First, let’s define customer experience. In essence, customer experience is the customer’s perception of how well you live up to your brand promise. If you fail to meet the expectations you have created, then that brand promise can become your undoing. With the influence of millennials and the power of social media, customers can cause more damage to your brand than ever before.
Most businesses want to create a compelling brand promise… otherwise what’s the point of having a brand? So how do you deliver on that promise? Check out these tips for building a superior customer experiences.
Listen to your Customers
Your customers are talking, tweeting, posting and livestreaming. They’re sending information about themselves and their interests into the world. Use these conversations to make meaningful decisions that improve the customer’s experience.
Active listening is the first step. At Microsoft, their social listening software pulls in about 150 million conversations each year. After cleaning out the irrelevant data, over 5 million conversations are handled personally. Ideas, suggestions and needs from customers are processed and forwarded to development teams, to be turned into product improvements. And once a product has been updated, the company circles back with those customers, letting them know. These customers, in turn, organically advocate on behalf of the brand and market Microsoft products to their networks.
The Knock it Out of the Park Strategy
Some brands simply deliver on their brand promise so spectacularly well that the standard of customer experience can only be admired. This is the “knock it out of the park strategy”. There is no brand that embodies this strategy more than Disney. They simply go further to deliver on their brand promise than almost any other company on the planet. Their guidelines: greet and welcome every guest, make eye contact and smile, seek out guest contact, provide immediate customer recovery, and display appropriate body language and thank everyone. This strategy is the hardest to implement and may be expensive to maintain, but it is the most powerful strategy and brands that adhere to it tend to stand the test of time.
The Over Deliver Strategy
If you promise a customer something and you deliver over what you promised, that is a great customer experience. The emphasis here is going that extra mile to surprise a customer with the quality of your service or product. Take Lidl for example. Lidl is a German-owned discount supermarket chain. Their products are typically sold out of their transport packaging rather than being stacked nicely on shelves. So how does Lidl over deliver? On the quality of their own brands. The competitive pricing and brand quality result in a very positive experience.
The Create the Perception of Over Delivery Strategy
Very similar to the previous strategy, but different because the under promising is more intentional than the over delivering. There is a hint of deviousness about this strategy, but if executed well it can be very effective. The aim is to promise customers less than the company normally expects to deliver so that average performance appears to be over delivering.
The Be as Honest and Transparent as Possible Strategy
This strategy involves telling customers exactly how things are going to go before it happens. By preparing the customer ahead of time, even if they dislike a situation or experience, they aren’t as likely to spread negative feedback because they were informed upfront. This is the purest strategy in the context of managing expectations. Wagamama is a hugely successful Japanese themed casual dining out chain of the UK. When you order your food the server informs you: “Because everything is cooked fresh, your dishes may be delivered to the table separately.” If that were to happen in any other restaurant, you would be fuming. But it becomes okay because Wagamama warns you as soon as you sit down. Transparency can be hugely valuable if used properly, and this is an excellent example.
The key lesson here is that branding and the creation of customer expectation are enormously important. Whichever one of these strategies you choose to employ, your entire organization needs to be geared up to execute on it. It only takes one employee to ruin the experience of dozens of customers and risk getting a whole host of negative reviews.