Improving the Customer Experience:
Going Beyond Satisfaction to Deliver Thrill
- Dissecting the customer experience
- Defining memories
- Ensuring satisfaction and delivering thrill
- Measuring progress
Choosing Your Customer Target
So before diving into the customer experience, you must first select the customer target around which to focus your efforts. A useful step is segmenting the customer base to find clusters of similar demographics, psychographics, and behaviors. It’s common to find a small group of customers that accounts for the majority of spending, and frequently this group has similar wants and needs. Optimizing the customer experience around this kind of group can build loyalty where it matters most and can also serve to attract more customers belonging to this valuable segment.
American Express serves millions of cardmembers, but it focuses more energy on a small group of “high value cardmembers.” These customers spend much more than the average cardmember, have a longer tenure with the company, and have better credit scores – making them much more profitable for American Express. So the company places these cardmembers at the center of its customer experience efforts, knowing that thrilling these customers is a priority.
Dissecting the Customer Experience
Journeys are macro events a customer goes through when interacting with an organization. At a generic level, journeys might be Awareness, Consideration, Purchase, Post-Purchase Experience, and Engagement. Every organization will have its own set of journeys. For Starbucks, journeys include Anticipating (deciding to go, getting to the location), Entering (seeing the store’s layout, smelling the aroma), Engaging (getting in line, ordering, paying, consuming), Exiting (throwing away trash, walking out), and Reflecting.
Journeys are too high-level to drive changes in strategy or tactics, but they are important because they force you to think about the experience from the customer’s point of view. The holistic customer experience is very broad, so the formation of journeys builds a framework that spans and organizes all the more detailed touchpoints and interactions.
In each journey, there are many touchpoints that customers have with an organization. For retail banks, for example, some of the touchpoints in the Usage journey include making a deposit, inquiring about your balance, transferring funds within the bank, transferring funds to/from another bank, withdrawing cash, and applying for a loan.
Defining these touchpoints is a key step. Then you should prioritize touchpoints, since some are more impactful than others. Consider the frequency of each touchpoint, how customers rate the quality of each touchpoint, and the importance of that touchpoint in a customer’s overall opinion of the organization. It’s also essential to locate the “moments of truth” – the touchpoints with outsized impact on customer loyalty. In retail banks, an infrequent but critical touchpoint is the resolution of fraudulent activity; how a bank handles this situation can lead a customer to greater loyalty or can undermine the customer’s confidence in the institution.
At an even more granular level, touchpoints can be a collection of multiple interactions. For instance, within the touchpoint of applying for a bank loan, the customer may need to fill out an application, meet with a loan officer, provide more information, and receive news of the outcome. Each interaction offers new opportunities to delight or disappoint the customer.
Every organization will have its own set of journeys, touchpoints, and interactions. Furthermore, these can be different for different customer segments. Fully dissecting the customer experience – by truly walking in the customer’s shoes – creates the platform for thinking through smart enhancements.
|Touchpoint||Memory for the customer|
|Opening a new account||"We're excited to work together"|
|Placing an order||"That was easy"|
|Receiving product||"That was fast"|
|Resolving a dispute||"You've got my back"|
Making memories with CarMax and Comcast
Spotlight on the South Bend Silver Hawks
The Silver Hawks is a Class A minor league baseball team, part of the Arizona Diamondbacks system, that is based in South Bend, Indiana. The Silver Hawks play baseball, but they are really in the business of making memories that families can cherish for a lifetime. Prior to new ownership in 2011, the club’s Net Promoter Score was a dismal 13%. The public criticized many things, including poor food quality, unsanitary restrooms, and lackluster customer service.
Recharge the people and rethink the process
New leadership was hired with a clear mission to build a culture that was committed to thrilling fans. They studied how Ritz-Carlton and Disney treated their guests and also digested all the fan feedback. Simultaneously, the staff began working on improving the customer touchpoints.
The team mapped dozens of touchpoints – from approaching the stadium and finding parking, to purchasing tickets, passing through the turnstiles, using the restrooms, eating the food, and many other touches before, during, and after a game. Then the staff worked to improve the touchpoints.
For example, the Silver Hawks changed to serve the same hot dogs as those in Fenway Park, which were recognized as the best hot dogs in baseball. Likewise, the team upgraded the sound system to address fan complaints that they couldn’t hear the music very well, and the park now plays the greatest hits from the 1960s and 1970s – the preferred format for baseball fans.
In two years, the Silver Hawks’ Net Promoter Score jumped to 79%. Importantly, the fans are also voting with their feet and their wallets. Attendance has more than doubled, and the team is now profitable and able to invest in further improvements.
Ensuring Satisfaction and Delivering Thrill
With target customers identified, touchpoints mapped and prioritized, and memories defined, the work of improving the customer experience can begin. This is a two-step process. The first step involves ensuring satisfaction; this is the foundation of customer loyalty. Only with proper blocking and tackling can the second step, building thrill, take hold.
- Designed to meet customer needs – You want to create your products, systems, and processes to meet the needs of the target customer. Too oftencompanies design their offering without considering the voice of the customer.
- Works as expected – Your service and offering need to function properly in real life, not just on paper. There must be alignment between what you promise and what actually occurs.
- Problems resolved quickly – Problems happen. To ensure satisfaction, your organization needs to have a mechanism to react swiftly and to work to eliminate future failures.
- Ordinary services delivered exceptionally – You can turn the ordinary into something extraordinary with careful attention to superior execution.
- Exceptional services or features delivered well – You can add a “wow” by doing something unexpected.
Spotlight on Berlin Packaging
Berlin Packaging is a leading supplier of rigid packaging. The company has succeeded in gaining market share year after year due in part to its relentless pursuit of customer thrill. Berlin Packaging’s Net Promoter Score leads the packaging industry, and this is a result of a focus on both culture and processes.
The company regularly listens to its customers to understand what is working and what needs improvement. And they apply Net Promoter to individual touchpoints on a regular basis. In 2012, for example, a touchpoint survey uncovered that the process to resolve a quality complaint needed improvement. This touchpoint is a moment of truth in the packaging industry (customers can’t fill and sell their finished goods if the packaging isn’t right), so Berlin Packaging pursued the following steps to improve the process.
Review the current Quality Resolution process
After looking closely at the process and receiving feedback from customers and employees, the following issues were identified:
Each of these issues led to improvements in the process.
Reinvent the Quality Resolution process
A cross-functional team made the following changes:
No supplier has perfect quality. What distinguishes the best suppliers is how they respond to a quality issue. Customer feedback on Berlin Packaging’s new quality resolution process has been excellent.
Improving the customer experience is a large task, as it touches so many facets of an organization. Below are some suggestions on how to get going.
Start with leadership
As noted before, the customer experience is about both people and processes. Before processes can gain traction, the company’s leadership must buy-in completely to a customer-focused culture. In both words and actions, leadership needs to champion the power of improving the customer experience.
Meet with top customers
Don’t wait for a perfect solution. You can build quick insights by meeting with some of your important customers. Ask them what you’re doing well and what you’re doing poorly. This need not be a large survey, since even qualitative feedback can help jumpstart the process and identify potential quick-hit areas.
Map and measure the customer experience
As discussed earlier in this paper, you should build a list of the customer journeys and touchpoints related to your business. Then use this as the basis for a more thorough survey that measures your overall performance as well as your execution on important touchpoints; a good tool to use is Net Promoter. This will provide great data to help prioritize future effort.
With a good idea of focus areas, you can start defining the right memories and determining how to make them come to life. This can be an iterative discussion, bouncing between what makes sense for specific touchpoints and also what your overall company and brands stand for. Looking outside your company and industry is a smart way to start the benchmarking and goal-setting process.
Ultimately, companies intent on change will form a team to focus on customer-experience improvement. This can be done as a special rotation or as an add-on to everyday duties, but it also makes sense to name a person or small group that acts as the customer experience champion. Elevating the customer experience is an ongoing journey, so building muscle via virtual or permanent teams will pay off in the long run.
Companies that deliver superior customer experiences enjoy higher customer loyalty. This loyalty translates into better financial performance in the form of easier customer acquisition, greater wallet share, higher price realization, lower cost to serve, and stronger retention. Building a customer-oriented organization requires a thoughtful approach to both people and processes. In this paper, we discussed how companies can improve their processes by choosing the customer target; dissecting the customer experience into journeys, touchpoints, and interactions; defining memories that will resonate with customers; and ensuring satisfaction (by addressing the gaps and defects that exist today) as well as delivering thrill (by adding in wows that will surprise and delight). Measuring progress is another important part of the process, and there should be an ongoing campaign to listen to customers and seek out new ways to improve their experience. Companies like Disney, Apple, Ritz-Carlton, Nordstrom, and Southwest – all renowned for their customer experience acumen – don’t have any magic other than a team of employees devoted to customer thrill and a set of products, processes, and procedures that allow those employees to deliver excellent experiences. Any company with the same discipline around customer loyalty can also enjoy fantastic success in the market at the expense of less-thrilling competitors.