People tend to remember the extreme experiences – the most pleasant and the most unpleasant. What people remember is what they talk about. Brands want customers to talk good about them. Word of mouth is the best marketing you can ask for. This is where customer experience creates a differentiation for a brand.
When a brand manages to outperform its competitors by delivering unexpected excellence, customers love it, remember it and talk about it.
In today’s information age where news and messages can go viral in no time, customers talking about an experience can have many listeners. This is the easiest good or bad publicity any brand can get. One extremely happy or extremely pissed off customer can get you lots of free eyeballs.
Imagine the impact when the number of happy or pissed off customers keep increasing or multiplying.
Brands thus have to be very mindful. Great customer experience creates a differentiation whereas bad customer experience can have far reaching unpleasant consequences.
Customer Experiences Create Memories
We all love stories. People share their good and bad experiences as stories with friends and families. Sharing stories cannot have been any easier thanks to various social media platforms.
A customer can easily share images or videos. There could be an instant tweet and they can tag your business. An extremely happy or extremely pissed off customer can choose to write one complete lengthy blog about her experience.
I remember the story of a guy who was extremely pissed off with an online travel aggregator website. He had booked a hotel room in one of the remote islands in India and was travelling with his family. When the family reached the destination, the hotel management refused to accept the online booking as they were in an ongoing dispute with the travel aggregator website. While the dispute could not be settled and the hotel did not accept the booking, the guy offered to book another room and pay on the spot. However there were no additional rooms available at the hotel. Being a remote island with not many options, the family had to explore a lot of options before they got another accommodation.
This was not the end of the woes for the family. They did not receive adequate help from the website’s customer service team. The last I checked a few months ago, the refund was still pending.
The entire experience was so frustrating for the guy that he created an entire website narrating his nightmare of an experience.
When customer experiences are too good or too bad, they become memories. People share memories. Friends and family and then strangers on the world wide web share, re-share, re-tweet those memories and they tag the brand each time.Tweet
Be mindful of the experiences and memories your brand creates for customers.
What is customer experience?
Customer experience is a journey. There is no one definite moment or interaction that describes the overall customer experience. It is a larger sum of all small and large interactions, physical and digital, verbal and non-verbal that a customer goes through.
While the entire chain of customer touch points make up the customer experience, any one of those can trigger those extreme reactions. Thus each customer touch point needs to be carefully managed and monitored.
If you sell flowers on a website, what could be the various customer touchpoints?
- You website’s display advertisement on another website, search engine or social network
- The pay per click ad result when a prospective buyer is searching for “buy flowers online” on Google or any other search engine
- Your email newsletter
- A physical flyer or brochure that you may send to your target audience with newspapers or a door to door campaign
- Your company profile on online map listings or business directories
- The landing page
- Your website – the interface, the flow, ease of browsing, the buying process, payment process, payment options, order confirmation
- The email or SMS to confirm the customer’s order
- Subsequent communication for order and delivery updates
- The recipient’s reaction and response when the flowers are delivered
- Behavior of the order delivery rep
- Responsiveness and helpfulness of the customer service team if the buyer needs to call for any queries
- Post order communication to the buyer for repeat orders
Customer experience isn’t an expense. Managing customer experience bolsters your brand.Stan Phelps
These are some common customer touchpoints. Each is an opportunity for the company to deliver an excellent customer experience. Everything matters. The copy of the ad. The color theme of the website. The ease of browsing and shopping. Ability to seek help while selecting a product. The tone of the communication. Is it too formal? Or does the brand use a creative messaging tone that is easily distinguishable from other competitive brands.
Customer experience creates a differentiation for the brand, either in a good way or the bad way.
How to use customer experiences to create a differentiation for your brand?
- Starts with awareness. You need to be aware of every customer touchpoint. How does a customer interact with your brand across channels?
- Monitor each touchpoint. However small or insignificant it may seem, do not ignore. Each interaction can trigger pleasant or unpleasant experiences. Try surprise audits. Heard of mystery shopping?
- Regularly brainstorm with your team on how you can improve customer experience. Listen to the voice of the customer. Monitor what customers are posting on social media. Not just about you, but about your competitors and even about other companies or brands. Listen to direct customer feedback, suggestions and complaints
- Be mindful of how you treat every stakeholder – employees, vendors, suppliers, customers. All good things start with good intentions
- Never settle for average. Excellence is what you need to aim for and excellence is what you should deliver
Conclusion – Customer experience creates a differentiation
Customer expectations are not constant. The rate of change in customer expectations has increased manifold. New technology, innovation from existing competitors and entry of new players all impact what customers expect from a brand.
Remember that delivering great customer experience is a journey. The rewards and penalties of pleasant and unpleasant customers experiences can be just as extreme. If long term business success and customer loyalty is what you desire, ignore customer experience at your own risk.
“Customer experience is the new marketing battlefront” – Chris Pemberton