Defining a Great Customer Experience: Part II

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In the first part of this post, Defining a Great Customer Experience – Starting at the Top, we talked about the difficulties in defining a great customer experience, how it's more than just “Delivery > Expectations, and how a great experience starts at the top of the company’s funnel.  The expectations provided during the Awareness, Consideration, and Intent [to purchase] phases of the sales funnel process set the stage for Purchase/Conversion and bottom of the funnel interactions.  But when most people think of Customer Experiences, both from the business and the end consumer perspective, they relate to the Purchase through the Support portion of the funnel.  

A startling statistic:

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So are you part of the 80% or the 8% (or both or neither)?  Odds are you are a part of the 92% that doesn’t deliver as great as you or the company believes.  If that is the case, and it probably is, how do we move the proverbial needle to become part of the 8%?  For the last 12+ years, I have been studying the most recognized service organizations, and have determined 6 traits of the Greatest Customer Experience Providers.

Great Customer Experience Trait #1: Clear Priorities

When you look at companies with great customer experiences, it is crystal clear to the end consumer and to the associates working for the organization that the quality of the experience is the company’s first priority.  Note, the quality of experience may be end consumer’s experience (ex: Apple or Nordstrom) or the internal associates experience (Southwest Airlines).  Apple’s clear priority is end user design, Nordstrom is focused on consumer courtesy, and Southwest drives end consumer experience by ensuring their associates are treated as the most important priority.  Every company, and for that matter every initiative, has consciously or unconsciously ranked how quality of experience, cost and flexibility, time, and risk management are prioritized.  Great experiences make it clear that quality of experience is the most important.

Great Customer Experience Trait #2: Culture, Vision, and Standards

There is an ancient proverb, “A fish rots from the head down.”  More often than not, this phrase is used when something horrible happens with an organization, and it’s found that leadership is absent (United Airlines).  But it also applies to a lesser degree if leadership has not provided a definitive culture supporting the customer, a vision with the end customer’s experience in mind, and a set of values or standards that enable associates to act on behalf of the best interests of a customer.  No company has articulated these standards better than the Ritz Carlton. For years, the Ritz Carlton has engrained their “Gold Standards”  (Credo, Motto, Steps of Service, Service Values, and Employee Promise) into the daily processes of their associates.  These types of values create a powerful trust bond from leadership to associate that enables them to continuously do the right thing.

Great Customer Experience Trait #3: Value Defined from the Customer’s View

Of all the 6 common traits the best customer experience providers exhibit that has become more generally demonstrated by more companies of late, Value Defined from the Customer’s View, has been discussed and attempted most often.  You may hear it as “Work backward from the customer” or even the generic “delivering a great customer experience”.  Over the past 10 years, the popular trend has been to move away from driving company value first, and to delivering value as defined by the customer.  The most visible example is the difference customer experience providers place on metrics such as AHT (Average Handle Time).  Years ago, driving this metric down, whether through outsourcing or internally, was the key to supporting the business.  Eventually, realizing that customers wanted their issues solved correctly the first time was more important than quick, transactional solutions.  Companies like USAA and LL Bean understood that by delivering value based on the customer was more valuable in the long run to company success.  One of the first things I do in every consult is look at the organization’s metric dashboard.  The second is to ask managers (not executives) what metrics their managers ask about the most.  The talk around the broader organization may be that you are there to provide a great customer experience, but “the walk”, shown through metrics and feedback, is often cost related metrics.  Unless, your customer experience is based on an extremely low price point, your customers do not care about your costs.  Customers, in general regardless of the industry, care about five things when it comes to customer service:

  • Friendly, supportive service
  • Efficiency with incremental value
  • Accuracy
  • Product and customer knowledge
  • Compliance (whether they know they want it)

Does your dashboard and senior leaders demonstrate that these types of customer centric metrics are what is most important?  Or is your dashboard showing the value you are attempting to deliver back to the company?

Stay tuned for the next three traits in Part 3 of this blog series!

Michael Pace

About Michael Pace

Michael Pace, Principal of The Pace of Service, believes successful customers and associates are what make companies wildly successful. Michael Pace was previously the Director of Customer Support & Community Management for Constant Contact & Capital One, and a leader in transforming customer service to exceed the needs of the customer, especially in this new social landscape. He is considered one of the country’s leading speakers and writers on the topic of social media customer service, and has created scalable, high quality social support environments. He is an active Board Member of the NorthEast Contact Center Forum, New England’s largest call center community. You can connect with Michael on Twitter @micpace and on LinkedIn. For more about Michael and The Pace of Service

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