Ever have a week where so many ridiculous things happen to you that you’ve just gotta laugh? Last week that was my week. We were in Florida, on an island in the Gulf. On Monday, I was teaching my daughter to drive a golf cart and we crashed it, making me the butt of one million jokes from my ridiculous husband. Later that day, we were at the beach swimming and I dove into a wave. Unfortunately, I forgot I was wearing my RayBan sunglasses at the time. Of course they were instantly gone forever. I was afraid to touch anything else for the rest of the day because we all know bad things happen in threes. What does all this have to do with great customer experience leading to more profitability? I’ll tell you.
The Best Customer Service – Ever
I’ve been a Zappos customer for a long time. I like them, I trust them and I love the fact that I can order something and if I don’t like it I don’t have to jump through a gazillion hoops in order to return it. This is especially helpful if you have a slight shoe addiction.
On Monday, I lost my favorite sunglasses. I’m at the beach. I need sunglasses. I could’ve hunted all over the island for someplace that sold them, but that would’ve cut into my happy hour. Priorities, people.
Instead, I logged onto Zappos at 4pm the day of my unfortunate wave diving incident, and ordered a replacement pair. As soon as I hit “buy” I realized I hadn’t selected expedited delivery (which was an extra $15-25) and thought that was a stupid move on my part. I can’t swim without wearing contacts, and if I’m wearing contacts, I really need sunglasses. Surely that’s worth an extra $25 right — I’m at the flipping beach, for pete’s sake. I immediately called Zappos’ customer service number to modify my purchase. The nice rep I got took just a minute to look up my account and said, “Well, Shelly, even though you didn’t order expedited delivery, you’re a VIP customer. We upgraded you as soon as we got the order, free of charge.” Free. Expedited. Delivery. Without asking for it. Without paying for it.
I asked when it would ship and he said that it would ship on Tuesday (since the order was received late in the day) and that it would arrive on Wednesday. Perfect.
The next morning – one day later — we got up and went out for a bike ride and breakfast. When we got back to the house at a little before Noon, there was a Zappos box on the front step. Ummmmm, that’s not only expedited delivery, it’s how did they make this happen so fast, ridiculously awesome delivery. If I weren’t already a Zappos’ customer for pretty much forever, this would’ve solidified it.
Great Deal vs. Better Customer Experience
Customers today are pretty predictable. We want what we want when we want it. I know there are plenty of shoppers out there who are all about the deal and I think that’s terrific. Personally, I’m less about finding a great deal and more about finding a great experience. If I can have some semblance of both, that’s awesome, but I’ll spend more for a better product and for a better customer experience every day of the week. I don’t think I’m alone on this – what about you?
Key to Success: Avoid Becoming a Commodity
Providing great customer service as a foundation of your business – no matter what you do – is really important. In our Internet of Things world, where anything and everything is available at the click of a button, it’s all to easy for what businesses do and sell to become a commodity. If there’s no point of differentiation between what you do and sell and what someone else does and sells, how or why should a customer buy from you? Providing spectacular customer service is a major point of differentiation and might be all you can do to avoid becoming a commodity.
In my Zappos example above, they already had my business. What they got as a result of their outstanding customer service resulted in me being even more of a committed customer and vocal brand advocate (who incidentally happens to have a pretty visible online footprint) than I was before. Before, I was just happy to be a customer. Now I want to tell everybody about WHY I’m a happy customer and make sure they know how awesome Zappos is. How valuable is that for business? How valuable would that be for your business?
Here’s another example. My neighborhood toy store sells a lot of toys. They sell some of the same things that Target does, but their prices are a few dollars higher here and there. But what I get at the neighborhood toy store is kids who work at the store day in and day out making recommendations based on their experiences as to what kids like and want and the real time feedback they get from customers. Add to that the fact that they giftwrap my purchases free of charge and why would I shop anywhere else? Add to that the fact that I can support a small, locally owned business and it’s a trifecta of goodness. If that’s not worth a couple bucks extra, I don’t know what is.
It Pays to Offer Superior Customer Experience
Today, whether you’re selling online or off, focusing on customer experience should be as important a part of your integrated marketing strategies as anything you’re doing with regard to search engine optimization, social, content, lead gen and the like. If you do all these other things without focusing on deliver a great customer experience, chances are good it won’t matter. Customer experience extends to your website, your mobile presence, what you’re doing in social media, what kind of content you’re creating and how it’s serving or benefitting your customers, what happens before the sale, during the sale and after the sale and what happens online as well as what happens offline. Customer experience is the whole enchilada and marketers today need to understand that the whole enchilada is what matters – not little pieces of it. They all have to work together. If you’re not focusing on this in every part of your business operation, there’s no time like the present to start.
Companies who outperform get this. This is a snippet from an infographic from the folks at VisionCentral, based on data from Forrester’s Customer Index:
Pay More for a Better Customer Experience?
I mentioned above that I’m more interested in better products and a better experience overall than I am in a great deal. I don’t have the time or energy needed to ferret out super awesome bargains and I’m not convinced that great bargains really are all that great. I’d much rather buy from companies I trust and where I get a great experience than the alternative.
Here’s another snippet from VisionCentral’s infographic on this topic (culled from what I consider very reliable sources), which shows I’m not alone on this front.
As you can see, focusing on customer experience makes a difference. That’s what makes a company like Zappos successful. That’s what makes my neighborhood toy store successful. And that’s what will ultimately help ensure that you and your company won’t become a commodity. The VisionCritical team has developed an ebook on this topic. I’ve not yet had a chance to read it, but I’m going to. If you’re interested, I’ll link it below.
Here’s a link to the full infographic if you want to check it out more:
Other resources on this topic:
Customer Relationship: Your Last Competitive Advantage [ebook]
9 Must Know Stats for the Customer Centric Marketer
Social CRM: customer-centricity and the need for redefinitions
Interesting VoC [Voice of the Customer] Derived Stats
This article has been originally published on LinkedIn.