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4 Building Blocks of a Successful Customer Experience

Brian Cantor

This article, exclusive to Call Center IQ, draws on research from "Customer Experience Edge." Download the free, must-read e-book, courtesy CallCenterIQ and SAP, now!

The time for ignoring universal customer experience objectives has long passed. Yes, all companies will deal with customer issues specific to their industries and product groups, but when it comes to the overall experience, these customers are not going to significantly-taper their expectations based on a history of shortcomings in your industry. They are going to seek spectacular customer experiences comparable to those they receive from universal standouts like Apple and Zappos.

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Assembling such a universally-valuable customer experience, notably one that is as favorable to corporate accounting documents as it is to customers’ hearts, seems like a daunting task. Talking about concepts like a consistent customer experience is easy enough, but talk is cheap and certainly not an exhaustive predictor of execution. And when it comes to execution, the customer service wing of a company that handles confidential, highly-regulated medical records and financial documents has ample reason to doubt their ability to mirror the light-hearted service provided by return departments for shoe companies or social media openness exercised by gaming companies.

Make no mistake—those things matter. Customers breathe easy knowing they can have "human" conversations with certain brands on social media, and they love being granted no-hassle refunds from friendly call center agents.

But their overall experience, at the end of the day, is not dictated by the superficial elements specific to each company. It instead comes down to a more fundamental "pact" into which they feel they enter with any brand that sells them a product. Regardless of the icing on top, it is the delivery of the expectations laid out by the "pact" that truly dictates their satisfaction with the brand and likelihood of becoming a valuable, loyal, long-term customer. The "icing" is merely a signal of the company’s undying commitment to its customers.

The issues that really matter revolve around the quality and reliability of the products and the associated customer service. They involve a company’s commitment to justifying the value of its offerings (here’s looking at you, Netflix and BankofAmerica), while making purchasing from and interacting with the brand a rapid, easy, seamless process.

According to a Bloomberg Businessweek study, between 82% and 95% of surveyed executives recognize these sorts of issues as fundamental to the customer experience. And yet when it comes to actually delivering on these tenets, many consistently fall flat. It would be easy to blame industry restrictions or the lack of costly "flare" for poor customer satisfaction, but SAP points to Commerce Bank and Comcast, companies in sectors with questionable service reputations, as organizations that have made strides with customers simply by fulfilling their fundamental promises to customers and finding ways to add value.

In delivering on the promise to customers, all organizations—regardless of how open they can be on social media or how suitable an Apple or Zappos employee culture would be for their industry—can make significant strides towards fulfillment by adhering to four fundamental building blocks.

These "building blocks of trust," as described by "Customer Experience Edge" transform customer experience from a lofty goal or a fun, new project into the driving force for the organization.

Reliability: First impressions matter, but consistently-great impressions build customer loyalty. Organizations need to show that the standards and practices that created a great first experience were not a faèade and that they instead are ingrained in the organization’s culture. The offering, from product quality to delivery/shipping to returns, and everything in between, must be reliable.

Convenience: Everyone within an organization has an opinion about the preferred channels for dealing with customers. Whether due to logistics, cost concerns, CRM purposes or ease of response, certain channels make more sense than others for agents, customer service managers and the C-level. Unfortunately, there is only one channel opinion that matters—that of the customer. The objective for enabling customer communication is simple: facilitate convenient, effective interactions on the customers’ terms.

Responsiveness: Companies that truly care about customers know not only to respond but how to respond. In many cases, customers will not be impressed by generic responses or references to standard practices simply because the responses came quickly and clearly—they will be looking to see organizations think critically about customer issues and incorporate the feedback into business decisions. They want to see the products and accompanying services change in response to their demands.

Relevance: Product lines and service offerings should not be dictated by the interests of the executives or the trails blazed by market competitors but by the desires of the customer base. Each evolution of a product and change in customer service practices should be traceable to the audience itself; customers should feel the experience being offered to them is also being created for them.

For case study insights into how companies like Commerce Bank, Comcast, Cemex and more apply fundamental customer experience principles to achieve success, check out the free "Customer Experience Edge" ebook here at Call Center IQ.