By Joseph Michelli
If your customers think you deliver an “average” service experience, there is NO shortcut to getting them to become emotionally engaged, loyal, zealots of your brand.
Don’t get me wrong. A well-designed service improvement initiative MIGHT result in a temporary spike in satisfaction scores. However, it won’t produce sustained traffic or protracted revenue increases.
This may sound heretical to companies that produce customer service training programs instructing employees to “smile more when serving customers.” However, training in the absence of a comprehensive customer experience elevation strategy simply doesn’t work. Quite frankly, if you have to teach your people to smile as they engage in service – you’ve hired the wrong people.
In a recent Harvard Business Review Analytic Service study titled Making Customer-Centric Strategies Take Hold, it was noted that most companies engaged in customer-centric strategies have significant gaps which will assure the “implementation of these strategies is likely to falter. In the breakneck relay to drive the strategy from the boardroom to the cubicle, many organizations are dropping batons at every point from creating a meaningful vision to training employees.”
With regard to “dropped batons,” I noted in that article, “Every company must create an emotional deliverable that connects with customers and appeals to the hearts and minds of employees. For Starbucks, it is about creating uplifting moments. For Mercedes-Benz, it is about delight. And for Ritz-Carlton, it is about creating a caring home.”'...don’t confuse their product prowess with their experience delivery.' -@josephmichelliClick To Tweet
So for the purposes of this post, let’s look at what you can do to create emotional connections and set a course for exceptional customer experiences. For the sake of example, we can look to the transformative journey of Mercedes-Benz USA (a company for which I have consulted and about which I have written in my new book Driven to Delight: Delivering World-Class Customer Experiences the Mercedes-Benz Way).
Lest you think Mercedes-Benz isn’t a great example of a company that needed to go from average to loyalty-producing customer experiences, don’t confuse their product prowess with their experience delivery. Mercedes-Benz has long had “craveable” products and superior marketing; however, the dealership experience in the United States was, at best, mediocre. JD Power customer satisfaction ratings (across sales and service) consistently had Mercedes-Benz in the middle of the luxury category.
Thanks to the approach listed below, Mercedes-Benz climbed to the top tier of those rankings and eclipsed many customer engagement metrics as well. So here are their transformation highlights for your consideration and application:
1. Study Existing Customer Experience Leaders
You don’t have to go this journey alone. You can save yourself time and effort if you learn from the mistakes and effective efforts of others. Mercedes-Benz leaders studied The Ritz-Carlton, Zappos and many others outside their industry – striving to be a customer experience leader beyond their sector.
Leaders actively listened, suspended assumptions, and drove listening as a core competency throughout the organization. Then ultimately, they created an environment where customers are heard and understood in everyday interactions and where systematic listening to customer feedback guides process improvements.
3. Set and Track a Purposeful Destination for Your Journey
Mercedes-Benz leadership wanted to leave a legacy of transforming the company to “delight” customers. They encouraged team members to drive delight for every customer, every time, no excuses (whether those customers be colleagues or consumers). They also measured and incentivized excellence in the consistent delivery of delight.
4. Communicate the Victories and Setbacks
Leaders at Mercedes-Benz created a storytelling culture – where they shared customer experience victories both in-person and digitally. They acknowledged people for delighting others, as well as for improving processes, and implementing technology that made the lives of others better. Missed opportunities and failed execution were addressed head on, without recrimination, in order to learn and improve.
You may not be able to “microwave” customer experience excellence but you sure can bring it to a slow boil with a long-term, steady commitment to disciplined execution! Continued great success…
This article has been published in tandem with Joseph’s interview on the Crack the Customer Code podcast with Jeannie Walters and Adam Toporek. Want to hear more tips on how to transform your customer experience like the brands mentioned in this article? Listen here!