Transforming the Customer Experience

Category : customer retention

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Win Customers Back by Delivering Excellent Customer Service

“We’ve had customers leave us because of a lower price, then return to us because of the better service we provided.”

This is a direct quote from my interview with Todd Wilson, owner of a lawn care service. He knows that customer value the personal touch and follow up, so he is determined to be sure that everyone in his business delivers on that.

It’s all about how well you communicate with and follow up with the customer. They depend on the service and that is how his business has gained the business that his competition wasn’t willing or able to deliver. Todd’s company happily accepts those customers and takes the money they could have just as easily have spent with his competition.

Watch this brief video to get his perspective….

Studies show that 9% of your customers are being lured away by your competition through discount programs, lower prices, and promotional gimmicks. Todd found that some of his customers came back to him because of the service he delivered.

Remember, there are three ways to differentiate yourself from your competitors – product, price, and service. If the product and price are comparable, let the service you provide be what your customers are willing to go out of their way for to do business with you. It’s far cheaper to keep your existing customer’s business than it is to market to and attract new customers.

Ultimately, like Todd said… “It’s about doing what you said you were going to do.” If you don’t, your customer will find someone else who will.

5 Star Customer Service at the Apple Orchard

Small businesses have just as much to gain by superior customer service as large companies do.

I was out today with my three children finishing up some last minute school supply shopping (yes, I am that mom).  We took a route home that would take us by the Schwallier’s Apple Orchard where our family makes it a point to visit for our annual pumpkin hunt.  We didn’t know if the orchard was open yet, but as soon as we saw that it was, we veered over to make a quick stop.

As soon as we walked in, the very reason that we make a special trip to go out of our way happened again – the owner tossed a just-picked apple to me and each of my three kids.  I thanked the owner and told him how much I appreciate the apples and the we look forward to them every time we visit them.  He stated “Every person who walks through that door gets an apple.  I can’t expect them to buy anything from me if I don’t give them something first.”

Now, you could take issue with that statement that he is doing something to be nice only to get something, but he is in business for a reason – to make a profit.  But the neat thing about this orchard is that he really is a nice guy and wants to give people apples because he wants to be just that – a nice guy. He knows that people come to the orchard, as our family does, because the enjoy the friendly atmosphere. I don’t feel like I’m being nickled and dimed when I’m given an apple as soon as I walk in.  They offer assistance whenever they can about which apples to buy for which purpose – eating or baking.  They also have a great pumpkin patch, petting zoo, and barn full of new little kittens that kids can play with. No, I’m in no way affiliated with this place or receive any compensation. They don’t even know I’m writing this post. I jut like it that much.

During our conversation, I asked the owner when the Honey Crisp apples would be ready.  He said that they’d be ready next week, but that he had a few that he’d be happy to give me now.  They just might not be quite as ripe as I’d like.  I selected some different apples and some peaches, then asked about tomatoes.  He said that they had more in back and asked me how many I’d like.  I received the three that I asked for and he told me that those were my treat for the day on him. The clerk ringing up my items reminded me to come back when the Honey Crisps were ready and told me that she’d be sure that there would be some pumpkin spice donuts waiting for me.  I guess she caught me longing for the ones that had just come out of the oven.

So, as I paid for my peaches and apples, carried everything from the car, my son asked me why I was talking with the owner so much.  I told him that the owner engaged with me, helped me out with what we were looking for, gave me some tomatoes as a gift, and just made the last part of our shopping day a real treat.  Mind you, I had just spent 6 hours shopping for shoes and school supplies and lunch with my three kids.  They are the best kids in the world, but even they have their limits. This pleasant encounter addressed all of the main points of excellent customer service delivery –

  • They welcomed me into their store with warm genuine positivity
  • They asked questions about what I wanted and informed me according to what I needed to know
  • They encouraged me to come back
  • They knew that my business was based on their willingness to serve me with sincerity

Because of all that, this simple apple orchard has won a loyal customer for life.  And, not only am I returning, I encourage all of my friends and anyone reading this post that lives in the area to visit that orchard.

Loyal Customer Relationships – Do You Derail It Before You Even Start?

Customer loyalty is developed in many ways, yet they all fall back to one fundamental act – follow up after the initial contact.

Customer service is connecting the person with the product.  It’s about making sure that clients know that we value their business, even if they have not yet had a business transaction with us.

Often I will have a conversation with a friend, a colleague, or a client and the name of a new prospective client comes up.  Then, occasionally, the person with whom I am speaking will say “Oh man, I forgot to follow up with them.  I should get right on that!”  Unfortunately, if the need was immediate in the potential customer’s mind, the damage has already been done.  They are already doing business with the competition.

Because they didn’t act with a sense of urgency on behalf of the potential client, they moved on to one of your competitors who did.  I can’t state that I’ve not done the very same thing myself.  I was once approached for a potential speaking engagement on Customer Service and I failed to understand that the client had already decided she was going to hire me to speak at her association and had the specific topic in mind.  Because I had planned to follow up with her within two weeks of meeting her and give her enough time to settle on her desired topic, I gave her the impression that her engagement was not important to me and she booked another speaker.

Two things happened here that you should learn from – while you may pride yourself on being very perceptive to people’s needs and requests (as I usually do), you may sometimes miss the mark and lose that sale.  You also should learn that it is very important to make a connection, however brief, with the potential client to let them know that you are glad to have met them and would like to serve as a solution provider for whatever their need is.

Customer Contact Follow Up

The initial follow up contact can take many forms depending on the situation involved – a phone call or email will establish the initial contact information and to let them know how you may fill their needs.  Mention the part of the initial meeting that made you think that you may be able to serve them.  Let them know how they’d benefit from your services and what it is about the way that you do business that is unique from the rest of your competitors.

Take a quick look right now in your stack of business cards that you have recently connected with.  If you think that you could be a resource to them in any way, make sure to follow up with them before your competitor does.  Whether it is by a personal phone call or an email, by all means – MAKE THAT INITIAL FOLLOW UP CONTACT TO YOUR POTENTIAL CLIENT. Let them determine the sense of urgency and set the pace for the rest of the process.  At least you have let them know that you value their potential business and will act expediently. Loyal customers will remember your diligence with service throughout the entire customer experience.

Customer Service Skills Make an Impact on Profits

Small business owners are recognizing that delivering excellent customer service impacts their bottom line.

I was at a business conference last weekend and found it interesting that so many business leaders and owners were a bit surprised to realize the financial impact that delivering excellent customer service can make in their business – either positively or negatively.

Train your staff well.  Ingrain it into the DNA of your culture that the customer is the most important person in your business.  They are the ones paying your salaries and covering your business costs.

I’d love to hear your comments…….

On a side note, which would you prefer to see on this blog….. video posts, written posts… combination of the two?

Customer Service Impacting Stock Performance?

Deliver excellent customer service and experiences, watch your stock value rise!

Finance has historically been a bit removed from the overall focus on Customer Experience Management, improving customer service, and the customer retention rates. The bottom

line and stock performance have been exact measurable benchmarks that they can report to the shareholders and management.

Lately, the financial world has taken a keen interest in those companies that are working hard to improve the customer service they deliver at all customer contact points – from beginning to end.

“There is a movement to watch companies that are doing it right,” Chris Cottle, vice president of marketing for Allegiance, told CRM Buyer. “Stock analysts and traders are tracking companies with good CEM and finding that their stock performs better than others do.” This is quoted from a recent article in CRM News.

This holds true in that the customer experience is more important now than ever before.  Saving money has become the new emphasis and brand loyalty has become a thing of the past.  Consumers are loyal to far fewer brands and will focus on doing business with those that provide them the best experience, while maintaining reasonable costs.

The message to retailers? Focus on each and every aspect of the customer experience.

The customer experience involves things considered frivolous before – parking preferences, coffee specifications, loading time of websites, amenities for pets, convenience items, loyalty programs.  All of these things factor into the customer experience and can win customers.

Again, the best way to impact the customer experience is through delivering excellent customer service.

Pay attention to your customers. Focus on them. Find out what they do and don’t like.  How do they do business with your company?  Make that process enjoyable and you will win their loyalty.

The level of engagement that you have with your customers will directly impact the financial success of your company.

“…CEM takes a broader view of what kind of engagement you want with people. It touches all five senses and certainly isn’t only an online phenomenon,” Aaron Keller, managing partner of Capsule pointed out. “Any brand can leverage it. All brands have a customer experience, but few actually thought about it until recently.”

CEM is about more than managing the customer’s experience in the now; it is also about managing the experience over each customer’s lifecycle.

The items that we thought were extras before are now almost considered essentials.  Customers feeling catered to will make higher purchase points over the store that treats them as merely a commodity.  Customers appreciate the care that is taken at every customer contact point.  From the initial entry point into your business, consider having a greeter who gets to know frequent customers by name.  A valet service for parking cars.  A specialty coffee station for customers.

Even larger corporations can cash in on the experience.  New security concerns require the wearing of name badges in many large companies.  Some now, when their security systems permit, have custom made badges for frequent visitors or vendors. Sure, it was done primarily for security reasons, but the feeling that results is that they are part of the company, or a vested partner.

This all brings it back to the point that consumers today have different goals than they used to. The focus now is on saving money. That being said, customers today also have the same need as before – the fact that they make their buying decision based on emotion and back it up with logic.  When you can tap into the emotional state of the customer through the experience that you deliver, the sustainability of that relationship is not only more profitable, but the life-time value of that relationship increases, as does your bottom line and stock values.

Customer Satisfaction and Service Lessons Taught by my Hairdresser

As I was leaving my hair appointment yesterday, I wished I could send big businesses to Mary to learn about customer satisfaction,customer service skills, and training. She really makes it a wonderful customer experience. I realized why I’ve stayed with the same hair stylist for more than 7 years……

I ALWAYS leave with a smile on my face.  Yes, Mary always does a good job and her price is very reasonable, but it’s the fact that she always makes me feel good during our short time together.

Without consciously knowing so, she follows many of the strategies that successful companies follow….

She greets me warmly. I always get the big smile and the genuine questions about what I’ve been up to and how I’ve been. She also makes a point to tell me how glad she is to see me.

She makes a point to know my preferences and interests. Without making it obvious to me, she takes notes on what I’ve told her that I like in regards to my cut and style. But more importantly, she makes notes of things I’ve told her about my family and interests so that she can ask me about them at the next visit.  That shows me that she really wants to demonstrate to me that she is making an effort to engage me. I’m also tickled that she took the time and effort to ask.

She LISTENS to me. Whether it be concerns about how I’m trying to style my hair, or about an issue I’m sharing with her about life in general, she really listens before offering advice.  Often, as customers we get frustrated when the vendor tries to push their ideas or solutions on us before we feel that they truly understand what we are saying.  By listening, we can better understand our customers and sometimes discover an issue that they couldn’t vocalize easily.

She offers her suggestions with a few options. Once Mary understands what I’m trying to accomplish, she’ll tell me two ways that we can get my hair to do what I want.  That way, I make the decision between a cutting option or product.

She’s one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. Mary is truly one of those people that you consider yourself lucky to know.  She is the perfect person for her trade and as a business owner.  It’s in her DNA to get to know people and serve them in their best interest.  More importantly, she’s engaging, funnier than most comedians, empathetic, and just outright friendly.

This is the tricky part for some  companies. It all starts with the hiring decisions that we make.  When we hire the right person, the rest is pretty basic. Hiring the right fit for your culture and customer service standards is 90% of the equation.

All of these factors put together are the reason why I refer so many of my friends to her.  I really don’t even focus on what a great job she does or her reasonable price, but start by saying how much they will love her because she is so nice and friendly.

If you’d like to get a better feel for what it takes to accomplish the same feelings with your customers, watch this free video series I just put together.  It briefly summarizes what your customers are looking for and exactly how to deliver it.

What Can Your Business Learn From a Carpet Cleaner?


While I was having my morning coffee and watching the first few minutes of a talk show to start my day, there was a commercial for Modernistic Cleaning. Modernistic Cleaning is a Michigan based carpet, upholstery, and tile cleaning company.  The thing that struck me about this particular commercial is that they featured the “Voice of Modernistic.”  There is a woman, Wendy, who was hired by the original owner over 20 years ago.  Soon after, he asked if she would do the radio and television ads using her voice.  The commercial ends with Wendy saying – “Modernistic – A great place to work for over 20 years.”

Happy staff translates into happy customers.

Modernistic is clearly promoting the fact that their staff enjoys working for the company for long periods of time.  Why would this be important to us as customers?  Because there is a direct correlation between the level of staff satisfaction and customer satisfaction.  When staff enjoys working for their employer, they will be much more likely to deliver amazing customer service.  Customer satisfaction levels will be high because they are being served by engaged staff who will work in the best interest of both the customer and the company.

Customer service training starts with the internal culture of the company.

When leadership is creating a working environment that people are happy to work in, they are creating a culture centered around the internal customer.  Leadership that treats the internal customers well is setting the example for how the external customer should be treated.  It is unreasonable to treat your internal staff poorly and with no regard, yet expect them to deliver excellent customer service to the customer who keep you in business. Without your staff, there would be no one to sustain your business or to implement and deliver the good and services you sell.  Leadership by example is a powerful method of customer service skills training.  Staff are always watching, listening and learning how to conduct them selves by the examples set by the owner and manager of a business or organization.

By retaining staff for long periods of time, the company is showing their dedication to the employee satisfaction levels.  This pays off on the bottom line with the indication that customer retention levels are equally as high. Sure, we are all drawn to employers because they pay well, but if the working environment is awful, no amount of money will make up for that in the long haul.  The same holds true for us as the customer – We all look for deals, but when the level of service is poor, we seek to spend our money with those organizations that value, appreciate us, and deliver the exceptional customer service we are looking for.

Engagement comes around full circle.

Having staff declare that they enjoy working for your company is one of  the highest compliments you can ask for.  When staff are telling customers that they are lucky to be working where they are, they are saying that the experience and engagement is active and positive at all levels.  The experience that our customers have with our organization is a mirror image of the experience that our staff has.  It is futile to focus on one and not the other.  These experiences directly correlate with each other, and ultimately, correlate to your bottom line.

Is Your Customer Experience Transformation Consistent?

Transforming your customer’s experience is successful only after you have made it a consistent expectation.

Your customers are already having an experience, good or bad, when they do business with you.  When you are looking to transform the experience, the key is to look at every part of your business through the eyes of your customer.  Make changes where you see a need or where you see an opportunity to delight them.  Delighting your customers is the result of having surpassed their initial expectations.

So, now you may be thinking that your experience is transformed based on the changes that you have made.  This is only partly true.  The true measure of success is when you have made the new experience a constant for them.  They need to be able to expect the new experience each and every time for it to be a successful transformation. Otherwise, it is merely a one time chance event.

Here’s the rub: while you have delighted your customer today with the novelty of the new experience, it will become tomorrow’s minimum expectation.  They key is to keep revisiting everything in your business to discover ways to make your operations and business processes unforgettable.  Your competition will copy the innovative changes you just made.

What will you do next to stand out from the crowd?

Ask Your Customers Why They are Leaving, Don’t Hold Them Hostage

Earlier today, I set about the daunting task of going through my emails and unsubscribing to those that I don’t find useful, relevant, or simply don’t have time for.  I receive close to 135 emails daily, so I perform this task every few weeks.

Most of the emails are very easy to unsubscribe from.  They have a link that automatically unsubscribed me with a note telling me they were sorry to see me go.  I thought that was a nice touch that added to the customer experience.  I always say – the last impression is just as important as the first impression.

What frustrates me to no end is that there are a few newsletters that make it virtually impossible or throw so many obstacles to unsubscribing from them that I sometimes give up, then groan each and every time I see their new emails come in.

When I click to unsubscribe, I’m taken to their main website.  Then I have to go the member area where I have to sign in.  Then I have to go to the profile information which directs me to my account settings and read through all of that rigameroll (yes, it’s really a word) to figure out how to unsubscribe.  It’s just plain craziness.

If your customers don’t want to do business with you, don’t irritate them by making it impossible for them to leave.  Would you really lock a customer in your store and make them go hunting for the keys in order for them to leave?  Unless you are looking to spend time in your neighborhood jail cell for kidnapping, of course not.  Then don’t do the same online.

If your customers want to leave, tell them that you are sorry to see them leave, and let them go.

Now, if you are truly business minded, you will see this as a golden opportunity to gain some insight as to what you are or are not doing to keep them from leaving.

Perhaps they don’t have a need for your product, service, or information.  Perhaps you contact them too often or not enough.  Perhaps they find your content not of the quality you promised them.  Yes, sometimes it’s painful to ask the questions and get honest feedback, but wouldn’t you really want to know if you need to step up your game rather than have people leave and not know that all you needed to do was put in some extra effort?

Making the Extra Effort Creates an Experience – Part 1

Making the mundane memorable is the key ingredient in customer experience management.

I had the good fortune to attend a luncheon today held by the Grand Rapids Business Journal honoring the 50 Most Influential Women in West Michigan.  It was wonderful to see the efforts of so many women pay off and be recognized for their leadership in our business world and in our communities.

During the luncheon, I was seated next to a woman who is a Senior Vice President of Huntington Bank.  She told me two very interesting stories that I wanted to pass along.  One deals with making a small extra effort and the other is just in how we treat people.

One of the customer service representatives in a branch recently became aware of a customer having some physical limitations.  It was difficult for the customer to get out of her car and get into the branch without much pain.  The customer service representative then asked the customer to call her before she left her house as she was on her way to the bank.  The bank representative then met the customer in the parking lot and performed the bank transaction.  Did this effort cost the bank any money at all? No.  Did this effort make a large difference to the customer, both physically and emotionally?  Absolutely.

The next example involves a hiring decision.  My lunch partner asked an interviewee why she was applying for a position with Huntington Bank.  The interviewee responded “My grandparents have accounts with this bank and they say that it is the nicest bank around.”  By treating these people well, Huntington Bank has retained the business of this couple and has engaged them not only to recruit potential customers, but bank associates as well. Clearly, the grandparents had been treated kindly during their interactions with the bank and felt that it had the culture that would befit their granddaughter working there.

While the examples are isolated, the premise takes place each and every day in companies both large and small, all across the country, even throughout the world.  The one common denominator is that someone took an ordinary experience and made it memorable.

Tomorrow – Part 2 of the wonderful service from the hotel hosting the luncheon – the JW Marriott.

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