Photo courtesy of iStockphoto.com/maxkabakov
During a recent trip out of town I stayed at a Holiday Inn near my client’s facility. Upon arrival, I quickly noted that the young lady working behind the counter was not Janet. You see, I’d grown accustomed to Janet’s friendly demeanor, her upbeat personality, and her ability to always surprise me with something that would make my stay more enjoyable.
I would not have been so concerned, except a month earlier I’d had the misfortune of dealing with John, the front desk manager. It was only after several stays at the hotel that, on one unusually busy day, John checked me in. It was evident from the moment we met that John wasn’t as efficient or friendly as Janet. He fumbled around for paper, a stapler, and wasn’t sure what time breakfast was served. Fortunately Janet came to his rescue, finding my profile for John and shooting me a warm and welcoming smile. Janet salvaged my confidence, and kept me coming back as a repeat customer.
My five-hour journey had left me little energy to deal with another “John incident,” and as my concern for a quick and efficient check-in mounted, I couldn’t help but notice that I was measuring the new attendants service levels against those that Janet typically provided. Was she going to offer me a room upgrade? Was she concerned that I didn’t have my license plate number memorized? After a prompt check-in with great service, I was off to my room thinking that Janet had some new competition.
Why do we choose to revisit the same establishments repeatedly? We visit the same coffee shop each morning before heading to work; we have our car serviced at the same service center; we buy groceries at the same grocery store; we frequent the same restaurants. You might argue that we are creatures of habit, and to a certain extent that would be true, but the predominant reason we return to these establishments is for the consistency and predictability of the experience.
[Tweet “We seek-out service experiences that are both satisfying and predictably consistent, allowing us to plan those experiences into our day.”]
It is for this very reason that first impressions don’t matter nearly as much as ensuring consistently predictable customer experiences. Think of how upsetting or shocking it is when you have to find a new hair stylist or garage because an unusual experience has happened, prompting you to make a change.
Making a good first impression is important, but the impact on lost revenue from customer conversion is not nearly as crucial to business longevity as the revenue lost when long-term customer evangelists depart. Loss of “predicted” revenue is not as damaging as “planned” revenue.
Fortunately, creating a consistent customer experience isn’t difficult if we invest as much focus on our customer retention practices as we do on customer attraction. We can’t all be as good as Amazon at creating these type of repeatable and predictable experiences, but let’s look at some of the practices of companies who have mastered this art.
Mine the right data
Focusing on leads and new prospective customers is critical if you want to predict business and revenue growth, but what about understanding the desires, habits, and preferences of existing customers? Segmenting and analyzing customer information is crucial to understanding the characteristics of repeat customers. It provides the fuel to formulate consistently memorable customer experiences that are repeatable and valuable.
Make it personal
In this day of social media and twittering about, it’s not difficult to loose sight of the value of personalized service. You or your employees may know the names of customers who return frequently, but how often do you refer to newer customers by first or last name? As I’ve gotten older I find that my tolerance for service-oriented companies that treat me like an invoice number has diminished. If however you refer to me by name, then you have my attention. My clients are finding this as well. The faster they can personalize service, the faster they increase customer satisfaction, retention and referrals. Get to know your customers on a personal level.
Value is in the eye of the customer
If I asked you what you expected in terms of service each time you entered a restaurant, I would guess that at least a few of the items on your list would differ from mine. Herein lies the secret to creating powerful and repeatable customer experiences. Value is in the eye of the beholder. If you understand your customer demographic, and you engage in personalized dialogue with customers, then you are better positioned to understand what it is that your customers truly value. There is no better ingredient for ensuring repeat customers than providing unique and continuous value.
Questions: Is your customers experience highly valuable and consistently repeatable, or is there a possibility that your customers may experience a less than satisfying long-term relationship with your company? How can you create more customer evangelists that promote the power and value of your company?
© Shawn Casemore 2014. All rights reserved.