Business leaders speak about programs to improve customer satisfaction. However, we all deal with companies that leave us mostly dissatisfied. It’s rare that we have an experience, as consumers, that we feel truly good about. I don’t even mean a knock-your-socks-off “I would love to tell all my friends about this” experience. Just a fun, interesting “I’m delighted and would want to do this again” experience.
Why is that? Why is it, that business leaders recognizes and talk about customer service, but the follow through is so poor? The painful answer is they’re not willing to spend the money. But that is not a satisfying solution. So why do we suffer with such pedestrian customer experience?
There are three critical aspects causing this.
- Lack of imagination. Lack of imagination is a problem we all suffer from. It’s not easy to come up with creative ideas, especially from busy people looking at spreadsheets and having large responsibilities. Also, the risk of coming up with a bad idea can oftentimes be more costly than the reward.
- Loss aversion. Loss aversion means losing something we possess and feeling worse than not getting something we want. Behavioral economists have done many experiments to prove this fact. An executive making a decision about improving customer experience risks an investment with a somewhat unclear return. An investment in new automation or even in a coupon offer has a fairly clear expected payoff. The loss aversion comes into play when looking at investing additional dollars with an unclear return. It feels like giving up something.
- Customers’ minds. Customers sometimes believe the experience is lacking, whether that is actually the case or not. Part of the experience, therefore, resides in customers’ minds. To some degree the most important part of the experience resides in the mind.
The reason delighting customers is so important is simple math. Delighted customers come back and shop with you. They spend more than first time customers, and they tell their friends about you. The above three factors are at the heart of growing a brand both online and offline.
As online retailers it may even be more difficult to provide an experience that leads to growth. We don’t see our customers; in most cases the only physical touch is when FedEx or UPS delivers the package. With the deck stacked against us, what can we do?
The first step in providing unique experiences is in understanding that customers have a choice. Today more than ever before customers have options. For an online retailer to not feel like everyone else there must be a framework that delivers an unmatched experience at an acceptable cost.
The framework I’m proposing revolves around offering customers leadership, relationship, and creativity.
- Leadership is a function of a company’s “why.” A good explanation comes from Simon Synk’s book Start with Why. This allows customers to identify with the company. It explains to them why they should be involved with a company and why they are choosing a certain item. They can identify with a brand and the purchase they make becomes part of their identity. It helps define them to themselves and others. That is why they buy a Mac not a PC, have a Harley jacket or tattoo, and Starbucks coffee.
- Relationship feels tenuous in distance selling such as ecommerce. It is, however, attainable. Relationships are created between people. In other words, there is no new technology that can be installed on a website to deliver deeper relationships with customers. We must develop a culture that supports the development of relationships. The best way for a company to develop relationships and a unique culture is to celebrate and reward the behavior of developing relationships with customers, especially with the frontline customer service personnel.
- Creativity is in our blood. As children we are typically curious. As adults, however, the pressures of the day-to-day and the boxes we all put ourselves in diminish our creativity. Harnessing the creativity of your organization — or more accurately the people in the organization — can propel the customer experience and the company to new heights. The creativity is expressed in the treatment of customers, new product releases, and most of the touch points between a retailer and a consumer. We define touch points as every opportunity customers have to interact with your brand.
Thus, a customer-driven company is difficult to achieve. But it can be done. Start with these steps.
- Study your customers’ behavior.
- Define your company’s “why.”
- Implement your company’s why throughout the organization.
- Communicate your company’s why to customers.
- Define your culture or the culture you wish to have.
- Invest in building and reinforcing the culture.
- Develop creative offers and communication modes with customers.
- Develop an post-sale email drip campaign to communicate with customers and assure their complete happiness with your product or service.
The above steps are inexpensive but provide tremendous return, steady growth, and a fun environment for all stakeholders in the company.