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Scott Deming

Quality Insider

8 Ways to Wow Your Customers

The ultimate customer experience

Published: Monday, August 27, 2007 - 21:00

Today’s world is filled with savvy consumers. They know how to find the best deals. They’re up on all the latest trends. If there’s a hot new product on the market, they don’t want to miss it. (Remember those iPhone lines!). A remarkable blend of exuberance and skepticism leaves many business owners wondering, “How can I keep my customers’ attention no matter what product or service my competitor is putting on the market?” It takes more than great products to keep your customers coming back. You must create the ultimate customer experience.   

What does the ultimate customer experience look like? Maybe it’s an individual making a personal connection with a customer on behalf of the business. Perhaps it’s an employee going out of his way to make sure a customer has everything she needs and is more than satisfied with the transaction. Essentially, it’s keeping your promise—whether that promise is implied or stated outright.

All companies make promises to their customers. They wouldn’t be in business if they didn’t. But not all companies keep their word. The ones that do will naturally set themselves apart from the competition. By providing the ultimate customer experience, you make people loyal to your brand. And brand loyalty is everything.

You can’t develop brand loyalty through creative advertising, or by developing a brilliant logo, color scheme, or theme song. It comes from doing for customers what you say you are going to do. It’s that simple. Brands that don’t deliver on their promises lose customers and generate catastrophic, negative word-of-mouth. But brands that consistently exceed what they promise earn customers for life and generate waves of new customers from positive word-of-mouth.

Remember:

Be careful what you promise.
Do you promise your customers no waiting in line longer than five minutes and then keep them tapping their feet for ten? Or do you promise 24-hour help service only to make them hear a recorded message instead of a real person? If you can’t or don’t deliver on your brand promises, you will fail to create loyalty among customers. If you mess up with a customer once, he might give you another chance, but it’s likely that the next time he needs something, he’ll go to one of your competitors. In the reverse scenario, when a company delivers on its promises and even exceeds expectations, it makes the customer feel valued and appreciated. He feels as if he is a part of your company’s family and culture.

It is this delivery that amounts to the ultimate customer experience. In turn, the ultimate customer experience creates customers who bring you more business. You want them to feel married to your company. When you marry someone, you expect that person to remain monogamous, and that’s the same feeling you want someone to have about your brand.”

Separate yourself from the pack.
As mentioned above, when businesses get mired in sales quotas, short-term goals, statistics, and so forth, the people inside those businesses become robotic. Their eyes are focused not on how the brand is doing, but on what the numbers tell them. Both you and your employees should actually be focused on exceeding your customers’ expectations. You can start by getting rid of impersonal customer-service techniques, such as e-mail or automated telephone services. When it comes to your customers, always be proactive.

You must consider what you can do to differentiate your business from all the others that offer the same services or products. The differentiator must be the level of service, the unique experience you offer each of your customers. You have to engender loyalty in customers so that they will always shop with you, regardless of how far out of their way they have to go to get to you.

Realize that perspective is everything.
To really know how things are going at your company, you’ll have to take a walk in the shoes of your customers and employees. You need to say to yourself, “If I were one of my customers right now, what would I love to have from me?” Then, do it! Next you’ll need to gauge your employees’ loyalty to the company, because loyal employees provide the ultimate experience for customers. When you see what needs to be done, get started immediately.

When you walk in your customers’ and employees’ shoes, you enlarge yourself. Your perspective widens, and so does your concern about what’s important. The benefits you receive from changing your perspective will far exceed those reaped from a narrower focus that includes only the bottom line.

Face the fact that you and your brand are probably not as great as you think.
You may or may not be aware of the Lake Wobegon Effect, but it is a phenomenon from which many of us and our businesses suffer. It’s the human tendency to think we are better than we actually are. When you think your business is the best, you don’t work as hard to keep making it better.

Always be ready to evaluate your brand. Constantly ask yourself how you can improve upon the experience you offer your customers. Finally, as well as focusing on what’s working, find aspects of your brand that are not succeeding and do everything you can to improve them.

Understand your company’s reach of influence.
Everyone in business is familiar with the adage that a happy customer tells one friend about a good experience while an unhappy customer tells ten of his friends about a bad experience. It’s the customer-experience ripple effect, and you want to ensure that your business creates only positive ripples. To do this, you need to focus on actions that show you acknowledge and understand your customers’ needs. Doing this will help you create a brand whose promise creates evangelists ready to sing your praises near and far.

Avoiding creating a negative, widespread ripple effect is easy. Simply deliver on your brand promises, and your customers will never feel disappointed. Your brand promise is inextricably tied to your reputation, and you want to make a big enough splash that delivering on your promise ripples indefinitely.

Don’t pretend to be something you’re not. You are your brand, and your brand is you.
Everyone has a brand identity, but they don’t all understand their brand correctly, or even know what it is. Branding is not a matter of putting on a persona that others will like. It’s not playing a role, putting on a mask, or pretending. All that is superficial, a veneer that covers up the real you. You cannot develop an authentic, sincere brand—and the brand evangelists that come with it—without understanding what you are all about. You don’t want your customers to feel like they are being “sold” based on a false business persona.

When you are sincere about trying to understand your customers’ needs, desires, and what they’d truly love from you, a genuine connection is made that is the foundation of trust between you and your customers. And customers who trust a business keep coming back to that business over and over again.

Know that the easy way isn’t always best.
Technology has made communication so much easier. But if you’re not careful, too much reliance on technology can take you out of direct contact with your customers and, as a result, erode your brand. Texting, e-mailing, and instant messaging do not let you create emotional connections with your customers. Effective use of technology should help you streamline your operations, create new opportunities, reach a broader customer base, and reinforce your carefully developed brand.

Regardless of whether or not your business is brick and mortar or Web-based, remember to use technology to transcend, not replace, your brand. When considering technology in your business or organization, ask yourself, “If I were my customer, what would be the ultimate customer experience for me?” You would not love endless phone trees, unreturned calls, or SPAM email advertisements. Don’t let technology be the end of your brand; let it be the beginning of expanding, extending, and sustaining it.

Don’t drive your customers to a flawed service.
A common mistake for many business owners is driving customers to a business that does not already have a brand identity in place that welcomes and encourages those customers. You can’t figure out what your service is after the fact. You mustn’t put a message out that is not reinforced and transcended by the brand experience. Appearance without substance—advertising and driving people to your business, without a powerful brand identity—leads to unsatisfied customers and, eventually, failure.

Your values and sincerity are your brand, and any marketing or advertising efforts need to be based around that brand identity. Your brand can be created only by you and the relationships you develop.

All of these lessons work together to bring us to one critical conclusion: if you want to be successful, you must build a powerful emotional brand. You must stop looking at customers with dollar signs in your eyes and start creating relationships with them. This may seem like an expensive proposition, but believe me, in the long run it’s less expensive than neglecting customer relationships. When your customers see that you truly value them and care about the service you can provide them, you’ll be able to provide them with their ultimate customer experience and they’ll be customers for life. That’s the real secret to long-term success.

Discuss

About The Author

Scott Deming’s default image

Scott Deming

: Scott Deming is the author of The Brand Who Cried Wolf: Deliver on Your Company’s Promise and Create Customers for Life (Wiley, April 2007), which expands the ideas in this article. He grew his own marketing and advertising company, RCI, into a multimillion-dollar organization that won The Business Journal’s “Most Inspiring Business of the Year” award. Deming also delivers high-energy sales, marketing, and customer service presentations to clients across the globe more than 100 times a year. His presentations have taught customer-focused sales, marketing, and branding techniques to Verizon Wireless, Wells Fargo, 3M, USAA, GlaxoSmithKline, Delta Faucets, John Deere, Prudential Real Estate, Wachovia, Wyeth Consumer Healthcare, and many other companies.