Customer Experience Is Your Competitive Advantage

exceptional customer experienceMy wife and I like to dine out and tend to frequent many of the same places. Since moving to Frisco, we’ve had to find a few new places to go and rebuild our “regular” status.

The first place we started visiting is Josephine’s and the second is Silver Fox. We liked the atmosphere, food, and wine selection at both locations and would visit each restaurant with about the same frequency.

Over time, I started to notice we were gravitating toward Silver Fox even though its price point is somewhat higher. After a longer than usual hiatus, we went back to Josephine’s only to find it was now closed. I don’t know what caused Josephine’s to close their doors, but I can tell you that customer service didn’t help them to stay open.

Was the customer service bad? Actually no, not at all. In fact, the service was quite good. But it wasn’t great, it wasn’t exceptional, and no matter how many times we went there, they didn’t remember us.

Conversely, at Silver Fox, they got to know us within a few visits. They know our table preference and are quickly learning our wine and meal preferences. And I can tell you with certainty that personalization is one of the reasons we started gravitating there more often, pulling our business and loyalty, away from Josephine’s.

But it’s not a tale of two restaurants we’re here to discuss. While Silver Fox is doing well, they can’t get complacent if they don’t want a competitor to come along and pull their customers away.

Businesses that don’t know their customers are going to struggle against those that do. And that means knowing customers on a more personal level if you want to create an exceptional customer experience that is one of your strategic differentiators.

There are few things more powerful at building trust than helping people connect to each other.

In the era of Big Data, it’s easy to collect information and even easier to get paralyzed trying to analyze it. Instead, let’s look at a few key things retail oriented businesses can do to build a competitive advantage through customer service.

Use A CRM

Data alone isn’t a customer experience solution, but it is a foundation you can’t do without. The problem with not using a CRM is that it’s much harder to gather data and generate reports. It also means that the only people who are really getting to know the customers are the fontline servers and associates that interact with them. And when those associates leave their job, knowledge of the customer goes with them.

Use Alerts

How do you know when a VIP is in your store, especially when you aren’t there? How do you know if there is a surge in sales or traffic? Alert systems can allow you to react in real-time to the events that are happening in your store or with your customers allowing you to make adjustments. If you had a system that knew who your VIP’s are, what their favorite wine is, that they have a dinner reservation, and you’re out of their favorite wine, which would also alert you in advance, you’re far more able to create a consistent experience and can avoid the stress associated with having to find alternatives on the fly.

Set Up Custom Reports

Reports go well beyond just the financials. Good reporting will help an owner or manager keep a pulse on what is happening with the business. Reports are an important part of how we bridge the gap between raw data and true business intelligence. Determine your key indicators and create reports to help you measure the metrics. By doing so, you’ll have a powerful tool that will not only help you improve your business but will allow you to see things you may have otherwise not even known.

Keep Context In Mind

The needs of your business and of your customers changes based on innumerable factors. Things like the time-of-day, weather and season can certainly lend to context, but when you and your employees really know your customers, (that CRM is coming in handy about now) you’ll also know about them and the things that change their context when they walk into your store. Going back to the restaurant example it’s not only good to know when a VIP walks in but whether they are with their spouse or a business associate. You might know if that VIP is celebrating a birthday or anniversary before they even walk in the door, even if they don’t tell you. Now there is an opportunity to create an exceptional customer experience!

Listen

There is no skill more fundamental to creating a great customer experience than listening. Many times, and in many ways, customers will tell you what they want or need without you even having to ask. Pay attention and train your employees what to listen for. And most of all, give them a system to keep track of it all!

Connect Your Customers To Each Other

There are few things more powerful at building trust than helping people connect to each other. In doing so, you’ll also be fostering a community around your business. Once you know your customers needs you will be able to help them, even when doing so points them to someone that has nothing to do with your business. Just remember, you won’t know who to connect if you haven’t been paying attention.

Learn To Anticipate Your Customers Needs

With the right tools, alerts, and reporting, you can learn to anticipate your customers needs, sometimes even before they know what they want or need. While getting this far into your customers head can border on creepy if you take it too far, it can also ingratiate you to your customers in a way few other aspects of your business can.

We all like to feel special, and be seen. And few things make us feel as validated as knowing we’re being paid attention to. Imagine what that can do for your business.

Paying attention to every customer can sound daunting but the right tools and processes make it not only possible, but quite practical. Creating that exceptional customer experience requires a shift in the way many businesses do business but to the victor goes the spoils.

What do you do to provide exceptional customer service as a differentiator for your business?