The Customer Experience and Word of MouthMarch 30, 2008
Professional services customers have many alternatives available to them. Professional and business services companies (lawyers, accountants. marketing consultants) pretty much provide the same basic products. Granted the quality will differ on the basis of a firm’s expertise, but in the case where the quality of services is minimal or equal, how can one firm distinguish itself over another.
People usually talk about things that have touched them at an emotional level. But let’s be clear about what they get emotional about. Having a good product or service is table stakes. Your customer would not be dealing with you if didn’t. Products and services are the “what”that businesses provide their customers. While it is certainly possible to develop better products and services that will inspire customers, it usually does not take long for competitors to copy any new feature.
Customers get emotional about the quality of their experience with a brand, product or service. That experience occurs at each of a firm’s touch points for example:
- Company web site
- Customer service
- In-store/office visit
- Product/service delivery
- Billing & Return policies
- Brochures, flyers, ads
The emotional connection comes not from the “what” we provide, but rather from the “how” we provide it. Focusing on creating a unique customer experience at each brand touch point is a more sustainable approach to differentiation. Companies like the ones listed below provide unique experiences and are talked about, often in glowing terms. They are consistently at the top in terms of customer satisfaction and loyalty ratings.
- Company web site – Disney
- Customer service – Nordstrom
- In-store/office visit- Stew Leonards
- Product/service delivery- Red Envelope
- Billing & Return policies – Zappos.com
The takeaway: A key step in creating a word of mouth marketing campaign is to identify and define the customer experience at each of your touch points. Talk to your front line providers ( receptionists, sales people, customer service) and get their take on customer’s perceptions. Then, get your customers’ perspective. Do a little research and find out what their perceptions are of how you deliver. Addressing the gaps between customer and company perceptions is a good place to start to focus on delivering a unique and differentiating customer experience.