If you are like me, you go through the day interacting with many people and very rarely stop to evaluate those interactions. In any given week, I might visit ten or more businesses as a customer or client. From getting gas, to buying lunch, dropping my child off at daycare, a doctor visit, or running into the pharmacy for toothpaste…I have multiple opportunities as a consumer to be wowed. Yet ask me to pinpoint the last time I had an exceptional customer experience and I for the life of me cannot think of one. Similarly, ask me to recall when the last time I had an awful customer experience was, and I will also struggle. Am I walking through life with blinders on? Am I spending too much time reading emails on my phone and not paying attention to the wonderful levels of service I am receiving out there? Or am I simply not experiencing anything worth remembering?
It is often stated that consumers are more likely to share a negative experience than a positive one….yet the sheer lack of a negative experience is not shown to improve customer retention or loyalty. Giving a customer an experience that matches their expectations- no more or no less- will not help your business retain those consumers.
As businesses, we have to focus on creating an exceptional experience for our customers that goes above and beyond what our competition does. Any business can offer discounts, reward points, sales, or use other attempts to steal away market share. And if you have a customer base that returns to your business simply out of convenience or lack of anything horrific having happened, then you are at risk of losing them to these very gimmicks. On the contrary, if you have a customer base that returns to your business because of a personal connection, a story, an experience that they remember being above and beyond what they expected, then research shows they are 6 times less likely to be drawn away based on gimmicks or sales from your competition.* If fact, they will not only be loyal to you, but they will share their loyalty with others and in turn become your greatest marketing asset. For this reason, it is critical that businesses think of customer satisfaction as much more than a score they receive on feedback forms and instead, consider it a daily challenge taken on by ALL staff to wow their customers.
So how do you as a leader create a sense of urgency, fire, and excitement around creating an exceptional experience for your customers?
Start by defining a set of things you would want your customers to say about your business. Get the whole team involved, brainstorm for 30 minutes in a team meeting, send around a mass email for people to list their ideas, place a board in the break room and ask that people write their ideas on it throughout the week. Whatever means you have, start by taking time to allow EVERYONE to identify what amazing customer experiences means to them, what they want their business to be known for, and what types of memorable stories they want their customers saying about their service.
Once you generate this list, the organization can begin to set a vision/goal/mission around what customer service looks like in their business. The ability to translate these goals into reality is dependent upon your ability as a leader to create a culture that is rooted in the new mission. Find ways to reward staff who go above and beyond in their customer experience, hold brief daily meetings and ask the team to share stories about how they wowed a customer that day, model for staff what this looks like and catch others in the moment. Hand out wow cards to your customers that simply ask if anyone did anything to exceed their expectations then offer incentives for staff who get recognized. There are countless ways to keep the momentum going and to inspire the team to go above and beyond each day, but in order for this to work and truly stick, there has to be a consistent match between what the organization wants their employees to focus on externally and what they celebrate, reward, discuss, and implement internally.
So I leave you with two questions:
- What is your business doing to make your current and future clients/customers choose you?
- And how are you, as a leader, creating a culture of exceptional client service?
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