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PORTER: What are your customers really looking for?

A memorable car-buying experience. The resort was an experience we will remember for a long time. We were not really looking for the great customer experience we had at that new grocery store.

The actual customer comments above are probably something you have been seeing a lot more of these days online and in print from businesses both local and national. And there is a good reason for it.

As Joe Pine and Bob Gilmore point out in their now famous customer service business book “The Experience Economy,” we are all now in the customer experience business. And if you have not put together a rich, memorable experience for your customers, you may not be investing in a financially sustainable effort for the future.

Last fall, I wrote a column here on how to build a great customer experience. Have you followed my advice yet and put together that great experience?

If you have not assembled a customer experience or are in the middle of doing so, this column is about revisiting some of those key factors I listed in the earlier piece and I hope you find them useful.

First, determine what your customers are really looking for when they come to you through social media, in your store or at your office.

What is your brand promise to your customers when they come back to you time and again? What is really relevant to them about your product or service?

Enterprise Car Rental, for example, promises “we’ll pick you up” to save you the hassle of driving to them. Progressive Insurance gives you a check at the accident site to ease the trauma of a car accident. Both of these successful businesses got what their customers were looking for, and they are beginning to get a lot of “me too” competitors these days.

Next, nail down what “business you are in” today.

Bass Pro Shops, for example, knows that they are in the “recreational outdoor experience,” and items such as their indoor climbing walls get that point across to customers.

Department store Nordstrom’s is clear that it is in the “wearing experience” business and field fashion consultants in each department to put those special shoes together with a new jacket and blouse by walking with you to each area.

Finally, Ritz-Carlton Hotels understand perfectly well that they are in the “lodging experience” business and go out of their way to get all the little details right when you stay with them on business or on vacation.

Finally, constantly “refresh” your business.

Constantly seek feedback from your customers about where you might fine tune a service. Try out new ideas regularly and even float new concepts that might resonate more with customers.

Starbucks, for example, is constantly refreshing their business by fiddling with the customer experience at their stores. As CEO Howard Schultz talks about it, they are forever tinkering with the formula to create — Not home. Not work. — but that third place where customers will remember the experience and be productive in their jobs as well.

So there you have it. Determine what your customer is really looking for. Know what business you are in. Be constantly refreshing that business.

And now it’s not just if you try putting together a customer experience, but when.

Be advised your competitors are already hard at it.

 

William Porter has published books on customer experience and employee engagement and speaks regularly at business schools. Contact him at bpwilliamaporter@gmail.com.

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