Cultivate your customer experience

Last month, my video blog on customer loyalty started some buzz, so I’m following up with some questions to you.

But first, the most critically important point is that the customer experience drives customer loyalty. And that experience consists primarily of human interaction – how you and your employees communicate with the customer. (See Pine and Gilmore’s The Experience Economy for some valuable insights.)

Here’s the thing — many organizations focus instead on the physical and technological aspects of their customer experience. For example, what does the retail décor look like? How is the product packaged? What are the words on the box? Or, what does the website look like, and is it easy-to-use? Are the colors in brand?

These elements matter, but in actuality, interactions with you and your employees are the single largest determinant of customer experience. The way your employees communicate and interact with your customers drives loyalty, so ask yourself this: How well do you and your people communicate? It seems obvious, but so does loyalty.

To illustrate (using my example from the video blog), I return to my favorite restaurants because they know my name when I walk in, they take their best guess at my order, sometimes the owner says hello to make me feel welcome, and the experience is personalized.

Our marketing director says the same thing of her experience with Southwest Airlines. She flies frequently with them because they deliver a consistent experience. Familiar flight attendants welcome her with a recognizing smile. Last minute emergency or change of plans? She knows a Southwest representative will kindly work with her to make the change without gouging.

So now I’m asking you, how well do you and your people communicate to your customers? Whether you’re selling a retail product or a professional service, please share what you’re doing to enhance your customer experience to drive loyalty, and post ideas for what you could do going forward.

3 comments on “Cultivate your customer experience

  1. I truly believe that’s why so many people frequent Starbucks. Not only can their baristas make a good cup of coffee, they usually can remember your name and, often times, your drink. I’m always amazed with the hundreds of cups of coffee they make in a shift, they can remember people’s personal drinks.

    It’s like the theme song from Cheers “Where everybody knows your name!” Nothing like that personal connection!

  2. Rachael- Thanks for commenting! We’re a fan of your work products (videoconferencing) and push all of our clients to use it. Makes the emotional connection much more than by phone. Keep banging that drum loud and together we’ll continue to see the change that’s needed.

    PS: The EBC for AT&T in Bedminster is doing a pretty good job for your equipment, we’ve seen and helped them sell to some mutual clients. ;-)

  3. Excellent stuff.

    I manage the communication about and development of my company’s Executive Briefing Center program (soon to be renamed Customer Experience Center program, BTW). We make HD videoconferencing systems and other video and audio technology, all of which really does have to be experienced in person to understand its impact. A lot of our people want to cram our centers full of *stuff*. But the drum I’ve been banging on the loudest (or at least one of them) is that stuff on its own doesn’t sell. It’s our people -the ones who know how to interact meaningfully with customers *using* the stuff -who make the difference. We need rockstar people with razor sharp communication skills, not just more shiny stuff.

    And bonus points for the restaurant analogy, also. I use that one almost every day.