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Create a Superior Customer Experience

You don’t have to be a Disney or a Ritz-Carlton to give customers the royal treatment.

Make the customer feel like a king—or queen or prince as the case may be. You’ve heard it over and over, from every business pulpit and every marketing pundit. Zappos, renowned for its killer customer experience (CX) and insanely loyal customers, cites it as the number one enterprise-wide priority in its list of core values: “Deliver WOW through service.” The result of the Zappos approach: Amazon acquired the 14-year-old company for $1.2 billion in 2009.

Key Takeaways
  • Embrace the experience you are selling, not just the product.

  • Really know what your customers want.

  • Pay fantastic attention to detail. It matters.

But how do you achieve the level of CX that translates into significant ROI and growth? Here are some words of wisdom distilled from several leading books, showcasing simple, but surprisingly effective customer care concepts that can be applied to organizations of all sizes.

Develop a distinct “service” vocabulary.

To help launch the Ritz-Carlton luxury hotel brand, initially, founding President and Chief Operating Officer Horst Schulze and his team decided on a set of ideal phrases for use in conversation with customers, then trained employees to use those phrases. The frequent use of certain phrases provided a shared identity and contributed to a distinctive "Ritz style" that the public could easily recognize: phrases like "My pleasure," "Right away," ”Certainly,” and –a personal favorite–“We're fully committed tonight."
—Leonardo Inghilleri and Micah Solomon, co-authors of Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit

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Embrace the experience you are selling—not just the product.

In a crowded airport terminal, when the folks making gate announcements start yelling or talking fast or acting panicked about a full flight, it makes everyone uptight. What if the airlines realized that the product that they sell isn’t the plane, it’s the idea of a safe and comfortable (and maybe even fun) trip.”
—Seth Godin, Small Is the New Big 

Really talk to your customers.

The first step is knowing (or discovering) what your customers want. Do this by asking them. Have conversations. Find ways to connect with your customers on a regular basis. Ask, listen, then ask some more. They’ll tell you what they think. If you give customers what they want and you do it consistently well, they’ll come back. Revenue from a happy, loyal customer is the most profitable and sustainable revenue you can have.
—Kevin Stirtz, More Loyal Customers: 21 Real World Lessons To Keep Your Customers Coming Back

“Employees at Zappos talk about emotionally connecting with people—not with consumers, website users, or shoppers.”
Enlist all employees to be Ambassadors of Goodwill.

Whether it is a staff member in the Fulfillment Centers who talks about “making sure a shoe box looks perfect when the customer opens up the delivery,” a Zappos live-chat member who expresses the importance of “using the written word to make a lasting connection,” or website content creators who enjoy thinking of customers smiling when they read a sentence that the creators wrote for the website, like “shoes: now conveniently sold in pairs,” employees at Zappos all talk about emotionally connecting with people—not with consumers, website users, or shoppers.”
—Joseph A. Michelli, The Zappos Experience

Pay fantastic attention to detail. It matters.

At Disneyland, high-wear points on the horse-head hitching posts [on the amusement park’s main street] are stripped down and repainted every night [so] the park looks fresh each morning. The starting time [for the repainting] is based on the temperature and humidity, so the paint will be dry by the time the park opens the next morning. [Compare that to a bank with] no deposit slips left on the customer service counter. A small detail, but how many times had it caused a customer to begin thinking this couldn’t-care-less attitude extended to all the bank’s operations, even to accounting and security?
—Tom Connellan, Inside the Magic Kingdom