Are your customers having a favorable experience?

I just don’t get it, times are tough, money is tight, and enterprises are at a loss on how to get their customers to buy!

It is simple, they want a favorable experience; let me explain.

But first a little bit of business history. According the experts, our economy was first based on farming and farming produced community type products. The choices were relative few, prices were reasonable and during normal times, available to many. Then the industrial revolution brought about manufactured goods (or products) and along with this some value adds and therefore a premium on price (over commodity). Moving ahead we entered into the service era where instead of products the differentiator became value added services or hundred percent services (no products per say, although I consider service a product). Today we are now in what is called, the customer experience era (meaning the customer has a memorable or good feeling related to the purchase/use of a product or service).

Let me illustrate with some personal examples of good and bad customer experience. First, my local auto mechanic: while he is probably not the least expensive (note I am fairly knowledgeable and experienced regarding auto repairs), I have been going to him for years; he gives me a ride home and picks me up at home, during the rides he tells me about any car issues and which one should be addressed soon and which ones very minor, we also talk business in general, about our families and Boston sports. He calls me before any actual work is done and always gives me options on how to fix it; he shops around for the best prices and has great coffee. The biggest things are, one he does go that extra mile( he knows what it is like to get value) and I trust him and that in my opinion is what he really offers and thus regardless of the financial costs, I always have a good experience and thus one less thing in my life to be stressed about.

Another good example is one of my credit cards, they notify me about potential savings, give me preferred rates, I have grace periods regarding late payments because of my time with them, but again the experience, when I call customer service, they “know” me and it is not a hassle and they close by thanking me for my business.
On the flip side, another credit card company ( has the word America in it), charges me late fees not because of me but their process procedures, changes interest rate and credit limits without any notice, has very rigid customer service ( Sir , there is nothing I can do, that is the policy). Need I say more, who do I stay with?
So what should corporations do to keep and get new customers? Will it is very simple, put yourself in the customer’s shoes. Given you about to purchase a product or service, what would make you feel great about the decision.

I would suggest making a great customer experience “checklist”

1- Know your customer and their attributes (profile, buying characteristics)
2- What does your customer have to go through(processes) to acquire your offering
3- What activities or other products (services also) may be related to your product
4- What are your true differentiators of your product
5- What can you do to make the experience more one on one and memorable

Once you have done the checklist, take actions on them to make the situation “enjoyable” for the customer.

Here is an example of how to take a run of the mill experience and turn it into a great experience and thus a loyal customer.

Recreational boat service:
Typical service has the following scenario: vendor provides a price list of the services available for your boat (examples, oil changes, winterizing, and cleaning for various types of boats) , hours the dealer is open, you drop off and pick up the boat, and you have to call to see if the boat is ready. Any questions are usually deferred to the original manufacturer. You never really know who worked on your boat.

So let’s look at the checklist
1- Customer attributes: use is for recreation, mostly families, water skiing, seasonal, 100 mile radius, getting boat back and forth usually an issue, not sure what really has to be done to a boat, fairly decent investment in their boat/like to protect their investment.
2- Process: find a reliable boat dealer, determine what needs to be done, get the boat there, determine when and how to pick up the boat, validate that you got your monies worth
3- Related products or services: storage of boat, related repairs to boat, places for recreational boating, related recreational activities to boating, other water activities, attractions/ dinning on local bodies of water, and boating/water activity information
Given these findings, here are some ways to make this boat service a positive experience.

A- Provide a complete listing of boat services offered ( even those that may not be from your company) and why one should do them and its’ frequency
B- Provide pickup and drop off service
C- If you use our service, offer discounts on lake activities such as dining, water parks, miniature golf, lake cruises
D- Throw in some auxiliary equipment (anchor, PFDs, horn, etc.) on the first purchase
E- Personalize letters that address the following:
• Holiday greetings
• Reminders about potential next service
• Monthly activities within their area
• Boating articles
• Names of key individuals and how to contact them

In summary, if you want your customers to have a good experience: know your customer (always a requirement), model your process for the customer, not for you, and the old adage, “treat them the way you wanted to be treated”. Personalize the experience. Now some might say, isn’t there additional costs to make this a true positive customer experience. My response is probably there is, but your choices are the following: maintaining costs with the potential of losing some of your customer (given the current economic environment and customer era) OR potentially some additional costs that will result in loyal and repeat customers along with free advertising! It is your call.
One last note, make sure you link your customer experience process to your customer satisfaction program (if anything, it can provide feedback or measurements).

RHL 10/27/09

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