We Cannot Not Create Experiences for Our Customers

Pete Tosh
June 17, 2013 — 1,382 views  
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‘The best predictor of organizational growth is your customers’ perception of their experiences with your organization & their willingness to recommend’ Fred Reichheld - The Ultimate Question, Bain & Company

Your organization, every department and each employee is continuously creating experiences for their external and/or internal customers. At any point where we interact with or touch a customer in providing them a product or service, we create an experience. And during those experiences customers form perceptions and make decisions about doing business with us in the future. This is applicable to B2B customers as well as B2C. Often the costs and other ramifications of a bad customer experience in a B2B relationship are much more significant – to the customer as well as the employee involved.

So the question is not whether we provide experiences, but whether we:

  • are aware of where and when these experiences occur?
  • know how our customers are assessing their experiences? are we creating positive or negative customer emotions? how do our customers view the quality of their experiences with us versus those they have with our competitors?
  • have initiatives in place to improve upon our customers’ perceptions of these experiences?

Each of us is tasked with creating emotionally engaging experiences for our customers.

Let’s look at a common buying experience we each have frequently – buying gas in a convenience store. In addition to the actual price of the product which granted is ‘top-of-mind’ at $4.00 a gallon – we encounter a series of touch points: ease of access, cleanliness, availability of windshield squeegee, arrangement of products, interpersonal skills of the attendant, appearance of the restroom, availability of directions, etc. These touch points are sending a series of cues that in essence are telling us how much that organization values doing business with us. Walt Disney was known to say “There is no magic in the Magic Kingdom; it’s just a whole bunch of details.”

The challenge for many organizations is that - while they may have initiatives in place to improve upon the more obvious touch points - there are other Moments of Truth that take place unintentionally and go unmanaged.

Now please contrast your convenience store experience with a trip to Starbucks. Starbucks may not always meet all of your expectations but Starbucks is very intentional about the management of each of its cues. Starbucks says it is in the business of creating positive experiences while selling coffee. To gain insight into the intensity with which Starbucks manages its touch points, I recommend Howard Schultz’s new book Onward.

Customers form their assessments of us during these specific touch points which are under our control and manageable. The good news is that every organization has many touch point opportunities to create stronger customer relationships and loyalty. The bad news is that a customer may form his/her impression of an organization at its weakest touch point link - sales, manufacturing, accounting, customer service, etc. Customer perceptions are also formed at non interpersonal contacts such as websites, product packaging, the appearance of facilities, marketing literature, etc. One research study found that 86% of consumers say they have stopped doing business with an organization after a bad customer experience. Improving your key touch points may well be a survival issue.

While in these economic times organizations, out of necessity, have to eliminate unnecessary expenses; organizations that have made a commitment to enhancing their customers’ experiences often find:

  • opportunities to eliminate overly investing in initiatives which have low priority to their customers
  • enhanced customer experiences can be a differentiator that competitors find difficult to mimic - often leading to ‘stickiness’ and competition-resistant relationships
  • lasting customer loyalty and repeat buying behavior are seldom built on pricing alone
  • customers who have positive experiences in combination with quality products and service are willing to pay for those experiences
  • their efforts often more than pay for themselves in repeat and enhanced buying behavior

Research verifies that customers don’t want to hear how good we say we are. They want to experience it.

Customer loyalty is built one touch point at a time. And this concerted effort has a significant payback in that loyal customers stay with you through difficult times, they purchase more and give a larger ‘share of wallet’, they are proud to recommend you and are more likely to give you the benefit of the doubt. An initiative to enhance your customer touch points requires several steps: identifying your primary customer segments, identifying your points of contact, understanding customers’ needs and expectations during their primary touch points, communicating your customer experience objectives to employees, restructuring those touch points, etc. Possibly we’ll describe this process in a future newsletter - or you can contact us at The Focus Group to discuss.

If you want a quick initial process, look for opportunities to enhance your touch points with a key customer segment by providing them more value through:

  • their interpersonal interactions with your organization
  • simplification of the procedures they must follow to do business with you
  • supplying additional information that makes their life easier or allows them to provide more value to their customers
  • a more pleasant physical setting in which they conduct business with you

It’s a chain reaction: Positive Customer Experiences create Strong Relationships which in turn enhance Customer Loyalty.

Pete Tosh

The Focus Group