In today’s buying world, whether it be business-to-business (B2B) or business-to-consumer (B2C), customer expectations are changing.
Especially in a competitive market, today’s customers are placing more and more importance on how they experience a brand. They desire personalized interactions, dedicated service and connected experiences across all channels of communication. They now want to know what companies are doing for them beyond just providing great products.
What Is Customer Experience?
Customer experience refers to every interaction a company has with a business pre- and post-purchase.
Think about the last great experience you had with a company and how it made you feel. What made that interaction different from all the others? How did they go above and beyond and exceed your expectations?
In order to successfully deliver first-class customer experience, your organization must first develop a customer experience strategy.
What Is Customer Experience Strategy?
A customer experience strategy is essentially an outline of the tactics and touchpoints you'll use to capture and retain customers and achieve your business goals. Documenting a customer experience strategy and ensuring everyone in the organization is on the same page can be essential for your business’s ability to retain customers.
When it comes to innovating a new customer experience strategy, it can be helpful to see what other leading organizations are doing to put customers at the center.
Check out what these three brands are doing to set the bar on customer experience strategy:
1. American Express (Amex)
Founded in 1850, Amex has become one of the largest global payment networks serving businesses and consumers. Since the beginning, customers have always been at the center of the organization.
Luis Angel-Lalanne, VP of Customer Listening at American Express, states: “I think that customer connection is kind of what fuels the history and the culture of Amex. I didn’t have to come in and try to create the customer-centric culture; I was able to step into that and feed the demand that was already there.”
Here’s a look at what they’re doing for their customers:
- Amex developed contact center employees that are now referred to as Customer Care Professionals.
- Customer Care Professionals are specifically taught to adapt their interactions depending on the personalities of the individuals.
- There is no pressure from corporate to reduce their call time averages, and the staff are empowered to do whatever is necessary to ensure the customers go away satisfied.
Raymond Joabar, EVP, Global Servicing Network at American Express, states in an interview with Forbes:
“One time, a hotel café manager [an Amex merchant] alerted my team that he had accidentally sold a display cake with harmful chemicals and needed to find the customer before they ate it. Obviously, there’s no procedure for that, but our team took ownership of the problem. They gathered all the information they could from the record of charge, identified 21 Card Members who used their cards at the café during that time frame, reviewed the accounts to find the right match, and then called the Card Member in time before they served the cake at an anniversary party.
The important point here–other than that everybody ended up safe and sound–is that there isn’t a script for every situation, so we empower our care professionals to do what’s right for the customer. And we recognize what they do with this empowerment as well. We give awards to employees who go above and beyond to help customers and we share their stories across the company.”
Nationwide has long been a leader for business and consumer insurance. Like the other companies mentioned in this list, Nationwide attributes much of its success to its customer experience commitment. In 2018, Nationwide was named one of the top 10 best service brands in Britain.
Here’s a brief look at how Nationwide is putting customers first:
- The company has an entire department to care for its customers called the Office of Customer Advocacy.
- The Office of Customer Advocacy collects customer feedback through surveys and telephone interviews to gauge loyalty and understand where the company could improve.
- They distribute key findings throughout the company to ensure continuous improvement and to ensure that all departments work towards common goals and strategies.
- Nationwide’s closed-loop process, transparent internal communication and departmental alignment help the business put customers first.
- Nationwide made $46.9 billion in total sales in 2018, an 8.5% increase from 2015.
There are not many companies that Amazon competes with, but yet they continue to innovate. Why? Because of the customers. Since day one, Amazon has made it pretty clear that customers have always come first.
According to CEO Jeff Bezos, the key to success for these companies has been truly focusing on their customers and constantly pushing the boundaries to provide them with what they are looking for.
Bezos states, “You have to invent for customers, because companies that only listen to customers fail. It's not the customers' job to invent for themselves. It's our job at Amazon.com to invent...those kinds of things that customers really like.”
Arguably, we may not all be as successful as Amazon in this area, but what can we learn from them about improving customer experience?
Here’s a look at how Amazon continues to put customers at the center:
- Amazon employees focus on making things as easy as possible for the customer. A colleague of mine recently told me a story about how she bought something on Amazon and they sent the wrong product. She went to Amazon.com and used the chat feature to see if she would get anywhere with the return. Within minutes, Amazon resolved the issue by processing a new order to send her the correct product at no charge and also stating that she did not have to send back the mistaken order.
- Aside from partnering with leading delivery services USPS, UPS and FedEx, Amazon is making strides at improving its delivery methods. Amazon is currently working on the ability to deliver packages safely inside a customer's home—or a secured area on the property such as a barn, garage or car.
- Amazon has built a corporate culture with customer care at its foundation. This is followed at every level of the organization. Written in their mission statement, it reads “to be Earth's most customer-centric company.”
The main thing these companies have in common is they realize customer experience is everything. Organizations committed to customer experience understand that this is central to their success as businesses. When looking at what it takes to have a successful customer experience strategy, let’s look at everything these leading organizations have in common:
- Customer-centric culture: Customers are the central focus of the organization.
- Organizational alignment: Providing a good customer experience is the responsibility of everyone in the organization, top to bottom. Having everyone in the organization on the same page with key company goals and objectives and the processes in place to achieve them will contribute to company success and customer happiness.
- Employee empowerment: There is nothing more frustrating than trying to get an issue resolved but no one that is available has the power to get you a solution. Giving employees the empowerment and proper resources to solve issues is key.
- Customer freedom: Customers do a lot of research on their own. Help your customers help themselves. Give your customers all of the resources they need to help them make a purchase decision. Examples of this could be live chats/chatbots, product reviews or FAQ pages available on your site.