Imagine you are on your way to work. There’s a coffee shop on the way, and you get your daily cup of joe there. Have you ever evaluated your experience as a customer before? Think about the first time you were there and what made you go back there again and again. What do you remember about that brand and its service? Is it just the caffeine kick or the amazing customer service of the always smiling barista and the ergonomic hold of the zarf?
It’s the little details like these that set your brand apart from a sea of competition. The overall customer experience is what earns your customers’ loyalty. Without that, even the best kopi luwak is going to leave a bad taste in your mouth.
You have worked hard to promote and get customers to support your business. All it takes is one negative experience for all the trust you built over the years to disappear. Remember the last time you vowed never to do business with a company or brand again? We have all been there.
What is customer experience, and why does it matter?
Customer experience is how your customers perceive your business treats them. This perception affects their purchasing behaviors, builds memories, and drives loyalty. It is the result of every single interaction with your brand and its people.
The more positive experiences your customers have, the more likely it is for them to return to your business. As a result, high-quality customer experience must be woven across all touchpoints. There are several tools at your disposal apart from in-person interactions for you to focus on the details: your website, marketing collaterals, advertisements, newsletters, internal employee training, and so many more. Your brand is the sum of all these parts, and customer experience is the culmination of your customers’ opinions.
So what’s the little secret to creating exceptional customer experiences?
Great customer experience requires great attention to detail.
There’s an old adage in the retail industry: retail is detail.
No matter what kind your business is or where it is located, your success as a brand is almost exclusively predicated on the level of attention you pay to details. When you focus on the right details, customers notice. They will know, and they will come back for more.
Great things happen to businesses when they emphasize delivering customer experiences packed with great attention to detail. A study by Walker states that customer experience will be more important to customers than product quality and price to differentiate between brands. This shows how much customers value their experience with a business, and the same study says 86 percent of the buyers will pay more for better customer experience.
Many organizations ignore the importance of small details. These are the very details, which when overlooked, detract the brand from giving a great customer experience. This is not to discount the importance of interpersonal skills, but getting the small things right adds up to the foundational aspects on which businesses are built. We work with a global coffee chain, and their transformation is something that can help drive home this point.
The curious case of the coffee cups
The coffee chain maintained that the temperature and the weight of each cup of coffee must adhere to certain strict criteria. They believed this small, but important, detail would give them an edge over their competition. To quantify how well they executed this, we sent several independent field teams, equipped with scales and thermometers, to thousands of their cafes. These individuals ordered a range of coffees from the menu as a typical customer and then weighed and did a temperature check of the cups.
The results came, and they were less than what we expected at first. Over the course of the next few months, we evaluated the new implementations, identified the associated gaps in training, and helped them achieve and maintain their benchmark levels. These details made a significant difference, and the emphasis the client put on these critical factors over the next six months lifted the performance of their chain significantly.
The QSR quibble
There’s a case of another client we work with that further illustrates the importance of attention to detail: a Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) chain. Their business is built around the idea of great food, a warm environment, and consistent service.
They have strict guidelines to meet customer expectations by limiting the time in line before placing an order and the wait time after placing an order. According to the company and its customers, too much time spent on these areas resulted in either lost sales or plummeting customer satisfaction levels.
We built a restaurant measurement and improvement program for them to identify and benchmark these sensitive time frames. Our field teams visited these restaurants and made a note of their wait times. Based on their measurements, we assessed the immediate impact of these tightly-linked metrics.
The results of this experiment from thousands of customer experiences showed a direct correlation between increased sales and accurately delivering this aspect of the service experience. If the customers spent too long in the queue or if the food took too long to be delivered to them, it led to dissatisfaction.
What creates great customer experiences?
Now that we’ve seen how important it is for businesses to pay attention to detail, it’s important to understand that there’s no universally applicable playbook to follow to deliver great customer experiences. Every business is unique, and so is every customer. It’s important to look at it on a case-by-case basis, do extensive research, and improve the business processes by focusing on little details.
In the case of the two clients mentioned above, we helped them identify these areas with our improvement processes, provided them with action plans, and found ways to fix these priority areas. Further improvements were built on regular and ongoing measurements of their different business units. We curated these best practices and incorporated them into our programs so that the rest have a system to learn from the best.
To create good experiences, we must understand what not to do first. Here are six things, common across business types, that create a bad customer experience:
Employees who do not understand customer needs
Pushy sales staff
Poor quality products or services
You could add on to this list by remembering the times you were frustrated as a customer.
Here are some tips that can help you find the little details you need to pay attention to:
Observe your customers’ behaviors
Your customer base probably has people of different traits, and these people have different expectations. You need to train your salespeople to pay attention to the patterns in regular customers’ behaviors. Greeting them by their names can go a long way. Maintain a journal if you need to.
You also need to take care of their unspoken needs. These are the brands that customers love doing business with and recommend to their friends.
Train your employees
Employees need to be trained to provide great experiences; you need to be empathetic with them and see them as a person with needs and unique requirements. Empower them to do what’s best for the customer.
Ask for feedback
The only people who know what customers want are themselves. Ask them directly which areas they’d like to see you improve and what areas you’re doing great at. In essence, creating great experiences is doing more of what customers love and less of what they don’t.
Collect and analyze the data
The data you collect are valuable treasure troves of insights into your customers’ minds. They provide both qualitative and quantitative intelligence to help you keep improving. While it may be tempting to make sweeping changes, it does more harm than good.
What are all the things you should be paying attention to? Which of these would create an impact on your brand’s reputation? Plan on incremental, meaningful, and measurable changes that can reflect improvements over a period of time.
Attention to detail is attention to your business.
Attention to detail is not an item that you can cross off on your customer experience checklist. It has to be in the fabric of your company’s culture. It’s about the little things like remembering your customers’ names, their preferences, how your customer-facing employees speak, their tone, and the body language they portray. It changes a bad experience into a good one and a good experience to a great one.
No matter whether you are a retail store, contact center, or an e-Commerce business, commitment to a well-designed customer experience program will identify not only what is contributing to the gaps, but also where the best practices lie. These are the businesses that succeed with pretty much the same products and customer base, but who have found ways to achieve success at far greater rates than many of their competition.
Start thinking along these lines and how you could do things differently, and you’ll be on your way to deliver exceptional experiences to your customers every single time.