Delivering Great Customer Experiences

I was reminded this week of a quote from Gary Vaynerchuk: “I genuinely believe that any business can create a competitive advantage through giving outstanding customer care.” That excellent customer care contributes to business success is incredibly obvious, but Gary’s a smart guy so I thought about what he said for a minute: Gary came from small business, where service is everything. The insight is that the trick isn’t that winning business follows from great experiences, but that it’s really hard to actually provide great experiences. The businesses that undertake that challenge tend to succeed.

It’s well documented the ways in which the social Web, and specifically participation by a business in matters involving customers using social technology, can help build success. Courtney Seiter, writing for Buffer Social, outlines many of them along with Gary’s quote here. But the deeper question remains: how does one actually go about delivering the great experiences that translate into success (or at the least, facilitate success) on the social Web?

Customers engage both brands and each other in conversation before, during, and after a purchase: that means businesses have an obligation to respond, to be present, and to participate. And that participation goes well beyond marketing, and beyond customer care, too. Sure, advertising on Facebook — it is a media and advertising platform, after all — makes sense. On the care side, any brand that fails to respond to a request for help posted to its Twitter handle deserves what it gets. But the real opportunity to create great experiences is beyond both of these: the real game is in understanding and enabling your total community.

Your “total community” is the entire set of stakeholders that influence, enable, and support your brand, product, or service. It’s your customers, to be sure, but it’s also your employees, your supply chain, and the policy makers that impact your industry. That can be a lot to get your head around, so here’s a tip: start with your employees. The employees of an organization beyond marketing and customer care play a role in creating customer experience.

Here’s an example: I purchased a replacement pool pump last week, and had a very specific question about the replacement motor. I ended up speaking with the chief executive (CEO) of the company: it was late on a Friday and she answered the phone. I had also spoken earlier with the firm’s president. The amazing thing about smaller businesses is that each person has a job to do, and each person is also responsible for doing everything else that isn’t getting done right now. When the entire organization is involved and committed, great experiences are more likely to happen.

This matters, because customer experience matters. If my calls had gone to voicemail, I’d probably have purchased a similar replacement motor someplace else. But the service was so amazing — including a follow-up email from the CEO to ensure that I was completely satisfied — that the company is now my first choice. In a similar example, I’ve gotten follow-ups from the CEO of a German automotive specialist; that company has great online resources as well, with articles and tips from the many car enthusiasts who work for them as well as helpful content directly from customers. And larger brands, such a big tech companies, obviously at the other end of the spectrum, have programs in which internal experts — otherwise ordinary employees with process or technical knowledge in a specific area — have formal programs that connect these experts — again, outside of the direct path of marketing and customer care — with customers asking specific questions and looking for detailed or otherwise personalized answers. Connecting employees to customers makes business sense.

The takeaway is this: social media marketing and customer care are clear first steps, but to consistently deliver great customer experiences, to “create a competitive advantage,” as Gary V put it, you’ve got to get to the hard work of re-engineering your organization for collaborative interaction with customers. By connecting across your firm — by tapping your total community — you can go further and faster than you ever thought possible. It’s the power of customers, combined with the power of employees. Tap it.

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Overhead view of a row of four business people interviewing a young male applicant.