Customers are your most important resource so why aren't you focused on them?

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By: Michael Pipke, Betach Account Executive

What is your customer experience strategy? Do you have one? Do the words "Customer Experience" actually mean anything? If you are like most organizations you have an intuitive sense that customers experience has a very big impact on your bottom line but you might not have done the cognitive heavy lifting to really examine it. 

Standing out from the herd is the lofty goal of every business, being a forerunner, someone with a reputation that draws potential customers to you. It seems so simple on the surface, but how can you stand out from the sea of "Samey" products or service providers? The most impactful thing you can do as an organization is focus your efforts on making all of your customer interactions as pleasant as possible. People like things simple, they want to know that you have their interests in mind with every interaction. That’s what a focus on customer experience can do. 

Here is a simple example that almost everyone should have experienced : Dealing with Telco's.

When was the last time you switched your TV, Home Internet, or Cellphone provider? What made you switch? Shopping for a better deal? Some feature or functionality your current provider didn't have? Or was it much simpler then that, a poor customer experience. 

It's easy to pick on Telco's (I should know, I've worked for them most of my career) but they are probably the best example of companies with a captive market and no incentive to improve the customer's experience. How many of you would say you "I love dealing with my current provider, they make my life so much easier"? My guess, ZERO. This is an industry where there is almost no differentiation on product or pricing, standing out from the competition is critical to success. If the customer experience with your telco was only 10%better than it is now, I suspect that vast majority of you would stick with your provider when the opportunity to switch comes up. Think of what would happen if the experience was 25% better...

It doesn't take a lot to move the needle

The core tenant of Customer Experience is taking a customer centric view on how people interact with your business. Put yourself in their shoes, go through the buying process, onboarding, and ongoing support aspects as if it was you making a purchase. Resist the urge to explain away things, or focus on the "Well we have to do XYZ thing because of some internal reason". The answer you are trying to get to is "Am I easy to do business with?". Your processes should be laser focused on how you can strip out unnecessary steps or actions from your client and make the experience of buying from you as pain free as possible. Never forget that buying is an emotional process, pain is not the emotion you want associated with your company.

Once you have a clear view of how your customer interacts with you mapped out, you can start to pick out ways to simplify and improve. This has two net benefits, it streamlines the customers experience, and also makes you as an organization find new ways to be more efficient which leads to improved profitability. Look for small wins to build momentum, simple things such as how much paperwork you require to get a new customer onboarded or how onboard your client are easy levers to pull that can move mountains. You only get one chance to make a first impression, don't squander it.

Happy customers are your Golden Goose

I'm going to try and avoid a metaphor of people laying golden eggs here but the spirit of the fable is spot-on. Happy customers want to work with you, they know you can deliver on your promises, they don't want to look for another provider/partner, they want certainty and low risk. By creating that experience you turn them into fierce advocates of your business. This leads to another incredibly valuable asset, Referrals. I can't stress enough how important customer referrals are, they are the lifeblood of any organization (especially Small and Medium businesses). Did you know satisfied customers will tell between 2-3 colleagues about their experience? That doesn't sound like a lot, but lets contrast it against what unsatisfied customers do - they tell 8-10 people how bad their experience was! There are loads of statistics on Word-of-Mouth marketing and how important it is, getting acquainted with this will help you immensely when working on your Customer Experience strategy.

Acquisition vs Retention

Most companies I've worked with and for over the years have had an almost zealot like focus on new customer acquisition. This makes sense in the early stages of a business where you are fighting to build your brand up, gain a customer base and build a foundation of revenue. The problem is making the transition from hunting to growing your relationships. A friend of mine always reminds me "Your best customers are your customers.", this is something that should be framed and put up on the wall prominently in every office. There is a tipping point where focusing on your existing base will yield better, more sustainable growth vs. trying to chase down new business with companies you don't know. Putting the effort into nurturing an account through a buyers lifecycle will naturally lead to a bigger wallet-share with those clients. That is the engine that keeps your business moving forward once you have the initial momentum. Acquisition then takes on a different dynamic, it becomes focused on attracting the "right" kind of customers that fit your philosophy and match your ideal customer profile. 

Quality over Quantity

More is better, right? It's intuitive to believe that, our own lives are filled with those thoughts on a daily bases, who doesn't want more money, time, material objects, excitement or happiness? Intuitive doesn't mean true.

Which would you rather have, a wide swath of "clients" that you have sold something to once then never heard from again or a short list of clients that you have strong ties to and spend money with you regularly? Option 1 gives you a lot of volume but is a grind to maintain, you are always hunting for new customers trying to acquire. Option 2 is about going deep with your clients to understand their business and help them succeed (which by the way has the effect of making your business succeed as well).   Customer experience is key to the second option, it means building quality relationships focused on outcomes for the client. 

Measure success with your clients

I could write a whole article on this topic (actually I did and you can read it here). I'll summarize quickly, When you measure success of your services/products with your customers it leads to better relationships, more revenue and real insight into how you can improve your solutions/services to address an ever changing market. Showing a client the results of your work and how they drive the outcomes anticipated is the best opportunity to build real credibility in the market. If you fail to meet the outcomes it gives you a chance to understand where it went wrong and learn from the experience. Either way, you become a better company for it.

Take some time to think how to measure the outcomes your clients desire and make that a priority. "Show don't tell" is a famous rule with movies, people aren't impressed with what might happen, they want to see it happen.

Customers are your most important resource as a business, focusing on them should be your priority if you want to succeed in this new market.

Did this change the way you look at Customer Experience? If anything I hope this article helps to validate the things you already could instinctively feel but didn't know how to articulate. 

Brittany LeMaro