a living out of creating client-centred philosophies, which are used by companies to leverage the emotional aspects of the experience.
Shep Hyken, @hyken, author of The Cult of the Customer, encourages development of a culture and loyalty mindset revolving around client relations. He points out that no matter how many sales you make or how little buyers you have, it’s the interaction and exchanged values that make it special. The goal is to convert the customer into an evangelist who will make use of his own social relations and promote the product to them. Losing such a customer means potential loss of his entire network and this must not happen.
Colin Shaw @ColinShaw_CX, experience consultant, predicts the trends which will drive the industry in the near future. In his book, The DNA of Customer Experience, he analyses the subconscious mind and consumer psychology using a scientific approach. The author points out that brain activity can be stimulated throughout all stages of the customer experience, resulting in an engineered, positive response to the offered item. Combined with the rising tide of social media interactions, direct emotional relations and value gets driven. The goal is to evoke or avoid clusters of emotions. Minimizing destructive ideas like frustration reduces the, so called, shopping cart abandonment. Maximizing attention, advocacy, pleasure and loyalty increases retention. Shaw proves that control of these feelings is key in generating revenue.
Ken Varga, @KenVarga, author of a book that claims you will more than double your business in less than a year, takes a more marketing driven approach. He points out something so obvious that many seem to overlook it. Advertising in yellow pages, or search engines if you will, should be aligned and relevant because the customer who is already looking for something is also ready to buy it. The experience should start at the first interaction with the ad and, be led through portions of information that educate, excite and, quoting the author, “make customers beg for more”.
Donna Fluss @DMGConsultLLC, president at DMG Consulting, sheds light on technological processes behind delivering outstanding client experiences. She points out how to effectively use Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software in broad communication facilities like contact centers. Having acquired her experience over at Gartner, she provides lots of free, yet invaluable resources on back-office management or quality assurance. These in-depth studies will be useful for every company looking to optimize their customer experience policies.
Hank Brigman, @TouchpointGuru, the Touchpoint Guru, takes measurements and analysis to the next level. Every interaction customers have with you is a touchpoint. If well designed, it can lead to quantifiable success. Three elements take part in the equation: identity, intelligence and consistence. It comes down to living a specific, emotional identity, delivering appropriate information to the right people, right on time and with cross-channel, standardized touchpoints. Translating this to layman’s terms, we should communicate our offering as a personalized entity that uses newsletters, advertising and word of mouth. The goal is to be present in lives of our consumers, guaranteeing that this presence will always have the same taste - regardless of being on the radio or in the internet. If you ever wondered why companies have their mascottes, now you know.
It seems that by living a customer-centered company culture, understanding of emotional aspects of interactions, communicating relevant information and funneling it via right technology to measure impact is the right way to go. It’s easier said than done because very little companies utilise services of a dedicated customer experience manager.
Influencers and the “wow” effect formula
The difference between ideologists and influencers is blurry. It may seem the latter focus less on revenue and more on enhancing whatever fun there is to have. In the long run though, it’s the influencers who affect customer expectations and push companies introduce new, more customer-centered mechanics into play.
These individuals thrive in the social media environment, making invaluable use of Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, and social video channels like YouTube or MySpace to provide their thoughts on the subject. Since their backbone is charisma, as opposed to thorough analytics of ideologists, they garner much wider crowds of both ordinary people and renowned experts. Needless to say, it’s good to have them on our side and make use of the insights they provide.
These guys don’t need to be published authors. Everyone around who is strategizing, creating concepts and new ideas on how to leverage the customer experience to drive happiness and revenue is an influencer. This is why executives constantly share their thoughts in magazines or the social sphere. Good ideas spread like wildfire and, given the power of hash-tag search and the retweet button, there are simply too many influencers to list. It’s important however to look at this individual.
Joseph Michelli, @JosephMichelli, keynote speaker, makes the notion a bit more interesting, leaving numbers and analytics to Forrester and Gartner and focusing on the fun part - the “wow” effect. It’s the metaphorical name for a good customer experience goal, and quite frankly, everybody’s talking about it. He analysed research of the Verde Group on this subject, and his findings are fascinating. 70% of respondents state a "wow" effect, or great shopping experience, happened in face of at least 5 outstanding touchpoints. More than 80% of shoppers facing “wow” declare they will recommend the offer to others. The formula for this requires:
"Wow" effect formula:
- Engagement: genuine care and acknowledgement of customer needs
- Executional excellence: exceptional product knowledge and quality
- Brand experience: making customers feel they’re always getting a deal
- Expediting: proactive care about the customer during his shopping process
- Problem recovery: compensation and assurance of satisfaction
Interestingly only the brand experience and engagement have a significant impact on loyalty. Should a company decide to increase this KPI, it can use mechanics like gamification, customer support empowerment and feed the culture into the community. Starbucks is a great example of a company, where people get to use their smartphones with FourSquare to get bonus points, baristas take names of customers making it more personalized and everybody seems to have an opinion whether this is fun or not.
There's more and more happening in the area of customer experience studies. If you're looking for more information, there are a few invaluable resources you could look into.
Ken Varga's blog: Attracting customers and engagement. Blog of one of the highlighted ideologists. Well written, easy to digest and very useful.
Customers Rock: Written from the heart by Becky Carrol, customer experience advocate. Based on her experience and real life examples. Must read.
Customer Experience Matters: Part of the Temkin Group. This blog emphasizes the importantce of customer-centricity in terms of building loyalty.
Forrester Blog: Looks at how Fortune 100 companies make use of customer experience strategies.
These blogs aside, be sure to monitor Twitter feeds like
#custserv. They revolve around the subject of customer happiness and you can find even more great influencers and concepts, perhaps even better for your company than the ones highlighted in this article. Do you already improve the customer experience processes in your company? Please share some secrets!