This is a feature of our blog that we call "Dispatches from the Field." It's a place in our blog where we share thoughts and ideas that shape our practice.
In 1994, Jeff Bezos started selling books out of a garage through a website called Amazon.com. Today we watch TV shows produced by Amazon through devices that Amazon makes. On Monday, my Nest thermostat broke due to a power surge. Amazon's Prime Now service had a new thermostat at my house three hours later. If Amazon ever was only a book retailer it is much more now. Or is it? I would argue that Amazon only does one thing: delivers an experience that customers like. The reason Amazon feels so diverse is because it does this across as many products as it can.
When Apple made a rose gold iPhone people in the USA scratched their heads. People in China lined up to buy it. Apple was taking a product to a new market. Amazon takes experiences to new products. Amazon is what I call an "experience oriented" company. By that, I mean that they see themselves as an experience provider. To Amazon, products are a way to deliver an experience.
So...what's this got to do with the price of rice, right? In my view, everything. Customers love experience oriented companies. And more and more they expect every organization to behave the way experience oriented companies behave. They look for organizations that do so.
In its 2016 "State of Marketing" report, Salesforce found that top performing organizations had not only embraced a customer experience strategy, but put their marketing teams in charge of delivering the experience and measuring its effectiveness. Add to that Forrester's finding that customers will now endure only one bad experience before looking elsewhere and you have compelling evidence to get serious about experience.
Here are four things you can do right now to get a handle on your customer experience:
Develop a consistent push/pull customer feedback strategy
This goes beyond making sure there are open channels for customers to reach you. You should develop ways to proactively assess customer perceptions at various key phases. Whether it is surveys, direct check-ins, or another technique is not important. The two crucial elements are that it is proactive and consistent. Not just activated when there is an issue.
Create a shared understanding of what the customer experience should be
Many leaders and managers will discuss things like customer experience in conceptual terms, often times leaving front-line employees to wonder exactly how to put those concepts into practice. When I worked at the University of Houston we developed a few simple guidelines:
1. Don't say what you don't know.
2. Never transfer a call. Get the information for the person and give it to them.
3. Get back to people the same day.
4. Always give people a means to contact you directly.
These simple rules worked for us. They helped define actions during most interactions with a customer. The point I'm illustrating here is that you have to move beyond concepts. Involve your teams in making the concepts real and they'll be a part of the solution.
Express the importance of customer experience from top leadership
What gets measured gets done. "If gold will rust what can be expected of iron?" There are tons of quotes that elucidate the idea that actions overpower deeds. If support for customer experience doesn't exist at the leadership level it's not going to exist in any real form elsewhere in the organization.
I can't do a better job at describing this than Brene Brown. Empathy drives connection. People love connection. Connection drives great customer experiences. Customer experiences define your brand.
I am on this planet to help people and organizations create meaningful connections. Click here if you'd like to talk to me about becoming an experience driven organization.