We’re living in the age of the customer. The collision of mobile, digital, cloud computing and AI in a frenetic explosion of big data means there are billions of connected devices involved in trillions of customer interactions every minute of every day. 

Customers are pouring out their information in a way they never have before – and the pay-off is that their expectations for brilliant customer experiences are sky high. 

And here’s the thing: unlike your products and services, you’re not competing with your competitors. You’re competing with the best customer experiences in any industry. 

Everyone at the recent Salesforce Connected Customer Experience Event in London knew that. The question on everyone’s minds, though, was how you deliver that great customer experience. 

Great customer experience comes from your core purpose

Customer experience has to be driven by your core purpose. It has to run through the whole organisation from the top of the C-suite right down to your frontline workers. 

Tim Wade, managing partner at Smith+Co, gave a great example of this in his keynote. During Hurricane Sandy in 2012, when millions of people were in homes without power that were being destroyed by winds and floodwater, the detergent company Tide went out with lorries stacked with washer dryers to help people get clean clothes. Duracell were also out on the streets with mobile units where people could charge their cells to get in touch with friends, relatives and loved ones. 

It’s notable, he said, that Tide and Duracell are both P&G companies. Their core purpose is to “touch and improve consumers’ lives”. Sure, there was an element of marketing in what they did – but the experience they gave people who really needed their services was fully in-keeping with the company purpose. 

Focus on your target customer

To deliver great customer experience you have to go deep into finding out what your customers need: how can you make their lives easier, better, less stressful?

An example Tim gave was USAA, the banking service for military members, veterans and their families – they know their audience very well. Many of its employees are ex-military which helps a lot. They realised that when soldiers are on deployment they still needed to pay-in cheques. Opening branches wasn’t an option – so instead they designed an app that let serving soldiers photograph cheques and pay them remotely. For their customers, that was massive. 

Create a lasting memory

Where other airlines were focusing on the in-flight experience – reclining seats, better entertainment systems, extra leg-room – Virgin Atlantic differentiated their customer experience by focusing on their customers’ journey as a whole.

The stressful moments of airline travel are mostly before and after flights – finding parking spaces, getting through security, finding yourself in a strange airport with no idea where you’re going. Virgin decided to turn this around. 

For their first class service, they started offering chauffeur-driven service to the airport. They implemented their own security where the staff smiled and you could get through in 20 minutes. They designed new lounges that were based on the best bars in the world – not just on what their competitors’ lounges looked like. 

This takes the emotional peaks that people remember for the wrong reasons – stress, boredom, nerves – and turns them into lasting memories of a great all round service.

Measure the right things

As Rod Sheriff, founder of In-gage said in his talk, “To get buy-in for customer experience initiatives within the business, you need to demonstrate to skeptical people that investing in customer experience delivers ROI.”

This is all about measuring the right things and using the right tools to do it. Your frontline people need to be able to see their personal performance, personal Net Promotor Scores and so on, in real time. Once people can see this, behaviors change immediately. And managers need to have a macro view of this to see how loyalty and engagement is being delivered by individuals and teams, and how well they’re aligned. 

Then it’s about processes: you need to have best practices in place, feedback systems for training and developing staff to constantly up their game and the right recruitment strategy for on-boarding people that buy-in to the company purpose.

From here, you can measure by individual, by team or by account where the best customer experience is happening and tie this directly to the revenue generated. You can make an ROI case to your CFO – and equally important, you can reward the best behaviors and create a virtuous circle. 

Key takeaways 

  • The age of the customer has arrived – the businesses that don’t keep up by delivering great customer experience will quickly fall behind.
  • Great customer experience starts with a well-defined and clearly communicated core purpose which runs through the whole organisation.
  • You have to be obsessed with your customers – work out what they really want and how you can deliver it.
  • Create lasting memories – turn the bad emotional moments into good ones; make the good ones even better.
  • Start a virtuous circle where you measure the right things, recognise the value of great customer experience and inspire everyone, from the top to the bottom, to keep getting better.

Want to find out more? Check out our e-book Creating a Connected Customer Experience for more insight and tips from the experts.