Did you know that 70% of customer experience initiatives fail to produce a positive return on investment? Why? Customer experience initiatives fail almost universally because they are simply too big.
In reality, “customer experience” doesn’t actually exist.
It isn’t a thing you can touch or see. Customer experience is the culmination of dozens—or even hundreds—of specific touchpoints. What does your website say? What do your Google reviews say? How does somebody greet the guests when they walk into the restaurant? And on and on and on.
In truth, “customer experience” is just a nickname. We’ve all agreed to use it as an artful term to describe this colossal list of decisions that we make every minute of every day that impact customer attitudes and market share. When you are asked, either internally or externally, to improve the customer experience, that is an impossible quest because there really isn’t any such thing. It’s not one thing—it’s ALL the things.
You may be thinking: “But if there are dozens or hundreds of different customer intersection points, which ones should we focus on?”
Well, between the work that we do at Convince & Convert and the work being done by my friends at Podium, we’ve concluded that there are three keys to a Coveted Customer Experience. Three things that your customers, my customers, and your competitors’ customers care about disproportionately, above and beyond the rest of the criteria. Thus, these are the three places where you should direct your attention in your customer experience optimization efforts to have the maximum impact and put you on the way to delivering a Coveted Customer Experience.
→First, your customers want you to be Quick.
→Second, they want you to be Clear.
→Third, they want you to be Kind.
Coveted Customer Experience Pillar: Quick
Speed expectations are unrelenting. I started in digital marketing in 1993 when domain names were free. And across that epoch, I’ve never, ever heard a customer say, “I’ve been thinking, and it’s okay if your company handled that more slowly.”
Speed expectations never stop. They are like an escalator, not stairs. What was fast three years ago is commonplace today. And of course, your younger customers have even more heightened expectations around responsiveness, as they know only a “right now” world.
Here are two elements you can address to exceed customer expectations for Quick, putting you on the road to that all-important Coveted Customer Experience.
→ Commit to Rapidity
The first step in being faster is believing you can be and that it’s worth it. And the reality is that Quick is one of the few elements of customer experience that is genuinely viable for all businesses, even those in industries not commonly associated with speed.
Bogdanoff Dages, for example, is a small accounting firm in Indianapolis that provides the same services for the same prices as just about every other small accounting firm in the country. But, Bogdanoff Dages has embraced Quick as its avenue to success.
Bogdanoff Dages replies to all clients, at all times, within five minutes, and it blows peoples minds. They have far more Google reviews than most small accounting firms, and nearly every review mentions how quick the firm is to respond.
How can you be that fast in a complex category like tax and accounting? You have to engineer or reengineer your internal processes around responsiveness. Model your scenarios. Create backup schemas so if one person is busy, someone else can respond.
→Answer, Even If You Don’t Have The Answer
A second step along the road to a Coveted Customer Experience is to answer even if you don’t have the answer. It’s very common that a customer asks you a question and you don’t know the answer off the top of your head. So you go find the answer, then you come back and provide the response.
Stop doing that. Customers hate it. 88% of them expect an immediate response when they have a question, and you aren’t providing it.
The better approach is if a customer has a query you cannot address instantly, you immediately respond with, “Good question. Such a good question, in fact, I don’t know the answer off the top of my head. I’m going to find out. As soon as I do, I will let you know.” That satiates the customer. They know that you are on top of it, and this little twist dramatically increases customer satisfaction on responsiveness.
Coveted Customer Experience Pillar: Clear
The pandemic dramatically curtailed customers’ knowledge of how your company (and all businesses) operate. Everything changed so much! There is a tremendous amount of information asymmetry now, whereby you know vastly more about how your products and services can be purchased than your customers do.
Companies that can cut through this fog and confusion will reduce or close this critical uncertainty gap. And when customers are uncertain, they don’t buy.
Here are two elements you can address to exceed customer expectations for Clear.
→Watch for Clarity Warnings
When it comes to customer communication, most businesses are tuned to look first and foremost for complaints. But you should also watch for clarity warnings. This is the first responsibility when trying to exceed customer expectations around lack of confusion.
A clarity warning is every time a customer says or writes something like: “I don’t know” or “I’m confused” or “How do I” or “What about…” Each of those phrases indicates an uncertainty gap. And the more you find those clarity warnings, analyze them, and categorize them, the easier it will be for you to begin to close the uncertainty gap with information.
How—and why—customers buy has shifted dramatically in recent years. Because the historical priorities for making a purchase have changed, and there is so much information asymmetry simultaneously, customers are seeking every opportunity to self-educate before buying.
This is why online reviews are absolutely vital to just about every business now.
In fact, Podium found that a whopping 70% of consumers say that online reviews are more important to them than ever.
How indispensable have reviews become? 24% of consumers have read an online review in the past day, and 60% have read reviews in the past week.
Fundamentally, you need reviews of your business that give prospective customers important clues and cues from your prior customers. And you need NEW reviews.
Podium’s ability to create a steady stream of new reviews is without peer. Their approach is to request a review from a customer immediately after provision of the product or service, and to make the ask via text message. Approximately 12% of customers immediately accede to the request. Remarkable!
Coveted Customer Experience Pillar: Kind
Let’s look at Kind. We are living in an era of empathy deficit. Customers no longer anticipate that they will be treated with kindness, dignity, and humanity by companies. It’s no longer the default setting. This is a tremendous opportunity for you to exceed expectations with empathy.
Empathy doesn’t mean that the customer is always right. Empathy doesn’t mean that you do whatever the customer demands. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person. Here are two elements you can address to exceed customer expectations for Kind.
→ Focus on Feelings, Not Facts
When customers are confused or concerned, they care more about empathy than information. Demonstrating that you are sympathetic to how they FEEL is far more powerful than facts and figures. This is one of the ways in which your Kind playbook differs from your Clear playbook, you see?
Here’s a great example of Kind.
In 2020, Major League Baseball teams were unable to play with fans in the stands in their home ballparks. The Pittsburgh Pirates used this as an opportunity to exceed expectations for kindness.
When a foul ball was hit to a season ticket holder’s vacant seat, the Pirates staff gathered the ball and mailed it to the fan with a note reading: “We’re so sorry you couldn’t be at PNC Park today. We’re certain you would have caught this one. See you next season: The Pirates.”
→ Embrace Complaints
Did you know that out of every 100 dissatisfied customers, just five will complain to the business? This means that the overwhelming majority of unhappy customers never let you know about it, they just stop giving you money.
Complaints are the canary in the coal mine of customer experience.
Let’s recognize that customers who complain are literally taking their time to tell you what you might be able to do better. And that’s a gift.
Thus, your unhappy customers are actually your most important customers. Yet, we almost never treat them that way, which is why embracing complaints is a key to unlocking a Coveted Customer Experience.
Do the Work—Design Your 9
Quick. Clear. Kind. These are what matter disproportionately to your customers and to mine.
I’ve asked you to focus on these keys as you build a Coveted Customer Experience that buys you that critical benefit of the doubt in the hearts and minds of your customers and prospects.
But a Coveted Customer Experience isn’t about attitude. You need that, yes. You have to believe that you can exceed expectations before you actually do so. But a Coveted Customer Experience needs much more than mindset: you have to actually do the work.
My challenge to you is this: within the next ninety days, figure out how can you be 15% more Quick, 15% more Clear, and 15% more Kind.
To make this work, you’ll need to actually stop, start, or change some things in your organization. To make this easier to implement, I want you to Design Your 9.
Design Your 9 means that for each of the Quick/Clear/ Kind categories, you identify three things that you will stop, start, or change because they will bring you toward your objective of 15% improvement in each area.
You Can Do This—And You Must
Picture ten of your customers in your mind. Now, realize that for more than eight of them, customer experience is as important as the products or services you sell. Fundamentally, customer experience IS the differentiator between you and your competition. This is why a Coveted Customer Experience isn’t a luxury, but a necessity.
But remember, “customer experience” isn’t actually one thing: it’s all of the things. To have an impact, you have to break it into pieces and focus on the elements that matter most. By following the advice listed above, you can ensure that satisfied purchasers turn into lifelong customers.