Have you ever had a poor experience while staying at a hotel? Same here. So when we learned that Roy Barnes, a leading authority on building, designing and measuring "customer experience," had written a book, we wanted to know more.
To keep an edge in almost every industry and segment, your customer experience has to be deliberate, planned, and consistently executed
Barnes has worked for Marriott International at its No. 1 ranked hotel for "customer engagement." He's the coauthor of Customer Experience For Dummies, and he shares his advice for e-merchants here.
Satisfaction is expected
Schepp: An Oracle survey found that most executives feel "customer experience" is very important, but few have done anything about it. Where should merchants start?
Barnes: The place to start in improving customer experience is to be clear about the experience you want your customers to experience. (This is your customer experience "intent").
The second step is to understand and then map all of one's existing touch points. (Customer touch points are all of the human and technological points of interaction between your customers, potential or existing, and your organization). Next, redesign the customer experience at each key touch point to ensure you're delivering the experience you intend.
Schepp: A blurb on your book's cover promises readers they can learn how to move past satisfaction to engagement. Can you elaborate?
Barnes: Customer satisfaction is no longer the end game; it is an expectation. You shouldn't be in business if you're not already satisfying your customers.
To sustainably differentiate your business, you have to move past the paradigm that delivering a satisfied customer is enough these days. It's not. To keep an edge in almost every industry and segment, your customer experience has to be deliberate, planned, and consistently executed. Random acts of customers being engaged is not the end game. A great interaction every time is the new goal.
Schepp: Everyone knows it's important to engage customers via social media. What are some tips for doing this successfully?
Barnes: As much as possible, customer interaction via social media has to mirror a face-to-face dialogue.
As much as possible, customer interaction via social media has to mirror a face-to-face dialogue.… No customer wants to be treated as if they are simply a faceless transaction
Customers expect instant answers to social media posts and queries. Automated acknowledgement responses, while easy to deliver, are seen as uncaring and mechanical. No customer wants to be treated as if they are simply a faceless transaction.
Your social media approach and strategy has to work as a highly personalized interaction whenever possible. Social media touch points have to live up to the same customer experience intent as the rest of your organization.
Schepp: What can merchants do to strategically reach their customers via mobile?
Barnes: While it may seem a trite response, the real answer is to be "worth" communicating with.
Consumers are reluctant to expose all of their various avenues of connection. Obviously, no one likes to think that they are "spamming" their customers with email blasts, SMS, and text messaging, but many companies are vastly over communicating with their existing and potential customer base. It's annoying and it's pestering.
Think about a dating analogy for a moment: Does anyone like a first date to incessantly ask questions in every momentary pause in the conversation? The best customer experiences are built on the foundation of a sincere and authentic relationship. That takes time and sincere commitment to ongoing engagement.
Remember that trust is nothing but experience over time. If you want to reach customers via any channel, be worthwhile to listen to, sincere and of value to the customer's needs.
Schepp: What are some strategies for creating customer loyalty to achieve success?
Barnes: Loyalty comes from a customer's experience with the entirety of your organization over time. Customer experience is the sum of all the various interactions that a customer has with your staff, your systems, products and services. Just because your sales staff (if you have a separate one) can sell brilliantly, doesn't necessarily mean that the ownership experience of using your product or service is brilliant as well.
The term "loyalty" is tossed around fairly lightly these days. Loyalty is hard earned, every day, at every interaction.
Delivering awesome customer experience isn't rocket science. It is hard work over time
It's not rocket science
Schepp: What are the best tools merchants can use to reach customers?
Barnes: The best tools are those that provide an integrated experience across every potential channel a customer will use. I had the experience the other day of talking with a customer on the phone at the same time they were simultaneously emailing and texting me.
The best way to answer your question is the following: Any tool set that allows a simultaneous real-time dialogue across all potential channels is the one to choose. Remember, however, that even the best integrated tools won't deliver the experience you intend if your employees don't understand the need to instantly update and enable the system with the information from each of their individual interactions.
Schepp: What else do you want Auctiva EDU readers to know about your book?
Barnes: Delivering awesome customer experience isn't rocket science. It is hard work over time.
In Customer Experience For Dummies, we describe in easy-to-implement steps, a proven step-by-step methodology for making the customer's experience better. Customers are a critical asset of any successful company.
Those assets ought to be given the same amount of attention and have the same amount of energy and oversight that capital, financial, and IT systems' infrastructure investment receive. Do you have an "asset manager" for your entire customer experience?
Schepp: Thanks, Roy!