Customer Experience … your number one competitive advantage.
There is little argument that customer demands are far greater today than they were in times past. There is also general agreement that customer demands and expectations will continue to rise in the years ahead.
Given that many businesses are struggling to meet current demands, a major challenge facing business owners and managers is knowing and deciding what strategies and systems to employ today to best meet those increased expectations of tomorrow.
A key distinction that often gets missed when developing future plans is the difference between customer service, and customer experience.
In simple terms, customer service is what a business gives; customer experience is what a customer receives.
Customer experience is how your customers perceive their interactions with your organisation. Sadly, there is often an enormous gap between what businesses believe they are delivering, versus what customers experience receiving.
I call it the EPG … the Experience Perception Gap.
The main reason such a gap exists is due to a lack of understanding and appreciation of just how many steps there are along a typical customer journey, and how every one of those individual steps contains within it the potential to make or break a customer relationship.
Remember, a ‘moment of truth’ occurs anytime a customer comes into contact with any PART of your business, and uses that individual ‘touch-point’ to judge the quality of your business as a WHOLE.
It is important to realise that there are hundreds of touch-points occurring along the customer journey at your place of business every day, and that every one of those touch-points shares equal billing with all others. As such
Everything including how easy is it for customers to find your contact details, how the telephone is answered, the point size and font style on your business cards, the fresh flowers in reception, the currency of the information on your website, the professional appearance of both your staff and your premises, the time taken to respond to emails, your choice of corporate colours, the fragrance used in your client reception areas, the quality of the tea, coffee or juice offered to customers, the terms and conditions of your customer satisfaction guarantees. The list is exhaustive and runs to many pages in length.
A great customer experience is a combination of everything your customer sees, hears, smells, tastes, touches, and also how they emotionally feel and connect with your product or service offerings.
Business development strategies need to embrace a detailed understanding of how customers perceive their experience at three separate levels; needs met, ease of doing business, and enjoyment.
Level one is quite simply having the capacity and competence to provide the exact product or service that your customer demands. It’s ensuring you have the right experience, the right expertise, the best model, colour and size in stock … now! It’s about having fully trained and qualified employees ready to provide expert service as and when required.
Level two is the about the ease with which your customers can do business with you. Being accessible via multiple channels, business hours that suit, adequate availability of trained professional staff, a range of payment and delivery options, efficient after sales back-up and replacement warranties and satisfaction guarantees.
Level three is about the degree of pleasure customers experience during the process of doing business with you. It’s about whether or not your customers actually enjoy doing business with you, your organisation and your people. Happy customers not only return, they take pride in referring your business to family, friends and colleagues.
It is essential that all three levels are addressed both with attention to detail and a high level of professionalism to maximise the client experience.
Customer experience is at the centre of everything you do; how you conduct your business; your ethics and values; how your people behave and engage with your customers and each other; the value that your products and services deliver; what your brand stands for in the marketplace. And remember … your brand is what people are saying about you when you are not in the room.
Client experience is the single greatest predictor of business success. It is also your number one competitive advantage.