Written by Vivek Jaiswal | Co-founder, Customer Guru
Why do so many people confuse customer experience with customer service? It is really pretty simple, customer service is something that happens after the sale; it is a subset and part of the customer’s experience journey. Whereas Customer Experience is that all-encompassing aspect that includes everything to do with the customer – starting from when you begin to develop the product to eternity.
Related Article: A Mini Course on Customer Experience Management
Wikipedia defines Customer Experience as “the product of an interaction between an organisation and a customer over the duration of their relationship. This interaction includes a customer’s attraction, awareness, discovery, cultivation, advocacy and purchase and use of a service. It is measured by the individual’s experience during all points of contact against the individual’s expectations.” Although there may be more to that definition, this one is sufficient for this post.
Think about what you do when you are about to buy a new product. If it’s ‘I’m going to go find out about it at the store,’ you’re still living in 1980’s! Today, no one even thinks of purchasing a product without “Googling” it up. You also look out for customer reviews on Amazon or even talk to friends and family about the product. There might be a hundred other ways you can find out everything about the product before you believe anything that the company actually tells you.
Unless you’ve just bought a big-ticket product/service like a house or car – which I believe you’d anyways do only after months of research before signing the cheque, if your experience with that product becomes too difficult, sluggish or unpleasant, the odds of you switching to a different product is pretty high; and you’re probably not going to turn back. This is the exact reason why every company should focus on delivering a great experience even before you make a purchase. While some companies might look at this situation as a problem – because it transfers the bargaining power to the customer – it is in reality a huge opportunity in disguise! Since customers can interact and engage with a brand long before they decide to do business, brands today have a bigger play ground to create amazing customer experience even before the customer buys from them. By creating a brand persona that transcends the product, brand managers have the opportunity to engage with people who are casually researching about a product in their category. Through meaningful and relevant content, marketers can get in front of someone who is looking for a solution to one of their problems. It is important to understand that today, customer experience starts way before a sale is made. By focusing on improving that experience, companies can get more customer who are already happy to buy from them.
Take for example the Tesla Model S. How many times have you heard someone say ‘That’s a car out of the future!” Well believe it or not it’s not. Elon Musk has successfully transformed the automobile industry and taken it a few years ahead by bringing a car from the future to the present. Now why did Tesla’s customers go crazy about the release of the Model S? More than 400,000 pre-orders for a car is not a joke! It’s all because of the experience that Tesla gave its customer, way before the vehicle is launched. Along with Musk’s much raved about Iron Man persona, Tesla Motors has portrayed itself as the most technologically advanced company and established trustful relationship assuring their brand to be an extremely reliable and futuristic. From the crash tests to test drives, customers were shown the wonders that the car possesses. Have a look for yourself:
In this era, consumers around the world use various sorts of technologies to conduct their research, shop and compare products or services that they could potentially be using. Therefore it is vital that businesses looking to sell their product or services must prepare and provide a pre-sales experience, which is warm, inculcates confidence and, is well planned and, most importantly, values the customer and his/her liking.
Think back to 2001, when Apple released its first iPod. There was so much buzz about the product because of how Steve Jobs pictured the iPod in the digital music player market. His vision and efforts were what gave customers an excellent experience well before the product was released. When Apple first advertised about the iPod, it is not the battery life that they spoke of, nor did they mention anything about its features. All that Apple released was ‘1000 songs in your pocket.’ At the time, the market for music players lacked such memory and Apple hit the right note to attract customers.
In addition to the iPod, Apple also released their signature white earphones. Until that point people only used black earphones. In Apple’s successful advertising campaign they portrayed the white earphones as something that’s ‘cool’, pure, and stands out. Yet again Apple created an irresistible new experience for their customers; something that everyone wanted to try on. Today the white Apple earphones are so popular that when someone breaks a pair, there isn’t an alternative to it: they better set out to buy a new pair.
To emphasise the point I am trying to make, I would like to quote the former president and CEO of Mercedes Benz Steve Cannon:
“Customer Experience is the new marketing. If you don’t have a passionate, committed executive leadership team … you won’t get out of the gate. It’s the most important thing we do. We have the most demanding customers on the planet. Customer Experience better be at the top of your list when it comes to priorities in your organisation.”
It couldn’t have been said better. If you focus on delivering great customer experience, your customers would become your marketing department. Keep them contented and you won’t be spending a dollar on your advertising.
Now sit back and take a moment to locate the areas in the pre-sales process that you can fine tune. Are there any additional steps that you can take to better the customer experience on your website? Could you tweak your marketing mix to include Instagram as a channel? Or engage with prospective customers through a free tool that solves a small problem for your prospective clients? What additional steps are you going to take before your customers begins interacting with you?
The opportunity to cultivate an extraordinary customer experience prior to sale is out there. It is all up to you to seize it and make it your primary selling point for your product or service.