Customer Experience: Your Secret Weapon Against the Competition

Customer Experience: Your Secret Weapon Against the Competition

Customer experience or “CX” is not just a buzzword, it’s an approach that can win new customers, slash churn and turn customers into evangelists.  If your company isn’t utilizing the customer experience perspective, you’re leaving profits on the table.

In a nutshell, companies that adopt the customer experience perspective look closely at the different ways customers interact with their company and customize the ways they market to those types of customers – as well as the ways they provide their products or services – accordingly.  It boils down to understanding what different customers want so that you can make them feel special.  That makes them more likely to choose your company, keep coming back, and tell all their friends.

An Example

I’ll use a personal example to illustrate how it works.  Recently, my auto mechanic told me I needed new tires.  Getting new tires is not something I look forward to.  I don’t know how to choose which tires to buy, they always sound overpriced, but of course I don’t want to get tires that won’t be safe… and then you have to sit around in a dirty depressing waiting room while they put them on.  I asked my mechanic where he recommended getting tires, and he mentioned America’s Tire.  When I checked out their website, it gave me the option to put in the make and model of my car, then gave me a list of tires they had that work for my car, along with prices and customer reviews for each tire.  I as then given the option to make an appointment online.  I made the appointment, and printed out the information.  When I walked in the next morning with the piece of paper, a man said to me “you must be Jay.”  I was surprised.  He said “my name is Josh, I’m the manager here.  We’ll get those tires put on for you and since you have an appointment, they can get started immediately.  We’ll be done in 45 minutes.”

As you can imagine, I really impressed by them.  This was nothing like what I had experienced in the past.  So, a month later, when I got a nail in one of the tires, of course, I went back there.  When I came to pick up the car, I fully expected to pay for the flat tire fix.  But no, it turns out that, because I’m a customer, they fix flat tires for free.  Not only that, when I later a had a flat on my other car, which did not have their tires, they fixed that for free too, just because I’m their customer.  And they send me emails reminding me when it’s time to check the air pressure or have the tires rotated, which they also do for free.  You can imagine I’m telling everyone about this.  Now, when I need tires, I don’t check anywhere else, I just go directly to America’s Tire.

Note that the above example isn’t just about good customer service; they also have systems in place that ensure a good experience, even for customers like me, who don’t know a thing about tires.  And for people who prefer to make an appointment online, rather than calling in.  They also differentiate themselves by providing free extras that don’t cost them a lot, but which make customers happy.  In fact, this might be an example where “delight the customer” is more than a platitude!

Implement a CX Program at Your Company

So how do you implement a CX program at your company?  Follow these steps:

Step 1: Define your customer segments.  To do this, talk to your customers (consider interviews and focus groups), and don’t forget the wealth of information you have in your existing purchase data and website analytics, as well as what people are saying about your category on social media.  What you’re looking for are different types of people that interact with the company in different ways.

Step 2: Develop a “customer journey map” for each type of customer.  Look at each customer segment.  How do they decide to come to you?  What are their most important touch points with the company?  What makes them really happy?  Also, pay attention to their bad experiences, whether with you or with your competition.  Is there some way to turn that around and provide the opposite experience?

Step 3: Take that information and make the magic happen!  Brainstorm with your team and come up with ways to make each type of customer feel valued and special.  That means coming up with ideas for customized offers, but also ideas for great customer service (for some great examples, I recommend the book “Zombie Loyalists” by Peter Shankman).

Bonus Step: Getting to Customer Delight

You could stop here and be way ahead of the game.  But there’s another step that can truly differentiate you from the competition.  It’s the difference between your customer liking your company or loving your company.  And you do this by empowering your employees to ensure your customers have a great experience.  That’s not the same as “the customer is always right.”  Rather, it means giving your employees the leeway to do something extra for a customer if they think it’s appropriate and will keep that customer coming back.

Doing so not only delights the customer, but frequently results in great word of mouth when the customer shares the story on social media.  For example:

  • The reservations clerk at Ritz-Carlton asked a customer if she was making a reservation for a special occasion, and she mentioned she was celebrating the completion of her chemotherapy. When she arrived at the hotel, she was surprised to be greeted with champagne and hand-written notes from 56 employees encouraging her in her fight against cancer.
  • The Southwest Airlines pilot who got off the plane to delay a flight so a man could see his dying grandson.
  • The manager at Trader Joe’s who delivered free groceries to an elderly veteran who was snowed in.

Understand your customers and make a personal human connection with them and they’ll reward you with loyalty and great word-of-mouth.  It’s worth the effort!

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By Jay Zaltzman, keynote speaker and founder of Bureau West Market Research Group.

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