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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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Jeff Branch said...

These concepts also apply to the manufacturing side. Good post.

Steve Furman said...

All really great stuff. I completely get these concepts but find this type of language does not cut through when you are sitting in a room with your CMO and CEO. Those of us in big companies need to translate this content into charts with numbers and an accompanying strategy that seems plausible and executable. This varies with each company, but is an absolute must to have any hope of bringing them forward.


CB Whittemore said...

Jeff, you make a great point about manufacturing. Thanks for broadening the relevance of the concepts.

CB Whittemore said...

Steve, on one hand the importance of engagement with customers seems so obvious that it's hard to believe that an organization would need to translate it into charts and numbers to take action and implement a strategy. On the other hand, I know exactly what you are referring to and would love to come up with an answer. I look forward to exploring ideas with you. Thanks for the impetus!

Ted Hurlbut said...

CB, Thanks for highlighting the report "The Importance of the Customer Experience in a Down Economy." It looks like there's a lot of provocative reading there that can be applied to small and independent retailers trying to distinguish themselves in this environment.

CB Whittemore said...

Ted, I'm delighted to introduce you to this report. I've just skimmed the surface and expect that you'll find some wonderful resources within.

Promotional Products said...

Terrific article, this is something that can not be overlooked. Giving the customer a desirable experience is one of the best ways to make sure that they patronize your business in the future.

CB Whittemore said...

Promotional Products, you are so right! Yet, why is it so difficult to find? That's what makes it all so important and worthy of loyalty, tho. Thanks very much for adding your perspective. I'm sure you have so good stories to share.

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