When you think of “winning brands”, which companies come to your mind?
Zappos? Chick-fil-A? Ritz-Carlton hotels?
Each of these brands are successful household names with an enviable reputation and millions of devoted customers. But what does a shoe retailer, an upscale hotel chain, a fast food restaurant have in common? Despite their differing products, services and target markets, all of these companies maintain a dedicated focus on continually improving the customer experience.
“But shouldn’t my primary focus be on the product or service I provide to my customers?” you might ask.
Yes. But as Horst Schulze, former President and COO of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company reminds us, “Service is your product.”
Let’s look at 3 reasons why businesses such as Zappos, Chick-Fil-A and Ritz-Carlton Hotels put such a major focus on customer experience and discuss how you can apply some of their winning brand strategies in your own business.
1) Focusing on Customer Experience Distinguishes You From Your Competitors
How many other companies offer a product or service like yours? Both Chick-Fil-A and McDonald’s offer fast food chicken but ask a devoted customer of Chick-Fil-A if they’d be willing to get their lunch at McDonald’s if you gave them a 50% coupon and the answer would be a resounding no. Why do so many people shop at Target when they can get many of the same products at Walmart for a cheaper price? Why do they stay at the Ritz-Carlton when they could find a cheaper hotel room on Expedia?
The answer, of course, is because these brands offer a superior customer experience.
Chick-Fil-A, who was recently voted as having the best customer service in America for any fast food chain according to a recent survey (1), makes more profit per restaurant than McDonald’s, Starbucks and Subway combined…and it’s closed on Sundays.(2)
Chick-Fil-A has built a reputation for delivering fast, friendly service and being exceedingly polite to customers no matter how many kinds of nugget sauce they request. Their customers feel that they are valued by Truett and his employees, because they are.
“The word ‘restaurant’ means place of restoration”, Chick-Fil-A’s founder Cathy S. Truett says, “And we think of Chick-fil-A as an oasis where people can be restored. We strive to treat people better than the place down the street. One way we do that is by remembering that we’re all people with a lot of emotional things going on that don’t necessarily show on the surface, so we try to offer amenities and kindness that minister to the heart.”
Wow! Who wouldn’t want to do business with a company like that?
What are some ways you can make your customers feel more valued?
- Sincerely thank them for their business. Include a handwritten thank-you note with every order or add another personal touch.
- Send them a personalized card with a little note letting them know how much their business means to you for their birthday, anniversary, holiday or other special occasions.
- Engage them in conversation. Customers love to be remembered by name.
- Be mindful of your language. Chick-Fil-A understands that an enthusiastic “My pleasure!” is more polite than an off-handed “No problem”.
2) Focusing on Customer Experience is Good For Your Bottom Line
According to Forbes (3), it costs 5x as much to attract a new customer than to nurture an existing customer. If a company can increase their customer retention rates by just 5%, it can increase profits by 25% to 95%! Current customers also spend 67% more on average than those who are new to your business. (4)
It’s important to understand that merely providing a satisfactory transactional experience with customers isn’t enough to keep them coming back.
Just because someone might never have had a negative experience with you doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve made a memorable positive impact. They may feel neutral toward you, or even like you- but to enjoy the kind of obsessive fan loyalty Chick-fil-A has, you have to make your customers love you.
Marketing author Seth Godin reminds us, “People do not buy goods and services. They buy relations, stories and magic.” When you show love to your customers by nurturing a relationship with them and creating unexpected moments of magic as they travel along the customer journey, you’ll make it easier for them to love you back.
You already love your customers. How can you make them love you back?
- Value their feedback. Implement customer listening tools such as surveys and make it a point to ask your customers to leave online reviews. When you receive feedback, thank your customers for taking the time to share their opinions and suggestions. Where appropriate, implement your customers’ ideas for making their journey with you easier, better and more delightful.
- Empower your employees to add “magic”. For example, all Zappos customer service representatives have the authority to “WOW” customers by offering refunds, paying for damages, etc.(5)
- Personalize the customer experience. When you communicate with your customers, make sure your messages are reaching your target customers at the right time in the right way and on the right channel for them. The next point will explain why this is so important.
3) Focusing on Customer Experience is More Critical Than Ever Because of Social Media
With so many customers using the Internet to share their feelings about a brand, giving customers a reason to be excited about their customer experience with you has never been more important. Happy customers become brand advocates who enthusiastically promote your brand within their circles of influence. According to a recent study (6), 63% of consumers are willing to share more information about a company that offers a great experience.
Disappointed customers are also quick to share their negative experiences with a business online and when doing so, they expect prompt action. According to Hubspot (7), 80% of customers expect companies to respond to their social media posts within 24 hours. In fact, 50% of customers claim they would cease business with a company that fails to respond to a negative social media post.
Of course, how you respond to a negative post makes all the difference. Consider this example from Fast Company (8) of a business who saw a negative comment from a customer as an opportunity to surprise and delight:
“While dining at the Mexican fast food chain Boloco, a customer sent out a tweet complaining that the music was too loud.” Boloco, which operates 22 locations in New England, prides itself on responding to all feedback within 24 hours. This time, they set a record.
“We saw the tweet right away, called the restaurant and told the staff to turn down the music,” says Allison Doyle, director of marketing for Boloco. “We also described what the woman looked like from her Twitter picture and had the staff deliver a cookie to her. Then we retweeted her tweet, adding the word ‘done.’ She was floored.”
Of course, this kind of quick reaction time requires that a business has a “social media listening” strategy; a way of monitoring the social media channels its customers are using and being notified quickly of new comments. If your business could use some help creating such a strategy, PHOS would be happy to share our expertise with you!
It’s easy to see why putting your focus on customer experience is great for both your brand and your customer. Choosing to anticipate your customers’ needs, making them feel valued and responding promptly to their feedback creates customer loyalty and positive word of mouth that grows your business very quickly.
As an agency, PHOS is focused on YOU! How can we help you communicate to your customers that you are focused on them?