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Managing the Customer Experience

Updated: Nov 7, 2018

Installment 8 in a 10-Part Series

Young woman with long blonde hair staring directly at you with tightened lips arms raised and giving thumbs down sign with both thumbs expressing dissatisfaction
Once a customer has a bad experience they can go thumbs down on your brand in a hurry.

Warren Buffett said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.” You can argue the time frames but there’s no challenging the admonition.

Millions of interactions among humans and brands occur every day. This is where expectations that have been created, and promises that have been made, are met and kept (or not). Brilliant ideas, years of research and development, hundreds of millions of dollars of investment in production, distribution and promotion, and it all gets sideways in a hurry when a customer has a bad experience and goes thumbs down on your brand.

Ask United Airlines. They suffered the mother of all #socialmediacrises when a video of law enforcement officers dragging a passenger forcibly off one of its planes went viral. It wiped out $1.4 billion in UAL value overnight.

As I define it, “Your #brand is your reputation and your reputation is achieved through consistent actions, communications and delivery of experiences over time. The process of building a brand is a continuous series of making and keeping promises that grows into a meaningful relationship. Your brand accumulates value as trust, confidence and loyalty escalates through positive direct and indirect interactions with others”.

Today, how people feel about your branded organization and its products and/or services depends on their most recent interaction and how it was perceived against the backdrop of prior experiences. Think of each new interaction as an opportunity to make a valued deposit in their #goodwillbank. Those deposits demonstrate their worth when an individual has an encounter that rubs them the wrong way. Show them love every time you can. Like #SethGodin says, “It’s easier to love a brand when the brand loves you back.”

#CustomerExperience (CX) has emerged as the new competitive battlefield. We’re living in a world where organizations are disproportionately rewarded when they deliver a great experience and disproportionately punished when they deliver a poor one. That has everyone’s attention.

#CX is a game changer. It can be the absolute #branddifferentiator. It possesses the power to enable a business to gain a true competitive advantage in a hurry and it’s moving rapidly toward overtaking the textbook differentiators (price and product).

I like simplifying things. At the base level, Customer Experience translates into knowing and understanding how a person feels about a brand. Believe me, that feeling is a very clear indicator of how they’ll talk about you and spend their money.

The complexity comes with the realization the customer experience entails everything that can leave an impression on a customer – direct and indirect – inside and outside the organization. The natural urge is to try to control as many variables as possible. That desire is what spawns all the talk about the #customerjourney and mapping all the various #touchpoints which is the where, why, when, how and with whom a customer interacts as they experience a branded offering of products or services.

Some leaders like #Apple have re-imagined and engineered the CX so each touch point is managed to meet a customer’s needs and make them feel truly valued in the process.

But, that’s no easy task.

The challenge is the customer experience is not a onetime event with one person. It’s a dynamic, ongoing, ever-changing series of interactions with a big universe of humans comprised of diverse demographics, expectations, interests, personalities and IT skills. Success requires constant observation, deep analytical understanding, and persistent management because customer perspectives and perceptions are fluctuating all the time.

Fundamentally, customers want the same thing now they’ve always wanted – to have their needs met. But technology, jet-fueled by the speed of the Internet, has enabled users to be more demanding, vocal and forceful than ever. They want instant attention through the channel that’s easiest and most convenient for them, a more personalized and intuitive experience, and faster resolution of their issue no matter how they choose to connect.

Hence, there’s a lot of construction, culture changing, and training underway as organizations build out broad infrastructures to deliver a consistent CX across the diverse channels.

No one department can own the customer experience. It involves product, sales, marketing and customer service operating in unison in a tight circle around the customer. Through constant observation, the multi-department group is monitoring experiences and identifying and resolving gaps in expectation versus performance usually related to communication, knowledge, standards and delivery.

The intent of all involved is to make every effort to produce experiences that delight customers and minimize the number that go thumbs down on the brand after being made to feel underappreciated, dehumanized, disrespected, and/or defeated.

Customer experiences producing satisfactory trial, followed by established repeat purchase patterns, are incredibly valuable to an organization. Research says returning customers will spend up to 67% more with you in year three than they did in year one.

Invest in managing customer experiences around your brand and you’ll be on your way toward producing a loyal army of consumer evangelists actively advocating for your organization and its products and services.

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