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PORTER: Building a good customer service experience

“Customer experience” is the new currency of service. And authors B. Joseph Pine and James Gilmore in “The Experience Economy” suggest that creating a “memorable experience” for customers is really all about value.

Below are three key steps you can take to build a great experience that creates maximum value for your customers and may just make your business stand out in the crowd.

 

Step 1

Confirm what the real focus of your business is from the customer’s point of view. What business are you really in?

Coke and Pepsi, for example, figured out some time ago that their businesses were in providing customers with a better drinking experience.

Bass Pro Shops know they’re in the recreational outdoor experience business. So their retail stores and even climbing wall facilities shout that message loud and clear. And Ritz-Carlton Hotels understand that they are in the lodging experience business.

And luxury goods retailer Hermes — LVMH — understands its high-end business is about creating desire. How’s that for putting your finger on what it is you really sell?

What kind of business experience are you in today?

Step 2

Next, determine what your customers are really looking for when they do business with you. What’s relevant to them about your products or services? Why do customers come back to you time and again? In essence, what’s your brand promise to them?

Not making customers wait for paperwork and accident claims to be paid weeks later, Progressive Insurance agents pay claims on the spot to

help ease the trauma of an accident. It’s their promise to customers.

Enterprise Car Rental says “we’ll pick you up,” saving the hassle of driving your car to their stores. Both businesses connect with customers and are memorable for their unique services. Where do you connect with your customers? It’s important to know.

Step 3

Finally, constantly evaluate and refresh your business. And get feedback from everywhere — your customers, your employees, your business friends, wherever — and look at it critically. Where can you fine-tune a service? Try new ideas, new concepts and regularly refresh your customer experience where it makes sense.

Starbucks stands tall when it comes to refreshing stores. They are constantly fiddling with the product mix, forever rearranging the seating areas. Continuing to define what founder and CEO Howard Schultz calls that “third place,” Starbucks has become not home, not work but a third place. They’re always tinkering with the formula.

So give some thought today to creating an experience for your customers. And regularly adjust that customer experience. Zero in on what customers are really looking for and make it the centerpiece of your brand.

But most of all, always look at the value you deliver to customers, and you’ll be successful in whatever business you pursue.

Next, we’ll look at customer service and millenials. You’ll be surprised at the views I’m finding from these young entrepreneurs.

 

William Porter has published books on customer experience and employee engagement and speaks regularly at business schools such as the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Emory University in Atlanta. Porter, who has moved from Atlanta to the Lowcountry, can be contacted at bpwilliamaporter@gmail.com.

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