Are you creating a world-class customer experience?

Please read the headline carefully. Then read it again. When all extraneous issues are stripped away, the customer experience is the single most critical factor in determining your success. In a very real sense, nothing else matters. How that experience is defined is your key to continuing to prosper.

I sometimes hesitate to speak of creating the customer experience because it can sound cliche or simple. The fact is that up until around 1995, the provider of goods and services drove the transaction. That is not the way it is anymore, and we are not going back. To believe that customers are going to transact business the way they always have is to ignore the majority of the research and to ignore your own experience as a consumer. Today the customer, and only the customer, defines what that experience is and how much it is worth.

In an age where the consumer truly has seized the power, we must be hyper-vigilant to his or her needs. Instead of figuring out how to get customers to buy what they may or may not need, we must figure out what they really expect and give it to them.

Let me tell you a personal story. I recently sold my home. Right away, I contacted one of the leading agents in my area. (Let’s call her Kim.) She had the credentials. She had the right listing presentation; she had the reputation. The problem was, Kim was stuck in the belief that SHE was in charge of the experience. She never asked me one single question about my expectations or what I thought. Questioning and listening were not in her repertoire. She spent the whole time telling me why she was so good and why her company was so good. In an over saturated marketplace, I could have closed my eyes and listened to five listing presentations, and they all would have sounded the same except for the company name. Talk, talk, talk, talk . . .

Fancy presentation, virtual tours, caravans, etc., etc. There was NOTHING different about Kim.

I happened to be looking for a house and met Pat. Since my listing with Kim was running out, Pat asked me if we could talk. She asked me three questions:
1. What is the most frustrating thing about dealing with a realtor?
2. What would make the process of selling your home less painful?
3. What are your expectations of me?
I’m sure I don’t have to tell you who will sell all of my homes forever.

My question to you is simply this: to what extent is your firm focused on making sure your customers have a world-class experience as they define it? Is your model turning out “Kims” (slightly arrogant horn blowers for your brand) or “Pats” (thoughtful, self-effacing customer-centric servants who get customers to promote your brand)? Obviously, yours may be one of the firms that “gets it” and is doing everything right. But if you suspect you have some rethinking to do, I don’t want you to feel overwhelmed. I like to advise my clients to do things in small, manageable steps. Momentum is the key to your success. Momentum channeled in the right direction leads to outstanding results. There are three steps to effectively creating the exceptional experience:

The three steps to effectively creating the exceptional experience are:

1. Assessment
Immediately do an assessment to determine the extent to which every element of the experience is centered on the customer’s expectations. Talk to your customers to determine:
Is the process of dealing with you simple?
Are you adding value with every transaction or interaction?
Does the customer understand the value as it relates to the price?
How quickly are you recovering from a failure to deliver?

2. Intervention
Once you have accumulated your findings, immediately charge the appropriate stakeholders with the responsibility of aligning their department with the exceptional customer experience. For example, marketing eliminates programs that aren’t directly aligned with the customer/agents. IT adjusts, as appropriate, the website; training works to be certain that listing presentations do not shove the offer down the prospects throat, etc.

3. Follow-up
Charge someone in the organization with monitoring progress. You should be constantly aware of how closely aligned the organization is. It is about decreasing complexity and increasing efficiency.

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