Customer Experience: How Do You See Your Customers?

At a time when almost every product and service has become a commodity what is that ensures your customers will be loyal to you and your business?

  • Is it the quality of your product? Sometimes, but not all the time.
  • Is it your price? Sometimes, but not all the time – think $5.00 cups of coffee.
  • Is it convenience? Sometimes, but not all the time – think Magic Kingdom (unless you live in Orlando).

Customer loyalty is built on customer experience. What kind of experience do we provide when someone walks through our doors? What kind of experience do our customers have when we answer the phone or respond to an email or tweet?

Do the experiences we create fascinate or frustrate? Are we thrilled someone has chosen to connect with our organization or has the person we need to respond to interrupted our day?

One of my all-time favorite examples of a company that takes pleasure in serving their customers is Chick Fil A. It’s their pleasure because it’s their pleasure from the CEO to the part-time high school student on the front line. Each employee at Chick Fil A is trained to view each person who walks through the doors as an individual with a unique story.

What type of experience are you creating? Is it one that will keep your customers coming back again and again? Is it one that will turn your customers into evangelists for your business?

Its Never Not Our Department


not my job

Image Credit:

  • Our desk may not be located in the lobby but its our job to make sure the first impression is amazing.
  • Our desk may not reside in the finance department but its our job to be good stewards of our organizations resources.
  • Our desk may not sit in the HR department but its our job to build teams through strong relationships.
  • Our desk may not be located in the customer service department but every customer or potential customer is our responsibility.
  • Our desk may not be located in the bathroom or the break room but its our job to pick up the paper towel off of the floor and empty our lunch container, aka science experiment gone bad, out of the refrigerator.

Our department and our responsibility is wherever and whenever we find ourselves.

Disconnect The Autopilot Switch and Engage

Do you remember the famous 80’s song Mr. Roboto?Mr. Roboto

Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto,
(Thank you very much oh Mr. Roboto
For doing the jobs that nobody wants to)

The video for the song was a classic on MTV (when MTV played music videos) and featured the lead singer battling and resisting becoming a robot. The premise of the song was that technology was taking over and de-humanizing people. That tune and message of the song hasn’t changed much over the past 30 years as technology has developed at the speed of light. Today, more than ever, it’s easy to let “technology” become the face and sometimes, the heart, of our business.

Have you ever caught yourself in robot mode? Have you found yourself on autopilot when it comes to engaging with and serving your customers? It’s so easy to let the “tasks at hand” consume our thoughts and actions that we forget the most important thing we can and should be doing —providing a wow experience to our customers.

Action Items:

Build an emotional connection by talking about the shared values and mission you have with your customers. Use social media, email and direct mail to tell your story and make the connection.

  1. Social media isn’t just another fad, it’s not fading away and if you haven’t embraced it yet there’s no better time than the present.  Your most satisfied and loyal customers are following you on Facebook and Twitter so make sure the conversation is happening every day. Keep your social media channels loaded with fresh, relevant and fun content. Add pictures, videos and check-in rewards that keep your customers “looking” for “what’s next” from you. Give your customers a reason to like, follow, connect and share.
  2. Email marketing is still a workhorse that produces results. Don’t stop collecting email addresses and building your email list. And don’t just make your emails about promotions. Include testimonies from your customers about how your stores products and service has helped them. Telling the story of changes lives and wow experiences build a stronger and ongoing emotional connection with your customers.
  3. Direct mail is by no means dead. Connected customers respond to direct mail twice as much as customers who are just familiar and satisfied with a retailer.

Don’t succumb to the temptation of putting things on autopilot. Resist Mr. Roboto and let your humanness rise by establishing and maintaining emotional connections with your customer.

The time has come at last, (Secret secret, I’ve got a secret)
To throw away this mask, (Secret secret, I’ve got a secret)
Now everyone can see, (Secret secret, I’ve got a secret)
My true identity

Customer Experience & Root Canals

I recently had the “pleasure” of having my second root canal. Based on the experience of my first root canal I was not looking forward to this one.

My first root canal went something like this. I arrived at the oral surgeons office (a specialist at performing a root canal). Upon my arrival I was greeted by a cold and unfriendly receptionist who pushed the clip board towards me and told me to fill out each box. After waiting 30-40 minutes the doctor arrived at the door to let me know he was ready to see me. He led me to the chair, put the dental bib around me and then told me, “the nerves in your tooth are dead so you won’t need any anesthetic.” I was a lot younger with my first root canal and more naive and didn’t question the professional – I believed him when he said it wouldn’t hurt. Needless to say, as he began to drill there was pain – enough pain for me to grab his hand, pushing it away from my mouth and yelling, “give me a shot!” As you can imagine he wasn’t thrilled with my reaction – he grabbed his needle, jammed it into my mouth and said, “I’ll be back in 15 minutes”. The root canal was a success but the journey was less than pleasurable.

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago when I had my first appointment to determine the need for my second root canal. I arrive to a warm welcome at Dr. Alex Holland’s dentist’s office (a general practitioner, not a specialist). Within 5 minutes of my arrival I’m taken back to the dental chair. The hygienist was very nice, asks why I’ve come in and I explain. From there she takes a couple of x-rays, develops them and gets them to the dentist. 10 minutes later Dr. Holland arrives to discuss my x-rays and what I’ve been experiencing. After a few minutes of talking and Dr. Holland answering several questions (older and wiser I am now) we determine I need a root canal.

Last week I arrived for my root canal and experienced the same warm welcome and prompt escort to the dental chair that I was going to occupy for the next three hours.

Dr. Holland arrived shortly and proceeded to give me a few shots to ensure I would not be feeling anything this time around.

The anesthetic worked just fine and while I had some mild discomfort from keeping my mouth open for a few hours there was no pain around the tooth being worked on. Throughout the procedure Dr. Holland asked how I was doing, if I was experiencing any pain or discomfort and if I needed anything. The root canal was a success and I walked away feeling much better.

So, what does my root canal have to do with customer experience. Here are some of my takeaways.

  1. First impressions matter – we never have the opportunity to make a second first impression. Warm welcomes, happy attitudes and friendly faces set the tone for the rest of the experience.
  2. Respecting others’ time – if you set an appointment with someone be on time, preferably early. Don’t make your customers wait – you are there to serve them so take care of them as quickly as possible.
  3. Communication is key to any relationship and the relationship with your customer is no exception. Listening and responding appropriately secures the relationship. Asking and answering questions will build a strong foundation with your customers.
  4. Take the necessary time to get to know and understand your customers. If you are only about making the quick sale without having the view of a long term relationship don’t expect to be in business too long.
  5. Use the tools and technology that are going to provide a great experience for your customer. In the case of my root canal those tools were a good anesthetic and the most current technological dentistry/root canal instruments.

One last takeaway is in comparing the two doctor’s who performed the procedures. The first one was a specialist who should have had the techniques, tools and technology to offer a superior experience. Whereas my second root canal was performed by someone who is a doctor of general dentistry. There’s a difference in having the tools and knowing how to use them – make sure you connect with people who know how to use the tools and make sure you know how to use the tools and technology.

What’s most important to you when it comes to customer experience?

Leave your comments and experiences below.


Branding From the Inside Out

Colors, logos, fonts, packaging, sounds, smells – the list goes on when it comes to building a memorable brand. But for too long the most important part of the brand, the part that will literally make or break a company, has been overlooked. It has been an area tagged as a “resource” or even an “expense” instead of the lifeblood and energy of a brand. And what is this “part”? It’s the people who we work for and with.

From the top of the organization to those on the front lines each and everyone is an ambassador of the brand. And if the brand isn’t a part of each person, if the brand isn’t a part of who they are, it will come through to our customers. When our customers don’t see and feel the passion we have for the brand we represent we are on shaky ground.

Think about the brands you love and identify with. Then think about the people who work there and represent the company. Most likely your favorite brands are made up of people who love the brand, company and product as much if not more than you do.

This week I’m going to provide some examples of brands and company’s that I believe are setting the standard for what it means to “Be the brand” from the inside out.

Valuable or Just Loud?

Seth Godin had a great post the other day about struggling to be heard – see it here. His bottom line was that we can either make noise or make a difference.

Just because someone can grab the attention of others by their volume doesn’t mean what they have to say will make a difference. After the noise disappears and the dust settles what’s left behind from our message is what people follow and believe in. There are other times that not saying anything, that our silence, can speak louder than any words we could have shouted. That’s where, as communicator’s, we must know our audience and what will connect with them in the most relevant way – both in delivery and content.

When our product or service provides value and makes a difference (or doesn’t) in someone’s life that person will be the one who turns up the volume and becomes the loudest spokesperson for the company.

Value is where it’s at.

Marketing – Story – Trust

Marketing happens 24/7. It happens any time and any where our companies touch our customers or our prospective customers.

According to the 2010 Edelman Trust Barometer trust and transparency are as important to corporate reputation as the quality of products and services. In the U.S. and in much of Western Europe, these two attributes rank higher than product quality – and far out-rank financial returns, which sit at or near the bottom of 10 criteria in all regions.

If we want our marketing messages heard, if we want to tell our story and we want people to listen then trust must be established. In Tom Wanek’s book Currencies that buy Credibility he outlines six powerful “currencies” that earn trust with our customers and in turn build our business. Those six “currencies” are:

  1. Material wealth – offering warranties, guarantees or policy that put the financial risk on you instead of your customer. Wanek gives the example of One Hour Heating and Air Conditioning which became the nation’s first heating and cooling service company to offer on-time service.
    They created believability by fulfilling the promise of “Always on time or you don’t pay a dime”. They risked material wealth to build credibility.
  2. Time and Energy – investing your time and energy to offer your expertise and help solve your customer’s problem. For a great example of this check out the online retailer REI. REI takes their
    content to an amazing level by offering expert advice to outdoor experts or wannabees. What’s your expertise? How can you highlight it?
  3. Opportunity – carving out your niche and becoming specialized to the point you are willing to lose some customer’s. A great example of this is the toy store “Geppetto’s Workshop”. This unique toy story differentiates itself and prides itself in NOT carrying any toy that is made of plastic or requires batteries.  They go all out so that they don’t become ordinary. The absence of “popular and trendy” toys is what attracts the crowds.
  4. Power and Control – in today’s retail world customers have the ability to instantly share their experiences with a product or service. While standing in line at your store they can instantly update their status on Facebook with an account of outstanding service OR let their hundreds or thousands of friends hear first hand of a terrible experience. Consumers have power and control like never before which is why it’s of utmost importance that you empower your front line members to make your customers experience the most amazing experience that it can be.
  5. Reputation and Prestige – you will never get everyone to buy from you so don’t try. Holding true to your core values will draw customers to you while making your store unique, distinct and trustworthy.
  6. Safety and Well-being – identity theft continues to rise and privacy risks are regularly exposed. It doesn’t matter if it’s your website or mailing list, you need to assure your customers that you have processes in place to product their identity and privacy when they do business with you.

Successful marketing begins with telling your story. Stories have been used throughout history to tell us where our ancestors came from to the parables of Jesus that explain truths.

So, what is YOUR story? What is the story, the mission of your retail store? How are you telling that important story?

Trust + Story = genuine customer satisfaction, growth, profit and impact.

The Customer Experience: Your Core Asset

I've had a quote posted above my desk for the past 15+
years that says, "It's the customer experience that is the core asset of
your business." In an economic climate where everyone wants to compete
on price we have to resist that temptation and deliver a customer
experience that trumps price and produces loyal fanatical fans.

It doesn't matter if you are a supplier or a retailer, online or brick and mortar, service provider or non-profit – your success is measured and determined by the experience you offer your customers or donors. 

What's something you have changed or will change to give your customers something to talk about – in a GOOD way?