It seems that whenever a business embarks on something new, it requires a set of guiding principles. Sometimes, the industry creates them, like the GAAP for accountants. Often times, individual businesses create their own, especially when the industry is immature. In the case of Customer Experience, it's been around a long time, it just hasn't gained traction until recently. In this case, guiding principles seem to run the gamut! I’ve seen several admirable suggestions on the topic, but I'm also compelled to share my own. As a lifelong learner, I'm always interested in hearing new perspectives too, so please share yours once you read mine!
Despite the fact that they’re numbered, they are not in order of importance. I could make a case that any one of them will make a measurable difference in the way customers view and ultimately engage with your business; and depending on your business, one might apply more than another. The important thing is that there aren’t that many. Don’t make it harder than it needs to be. And if you’re going to use them, then use them religiously. Bump everything you do up against these and ask yourself if you’re doing the right thing for your customers before you embark down the path.
- Make it easy. Whatever IT is, make it easy to do. If you’re an online retailer, make it easy to shop, buy and receive your goods. If you’re a service, make it easy to understand what it is you offer. If you're a healthcare system, don't forget to include the emotions that go with care, quality and cost in that industry. Go to Apple, Nordstrom, or Amazon and shop and buy something. Then go through your own process and ask yourself how you can make your process more like theirs. Seriously, try it. You’ll be astounded at what you discover if you’re being honest with yourself.
- Make employees feel like owners. And if you can, give them some skin in the game, such as stock options or a real performance bonus based on real performance and not just a percentage of their base salary. Enable every employee to go through the process your customers go through and ask them how they would make it easier. And then empower them to go change it. Give employees permission to make decisions every single day that will provide a better experience for their customers (notice I said “their” not “your” customers). We all own the customer experience; from the gal manning the servers to the guy answering the customer service line…and all the way up the chain to the CEO.
- Use insights and data to learn everything you can about your customers. If you don't have any insights today - get some! Use insights for more than you ever thought possible. Get to know your customers better: what do they like, what do they buy, when do they buy? Do some buy more than others? Where do they have trouble or get hung up in your process?What makes them different from one another? Should you talk to them differently? All of this and more will help personalize, customize and optimize your products, your sales channels, your marketing and ultimately increase loyalty and acquisition.
- Be committed. Unless you're running a fly-by-night operation, customers are for life...or at least that's the goal. And companies playing the long game come out the winners. As Forrester and Watermark Consulting showed in 2013, those companies who were committed to customer experience excellence yielded a 43% stock gain over a 6-year period versus companies deemed to be CX laggards who showed a 34% decrease during the same time. You might not be able to do everything at once, but don't give up. Customer experience isn't a passing fad.
- Add a spoonful of sugar. Somewhere, somehow. People have different feelings about the idea of customer delight and if that challenges you, then don't take it as far. I am a big proponent of service with a smile, even when it's just a figurative smile. In a recent survey by Service People Plus, they found that 73% of people said friendly customer service made them fall in love with a brand. That's right: FALL IN LOVE. If that isn't enough reason to add some sugar, I don't know what is.
Let these principles be your guide to building customer loyalty and earning the rewards that accompany it.