Tap. I didn’t order this.
Tap-tap. Why is only one register open?
Tap-tap-tap. “Please press eight if you’re experiencing pangs of anxiety and regret.”
As a customer, I keep tabs. I remember every finger tap, every time I check my watch, and every automated response. I remember every customer-service maze without a piece of cheese at the end. I remember every unexpected fee.
I even hold grudges. I steer my friends away from bad experiences. I warn them about the monsters down those dark and winding roads. Change course! Don’t buy from them! You’ll be sorry!
Like I said, I keep tabs.
I remember good surprises too. They seem few and far between, so they live in my memory like bright and shining moments of clarity. I remember customer service reps that were patient, proactive, and seemingly concerned with my happiness, not just my business. I remember good deals, short lines, and customized service options. I remember consistency. A coffeemaker company has earned my devotion through its customer service. A shoe website now gets first dibs on my business. I’ve developed love affairs with small local businesses that refill mugs promptly or offer suggestions with personality, thus ensuring my return.
I sing praises about those experiences.
Apparently I’m not alone. According to a Fast Company article about the importance of customer experience by researcher Harley Manning, companies that focus on good customer experience do well. Manning relays the results of a study by Watermark Consulting regarding companies of the S&P 500 and customer experience. Manning writes:
Over the last five years, a period when the S&P 500 was essentially flat, [a portfolio of customer experience leaders] produced a cumulative total return of just over 22%. During the same period a portfolio of customer experience laggards returned -46%. That shows that not only do customers reward a superior experience, so do the markets.
Manning argues that we are in the “age of the customer,” and I think he’s right for three reasons:
- Customers live in media. We are continuously faced with a barrage of media in the form of email, social media, advertising, television, and the like. In any waking moment, businesses are competing for our attention. But a customer can realistically act on a small number of messages. That makes great and bad customer experiences stand out. Everything else resides in a forgettable middle ground.
- The internet empowers customers to know more. (Manning notes this as well.) Customers can find product reviews online, they can research prices, and they can learn all about a company’s customer service policies. They have options, and they know it. A customer has the potential to close their own sale without a company’s direct input.
- Money matters. It’s no secret the economy is affecting personal bank accounts. Customers want value in every purchase, and they recognize when they get it. Customer experience is often the difference between a last goodbye and a second purchase.
If companies aren’t concerned with their customers and providing great experiences, they stand the risk of losing customer loyalty and business. It seems pretty straightforward.
But it isn’t. Take LaGuardia Airport, for example, which just installed a $60,000 digital hologram kiosk to direct airport travelers to baggage claim and taxi areas. (These holograms are showing up in the New York area.)
In customer service, every interaction and every tiny detail can make a big difference. You must take customer experience into account, and build your company around continuously improving it. I would consider the attraction of customers a matter of design, and a matter of romance. Customers want to be wooed, and they want to feel special. Bring them flowers. Sweep them off their feet.
How does your company relate to its customers? Do you remember particularly great customer experiences? How could you improve your customer experience for the better? Let us know below.
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