It is a marketing axiom that successful companies are those where the brand promise is matched by what the customer experiences. Accordingly, most major companies, particularly those in service industries such as finance, travel, technology, telecommunications, and retail each spend thousands of dollars annually asking their customers: “How well did we do on your most recent experience with us?” This question is asked repeatedly to monitor how well the customer experience is aligning with the brand promise. What is quite surprising is that they never stop to first ask the more important question: “What is the experience you want from us?” As a result, some companies spend considerable resources delivering experiences that are not what the customer needs and/or have little impact on customer loyalty and retention, nor on incremental revenues and profits.
Avoid Over- or Under-Delivering the Customer Experience
More than ever before, businesses today need to carefully manage their customer relationships by making absolutely sure that they are delivering experiences at every touchpoint (e.g. sales, delivery, customer support, billing, communications, etc.) that mirror their customers’ needs and expectations. It is at these touchpoints that customer loyalty is most often won or lost. While this is widely understood, what is not recognized is how often companies waste human, technical, and financial resources by over-delivering experiences at customer touchpoints in the pursuit of customer loyalty. Of course, just the opposite also happens too often.
Listen to Your Customers
A market research survey using decision modeling can help you align your touchpoints with your customers’ expectations and needs. When done well, the research will provide tactical guidance for each examined touchpoint on the following:
- The appropriate performance standard (e.g. how quickly should you respond to a customer complaint?)
- The desired medium (e.g. should you answer the customer’s complaint by phone, email, letter?)
- The customer’s willingness to pay a premium for enhanced experiences
The benefits of designing each of your customer touchpoints from your customers’ perspective are considerable:
- Alignment of your touchpoint investments with customers’ expectations by eliminating elements that do not add value to the experience
- Allocation of the appropriate human and technical resources to each touchpoint
- Balancing of your service costs with expected returns in terms of customer loyalty and financial outcomes
A leading manufacturer of office equipment examined every one of its touchpoints with its business customers. Among other things, they found that they were over-delivering their Account Management touchpoint. The Market Research showed them that customers did not need for the company to send an account rep to their offices quarterly. Rather, customers felt that what needed to take place could be satisfactorily delivered by phone. As a result, the company migrated over 200,000 customers to a call center Account Management experience from an on-site personal visit by a company rep. The company also found that many informational experiences could be delivered via their web site as opposed to more labor intensive means. The resulting financial savings, with no loss of customer satisfaction, more than paid for the Market Research.
Ultimately, exceeding customer expectations is a great aim for any CX program. But so is delivering Return on Investment. If over-achieving doesn’t impact the bottom line, then meeting expectation just might be absolutely fine.