Stop Talking and Start walking the Talk…….

Succeeding in business is not rocket science: focus on the customer and deliver a quality experience that exceeds their expectations. They will respond with repeat business, greater loyalty and powerful recommendations.

A simple but highly effective approach; nevertheless, it appears to be more difficult than ever to convince customers to be loyal advocates.

We seem to be very good at is talking the talk with our fancy full of promises marketing taglines. However, we as customers have heard all it before, too many unfulfilled promises. Its time to start walking the talk

The simple fact is that businesses that don’t commit to customer relationships do not keep customers. In today’s highly competitive market it’s not about the customer being loyalty to the business it’s the other way round.

Business is not lacking intention or initiative. I have seen many customer related “campaigns and “programs” They run for short periods but are never embraced as a full operational strategy. I see the slogans on memos, computer screens, tee shirts, office walls, lunchroom walls, brochures and advertising, my conclusion is that intentions and initiatives are plenty, but sustainable commitment is rare.

So, the question is –why should it be so difficult to pull off something that is in principle, so simple? Why is it that so many companies fail in what should be their number one task gaining and retaining customers?

For a customer-focused strategy to be effective you must first gain total commitment, it must be implemented for the long term and must be accompanied by the required changes in leadership style, company culture, systems and people to consistently deliver on the customer’s expectations. The customer is judging you by what you do, not what you say.

What is business doing wrong? For many companies the answer is a combination mistakes. These are just a few

• The concentration on pursuing new customers at the expenses of building stronger relationships, with existing customers.

• The failure to commit fully to a customer strategy. These companies treat customer strategies as cosmetic

• The lack of passion. Without passion for customers no strategy will work. Customers will pay a premium for better experiences delivered by passionate people.

• Competing on price and the resulting internal cost cutting, with no thought for the

Impact on the customer

• Linking compensation to the quality and consistency of the experience delivery. Most incentive plans are link only to productivity.

• A lack of quality leadership- Customer strategies require leadership that views the business from the customers perspective, not through a spreadsheet

• Most customer relationships are not structured to continue beyond the initial sale. Businesses are not structuring their relationship with customers for the long term.

Experiences are the sum of all the value provided to customers by the company. They cover everything from the word of mouth recommendation to the website, brochure or advertising to the final invoice. Every way that a company touches the customer contributes to the total experience, and hence the total value of the companies product and services.

If the number one task of any organisation is to attract and retain customers, then the quality of the customer experience you deliver to each and every customer is the 21st century strategy to achieve that.

Retaining customers is very much the prime goal of any customer experience strategy. Loyalty is a representation of the strength of the relationship. The stronger it is, the stronger the commitment and loyalty.

It is crucial to understand that although multiple cues will create an experience, the most powerful influencers on the quality and intensity of an experience, are people. They are the true experience creators.

Great experiences will make a major financial impact on both referrals and additional business. Bad experiences will lead to a negative financial impact, both in terms of lost business and in terms of a damaged reputation.

Failing to understand the emotional aspect of the experience is like failing to understand customers. A purely logical customer will shop for the lowest price every time and will demonstrate no loyalty at all. The cost of doing business with customers will be high, because each time we will have to acquire them again through expensive incentives.

The number one mistake companies make when dealing with customer experiences is focusing them on the uneventful.

By not providing customers with positive emotions and excitement, the company bores them and sends them looking for better experiences elsewhere.

I’m often asked “what is this all going to cost”, my answer is that’s the wrong question. The question should be “what is the organisation going to gain from adopting a customer experience strategy, it’s not about being nice to your customers, it’s about growing a more profitable business. If nothing is gained, then it will be a cost, however if the strategy attracts and retain more customers at a reduced cost, it will then be an investment.

Yes, you can measure all of those costs, just as you can measure the cost of high staff turnover, customer complaints, lost business, damaged reputations and reduced margins due to price competition.

Business has a choice and that choice has not changed. The choice is this Continue to pay lip service to the importance of your people and customers to the business and suffer the increasing consequences, or Adopt a total customer focused approach to your business based on the quality of the experiences you consistently deliver.

The choice as always is yours. All it needs is your decision to want to do it and a commitment to this becoming your unique competitive advantage, one that will be difficult for your competitors to copy.

Chris Bell is managing director of Customer Experiences, a company that specialises in helping businesses improve the way in which they interact with customers and clients. – chris@customerexperiences.co.nz; mb 027 2792360 www.customerexperiences.co.nz

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