Three Pinciples for Creating 'As Promised' Experiences
by Jean Marie Johnson
The measure of "who you are" isn't in your print ads or your billboards. And it's not in the clever design of your website. It's in the experiences you create when your customers interact with you. When those experiences are "as promised," you gain the respect—and the business—of new customers. And when you sustain that promise through your consistent actions, you gain their loyalty.
And then they start to talk about you, and they become your customer advocates.
But these experiences don't just happen. They occur when an organization focuses on the alignment of intention and attention, when three principles become the foundation for your actions:
- Know thyself and the unique, particular value you offer
- Know thy customer and operate from his point of view
- Know thy associate and engage him as your valued partner in the customer experience
When you work from these three principles, you attract and retain customers by standing out, by creating meaningful and memorable experiences that align with who you are and what your customer wants. It's a discipline that makes good business sense. Let's take a look.
1. Know thyself and the unique, particular value you offer
The first principle is about intention. Intention is self-directed and purposeful, starting from an internal focus. "Clear to the core" you know what you do and why you do it. In the day-to-day, your values, standards, and expectations shape the experiences that you create. Just as important, you are not all things to all people. When, as your customer, I know what you stand for, what I can expect, and how I will be treated, I have confidence in you and a sense of security that matters to me.
Take Sam's Shoe Repair. Sam's small shop has been on the same corner for almost 50 years and has no specific hours of operation. When you ask Sam how he's managed a thriving business, he tells you that he's known most of his customers since they were children, tagging along with their mom or dad. His is a local clientele. While they won't know exactly when those soles will be replaced, or those heels repaired, they do know that they will be done perfectly, with no short cuts and at a fair and decent price.
Sam operates from intention, though he may not call it that. Sam knows who he is, what standards he holds to and what values inform his actions. His customers like that and keep coming back.
2. Know thy customer and operate from his point of view
The second principle is about choosing to be attention-al. It pertains to the willingness and desire to pay attention to what matters to your customers. Its source is an external focus. How often have you walked out of a place of business shaking your head and thinking "they just don't get it." This all too common phenomenon occurs because the business isn't demonstrating that it "gets" what is important from the customer's viewpoint.
Consider the local dog grooming shop. Just to be clear, it's not a "doggie day spa." Like Sam's, it's a local business that's ensured the good grooming of the community's canines for over a decade. The two ladies who own and operate it have quite a following, in spite of competition from a local veterinary practice that offers a one-stop shopping experience: see the vet, groom your pet and pick up her fancy pet food at the same time. I think that's because they pay attention. They are attention-al. When an ice storm caused a delayed opening of the shop one Saturday morning, they called to apologize and to offer to open on Sunday because they knew I'd be travelling during the week. On another occasion, I happened to mention that I liked a particular fabric scarf on my Miss Noelle. The next time I brought her in for grooming, they not only tied the cute little scarf on her neck, but gave me two extras as replacements.
Now THAT'S paying attention, being attention-al. There are a million reasons why this can be a hassle. And they range from the practical "our process will have to be changed" to the ridiculous "we've always done it this way," etc. etc. Paying attention will give you the insight you need to ensure that the experience you create is relevant and valued. It is a constancy that pays off.
3. Know thy associate and engage him as your valued partner in the customer's experience
The third principle is about inclusion. It requires a focus that is both intentional and attention-al. Everyone who works for your organization IS the organization…from the customer's point of view. An associate who is in the dark, confused or indifferent will create a disconnect with your customer. Period. You cannot afford this.
This may require some serious rethinking. We are a long way from the days when hiring a person really meant hiring a pair of hands whose every minute you could orchestrate.
Tap, Train and Treat
How associates speak and act is an outcome of what they think and how they feel about you, the customer and the product or service you provide. When you become intentional in regard to your associates, you regard each as a potential ambassador of your organization. And so you are diligent and fastidious about three things:
- who you tap (choose to employ)
- how you train
- how you treat
Think about it. Your mission is to win the hearts and minds of these ambassadors-in-the-making. Anything less will show up in the customer's experience.
When you are attention-al, you are mindful of the associate's experience, of what enables him to perform splendidly and what gets in the way. You are aware of what makes him tick and what unique talent, skill or passion he brings.
Consider a major healthcare provider whose marketing materials boldly pronounce: "We focus on the important stuff: You." A newly-self-insured member calls and speaks with "Betty." Betty senses that this member is swirling in a sea of questions about options, plan coverage and limits. A five minute call turns into a 20 minute consultation. The member even apologizes for taking so much of Betty's time. Betty responds: "I am here for you, no matter how long it takes." Focusing on "the important stuff"? Indeed.
Betty's response is that of an associate-ambassador.
When you know who you are and what you have to offer, when you operate from the customer's point of view and engage your employees as partners, you set the foundation for delivering “as promised” customer experiences.
Start now. Ask yourself how well you have:
- Identified the clear and unique value you have to offer?
- Explored what your customers want?
- Identified and customized the communication skills needed to create "as promised" customer experiences?
- Partnered with and engaged your employees as Ambassadors of your promise?
- Identified what supports creating "as promised" customer experiences, and what systems, processes or procedures may be getting in the way?
Take the first step and get on the road to not just talking your promise, but walking it, too.
Jean Marie Johnson is 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.