In February of 2014, I was speaking at an Aston Martin Dealership in South Florida. This particular dealership is #1 in Customer Service and #1 in total volume, which is unheard of in the automotive world. (usually you can get voted one or the other, but rarely do you get voted #1 in both)
After I was done delivering my presentation the owner of the dealership brought me into the F & I room, which stands for Finance and Insurance. This particular room is where a new customer that has just purchased an Aston Martin goes to finalize the deal.
As I’m sitting in this room having a conversation with the owner, the lights start to dim. My five senses are starting to take notice, and my brain is telling me something is wrong, the lights shouldn’t be dimming. The owner continues to talk as if nothing is wrong.
As he’s talking I can hear faintly in the background the theme music for Star Wars… the music gets louder and louder… now I’m really wondering what is happening. The music gets so loud at this point I begin to laugh because I now know the owner is the wizard behind the curtain.
Just then the wall behind me begins to slide and move until it’s completely gone. Now the Star Wars music is BLARING!
Where the wall used to be is now a BRAND NEW Aston Martin… There’s fog machines blowing smoke and lazer lights of all colors going everywhere…
This is the experience every customer has after buying a new car at this dealership.
I said to myself, “I got it! That’s why these guys are #1 in both categories.”
WHAT AN EXPERIENCE!!!!
I felt so incredible at that moment… I told everyone I knew what had just happened… I was amazed, enthralled, and emotionally overwhelmed with excitement and enthusiasm.
Now I understood why this Aston Martin Dealership as #1 in both.
American Express found that 60% of customers are willing to pay more for a better experience.
What is customer experience?
Customer experience is defined by interactions between a customer and an organization throughout their business relationship. An interaction can include awareness, discovery, cultivation, advocacy, purchases and service.
Customer experience is important because a customer who has a positive experience with a business is more likely to become a repeat and loyal customer.
In fact, a study by Oracle found that 74% of senior executives believe that customer experience impacts the willingness of a customer to be a loyal advocate. And the customer experience statistics don’t stop there. If you want your customers to stay loyal, you have to invest in their experience!
That’s what this Aston Martin Dealership owner understood.
Simply put, happy customers remain loyal.
It makes sense, right?
The happier you are with a brand, the longer you stay with them. And so if you treat your customers poorly and ignore their customer service emails, then they are more likely to leave. This is why companies that deliver a superior customer service and experience outperform their competition.
How is customer experience different from customer service?
In most cases, a customer’s first point of contact with a company is usually through interacting with an employee (either by visiting a store or by speaking on the phone). This gives your business an opportunity to deliver excellent customer service.
However, customer service is only one aspect of the entire customer experience.
For example, if you book a vacation on the phone and the person you are speaking with is friendly and helpful, that’s good customer service. Yet, if your tickets arrive early and the hotel upgrades your room, then that’s a good customer experience.
That’s how the two are different!
Like most things in today’s market place, customer experience has changed – it’s more than person-to-person service and thanks to technology, companies can connect with their customers in new and exciting ways.
How important is customer experience?
A business cannot exist without its customers, and this is why companies are focusing on how to win new customers and perhaps more importantly, retain existing customers.
A survey by Bloomberg Businessweek found that “delivering a great customer experience” has become a top strategic objective. And a recent Customer Management IQ survey found that 75% of customer management executives and leaders rated customer experience a ‘5’ on a scale of 1-5 (5 being of the highest importance).
The challenge here is that even though it’s a high priority, many companies are failing.
When Bain & Company asked organizations to rate their quality of customer experience, 80% believe they are delivering a superior experience. This is compared to only 8% of customers who believe they are receiving a great customer experience.
So how many brands are truly delivering an excellent customer experience?
Surprisingly, not too many.
The Temkin Group’s recent 2016 Customer Experience Rating study showed a severe decline in customer experience. The biggest cause for concern is that the percentage of good and excellent companies dropped from 37% in 2015 to only 18% in 2016 – it’s lowest rating since 2011.
Customer expectations are rising, and faster than the speed that companies can improve their customer experience. Customers expect every interaction as the best experience they have with any company, so the question is remains, how can your organization create a great customer experience?
Let’s take a look at seven ways to create a great customer experience strategy to help you improve customer satisfaction, reduce churn and increase revenues.
1. Create a clear customer experience vision
The first step in your customer experience strategy is to have a clear customer-focused vision that you can communicate with your organization. The easiest way to define this vision is to create a set of statements that act as guiding principles.
For example, Zappos use their Zappos core family values and these values are embedded into their culture; which includes delivering wow through service, be humble and embracing change.
Once these principles are in place, they will drive the behavior of your organization. Every member of your team should know these principles by heart and they should be embedded into all areas of training and development.
2. Understand who your customers are
The next step in building upon these customer experience principles is to bring to life the different type of customers who deal with your customer support teams. If your organization is going to really understand customer needs and wants, then they need to be able to connect and empathize with the situations that your customers face.
One way to do this is to create customer personas and give each persona a name and personality. For example, Anne is 35 years old; she likes new technology and is tech savvy enough to follow a video tutorial on her own, whereas John (42 years old) needs to be able to follow clear instructions on a web page.
By creating personas, your customer support team can recognize who they are and understand them better. It’s also an important step in becoming truly customer centric.
3. Create an emotional connection with your customers
You’ve heard the phrase “it’s not what you say; it’s how you say it”?
Well, the best customer experiences are achieved when a member of your team creates an emotional connection with a customer.
One of the best examples of creating an emotional connection comes from Zappos, when a customer was late on returning a pair of shoes due to her mother passing away. When Zappos found out what happened, they took care of the return shipping and had a courier pick up the shoes without cost. But, Zappos didn’t stop there. The next day, the customer arrived home to a bouquet of flowers with a note from the Zappos customer service team who sent their condolences.
Research by the Journal of Consumer Research has found that more than 50% of an experience is based on an emotion as emotions shape the attitudes that drive decisions.
Customers become loyal because they are emotionally attached and they remember how they feel when they use a product or service. A business that optimizes for an emotional connection outperforms competitors by 85% in sales growth.
And, according to a recent Harvard Business Review study titled “The New Science of Customer Emotions“, emotionally engaged customers are:
- At least three times more likely to recommend your product or service
- Three times more likely to re-purchase
- Less likely to shop around (44% said they rarely or never shop around)
- Much less price sensitive (33% said they would need a discount of over 20% before they would defect).
4. Capture customer feedback in real time
How can you tell if you are delivering a wow customer experience?
You need to ask – And ideally you do this by capturing feedback in real time. Post-interaction surveys can be delivered using a variety of automated tools through email and calls. Wufoo.com is one resource you can use.
And of course, it’s even possible to make outbound calls to customers in order to gain more insightful feedback.
It’s important to tie customer feedback to a specific customer support agent, which shows every team member the difference they are making to the business.
5. Use a quality framework for development of your team
By following the steps above, you now know what customers think about the quality of your service compared to the customer experience principles you have defined. The next step is to identify the training needs for each individual member of your customer support team.
Many organizations assess the quality of phone and email communication, however, a quality framework takes this assessment one step further by scheduling and tracking your teams development through coaching, eLearning and group training.
6. Act upon regular employee feedback
Most organizations have an annual survey process where they capture the overall feedback of your team; how engaged they are and the businesses ability to deliver an exceptional service.
But, what happens in the 11 months between these survey periods?
Usually, nothing happens. And this is where continuous employee feedback can play a role using tools that allow staff to share ideas on how to improve the customer experience and for managers to see how staff is feeling towards the business.
7. Measure the ROI from delivering great customer experience
And finally, how do you know if all this investment in your teams, process and technology are working and paying off?
The answer is in the business results.
Measuring customer experience is one of the biggest challenges faced by organizations, which is why many companies use the “Net Promoter Score” or NPS, which collects valuable information by asking a single straightforward question:
“Would you recommend this company to a friend or relative?”
NPS, which was created by Rob Markey and Fred Reichheld at Bain and Company, is a highly suitable benchmark for a customer experience metric because a lot of companies use it as the standard customer experience measurement. And the fact that it’s simple to implement and measure makes the NPS a favorite with company boards and executive committees.
Customer expectations are higher than ever and word of mouth travels fast!
And as the customer becomes even more empowered, it increases the importance of the customer experience.
Customer experience is an area that needs constant nurturing and care and with a greater focus on customer experience strategy, companies will realize a positive impact on customer loyalty, higher retention and increased revenues.