World Class Companies Create Compelling Customer Experiences

One of my colleagues recently asked for feedback about "world class selling." He was asking about it from the vantage point of the sales process rather than the customer, a vantage point that tends to turn me off rather than on.

World class companies focus on the customer and do what they have to to create a world class experience at every customer touch point. Think about it: what would happen if you had the greatest sales process ever but everything that occurred after that was dreadful? Would it leave customers wanting to come back for more? Of course not.

World class selling is enabled by providing a world class customer experience that makes customers want to come back for more. Sales is but one piece of the puzzle. There has to be superb execution with great customer focus not only during the selling process but also during:

• Ordering

• Order fulfillment

• Delivery

• Post-purchase user experience

• Post-purchase customer support

A world class company does a superb job in all of these areas, not just one or more.

What major business entities are well-known for creating world class customer experiences? Here's my short list (with apologies for any companies I may have overlooked):

• FedEx

• Amazon.com; Zappos (owned by Amazon.com)

• Ritz Carlton, Four Seasons

• Singapore Air; Virgin Airlines Upper Class

• Disneyland and Disneyworld

FedEx has a very impressive 99.9% on-time delivery rate. "When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight," I ship FedEx. Yet, even as impressive as 99.9% is, in real numbers, it means about 7,500 customers a day experience disappointments in FedEx service: a mortgage check doesn't arrive on time, a wedding dress is late, someone's cremation ashes are delayed, etc.

I only know of one incident where my FedEx shipment didn't arrive on time: a FedEx jet crashed and burned in Tallahassee, Florida back in 2002—it had a check on-board destined for one of my employees. Fortunately, no one onboard the 727 was killed.

It is expensive to acquire a first-time customer. It is far better to understand the potential lifetime value of a customer and focus your attention not on the first sale but the fifth sale. How do you do that?

You provide a world class experience through every customer touch point. For the vast majority of companies in the world, achieving this would be tantamount to true innovation.

If your company is hearing repeated dissatisfaction with customer touch points and you do nothing to correct the gap or deficiency, what does that say to the customer? It says, "We don't care." It doesn't take a Ph.D. to understand that the perception of "we don't care" doesn't bode well for a long-term relationship. Treat me with indifference and you are easily replaced in my lineup of potential suppliers.

Customer loyalty is earned on the basis each customer experience, not on the basis of reward programs. The companies that continually meet or exceed my expectations can expect to have me as a customer for a very long time. If I have a long-term, favorable view of a company and something goes awry, I'm more likely to look the other way.

However, if I have limited experience or have been preconditioned by the buzz in the marketplace that something might go wrong, I'm going to be a lot less forgiving, particularly if there are alternatives to doing business with your company that are readily available to me.

Dave Gardner is a management consultant, speaker and blogger who resides in Silicon Valley. His firm helps clients eliminate business execution issues that threaten profitable and sustainable growth. He can be reached through his website at www.gardnerandassoc.com or via Twitter @Gardner_Dave

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