How to Create a Customer Experience That Drives Referrals and Repeat Business
By Joan Nowak
Most businesses focus resources on the stuff that gets the phone to ring or produces traffic to their location or website - building awareness and leads. But what happens next can be the difference between a one-time sale or a lifetime customer. It's all about the total customer experience.
The term 'customer experience' is the sum of all interactions a customer has with a company over the duration of their relationship. In other words it covers all the steps or building blocks on the loyalty ladder: awareness, discovery, attraction, interaction, purchase, use, cultivation and advocacy.
You have a lot of chances to create a customer experience that gets people talking - good or bad - about your company. Do it right, you get more repeat business and referrals. Mess it up, you get none. Sales and profit suffer, along with your reputation. Don't leave it to chance.
Why It's Important?
Most of us recognize that customer loyalty drives referrals and repeat business, so this alone is a good reason to focus on improving the customer experience. But here's another reason worth considering. With products and services becoming commoditized and price differentiation not sustainable, delivering a superior customer experience really does provide a competitive advantage - because others can't quickly replicate what you are doing.
3 Steps to Superior Customer Experience
First, map out what you want the total customer experience to look like - from start to finish. Here's a few things to consider:
- How knowledgeable are your people as it relates to your company's core values, products and services AND your customers needs and expectations? Interactions with potential customers is not limited to your marketing and sales staff. Your entire team encounters opportunities inside and outside the business. Make everyone a customer advocate and give them the knowledge to pull it off.
- What should your sales process look like from initial contact to ultimate sale? What are the touch points along the way? Building relationships takes time - and often more than one contact.
- How should your product or service delivery work to insure quality and efficiency? Is the handoff from sales seamless to the customer or do they feel abandoned after they purchase or sign a contract?
- What about billing? Is it convenient, timely and accurate? Are you taking advantage of technology to customize methods based on customer preferences?
- What are you doing after the sale to continue to build the relationship? Phone follow-up calls and surveys are a great way to say thanks, get feedback and ask for referrals. Do you have a system to insure after sales activities get done consistently?
You probably already have an idea of how you would like the customer experience to work. So decide what you want, document it and implement consistently.
Next, build in a few measures to track and share. What you select may vary based on your type of business and objectives. You don't need a lot of measures, but you do need a few that have an impact on customer retention, satisfaction and loyalty. Here's a few examples: overall customer satisfaction based on phone survey, quality % (done right the first time), renewal %, service level % (on time delivery), A/R past due %, referral business %, etc.
Finally, look for ways to make it even better. Get your team, customers and even vendors involved. Here's two questions to consider:
- What can we do to make it easier for prospects and customers to do business with us?
- What can we do to wow or inspire them, to make them smile or surprise them?
Make your total customer experience a real asset for your business. You'll be rewarded with raving fans who buy again and gladly tells others - while your competitor's try to play catch-up.
Joan Nowak is a results-oriented business coach, consultant, trainer and creator of the Hybrid Business Coaching System. Working with small business owners and professionals, she helps them create the changes needed in business to achieve the income and lifestyle they want. For additional resources, business tools and ideas to grow revenue, increase profit and get back control, visit http://HybridBizAdvisors.com. While you are there, subscribe to her monthly eNewsletter for new articles, tools and special offers -- plus a free copy of her eBook, Mastering the 7 Elements of Business Success.
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