The current marketing buzz word is customer experience. In this video, I explore what customer experience is, why it is important, and how businesses big and small can compete through customer experience.
What is your customer experience?
Put simply, it is how your customers experience your company or brand. These interactions refer to all moments of contact and touchpoints with any element of your business, which include but are not limited to:
- your products and services—including aftermarket services,
- your team—the people who respond to customer queries and complaints, among others,
- your marketing and promotions, including your social media pages and accounts, and
- the processes that customers go through to engage your business.
Why is understanding the customer experience important?
Because customers evaluate their experiences, they compare their expectations from your brand—what they thought they should experience with what they received or experienced from your company. They assess how you made them feel. Scholarly studies claim that a customer’s experience with a business or a brand engages customers in many levels: rational, emotional, sensorial, physical and even spiritual.
People will often forget what you did for them, but they will remember how you made them feel. These experiences determine whether a customer will stay loyal to you or not.
What are examples of companies that provide a memorable customer experience? The pioneer in customer experience is Disney. If you’ve ever been to a Disney Park or Resort, think back to that experience. It’s no wonder that Disney prides itself as the Happiest Place on Earth.
Can small businesses compete with customer experience?
Now you probably think that only large businesses can afford to provide a customer experience that Disney provides. You’ll be surprised to find out that it’s simply not true. Small businesses are in the best position to develop and leverage on a winning customer experience based on a survey conducted by 8×8, Inc. Their findings show that seventy–one percent (71%) of consumers said they have a better experience with a small business over large brands. And not only that, the same survey finds that customers will choose a better customer experience over a low-cost alternative. In fact, eighty–six percent (86%) of respondents in that survey say that they will choose the company or brand that provides a better experience over one with a lower cost.
Now that we’ve established that providing customers with a memorable and exceptional experience positively impacts your brand and your business, how do you provide one that your customers will value? Let’s go back to our previous example: Disney.
How does Disney make it happen?
Obsess over the customer journey.
Disney Parks have the admirable reputation of delighting park visitors from the moment they enter the park. What Disney obsesses on is what you call the customer journey. The customer journey begins with their first touchpoint with your brand—the first visit to your physical or online store, the first phone call, or the first visit to your social media page. It ends with the last touchpoint—it can be after they make a purchase, or when they make an aftermarket call.
Consider every touchpoint and ask yourself the following questions:
- How did I make my customer feel?
- Are they satisfied with the response my business gives when they call or make inquiries?
- Do they find making inquiries an easy and pleasant process?
- Do they get what they need when they visit my store?
- Are they delighted by what I offer them?
- Do they find making a purchase an easy and pleasant process?
- Do they enjoy engaging with the people in my business?
And this is where a small business’s size has an edge over its larger counterparts. Staff members work closely with customers and will have, at the very least, a fair understanding of what customers go through at each touchpoint. As a small business owner, you’ll have many opportunities to talk to and engage your customer to have an idea of how you are making them feel at every point of contact. So take advantage of this when you are in the planning stage.
Understand the journey by walking the customer’s path.
In the early days of Disneyland, parkgoers would often see Walt Disney himself walking about the park. He encouraged his Cast Members (that’s what Disney calls their staff members) to do the same—to see, to feel, and to experience what their park goers were seeing, feeling, and experiencing. The reason is that Walt Disney thought that the best way for anyone to understand what his customers were feeling and experiencing is by walking in their shoes and experiencing the park himself.
It doesn’t stop there.
If Walt Disney found out about their pain points, he would find ways to improve the process and mitigate the pain point. And if he couldn’t? He would obsess over how to make the attractions better. He was successful in accomplishing both because he fully understood the customer experience.
How can a small business understand the customer journey? How about playing secret shopper for a day? Try checking out from your online store or making a phone call to your customer hotline. How does that process make you feel? Is it easy to complete a transaction? Do you get all of the information that you need right away? Or do you need to wait for a long time?
Make sure that you see things broadly, but also mind the details.
Did you know that Disney Parks are models of urban planning? Disney parks are some of the best–planned amusement parks in the world. It’s easier to navigate compared to other parks, and for many reasons: Cast Members who take the time to help parkgoers navigate the park, carefully designed and well-placed maps and signs, and, the most important feature of all, a beacon or reference point that allows parkgoers to have an idea of where they are: the monolithic fairytale castles.
Disney also focuses on the little details. Each park has several different themed areas—Main Street, Adventureland, Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, Mickey’s Toontown, and their newest attraction: Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge. Each area is carefully planned, from the design to Cast Member costumes, and right down to the script of each Cast Member. Disney protocol ensures that none of the themed elements crosses over to the other side. For example, you’ll never find a Disney Princess roaming around Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge, because that’s off-script and Walt Disney’s original vision will have none of that.
What this all looks like to a customer is a fun experience wherein all of the important details are well-thought out—one where a customer’s needs are already provided for before they even thought about it. One that makes a parkgoer feel very welcomed.
Think about what you can do for your own customers so that they feel welcomed and loved.
If you are interested to know more about what a business has to go through when facing exponential growth, you can download the first chapter of the book, ”$20K to $20 Million in 2 Years” absolutely free here. The chapter talks about the differences between a good and a great business and puts out questions that make you consider how you can turn your business from good to great.