Winning Customers for Life:  Who’s in the driver’s seat?

You might think you’re in the driver’s seat when it comes to creating amazing experiences for your customers. You’ve put the right people in place, shaped the customer experience strategy, and dedicated the time and resources to ensuring the experience is unique and differentiating. I hate to put the brakes on, but it’s not that simple. Your customers are actually in the driver’s seat – and the best CX leaders recognize that customers are evaluating their experiences at every turn. They’re observing, sharing information, and influencing others … about your products, services, and your brand. They are, in fact, deciding with every interaction whether or not they want to be your loyal customer … your customer for life. So no matter how hard you’re working or how much you believe you’re making the right decisions that will result in exceptional experiences, your customer will ultimately determine your success.

Imagine you’re a leader at a grocery store chain. A customer has a disappointing experience with one of your deli clerks. But at checkout, they have an outstanding exchange with the cashier and bagger. How would they rate their experience? In one shopping trip, they had two very different customer experiences that they will eventually evaluate as one. Do you think they will forgive the initial negative experience and choose to come back, based on the exchange at checkout, and give your store another chance? Or will they tell all their friends about their experience with the deli clerk, post their outrage on Facebook and Twitter, and check out the competition to see who can do your job better? There is no way to predict what this particular customer will do. Scary, right?

Your job is to make sure your customers have a well-executed holistic experience with your company – and that means strategically engaging your employees to deliver that experience at every touch point. You need to make a decision to build a holistic customer experience and bring your employees along on the journey. Let’s dig in!

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Decide to Build a Holistic Customer Experience

When your brand does things right, you’ve excited the shopper and loyalty has been secured. So what is the secret? It all boils down to experience. How you treat your customers and make them feel at each and every touch point is what drives them to choose you again and again. This is why you must think about the customer experience from a holistic perspective and what decisions you need to make to deliver on that holistic perspective.

First, you need to gain an understanding of your customers – knowing who they are, what matters to them and how they want to do business consistently and long-term. This is how you’re going to keep adding to your list of “uber loyals.” If you’re unsure if your organization is considering the customer experience from a holistic standpoint, try answering these questions (and be honest!).

  1. Have you decided to embrace the customer experience and make it a cornerstone of your culture?
  2. Does the owner of customer experience in your organization understand each touch point in the process?
  3. Are your teams and business units working together to deliver a holistic customer experience? How?
  4. Does each business unit consider the customer during each and every decision they make? How?

Maybe you’ve got all this covered, or maybe there’s room for improvement. Either way, the following six tips can help you make the right decisions so you can successfully deliver a holistic customer experience aimed at winning customers for life.

  1. Align top leaders on the culture. Leaders have to agree on the culture they want their organization to embody. This requires a lot of decisions around what that culture should look like and how they should empower their organization to live it. And the CEO and the leadership team must be ready and willing to demonstrate that new culture. Leaders go first – that’s why they’re called leaders.
  2. Create an ROI case to demonstrate how the culture impacts the customer experience. A good tactic is to find the positive things that are already occurring – the store that’s outperforming all the others in their region, or the hotel where customer satisfaction scores are highest. Learn what’s unique about how they’re delivering the customer experience and how they’re making the customer a part of the decision-making process, then prototype it and replicate it across the business.
  3. Share the vision with the masses in clear, concise, and compelling ways. Once leaders understand the current culture and the desired culture, it’s time to engage all employees in executing that new culture by giving them a clear understanding of what the culture is today, painting the same clear picture of what the culture will look like tomorrow and offering a well-defined path that will bridge the gap.
  4. Identify which behaviors should be tolerated and rewarded. Leaders should develop a compensation structure that supports the desired actions and behaviors that will, in turn, support the success of a customer-centric culture. Again, this requires a lot of decisions from the leadership team in terms of what the business can afford and what the impact is on the customer.
  5. Plan sustainment initiatives. For any change to last for the duration, including creating a culture that focuses on the customer at all times, it has to be constantly talked about, articulated, and explained at every possible opportunity. Sustaining the culture also means funding the change with investments that may include advancing the skills and capabilities of your leadership team, your managers, and front-line employees. Leaders and the CX team need to decide the best methods to communicate this change and what types of information they need to communicate at what points, etc.
  6. Send leaders to the front line because sometimes they forget what it’s like to be there. Suggest ways for them to live the culture and find opportunities for them to demonstrate the culture to employees at every level. Employees will follow the actions and behaviors of leaders before they will ever adopt a culture expressed in an email, through a PowerPoint presentation, or on a poster on a wall. And leaders will be able to deliver messages better to their people if they know what it’s like to be in their shoes. This will help leaders decide what guidelines and frameworks they need to provide to the front line that will allow them to deliver a delightful experience while being authentic and successfully representing the brand.

So, who determines if your brand secures customers for life? The customers, of course! They are ultimately in the driver’s seat and they’ll make a purchase, or not. While you’re not making that final decision, you have control over every touch point. From customer service, to sales, to the back office and the front line – the customer experience is everyone’s decision. When CX is a cultural cornerstone and your people have the tools, resources, and passion to do what needs to be done to put the customer first, everyone can take part in creating new ways to offer delights. The end result is something every brand wants (and needs) – a growing list of super-loyal customers.

Keeping Your Customer In Mind At All Times

Here’s a cheat sheet to ensure your customer remains present during all decisions.

  1. Find out what your customer wants and needs … and this doesn’t mean sending them surveys or asking them to fill out questionnaires. You need to be a part of their experience. Observe your customers to see what delights, what disappoints, and what leaves them ambivalent – and then build your product or service around the experience they are looking for.
  2. Create archetypes of your target customers. What do they do? What is their marital status? Ethnic background? Do they have children? What’s their income? Favorite hobbies? Learn as much as you can so your customer becomes a real and relatable person to you.
  3. Give them a seat at the table. That’s right. Dedicate an actual seat at the meeting with a nameplate that says “Customer.” During the meeting and as each decision is made, think about what this customer would say and want. While it’s not practical to invite customers to most meetings, it’s definitely possible to give them a seat. Always.