Susie Pecuch created Design the Customer Conversation to help companies, organizations and brands strengthen their bottom line by getting their customers to do the marketing for them.
Susie’s clients represent a variety of industries and world-class brands including: Disney, NIKE, Singapore Airlines, NYU Clinical Cancer Center, IHM Business School – Stockholm Sweden, Achieva Credit Union and The Leading Hotels of the World.
Susie and I had a conversation about her business offering and its value to her clients:
- Why is a successful customer experience so important for a company or brand?
The reason is simple and powerful. It’s about getting the customer to do your marketing for you. Think of a customer recommendation as your marketing department. When maki
ng any purchase, people are more likely to believe a friend or family member’s recommendation. Word of mouth marketing can have a greater impact on the bottom line than many of your marketing strategies and the customer experience is the deciding factor in that recommendation!
- What is it about today’s business environment that makes the customer experience even more valuable?
In the old way of doing business, if people were unhappy they would tell 20 people. Today, they can instantly tell 1,000 people and they do so without reluctance or hesitation. Jeff Bezos of Amazon suggests that an unhappy customer can tell 6,000 people on the Internet in an instant. Many companies need help to stop the bleeding when bad ratings, negative reviews and a compromised reputation are staring them in the face. We can help them before there is a crisis.
On the positive side, a great customer experience can be the determining factor in getting a sale. Today people have more options, higher expectations and they will desert a brand over a bad experience quicker, and frankly, may never return and take their friends and neighbors with them. The Net Promoter Research Study proved that the most important question on a customer survey was the one question that could predict financial growth and success and that is “Will you recommend us?”
- What are the elements of a positive customer experience?
First, you must know who you are as a brand and what you want your customers to say about you – whether it’s your product, your expertise or the service. What is it that makes you unique?
Second, you must stand in the customer’s shoes and see what they value, want and need.
Third , you must be aware of the customer’s emotional state when they are interacting with you. Are they in a hurry, excited, nervous or worried? Not being aware of emotion is one of the biggest mistake service providers make. It is very different serving a guest at Disney compared to a patient at the Cancer Center! I like to picture an airport, where you have many people in very different emotional states. They may fear flying, or be thrilled to be on vacation. They may be nervous about a business meeting or worried about missing a wedding or an important event because of a flight delay. Each customer is unique – at each moment in time and emotions usually run the show! Ignoring emotion is one of the biggest mistakes you can make.
And fourth – what are their expectations? If you don’t at LEAST meet their expectations you are in trouble. If you exceed them, then you begin to create that word of mouth marketing! Are you giving people something that makes them walk away and say, “Wow – that was way better than I expected it to be?”
- So where do you start?
How about starting with, “you never get a second chance to make a first impression,” but taking it to a new level! When I worked at Disney the Imagineers who designed the park taught us that you get three chances to make a great first impression! You have three chances to catch their attention with something unexpected, surprising or something extra helpful! You might see a princess when your check in, or they know your name, or maybe they hand you your key to your room with no line and your bags are already there. What are the first three impressions that your customer gets as they approach and walk into your business? Are they saying WOW before they even begin the transaction? It’s a great opportunity point!
- Does the customer experience differ across different industries and how?
Yes and no are the answers.
I’d say yes because each customer experience is unique – from B2B companies to brick and mortar stores to virtual or digital interactions. And different industries have unique products, services and a unique brand. Disney is magic, family and fantasy; while Six Flags (where I also worked) is thrilling, intense and fun and at NIKE, it’s all about “Just Do It” and winning!
And I say no because regardless of your brand and whether it’s B2B, virtual or in person, there is still a journey. The journey starts when a customer enters your lobby, starts using your app or searching your website. There’s a beginning, middle and end to the experience. And that is the same, whether they are in person or going to your website — they are never just statistics coming in the door or an opportunity to get more hits to your site! Each person is unique as a person and at each moment. Each person is a special guest and we must remember that they are human! Sometimes we forget that business is grounded in emotion.
- What companies or types of companies are using a strong customer experience to their competitive advantage?
Companies that are consistently good include the following — Disney: It is in their DNA and they want to top themselves every time. NIKE: I was with Nike Retail and our team opened NikeTowns and factory stores worldwide. NIKE is very competitive and they knew that bringing their brand to life in each store was essential to business success.
Also, Southwest Airlines, Amazon, Apple and Publix Grocery Stores are all are faithful to their brand promise. I love Publix. They come up consistently as a model customer experience because they are a family, local business devoted to service and selection. Achieva Credit Union is a great client on the west coast of Florida that stands out in the financial industry. They are committed to a great experience as their competitive edge. They care about their members and understand that they make a difference in peoples’ lives.
- How do companies or brands come up short with the customer experience strategies and what can they do to improve them?
First, they don’t live their brand so they are not unique – they don’t stand out. Second, they forget to stand in their customer ‘s shoes. They don’t walk out the door and see how it looks coming in. Is it beautiful, is it a mess or it is confusing? A recent study revealed that 80% of organizations think their customer service is good, and 8% of their customers actually agree. Gulp! And third, I guarantee that the organizations that are poor at customer service do not train and developing their employees. They don’t want to invest the money. They often say that employees who are part-time or seasonal are not worth training. So, their customer experience becomes a disaster with 6,000 people talking negatively about them in an instant. So how much money did they really save?
- What do you really love about what you do?
I love helping clients improve their bottom line and be successful. But even more, I love making a difference in how our clients treat their guests and customers and change lives.
It is rewarding to help the cancer center really care about their customer, who may be having a rough day. It’s wonderful to see a credit union help their members meet their life goals and dreams. It’s special to see a family create a memory of a lifetime on their Disney vacation.
It is simple yet powerful; when you make someone’s life easier or more enjoyable, it makes your business successful. And, most importantly, it makes a difference in the world.
Thanks, Susie for these valuable insights and ideas.
How are you assuring or improving your customer conversation and satisfaction?
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