Exceptional Customer Experiences and the Bottom Line
By Jean Marie Johnson
Be Rewarded or Be Penalized: It's Your Choice
What do nearly 2000 consumers have to say about the impact of exceptional customer experience on their buying behavior? As it turns out, plenty. According to the 2009 Strativity Group study of 1994 consumers, companies that deliver such experiences "are rewarded with customers who buy more, attrite less and are willing to pay higher prices."
That's right, in an economic climate of recession and pervasive uncertainty, customers will remain loyal while buying more and spending more…based on their experience. And apparently, that loyalty runs deep as they reported being almost three times more likely to continue doing business with these companies for at least another ten years.
As for price? If your current inclination is to cut and slash, you may want to think again. Forty percent of these pleased and loyal customers said they'd be willing to pay 10% or more from a company that delivers a consistently exceptional experience. And then there is the fact that more than 70% of these delighted customers are willing to spend at least 10% more with businesses that exceed their expectations.
These rewards contrast sharply with the response of those who reported a less than stellar experience. These customers penalize companies by demanding lower prices or simply taking their business elsewhere. What's more, they are also ten times more likely to move on to a competitor within the next twelve months.
The Business Case for an Exceptional Customer Experience
The Strativity Group maintains, and numerous studies concur, that the customer has spoken. An exceptional experience continues to be much more than a "nice to have" or "the icing on the cake;" it remains a clear driver of loyalty. It means that when this level of experience is the norm, a company can offer a premium price, spend less on attracting new customers, and realize more
spending from existing customers.
What Drives an “Exceptional Experience”?
It isn't just the dissatisfied customer who is doing all of the talking. In this study, Strativity asked respondents to "rate the likelihood that they would recommend a company to a friend or colleague." Those most likely to recommend cited four key attributes of the customer experience as significant:
- Quick and effective issue resolution
- Common sense and discretion
- Exceeding expectations
- Ease and simplicity
Other key drivers of a word-of-mouth recommendation included: employees "doing their job with pride," and acting "as if they made a difference."
Ah, The Human Moment
While many companies continue to invest in self-service web and phone-based options, respondents to this survey sent a clear message about "live" interactions. The following types of experiences were most likely to lead to promoting a business to others:
- A visit to a retail store that is enjoyable and productive
- Receiving clear and sufficient written communication
- Experiencing first call resolution at a call center
In fact, while "easy and fair payment practices" as well as "products and services that deliver great value" were noted as most important in the customer experience, these did not contribute as much to loyalty or to word of mouth recommendations. Instead, it was the emotional or attitudinal attributes present in face-to-face, phone and even written communications that got people talking positively about their experience.
How Well are You Listening?
As you consider the direction of your business in this first quarter of 2010, keep in mind the key findings of this study:
- consumers are willing to pay for exceptional customer experiences
- consumers want maximum value rather than the lowest price
- loyalty is based on the quality of consumers' interactions with employees (in –person, phone and in writing)
"Every contact should be so appropriate that the customer chooses to have another contact with you." Otherwise known as "the MAGIC Standard," this compelling statement sets the bar for an exceptional customer experience.
If you introduced MAGIC to your workplace a year ago or earlier, it may be time for an 'audit'that examines the expression of MAGIC at each critical touchpoint: face-to-face, over the telephone, and in written correspondence. Some questions to consider:
- Where are our key “moments of truth” and how well do they reflect the standard?
- What have our customers told us about their key satisfiers and dissatisfiers in terms of their experience with us?
- What have our associates told us about what customers are saying?
- How well have our associates been engaged, developed and coached to deliver experiences that instill satisfaction and loyalty?
Ultimately, you are seeking to understand what your customers are experiencing in their interactions with you. Once you do, you will glean if they are likely to remain loyal, spend more, and tell others about you. And if they are not, it may be time for a tune-up, because the 'rewards' are now abundantly clear.
Note: Survey of 1994 consumers in the US and Canada conducted via The Strativity Group by Customer Service Experts, Inc.
Jean Marie Johnsonis a Communico facilitator and has helped clients with their MAGIC initiatives. And for 20 years she has specialized in cultivating the customer experience as a key competitive advantage.