We look at user ratings on Yelp before we try a restaurant. We read customer reviews – for everything from books to cars – before we make a purchase. We talk with friends and family about brands we’ve tried. According to the 2010 Customer Experience Impact Report, 76% of consumers say word-of-mouth is the number one influencer of purchase decision. And, what drives the motivation to recommend a product or service? It’s the experience someone has with a company or brand – the customer experience. Yet most companies operate under the norms of a bygone era, pouring money into marketing initiatives that have lost their effectiveness. Instead, they need to focus on building an experience so extraordinary that it differentiates them from their competition and inspires people to become advocates, who ignite conversation about the brand and recommend it to others.
Customer experience isn’t just one point of contact with a company. It is the sum of all interactions a customer has with a company – from its Facebook page to how a customer service representative answers the phone to the product or service itself. Delivering a poor experience can spell big trouble for a business as people share their complaints with others, and providing a merely ‘good’ experience isn’t enough to stand out. But, creating an experience that exceeds expectations and elicits raves…now, that’s worth far more than a television commercial, and often less expensive.
There are several companies that have architected unparalleled customer experiences and, in return, have earned themselves a legion of ‘fans’ who evangelize the brand. A couple of stand-outs include Apple and Zappos.com. The Apple experience includes intuitively designed products, inviting retail stores, emailable receipts, and “geniuses”. Zappos.com provides customers a user-friendly website, large selection of products, free shipping and returns, and quickly processed refunds. A B2B example would be American Express OPEN, with their carefully selected experts offering curated small business advice, videos and other resources. It’s no coincidence these companies charge a premium, generate healthy revenues and enjoy positive business growth. One Gartner Group study shows “companies that prioritize the customer experience earn 60% higher profits than their competitors.” Pretty compelling, right?
Companies are beginning to catch on. With 71% of business executives agreeing that customer experience is the next corporate battleground (source: Shaw & Ivens), an increasing number of organizations are creating positions such as Chief Customer Officer, Customer Experience Director and others whose role is to design and manage the customer experience across the entire organization. Hopefully, they realize that to win in today’s age of advocacy, brands need to excel at the customer experience, not just talk about it.
The question isn’t whether companies should focus on designing captivating experiences that win passionate advocates. The question is, why wouldn’t they?
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