Customer Experience – The New Competitive Advantage
How does your business stay competitive in the local market? Good question.
You’ve probably wrestled with this question since you first opened your business. Finding that special niche that only your business can own can be challenging in a crowded marketplace. More often than not, competitive pricing or special promotions are the first tactics many local businesses rely on for getting warm bodies in the door. And while that may work well as an initial “hook,” you still are faced with the challenge of converting a prospect into an actual customer. Fortunately, there’s something you can focus on to get a leg up on the competition while building long-term loyalty: customer experience.
Competing on “differentiation” over “price” is not a new concept; Michael Porter articulated this along with a few other competitive strategies back in 1980 that still very much hold true today. However, being differentiated at a business level vs. at a product level are two separate things. Many businesses tend to get this a bit muddled and almost by default – or perhaps based on their own comfort level – give more attention to calling out what makes their products or services unique. But that’s simply not seeing the forest through the trees. Customers don’t come to your business because of the products you sell; they come to you because they have a “Job to Be Done.” Customer experience is precisely about that: helping customers get things done from start-to-finish. Applying that to how you run your business will make it that much easier to create a memorable and lasting connection with your customers.
Winning in the realm of customer experience is a lot more than simply providing service with a smile (even though that’s nice, too!). It’s about creating a seamless, end-to-end experience – from your brand identity to your marketing efforts (online and offline), from your sales staff to your in-store strategy (and beyond). And it focuses squarely on what your customers want and need from you.
Done right, a fully integrated customer experience will do wonders for building your business’s reputation and driving customer loyalty. That, my friends, will forever be your competitive advantage.
A Consistent Message Matters
One voice, one brand, one image – everywhere. By painting a clear and consistent picture of your business for consumers, in both the online and offline worlds, you begin the journey of building trust and loyalty with your customers. In fact, creating a unified brand experience, from your website to social to in-store, is the fuel behind any integrated marketing campaign. Every touch point is a new opportunity to connect and engage with customers in a meaningful way. That’s why it’s so important to keep your story straight, as any inconsistency can create confusion and harm your business’s reputation in the process.
To put this in perspective, did you know that 37 percent of consumers will NOT consider a business with inconsistent information from one place (i.e. website) to another (i.e. social channels)? Whether you forgot to take down an expired promotion from your website or your business hours do not match up on all your business listings, little inaccuracies can oftentimes wave a big, red flag for many consumers.
Keep Your Team “In the Loop”
Say you’ve put in all the hard work of creating a consistent story and building a cohesive marketing strategy, and now you’ve got a steady stream of customers visiting your store. (Success!) A customer walks in and asks a salesperson about an offer they just saw online, only to be met with these responses:
“Oh, I think that sale ended.”
“Ummm….let me ask my manager.”
“We don’t have that.”
All that hard work you put into being consistent just went out the door in a flash. That’s why it’s important to make sure your staff is always in-the-know about your marketing efforts. They are there to close the sales loop for you. It’s your responsibility to make sure they are trained and have all the information they need to do just that. Anything less will lead to a negative customer experience.
More Than Just a Solution
If you approach customer experience from the “Customer has a problem/You have a solution” perspective, you’ve essentially missed the “experience” part of the equation. It’s much bigger than problems and solutions alone. (But please, whenever you can, come to your customers’ rescue!)
Consider this example. A newly married couple is renovating their home and reaching out to a handful of local businesses to complete the project. Say, you own a plumbing business. The potential customer calls to get a quote and schedule service. Your response could play out in two ways:
Scenario A: You ask for specs, provide a quote, and offer up a time to do the work.
Scenario B: Knowing this customer is trying to coordinate a number of services, you ask about the overall renovation schedule and when it would make most sense to tackle the plumbing issues. You then walk them through the quote, the time required to complete the task, direct them to your website where they can find useful information about the services you offer, and offer to coordinate with other service providers. Then, in a week or two after the job is done, you check in to make sure everything is working well. If they are happy with the work, be sure to ask them to leave a review.
Remember, customer experience is all about understanding what your customers need from you – and delivering an experience that makes them feel as though addressing their true need was your biggest priority. So, if it were up to you, which scenario would you choose?
A Positive Review is Worth a Thousand Leads
Every customer that steps foot into your business could become a future brand ambassador for you. And knowing that word of mouth is still one of the most powerful marketing tactics at your disposal, why wouldn’t you want to create an experience that leads to nothing short of satisfied and happy customers?
58 percent of consumers look to reviews and testimonials before making a purchase decision while 27 percent of consumers won’t even consider a business without any reviews. Don’t waste any time turning your customers into your business’s biggest advocates. When you provide a great experience, happy customers will, more often than not, be happy to sing your praise.
Also, keep in mind that just because a job is done doesn’t mean your relationship with a customer is over. It’s actually just the beginning. Invite customers to opt-in to your mailing list, ask them to follow you on social media, and even offer incentives for new customer referrals. These are all great ways to make sure your business stays top of mind.
Customer Experience Is Your Competitive Advantage
Creating a seamless customer experience doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a long game strategy. But by making customer experience a priority, you set the foundation for building your business’s identity, reputation, and overall success in your local market. Couple that with short-term strategies – like digital advertising and search engine marketing (SEM) – and you’ve created a tried and true recipe for success.