Customer Experience Strategies, How and Why

Question: When should the Titanic have started turning to avoid sinking?

Much sooner.

The Titanic was too big to turn quickly and the same applies to companies as they grow larger. Changes become slower, harder, more costly, timing consuming and disruptive when policies and procedures need to change.

Adopting a customer experience strategy, preferably at start-up as part of your business plan is essential to building and maintaining a customer focused culture. Its impossible to deliver an exceptional customer experience without a customer driven culture.

The larger the company grows without a formal or stalled CX Strategy , the more effort, time,  and money it takes to reverse the mindset of employees  and the profit killing effects of bad customer experiences.

Here are just two of an infinite number of staggering statistics supporting why you need to adopt a customer experience strategy;

  1. 72% of consumers stopped doing business with a company because of a bad experience. (Aspect Omnibus Survey)
  2. Only 5% of consumers say that their customer experiences exceed their expectations (The 2014 American Express® Global Customer Service Barometer)

Most customer experience statistics have gone relatively unchanged in my thirty  years of studying customer service and customer experience, which are different from each other.  Its hard to understand why  considering the irrefutable data supporting the ROI of improving the customer experience.

My experience with companies is that their business plan commonly  has a one-line  strategy for customer experience: “We will differentiate ourselves with excellent customer service” … and stops there.

What’s missing? Tactics. Financial projections and exit-strategies won’t mean a thing without an actual plan, the steps, to acquire and then RETAIN your customers.

Retention is key: Acquiring a new customer is six times costlier than retaining an existing one. – Merchant Warehouse

Yes, you need to acquire new customers to grow but you won’t if you’re customer acquisition doesn’t outpace retention.

Very few business owners have a tactical strategy of delivering an exceptional customer experience as a key component of the company’s daily operations.  Without a strategy, bad customer experiences are inevitable and will take their toll.

At that point, companies hire expensive consultants to evaluate how to reverse the effects of poor customer service. The plan is often takes years, is costly and disruptive requiring policies and procedures to change.

Customer experience is not rocket science and neither is measuring it, but so few companies do. I spoke with an owner of a small B2B  professional services company that employs about ten people who said that his company is very customer service focused. I asked him how he was measuring that. His reply was  roughly “we don’t get a lot of customer complaints.”

Here’s one of many similar vital statistics:

A “White House Office of Consumer Affairs” report cites that for every one customer that complains, twenty-six don’t.

An absence of customer feedback or complaints is a very poor and highly inaccurate measure of customer satisfaction. Most people avoid conflict and will  try their luck with a new company (read my post on why “Silence is Not Golden.“)

Your customer must believe that you care more their experience than their money. Your customer experience strategy should include 10 basics:

  1. A budget. Its no longer a cost center line item. Customers compare experiences across all industries, not just your competition. They expect a great experience so you must find the money.
  2. Know who your customer is as a person and their needs.
  3. Understanding all the touch-points of your customer’s journey through their experience with you: every step from the phone menu to the final hand shake and service after the sale.
  4. Teach all employees that every role in the company, not just customer facing roles, affects the customer experience in no small way. Its a team effort.
  5. Hiring people with the right EQ, Emotional Intelligence. Hire for the future.
  6. For customer facing roles: provide proper training (remember, it’s NOT common sense) and empowerment to allow them to find solutions and not just give an answer. “No” is an answer.
  7. Survey and measure. Methods to survey your customers and collect data for for several Key Performance Indicators (KPI)  for your industry
  8. A written customer experience mission statement
  9. A written customer experience policy  that details how to treat and wow your customers. Be tactical.
  10. The process  guidelines for customer experience issues and escalation.  (Hint: Empower as many as you can to reduce escalation.)

Your employees and your customers will see your commitment to the customer experience. Your employees, even if it’s just one,  will help build your customer focused culture. Your customers will believe you care, and that you’re not indifferent. Indifference is the customer experience killer. You will easily differentiate yourself with a defined customer experience strategy.

Always remember that the customer experience is about emotions and relationships. Look past the money.

As an example, take a minute to read the Code Of Values of Dwyer Group, a service based company featured on Undercover Boss.

Customer experience is also internal, a.k.a. the employee experience. How managers treat employees and how colleagues treat each other is always reflected in the how they treat  your customers and in costly employee turnaround. People don’t leave companies. They leave bad managers. (Dale Carnegie). From the beginning, make it your ongoing mission to find and reform or eject bad managers.

Remember, it begins at the top from day one. Plant the seeds of customer experience early on with your managers and employees and then reap the rewards.

-Please read my other posts for ways to help improve your company’s customer service and share it if you’ve found it helpful.

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About the Author

Gerry Criscenzo, founder of Advanced Service Knowledge is passionate about delivering an exceptional customer experience.  He has over 30 years experience managing customer facing teams in very demanding customer service  industries such as automotive services, IT Services and Home Remodeling/Contractor Services. Gerry is available for consulting, keynote speaking and training.  Read more

Please feel free to comment or A.S.K. for topics that you would like covered.

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