Customer Experience Is A Journey

Reflecting back on my career I can appreciate the value of a customer centric organization. Not only are customer centric organizations aligned around the customer, but they typically embolden the employee with value and the ability to make decisions.

Successful organizations are those that embrace business as an ongoing conversation that involves customers, employees and a larger ecosystem. Think of successful business as a conference room where management sits at the head of the table, customers on one side and employees on the other. The dialog must be chaperoned by all parties with listening and development of dialog constantly at the core. The ecosystem enters from time to time in the form of external speakers who discuss larger topics pertinent to the business.

Sure the conference room changes over time as do the players, but the conversation must always be ongoing and open. It is like being on a trip and exploring local establishments including restaurants, shops, and even people’s homes.  It is a journey of collaboration, communication and life.

Is your customer experience a journey?

Churn as a Leaky Sink

Just like water entering a sink and then finding its way down the drain, your *aaS (SaaS, IaaS, PaaS) business will likely always have customers leaving and sales coming in.

While it doesn’t really matter too much (at least in the context of this post) whether water coming out of the faucet at high rate or low rate, what does matter is the size of the leak at the bottom… the water going out.

First of all, is the drain wide open?  If it is, your company is doing more to drive customers away than you are to acquire them.  Figure out an effective customer insights strategy and close that drain! Setup effective surveys, reporting, and a churn action committee to address the reasons why your customers are leaving.

The drain will leak. No matter what you do, you will always have a customer cancel due to death or other reasons outside your control.  Do you know how much your sink leaks?  Again an effective system of capturing data and listening to customers is important.

But, you can go one step further by simply investing in a dedicated analytics team.  Let them model churn and build predict future customers who are likely to churn. During this process, they will identify the key drivers of churn and the company can then build a proactive strategy to engaging and saving the customers that prevent your growth.

Before you know it, that sink is a little small for the water you’ve collected, so you have to upgrade to a bigger sink.  Just make sure you don’t buy a bigger drain with it.

Building Confidence in Your Customers

One of the most important qualities to companies is that their customer have confidence in their product.  So, how do you build confidence in your customers?  Simple, honest, heart-felt interaction.

Selling
When you interact with a customer, whether it is online, via email or phone, remember that you are NOT selling a product.  You are selling a relationship built of trust from human to human.  Discussing the customer’s needs and your product’s abilities in common terms is the best way to the customer’s heart. Throwing in some simple compliments too won’t hurt.  Even if the customer does not buy, you still want them to walk away with warm fuzzy feelings that you helped them

CRM

Remember, customers are human and do not like unexpected occurrences. Communicate with your customers frequently regarding product upgrades, changes, service windows, and even outages.  No one likes being left in the dark.  Look at it as an opportunity to have fun and communicate in creative ways. When something goes wrong, be creative with your apology. Heck, who can get angry at Twitter’s whale or Cox’s Digi. The more effort you take to talk to the customer and inform them, the more they know you care and that is confidence inspiring!

Retention
Let your customers go, but be sad about it. Holding a customer hostage is not going to help them or your business. Allowing your customers to leave when they want, opens up the front door and builds their confidence.  No one will buy a car that they are going to be stuck with.   When they cancel for reasons within your control, listen, listen, listen. While you lost them now, making it clear that you heard them loud and clear during cancellation gives them confidence in returning later.  Let them leave on a heart-felt, positive conversation.

By following some simple rules, you can build an overwhelming amount of confidence in your customers.  So much so, referrals may some drive more business than your outbound marketing campaigns.  If so, this is the best compliment a business can have… you know your customers are confident in your business, interactions, and product.

Lessons in Customer Experience

Today I had the pleasure of seeing both sides of customer experience; the good and the bad.

First, the bad.  I received a voicemail from the membership department of the gym I am a member of (Goleta Valley Athletic Club), announcing that I had won some free personal training sessions.  I was stoked, especially after spending many thousands of dollars with one of their trainers over the past few years.  Finally, something free. Not quite.  After speaking to the gym and informing them of my history (they didn’t know who I was and never looked at my account), they said I was ineligible because I had already been training.  The drawing was for new members only. Make sense, although the gym just shot themselves in the foot.  Here’s why:

1) No where was there fine print to announce that current members already training with a trainer were ineligible.
2) Pronounced me winner before getting their facts straight.  How hard is it to look up a name?
3) They announce me as a winner and then revoke the winnings, never offering any type of compensation.
4) At no time prior to the announcement did the gym bother to check my history, which would have eliminated my entry, prevented the phone call and I would have been none the wiser.
5) Even after knowing my membership status and becoming aware of my value to their, did they seem to care.

While apologetic, the gym has burned one of their more valuable members.   I have a call into the general manager to discuss the problem further, so I will keep you all posted.

(update 9/5 – I went into the gym today and the signage for the “drawing” has changed an updated entry forms, including large text: “First time personal training clients only.” This was not on the form I filled out, so I am happy to see the gym being more transparent with their eligibility requirements.)

(Update 9/9 – Talked to the general manager who said that there was confusion with my entry form and reading my writing.  Fair enough, I do write like a chicken sometimes.  Overall, the experience could have been better, but I feel this is an isolated incident and I would still recommend GVAC.)

Now, the second; the good.  On the heals of being treated poorly by the gym, I went to a popular, health food eatery here in Santa Barbara.   I was so impressed with the service, I couldn’t help but leave a $3 tip in their tip jar.  The gentelman whom took my order was courteous, answered all my questions, and showed sincere interest in helping me make the right salad choice.  They even gave me a discount because it was Labor Day weekend (not quite, but I’ll take it).  Not only that, but the food was brought to me with a smile and a huge Thank you for choosing them. They even shook my hand.    In addiiton, the receipt not only has coupons that I will actually use, but it details the nutritional value of my meal.  The transparency, service, and food blew me away.  I am so happy that good people and good companies still exist. (Check out Silvergreens – Santa Barbara)

It is interesting to me that both of these experiences happened back to back.  After getting burned by my gym, I was not happy to have to order food.  But the food experience was so good, I left smiling! After sharing these experiences, I hope you walk away with the power to think about your day to day experiences with the people you choose to do business with.  Please make your own decisions based on the customer experience.  If companies value you, they will show it.  If they don’t, walk away and give your money to the ones that do value YOU.  It is the power of the consumer.