You need to get into your customers’ heads.
Unfortunately, you can’t read minds.
The Technician in you accepts this and tries to genuinely meet your customers’ expectations.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t cut it.
The business owner wearing the Technician hat takes the easy route and bases the company’s entire customer experience system on the “standard” systems they see everywhere else.
• The automated hold message says, “Your time is important to us…”
• The representative arbitrarily asks, “How may I assist you today?”
• The supervisor replies in a neutral tone, “I understand your frustration.”
These things might work at times. But they’re not actually getting a desirable result. In fact, they’re keeping your business stagnant.
If your business is like most, you thrive on repeat business, loyal customers, and positive word-of-mouth.
So, if the desired result is a healthy and thriving customer base that will keep coming back and telling others about you (and it should be), it’s time to change hats.
Many companies have been able to achieve this. But staggering numbers haven’t, even though it’s entirely within their reach.
The companies that create such a healthy customer base do so by providing an exceptional customer experience. They have crafted an experience with a systematic approach and intention to exceed customer expectations. It’s not by accident. It’s by design. It’s an Entrepreneurial thought process and a Managerial execution.
The two areas of focus that most business owners tend to unintentionally overlook are also the two areas that can have the greatest impact on increased sales and profitability.
These areas are Customer Service and Delivery.
Customer service is not a department
“Customer service” is an overused phrase that has little meaning any more, but customers still want their needs met. To accomplish this requires that customer service is the responsibility of every employee, whether they have direct customer contact or not.
Customer service is different from any add-on service you offer for sale. If you charge money for a service, it’s part of your product mix. Customer Service is free.
Customer Service enhances your main offer – it’s not your main offer – but a pleasantly unexpected bonus that reinforces your message that you care.
It may include services such as free educational seminars. It may be the offer of free setup or an introductory period of technical assistance or maintenance. It could be the availability of credit or financial services, or simply a routine follow-up call that confirms a customer’s satisfaction.
Whatever it is, it has to fulfill your customers’ deepest needs.
Customer Service opportunities are endless. It is a major area that can give you a competitive advantage – especially if you are seen as a commodity with numerous competitors. So when you start thinking about the customer services you might offer, think beyond the obvious.
Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. What attributes of your business lend themselves to better customer service? Don’t be afraid to experiment and then elicit feedback from the people who know best – your customers.
Signed, sealed and delivered!
There comes that moment in your customer experience where your customer accepts delivery of your product or service. This really is the moment of truth. It’s the culminating moment where you either exceed, meet, or fall short of your customers’ expectations.
The mechanics and protocol for delivery are different for every business, but every business has a process to get the product or service into a customer’s hands. The question you must ask yourself is: does it “deliver?”
Delivery has two main components: transportation and experience.
Transportation runs the gamut from very simple to very complicated - from handing your customer their product at the time of purchase to outsourcing to a parcel delivery service. This decision is informed by the nature of the product or service and the available transportation channels.
One of the keys to building customer loyalty is to regularly subject your transportation systems to methodical analysis – making sure you, or they, deliver the result your customers expect at the most reasonable cost.
The delivery experience, on the other hand, is your opportunity to differentiate your business from every other competitor.
In order to do that, you must fully leverage the marketing principle of “sensory impact.”
In other words, you need to do more than simply hand off your product or service to your customer; you need to make them feel good about the value they receive.
The way you present your product or service to the customers who purchase it will have a lasting impact on their experience of your business.
While your concerns about delivery might be the costs of shipping, the reliability of your transport company, and whether to ship ground or air, your customers have their own definition of delivery.
They are focused on convenience, speed, and the cost to them. And because they look at how the package arrives, having it delivered by premium shippers like UPS or FedEx can enhance the perceived value to your clients. Not because those trucks are any better than anyone else’s, but because they are associated with speed and convenience.
From your clients’ perspective, you cared enough to satisfy them quickly, even if you had to pay extra for it. The result is a positive delivery experience.
Remember, "the medium is the message.” How you say or do something often has more impact than the actual content of the message.
In other words, the way in which you present your product to your customer may often times have more impact than the product itself.
Do you have what it takes?
As a business owner, you know your resources are finite.
There is only so much equipment, inventory, cash, workspace, and employee time available.
When considering how to excel in providing an exceptional customer experience, it’s up to you to get the most value from those resources. But there’s more to it than just quantifying output.
It is counter-productive to your goals to simply squeeze more cost-effectiveness from your processes if it dilutes or sacrifices your customer experience or places undue burdens on your employees.
The key, then, is to manage that delicate balance between productivity and the expectations that fuel true customer satisfaction.
Editor’s Note: It can be surprisingly simple to elevate your customers’ experience from ordinary to extraordinary. We’d like to know what you’ve done, or what this article has prompted you to do, in order to exceed your customers' expectations.