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Monday, July 27, 2009

Don't Neglect Customer Experience!

Happy Customer!!! originally uploaded by Linzinator!
Have you been thinking about customer experience? I hope so. In fact, I urge you read The Importance of the Customer Experience in a Down Economy. It features essays from 18 thought leaders, all exploring the benefits associated with focusing on the customer experience.

Customer focus, you see, represents an essential competitive strategy. We need our customers. And, unless we deliver to them the value that they demand, they won't need us which leaves us competing on price and convenience.

So says John Todor who posted about the report in The Importance of the Customer Experience in a Down Economy on The Perfect Customer Experience blog and both edited and contributed to it.

John further adds in his Executive Summary that the current turmoil has customers dramatically reevaluating what they value and find relevant as well as how they go about making decisions. Deliver then on what customers value, focus on customer experience, and differentiate yourself in the marketplace.

I'll highlight a few of the essays that particularly resonated with me:

+ Soothing the Savaged Consumer Soul by Jeanne Bliss -- I love the author's focus on offering customers genuine gestures of kindness. She urges us to Become Wizards at Alternative Solutions; Listen; Then Repeat; Practice Wild Empathy [note: "The humanity and humility that comes with acknowledging [empathy] will bring you closer to your employees and customers."]; Deliver Small Heroic Acts of Kindness; Find Your Best Customers. LOVE THEM!; Play Defensive-End for the Front Line.

+ Customer Psycho-Economics in a Down Economy by John Todor and Bill Todor -- In the current environment, customers are reacting either by hoarding/postponing and fixating on price or seeking out "relationships with companies that engage them in a process of regaining a sense of control." Much better to differentiate oneself from the price focused option and instead win customer mind share by engaging with customers -- both emotionally and psychologically -- and building a trusted relationship with them, that then delivers a memorable experience.

+ Customer Experience & Human Touch by John Turnbull -- The author highlights that satisfied customers rarely become loyal, raving fans. "Passion, loyalty and advocacy are driven most strongly by emotions rather than reason; and emotions are a strongly human phenomenon." Great customer experiences, ones that engage customer emotions, have a lot to do with the human touch that the people in your organization offer customers. "Customer emotions are driven more by how service employees treat customers than by the technical or functional quality of the products or service."

+ Using the Power of Passion to Exploit Tough Times and Win New Customers by James R. Lucas details 7 "manageable business paradoxes... to recapture the power of passion with their teams, use that passion to capitalize on the tough times and win new customers, and dramatically differentiate themselves from their competition."

1. Spread Optimism and Spread the Ugly Truth
2. Broaden the Vision and Narrow the Focus
3. Nurture Customers and Fire Customers
4. Increase Freedom and Clarify Boundaries
5. Expand Creativity and Eliminate Ideas
6. Take More Risks and Eliminate Risk
7. Execute Better and Make More Mistakes

+ From Product to Experience; From Price to Exchange by Rory Sutherland -- Replace the 4 Ps of marketing with Experience, Exchange, Everywhere and Evangelism. At the same time, consider how you might improve the value offered to customers at little to no increase in cost. Consider the following:

- Memory of an experience is not representative of the experience.
- It really is the thought that counts: meaningful gestures matter more than institutionalized ones.
- Upgrades are easier to sell if offered separately from the original purchase.
- Customers do not judge all costs equally.
- Cost isn't the same as price.
- People make choices in sequence, not in parallel. And the brand choice may come late in the decision tree.
- Customers can pay for services with more than just money.
- People are getting more impatient.
- Forget the 4 Ps: use the 4 Es.

This report is filled with gems. Print it out, read it, highlight it and then revisit it regularly. It will definitely remind you that now is NOT the time to neglect the customer experience. Quite the opposite.

Do you agree?

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