Customer experiences are on track to become the great differentiator among brands. One research report from Econsultancy found that customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator by 2020. In that same study, 86 percent of buyers said they would pay more for a better experience.
As I consider my own buying habits, I routinely pay more to shop at stores where I know I'll have a better experience. And as consumers continue to get primed to choose experiences over things, delivering remarkable ones will no longer be a "nice to do" for your company.
Here are four steps to follow to transform your company into a business that consistently delivers experiences that make your customers feel like they belong with you.
1. Set a clear vision.
Years ago, an old boyfriend advised me not to buy comfortable furniture, because guests would overstay their welcome. I ignored his advice because anytime I invite people in my space, I want them to feel comfortable and at home.
You have to decide in advance how you want your customers to feel whenever they interact with your business. Whether that's empowered, excited, informed, delighted, or just plain welcome, you need to declare the impact you want to have in advance, so you can put systems and plans in place that support your vision.
The vision will also help you get your team on board with your goal too.
2. Map out all your customer touchpoints.
Delivering remarkable experiences for your customers is about more than just producing quality products and services or even special events from time to time.
It is a way of being that permeates through every part of your business. That's why you've got to invest some time to map out the journey your customers take with your company. As you do that, you'll get a clear view of every possible touchpoint they may encounter before, during, and after a purchase.
I'm going through this process with a client now. Because they have so many people who touch the brand along multiple aspects of the customer journey, there isn't any one person who controls all elements of the experience.
But mapping out the everything in one place gives brand leaders a full picture of their areas of opportunity to delight.
3. Identify ways to make every interaction meet your baseline standard.
With a completed customer journey map in hand, you can then evaluate whether or not what you are currently doing lives up to the vision you have for the experience you want to deliver to your customers.
I love flying Virgin Atlantic. And when I've flown with them for business, I've always been blown away by the thoughtfulness on even the smallest details. From the sign in the airport that shows the measurements for carry on bags, to the uniforms of the check-in staff and flight attendants, to the full-on sleepsuits (pajamas) that were passed out to those flying "upper class" so we wouldn't wrinkle our clothes during the long flight, no detail was left unattended to.
Everything you do in your business has the potential to be remarkable, even areas that seem mundane. And when you have a list of all the opportunities to do it, it becomes easier to start delivering on your vision.
4. Outline distinct areas to create areas that are ripe to deliver defining moments.
Everything you do doesn't have to become a major production. But there are times when you will want to create special moments, often referred to as defining moments, that will deliver experiences your customers will never forget.
These are types of experiences your customers will be compelled to tell their friends about, because they are so extraordinary.
Some of the defining moments I've personally encountered included a 24-hour cupcake ATM, a hotel elevator with cameras that lets you take your own personal photo shoot during your ride, and an artistic pop-up shop for a launch of a running shoe.
You can become a company that consistently delivers remarkable experiences for your customers. It doesn't matter your starting point. You can design and improve every aspect of the journey over time, as long as you are intentional about doing it.
Set the vision. Plot your opportunities. Then seize the moments. Your customers will love you for it.