Tell me that you want the kind of things
That money just can’t buy
In the first part of this two-part series, we drew inspiration from John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s lyrics in the Beatles mega-hit Can’t Buy Me Love and explained why you can’t buy customer love. You don’t get your customers to love you because of a rebate, a rewards card or gifts. Those might buy you a fleeting attraction, but not true, long-term customer devotion.
We’re 16 years into this millennium and customer experience is the most critical battleground for customer love, and will remain so as we go into the future. In Gartner’s “Customer Experience Is the New Competitive Battlefield” report, it is stressed that “greater competition and growing consumer power have eroded traditional product- and service-based differentiation, forcing firms to seek new, more durable forms of competitive advantage. Many business and IT leaders see the customer experience as a sustainable source of competitive differentiation.”
Why is customer experience the battleground? Because it is the only thing that cannot yet be bought. I can buy innovation, and I can hire great people. But I cannot buy a magic formula or technology to provide a customer experience that will make the difference.
Here’s something to think about.
Even though you can’t buy customer love, you sure can charge more once you have gained it. It’s not a line item that shows how much the customer pays. It’s the fact that your customer service can be better to the point that the customer is willing to pay more. In other words, you can charge for the value added for a strong customer experience.
Highlight the Quality of the Customer Service Experience You Provide
Stats and facts from numerous surveys prove that a strong customer service experience makes customers less price-sensitive. So, sell the customer service. Charge a little more for the customer service. Not as an optional add-on, but as part of the regular price.
A company pays more for good people. They pay to have their people properly trained. Then they sell the same product that the competitors are selling, but at a higher price. Think about the difference between the big box store and the local, independent store that sells the same or similar merchandise at a slightly higher price.
The big box store has more selection and lower prices. The smaller store is more convenient to shop at, has more knowledgeable employees, and so on. There’s a reason that the small store is still in business. It’s the customer experience.
There’s an old saying that is often attributed to Aldo Gucci: “Quality is remembered long after price is forgotten.” No doubt that the merchandise at a Gucci store is made from the highest quality materials. But in addition, the customer service is performed at the highest level as well. The result is that people are willing to pay more.
Think about the stores that are recognized for higher-end merchandise and service: Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, etc. Consider this. Regardless of the exceptional quality of the merchandise, if the customer service wasn’t strong as well, people would find another place to buy high quality products.
Let’s compare Walmart to Nordstrom. Both are excellent companies. One is known for low prices and the other is known for stellar customer service. Walmart has friendly service, but it doesn’t have a lot of staff wandering through the aisles, waiting to help customers.
Nordstrom, on the other hand, has friendly and knowledgeable employees – and plenty of them. Even when the store is busy, it’s not difficult to find someone to help. Nordstrom is not known for its low prices. It is known for its customer experience, and it charges appropriately.
Your Customers Are Asking You a Question. Are You Listening?
Customers want to know, “How well do you really know what I want?” The answer to this question is the key to delivering an excellent customer experience. A customer wants to feel important. It’s only natural. At a minimum, a customer wants to feel appreciated.
A very successful salesperson shared the secret to his success. He said, “I make my customers feel as if they are the most important people on the planet.”
How can you do that? Know your customer!
Harvey Mackay, bestselling author and entrepreneur, has a concept he calls the MacKay 66. This is a questionnaire (66 questions) that helps him get to know his customers. Some are focused on business, but many questions are a little more personal, such as where the customer went to school, favorite sports teams, favorite foods and more. The idea is that the more you know about your customers – not just about business, but about their lives – the more difficult it will be for them to leave you. Powerful concept.
Another way to get to know your customer is through data. “Big Data” helps you analyze trends; however, individual customer data helps you create a personalized experience. For example, a customer checks into a hotel that he’s been to before.
Thanks to the computer program the hotel uses, the front desk clerk sees that he’s been there before and based on his feedback he really enjoyed the room he stayed in and requested a non-allergenic pillow. Rather than just take the customer’s credit card and assign him a random room, the clerk welcomes the customer back, thanks him for his prior business, informs him that he will be staying in his “usual” room and that a non-allergenic pillow will be sent up shortly. All this is about building a customized, personalized experience.
Anticipate Customer Needs and Respond Effectively
It’s not enough to know your customer. You need to be on top of your customer’s evolving and changing needs – and act on them promptly and effectively. That’s the catch.
Customer experience is the battleground on which, for the foreseeable future, we will watch the digital transformation play out. The winners and losers of this business battle will be determined based on how users perceive the company’s customer experience.
The battle for the user mindset is really about anticipation. How can we anticipate what a user wants to do and facilitate it in a way that a concierge or accommodating butler would do?
This is exactly what technology like WalkMe does to help “earn” customer love. You earn customer trust by “caringly” holding their hand and guiding them through complicated websites or applications, so that they don’t get confused and have to contact a customer service rep. Companies also use the same technology to guide their customer care team as they are helping customers, reducing the time it takes to reach a resolution.
And don’t stop at simplifying the user experience and helping customers with support issues. You have to continuously collect and analyze user behavior data, so that you can fix what’s broken in real time and consistently raise the bar on the customer service experience you provide.
Steal my Heart Away!
Don’t try to buy customer love. Steal it!
It’s yours for the taking, but you have to be willing to work to get it. And, it’s not a one-time effort. If a customer buys from you once or twice, that’s like a first date. If they start buying more frequently, you’re starting to build a relationship. If you’ve gotten to that point, take it to the next level and go for commitment. Secure the customer’s confidence by gaining his trust. How? By making sure the customer’s experience is always positive.
You want your customers to see you as a partner, not a vendor. You want their trust, confidence and … their love. In a free market economy, it turns out that your revenue it largely dependent on something money can’t buy.