Customer Experience Management in the New Economy

How would you rate your customer experience management? If you have a customer experience that satisfies but doesn’t WOW you’re in BIG trouble.

Customer experience is defined as the sum of all experiences a customer has with a you and your business over the duration of the business relationship. This means every touch impacts that experience positively or negatively. Your customer experience management reflects your ability to deliver an experience that sets you apart in the eyes of your customers serves to increase how much they spend with you and, optimally, inspire loyalty to your brand.

Creating  a superior customer experience requires you to first understand the customer’s point of view. Only by standing in the customer’s shoes can a company appreciate the full impact of the day-to-day customer experience that the company delivers.

In the New Economy products are becoming commoditized, price differentiation is no longer sustainable and customers are demanding more. To compete, companies are focusing on delivering superior customer experiences. A study of over 860 corporate executives revealed that companies that have increased their investment in customer experience management over the past three years report higher customer referral rates and customer satisfaction (Strativity Group, 2009).

Many experts feel that the customer experience has emerged as the single most important aspect in achieving success for companies across all industries.

As evidenced by the number of business casualties over the past few years most companies talk about becoming customer focused, but few actually do it. Doing customer satisfaction surveys is one thing, changing the company’s culture based on what was learned from the surveys in something totally different.

Some companies have learned that being customer focused can give them a competitive advantage. Customers choose Disney World and Zappos because of their experience with them.

Let’s clarify the difference between companies that aim for customer satisfaction and those that seek to WOW their customers:

  • Because most, if not all, of the “bad” companies are out of business customer satisfaction is the minimal requirement to keep your doors open. Customer-focused companies strive to delight their customers.
  •  Most companies ask their customers about their needs. Customer-focused companies understand their customers’ needs so well that they can anticipate them and even surface unrecognized needs.
  •  Most organizations strive to meet their customers’ expectations. Customer-focused companies deliver more than what the customer imagined.
  •  Most organizations try to keep complaints to a minimum. Customer-focused companies encourage feedback from their customers so that they can learn from it.

A great example of creating a customer-focused culture is Zappos. A review of their number-one core value below speaks volumes about how they operate.

Deliver WOW through service, is Zappos’ founding principle. It’s not something written down and forgotten. It’s part of who Zappos is and every employee is immersed in it starting on day one.

Zappos lives their founding principle and it has served them well. How does your customer experience management stack up? Ask yourself this question:

If you didn’t answer with a resounding “YES” then you need to take a hard look at every customer touch and improve your customer experience management or pay the price for not doing so.

To learn how well your business is positioned to succeed in the New Economy take the Growth Positioning Survey now.

How to Retain Customers When They Complain

how to retain customersEvery successful business must learn how to retain customers when they’re unhappy because your product or service failed their expectations. In business customers complain every day. Whenever an airline flight is canceled, a package lost, a meal served cold, a product delivered without all its parts, or a deadline missed, customers are apt to complain. When problems like these occur, the customer is rarely angered by the mistake itself. In most cases, it is the way the problem is handled that makes or breaks the customer relationships. There are two basic approaches for handling complaints: the compa­ny-focused approach and the customer-focused approach.

Company-Focused. This approach has employees justify the company’s position and defend why the mistake happened.  It usually involves the following:

  • Proving you are right and the customer is wrong
  • Showing it is the customer’s fault, not yours
  • Avoiding personal responsibility
  • Telling the customer you can’t or won’t do anything

Taking this approach makes customers feel they have to “jump through hoops” to get rectified what should not have happened in the first place.

Customer-Focused. This approach attempts to make complaints “hassle-free.”  This means providing quick, effective, hassle-free recovery to the customer; you take the heat, not the customer. It also means that if you are ever going to recover, you must get the full benefit of recov­ery. Use recovery as a positive strategy.  Ensure that customer issues get the type of responsive­ness that will turn unpleasant expe­ri­ences into positive ones. Keep in mind that 92% of customers who leave because of poor service would return if they receive an apology, a discount or proof that service has improved.

How to retain customers when they complain is an essential “Moment of Truth”  in the customer relationship. Handle it poorly and you not only lose a customer but the potential customers who are told about the poor service experience. Handle the complaint well and you can not only salvage the relationship but solidify as well.  To handle it well and maintain the relationship make sure that you follow these steps:

  • Say you are sorry.
  • Listen emphatically to the customer’s con­cerns.
  • Hear him or her out. Let the cus­tom­er vent emotions. Circumventing or minimiz­ing the importance of emotion only invites com­plications. Letting off steam may be the beginning of a rational discus­sion.
  • Clarify the problem. Use your questioning skills to properly define the nature and cause of the problem.
  • Take total responsibility for “making it right.”
  • Solve the problem without blaming some­one else. Address the problem with an appropri­ate course of action. Offer a solu­tion based on the nature of the problem and your comp­any’s ability to rectify it. Be careful not to over-promise what you can do to correct the situation. If you drop the ball again, you may not get another chance to carry it.
  • Regain customer confidence in the product or service. This can only be done with ac­tions not empty words and promises. When the solution is implemented, make sure that the customer is satisfied and sees the value of your company’s efforts.

Customers have many options in the New Economy. Drop the ball on them and most will just leave without saying a word. When customers do complain its an opportunity to learn new ways of how to retain customers. View complaints as specific suggestions of how to expand on how you satisfy or exceed your customers expectations.

Complaints will happen. How you handle each one will be your signature for managing the customer experience.

To discover ways in which you can improve your customers’ experience take the Growth Positioning Survey.