The greatest companies differentiate themselves and stand ahead of their competition by providing a superior customer experience. More than customer service, it's every touch point a customer has with your company, from visiting your website on a mobile device to communicating with an employee to the packaging on your product. That's according to consultant and keynote speaker Michel Falcon, who says there are several things any company can do to deliver an amazing customer experience.
Think long term.
When it comes to customer experience you won't receive a return on investment overnight because it involves evaluating the company across departments. "Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, absolutely nails it when he says 'We are willing to be misunderstood for long periods of time,'" Falcon says. "And what he means by that is Amazon will invest in the customer experience even when the return on investment is 12 to 24 months away."
Leadership must be committed.
It's easy to say you're customer-focused with an ad or copy on your website but if your executive team doesn't champion a customer experience improvement program they're not going to approve the budgets necessary to make important changes. "It needs to become a part of the DNA of the company," he says. "Your front line employees will be thinking 'If our CEO doesn't truly care about our customers why should I?'"
Intimately understand your customers' preferences.
"To make customer experience your greatest strength you must not only understand what you're doing poorly and fix it but you also must understand what you're doing well and double down on those efforts," he says. But this involves regularly surveying your customers, a process that should involve four steps.
1. Gather the feedback via channels that make sense for your customers. Many companies don't do surveys thinking customers won't take the time to complete them. It's true, but only because surveys are often far too long. Keep it simple and short--just a few questions and not 15 at a time.
2. Analyze the data. Getting feedback from customers isn't something you do and just check off a list of to-dos. Rather, put the information you glean under a microscope and look for trends.
3. Share the data throughout your organization, not just upward to executive management. Email to everyone in your company a simple one-page document that communicates the three things customers appreciate most about your company and the three things they dislike. "How awesome would it be if ... you were able to walk around your organization and point at any single person whether it's your newest front line employee or your VP of marketing and say 'What were the top three reasons why our customers loved us this quarter or this month' and they were all able to say it in unison?" he says. "How are you supposed to make customer experience your greatest strength when your organization doesn't even know why your customers love you?"
4. Create something with the data. Another reason customers don't complete surveys: they don't think you're going to do anything with it. So, figure out ways to fix customer complaints and magnify the things they appreciate.
"If you look at any of the companies around us such as Starbucks, Southwest Airlines, and more recently Airbnb, their competitive advantage is their customer experience and that's what separates them from their competitors," he says. "It's a unique value proposition for their business."