4 Keys to Creating a Differentiating Customer Experience

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customer experience

Recently I wrote about five ways to create an engaging customer experience.  Based on post blog activity, there seems to be some interest in the topic.

In this previous post I identified five ways of creating an engaging customer experience as:

  • Providing Utility
  • Nurturing Community
  • Creating Connection
  • Offering Choices
  • Delivering Convenience

Customer experience is becoming the new benchmark of business. Why all the fuss about customer experience? Perhaps it’s because there is an opportunity created by the significant gap between what customers expect and what they experience.

80% of companies believe they deliver “superior” customer service, but only 8% of customers think these same companies deliver “superior” customer service. (Help Scout Infographic)

I consider customer service an important subset of the customer experience. I believe excellent customer service is highly correlated to a differentiating customer experience.

Consider these facts:

  • 86% of customers quit doing business because of a bad customer service experience. (Help Scout Infographic)
  • 96% of unhappy customers don’t complain, however 91% of those will simply leave and never come back. (1st Financial Training Services)
  • 70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated. (McKinsey)
  • In a recent survey, 64% of brands received a rating of:
    • Ok
    • Poor or
    • Very Poor

(Forrester’s Customer Experience Index, 2012)

A Gallup Poll revealed that only 22% of Americans had a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in big business.

Brands that deliver a relevant customer-centric experience are positioned to generate value by nurturing loyal customers.

What’s the difference between an engaging and a differentiating customer experience?

It may be as simple as your goal.

“Is the goal to get people to notice what you make? Or are you setting out to make something people choose to talk about?”   Seth Godin

One can argue that an engaging customer experience is a necessary part of a differentiating customer experience. Creating an experience that offers a competitive advantage requires more than just engaging customers. I believe there are 4 keys that must be present.

4 Keys to Creating a Differentiating Customer Experience

Mindset

Brands that are deepening customer relationships by creating raving fans think differently. Their vision, mission, and values revolve around serving their customers and their internal stakeholders. Typically these brands are willing to make short-term sacrifices to grow long-term relationships.

Their ultimate goal is creating raving fans instead of satisfied customers (Ken Blanchard). There is a world of difference between the two.

Brands deepen relationships by delivering the right solution at the right time through the right channel. By extracting interactional data and feedback, small (or large) businesses can determine the current level of customer satisfaction, identify unfulfilled needs, and boost revenue in the process (Ann Ruckstuhl, SVP & CMO at LiveOps).

While many brands are intimidated by the risks of using a social business model, brands that are creating differentiating experiences see the opportunities; they are curious. Curiosity drives these organizations to experiment and to explore new and different ways of delivering value. They are continually looking for ways to help.

Sometimes it might be creating an app that allows customers to more effectively run their business while using your products, or it might involve keeping track of previous purchases, so customers don’t have to.

Culture

Customer centric brands create an aligned culture where the values of associates and the organization are in sync.

70% of U.S. workers are not engaged at work. Source Gallup State of the American Workplace survey.

90% of leaders think an engagement strategy will have an impact on business success but barely 24% of them have a strategy (Dale Carnegie).

Companies with engaged employees have 2.5 times more revenue than companies with low engagement levels (Hay Group).

A study of 64 organizations revealed that organizations with highly engaged employees achieve twice the annual net income of those whose employees lag behind on engagement (Kenexa).

Highly engaged employees were 87% less likely to leave their companies than their disengaged counterparts (Corporate Leadership Council).

Creating cultures where stakeholders are engaged requires leadership, investment, and a strategy. Customer-centric organizations realize that engaged employees are an essential key to delivering a differentiating experience, and they invest in the necessary resources.

Here is some advice on creating a social media friendly workplace.

The culture of the organization extends to external stakeholders too. My friend and co-contributor Raymond Morin writes about the value of social media ambassadors in general and employees in particular.

Neal Schaeffer has a free e-book resource addressing employee advocacy.

It all begins with culture because the culture creates the environment where the other keys can flourish.

Feedback 

Feedback isn’t tolerated at customer centric businesses; it’s the lifeblood, it’s considered a gift. Organizations who take this seriously spend time and resources teaching the art and science of giving and receiving feedback.

Feedback has a correlation to employee engagement. 43% of highly engaged employees received feedback at least once a week compared to only 18% of employees with low engagement (Source Towers Watson).

External feedback is important too. In many instances, I find brands telling me information about their customers or prospects. When I probe deeply, I discover the information turns out to be inferred from anecdotal information rather than facts.

76% of marketers feel they know what their consumers want, but only 34% have asked consumers what they want. (Pivot Study)

There are numerous tools, many of them free, at the disposal of marketers. These tools allow marketers to listen and observe conversations and behaviors. There are also useful survey tools that allow marketers to collect direct feedback. One note of caution here, while feedback is useful, be careful not to abuse this process.

Agility

The current marketing landscape is rapidly evolving. Mobile technology, the Internet, and social platforms are continually shaping buying behaviors. Brands are struggling to keep up with the pace of change and the demands of empowered consumers.

Brands that want to create a differentiating customer experience recognize that empowered associates are essential. When Lowes deployed their app, they provided iphones for 42,000 associates.

Empowered associates are more likely to collaborate and share the insights gleaned from interactions with consumers. Brands that encourage cross-functional cooperation are able to respond to evolving consumer needs and are more likely to maintain consumer relationships.

Socially connected consumers are providing a treasure trove of data; however, data without insight is useless. Brands that want to create a differentiating experience don’t collect data just because they can. They use the data appropriately to serve their customers.

A Quest not a Destination

Brands that want a differentiating customer experience understand they are on a quest. While this quest may have many waypoints, ultimately it doesn’t have a final destination.

While this may sound obvious, it’s important to build in reminders because we can all become comfortable with success.

What are other keys? Can you identify brands that are creating differentiating experiences? I would love to hear your examples in the comments below.

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