There's lots of talk among business leaders about metrics such as customer lifetime value and return on investment (ROI). In many instances, rarely does a new initiative see the light of day if it doesn't contribute positively to these markers.
Even those these metrics tend to be practical ways to manage your bottom line, they are not the only numbers you should consider when deciding for or against investing in a particular area.
I sat in meetings with a client a few weeks ago talking about a program that was new for them and would help them engage a customer group they hadn't effectively reached before. My clients were initially very much focused on the size of the prize and their financial upside that could earn from targeting this customer group.
But as we got deeper into the discussion and the analysis, I encouraged them to not only focus on the upside but to think through the negative impact of doing nothing.
There is a cost associated with inaction. In the case of my client, that cost would have continued a cycle of a less than stellar experience for at least one segment of their customers. And that suboptimal experience was costing the company money.
Subpar customer experiences is costing you money.
As companies grow larger, they often get more conservative in their decision making. They wait to make changes that move in the direction of the market until they have overwhelming evidence that that's what they should be doing.
But by the time you know for certain that a certain strategy is the right thing to do, you're often late to the party and forced to adapt to changes, which leaves you in an uncomfortable position of playing catch-up.
Jeff Bezos' notes that this is the wrong approach for a company that wants to achieve rapid and sustained growth. In Amazon's 2016 letter to shareholders, he explained that "If you fight [external trends], you're probably fighting the future. Embrace them and you have a tailwind."
Trends show that customer experience is increasingly becoming an important marker of success for companies. One study showed that by the year 2020, customer experience will trump both product and price as a key differentiator.
If a positive customer experience is why customers will choose your company, know that a poor one will also be the reason they leave.
This happened to me recently. I'd been following a company online for a few years. I was dialed into their content marketing. I read the articles they published and spent a good amount of time on their website reading product descriptions and reviews. I compared similar products online. Once I felt comfortable that one of this company's products would help me solve my problem, I spent the $397 and ordered it.
Then everything went haywire. Everything about their order fulfillment and customer service process was substandard. When I had a question about my order, I couldn't reach anyone on the phone live, even though I called during support hours. The answering service said I could chat live with support on their website, but I was never able to find the link. I received the wrong tracking number for my package. Ultimately, the product arrived ten days after the order was processed, even though I'd paid for expedited shipping. No bueno.
Had the fulfillment process gone well, I likely would have ordered products from this company on a regular basis. Now, I don't intend to order from them again. Every time I see an email from the company hit my inbox, I give it a side eye because it brings up memories of the frustrating fulfillment process.
Get rid of your leaky bucket.
Plug any holes in the existing experience you deliver to your customers that would cause them to run away after a single interaction with you, with a bad taste in their mouth.
If you don't, then it doesn't matter how many new customers you work to win with new initiatives with a positive ROI, your customer lifetime value will never reach the heights that it could if you don't have experiences at every touch point that makes them want to come back.
You want to make your customers feel something as they interact with your business. Frustration isn't one of those feelings. Thus before you work to wow and delight them, it is good practice to eliminate the pain points that currently exist in the different parts of your journey.
Once you the weak links in your existing customer experience, then you can implement your plans to win new customers and earn their loyalty. Then not only will the ROI for your programs be higher, but you'll start to increase the lifetime value of your customer when they keep coming back.