As technology advances and more and more products and services become commoditized, the only thing that separates one business from another is the customer experience.
Poor customer experience can easily destroy a business . . . If you don’t believe this, just ask United or American Airlines. One ugly incident can destroy the customer loyalty that has taken years to build!
Conversely, exceptional customer service can accelerate a business and its profitability to new heights!
What Experience Does Your Business Provide?
I recently switched things up and gave up my BMW car for the iconic F150 short box 4X4 pickup truck. Aside from the obvious complete change in driving performance and utility, I was taken back by the lack of customer experience offered by Ford in comparison to BMW. For example:
- When I first picked up my BMW they had it nicely cleaned and parked in a beautiful, shiny, high-tech, air conditioned showroom. The salesperson spent 30 minutes with me and went through all the features of the car and gave me some very nice BMW trinkets (metal BMW key rings, etc.).
- I picked up my Ford just before Christmas last year. It was about -10 degrees and the truck was parked outside in a snowy, slippery parking lot. The truck had been washed but it was not dried properly so the doors and tailgate were frozen. The salesman spent 5 minutes with me and sent me on my way with a fake leather Ford key chain!
Don’t get me wrong, I like my truck but Ford needs to kick their customer experience up a few notches if they want to differentiate themselves!
Authors B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore define experiences in their 1998 HBR article “Welcome to the Experience Economy” as follows:
“An experience occurs when a company intentionally uses services as the stage, and goods as props, to engage individual customers in a way that creates a memorable event. Commodities are fungible, goods tangible, services intangible, and experiences memorable. “
What are you and your business doing to engage your customers in an unforgettably positive and repeatable experience?
What Can You Do to Improve Your Customer Experience?
There are many things you can do to dramatically improve your customer experience and differentiate your business from the competition. Here are 10 ideas to get you started.
- First of all, don’t focus on processing as many transactions as possible. Instead, focus on the customer. Do this by hiring, training, and rewarding staff to be;
- Willing to “go the extra mile”
- Focus on providing a great end to end, immersive customer experience. Learn from companies that establish themselves as leaders in this experience economy. For example:
- Rainforest Café
- Analog Coffee
- Educate your customers. What can you teach your customers that add value to them while positioning you and your business for success?
- Entertain your customers. Pikes Market in Seattle has some excellent examples of commodity type businesses (fresh fish store) that have differentiated themselves through exceptional customer experience.
- Provide an environment that your customers can escape to. Disneyland is like this for kids.
- Provide an immersive, aesthetic experience. Starbucks was designed to do this with the smell and taste of coffee and the buzz of customer conversations.
- Engage all the human senses in they way you deliver your product or service. Rainforest Café does this with their themed restaurants.
- Provide a consistently great and repeatable experience. A business must be good at providing the customer experience. It cannot be great one day and poor the next.
- Get your customers’ candid feedback and use this to continually improve your customer interaction.
- Finally, strive to build a continuous improvement culture within your business.
Review your business and customer experience this week. What is going well and driving customer loyalty and engagement? Identify any activities or behaviors are doing the opposite and correct them. Are there actions you need to take right now to improve the customer experience?
Finally, read these related posts and take some ideas.
“Think one customer at a time and take care of each one the best way you can.” Gary Comer
What great customer experiences have you had? Leave your comments below!
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