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The Strategy Behind the Customer Experience

by Kim Garmon Hummel, on Feb 24, 2021 12:00:00 AM

Think about a time when you dined at a restaurant and the experience was excellent. Got it? Okay, now, what made it excellent? How about a time when you had such an awful experience you vowed you’d never go back there again? What made it so awful?

It’s likely you’re thinking about things like the quality of the food, the attentiveness of the server, and the ambiance. A great restaurant spends the time to carefully curate the necessary elements to foster a great experience. They also understand the importance of aligning that experience with the expectation they set on the front end. 

Here’s the thing: it’s not just restaurants. Every business should communicate the experience they intend to deliver and optimize all of their systems and processes to support the facilitation of that experience. That doesn’t just happen organically. It takes intentionality from the beginning and ongoing work to achieve this.


Story & Strategy

The first step in cultivating and executing your customer experience is knowing who you are as a brand. Your brand story and customer experience should go hand-in-hand. Starting with this ensures a cohesive and authentic base to build upon. 

The next step is to know who you exist to serve. But not just your target audience — you need to get granular and develop a buyer persona for each type of customer or decision maker who you serve. This means developing an empathetic understanding of who they are, how they process new information, and what problem or need brought them to consider the your products/services.

Once you have your buyer personas in place, it’s time to authentically communicate your brand story in a way that attracts the people your personas represent. Doing this effectively means you've shared your brand story and your value proposition in a way that compels your personas to take action. At this point, you've attracted who you want to do business with and told them who you are in a way that is meaningful to them. As they continue to get to know you, and with the right tech in place, you also get to know them, you'll nurture them through their decision making process into a customer. 

Now it's time to foster an amazing customer experience. Customer service is something every business has considered but the most successful businesses use the customer experience they provide to stand out. With much intentionality, they curate a cohesive series of touchpoints that continue to build trust and report. The ultimate goal being that the experience is so delightful they can't help but tell anyone who will listen about their experience with that business.  In order to do this effectively and efficiently, the business must Organize, Optimize, Align and Transform the way their sales, marketing and service/fulfillment teams work together to serve their customers. 

Getting it right means the products/services you offer are accompanied by an experience that speaks to what’s important to the humans you exist to serve. It’s in the details — both large and small. Customizing the experience to what is most meaningful to your customers is the lynchpin. 

Getting it right means the products/services you offer are accompanied by an experience that speaks to what’s important
to the humans you exist to serve.

Think about that chicken place that doesn’t allow its employees to say, “You’re welcome.” That is a brand that has paid attention to each touchpoint, considered its weight, and decided how best to leverage that touch to promote positive feelings in their customers. If you do this successfully, you’ll likely have a loyal customer base who is happy to sing your praises and send others to you. 

However, if you fail to keep your promise, you may not retain this customer, or worse, they may share their negative experience in a way that deters others from becoming a customer. 

Another thing to remember is that if you don’t mind those details with intentionality, no one else will. You’ll find yourself telling customers, “I’m sorry _____ happened. We didn’t mean to upset you.” But in the wise words of my therapist friend, “You have to mean not to.” Be intentional.  

Systems

Let’s take a look at a real life example of a company I personally worked with. Picture this: a business with a motivated sales team and plenty of great inventory decides to partner with Sauce to have us build them a conversion optimized website. A site that is positioned to attract, convert and nurture leads into qualified opportunities for their sales team. Sounds great, right? What could possibly stop them from achieving their Growth Goals? 

With this client, we drove qualified sales opportunities to their sales team and reduced the bounce rate on their website by 75%. Unfortunately, as soon as those leads were handed off to the sales team, their lack of systems and technology resulted in prospects falling through the cracks. This resulted in lost opportunities, missed revenue goals and damage to the businesses reputation.

The issues didn’t end there. When someone did buy, sometimes promises were made in the negotiation process that couldn’t be honored. After a closed sale, customers were provided a certain timeline for receipt of their items, but those deadlines came and went with no deliverables and no communication to reset expectations. The team at this business really was doing the best they could with what they had to work with but it wasn't enough. Excuses were made, customers were unhappy, management blamed the staff, and staff blamed the management. So, while this business didn't mean to fail at providing a delightful customer experience, it's not enough to not mean to, you have to mean not to! 

I consulted with the sales and marketing leaders to once again propose sales & service enablement, but instead, they shared their solution to the problem-- by listing off the names of their staff who they saw as the problem and would therefore be fired. The leadership at this company had decided they had a “people problem,” but I could see clearly from the outside looking in that it was a systems and processes problem

We kept doing good work on their website while I watched the sales team turn into a revolving door. Their online reviews turned into a full-time job of defending negative feedback.  I approached the sales manager several more times to attempt to help him understand he needed to invest in the rest of the work necessary to help his team succeed but he kept doing the same thing, expecting different results. I believe that is at least one of the definitions of insanity.

Ultimately, the higher-ups figured out what was happening, eliminated the problem, and began the expensive and time-consuming work of picking up the pieces. This lack of clearly defined, well-executed systems and processes that equipped team members to effectively facilitate the right customer experience nearly cost them the business altogether.

In spite of my original proposal for our engagement including Sales and Service Enablement,  and our subsequent advisement of the same, this client prioritized only one third of the trifecta that fosters a delightful customer experience. Marketing alone is not enough. Ensuring your sales and service teams are equipped with the systems and technology that enables them to be effective and efficient is critical to success.

Ensuring your sales and service teams are equipped with the systems and technology that enables them to be effective and efficient is critical to success.

Learn how a global enterprise like Disney applies this same methodology to their customer experience here.

Experience-Focused

Let’s shift gears and talk about another one of our clients who does prioritize their customer experience. They took the time very early on to think about their customers and decide how they’d like to make them feel. They continue to reassess the experience they provide and improve it as they see opportunities to do so. 

When a potential customer is considering their services, this company seeks to be a resource. They help the prospect make the best decision for their needs. This company goes the extra mile to recognize customer milestones, stay in communication with their customers, and ultimately live up to their brand promise. When issues inevitably arise, they're able to take a proactive approach. Complaints don't make it to an online review site because the company makes it right before it gets that far — and usually with delicious cookies because cookies can help make almost anything better, right? 

Most of their sales team has been with them for years. Their customers have also been with them for years and it’s their existing customers that account for a greater percentage of sales than new customers. The culture of this company fosters a sense of camaraderie and mutual respect. Hard work is rewarded and anything less isn’t acceptable. They say what they are going to do and invest the time to follow up and ensure it happens. Excellence and accountability are the cornerstones of the foundation on which the systems and processes that foster their customer experience is built.

The Bottomline

As a growth agency, Team Sauce loves seeing our clients thrive and smash their goals; however, the truth is that if the customer experience isn't accounted for anywhere along the way, those goals dwindle into unachievable dreams. 

When you take control of your customer experience and equip your entire team to foster the same excellent experience at every touchpoint, customers feel confident about their decision to do business with you.

Let's have a conversation about your customer experience!

 
Topics:StrategyReadCustomer Experience