Your Customer's Experience is Your Marketing

By Lou Carbone

Founder & Chief Experience Officer, Experience Engineering, Minneapolis, MN From: Channel Marking Group, marking strategy that get results.

In this challenging economy, you must create a competitive advantage that is strong enough to attract and keep customers. You cannot afford not to deliver a high value customer experience that has been thought through and designed from a customer perspective. The best way to market anything - product or service - is with an experience so engaging that customers spread the word to other potential customers.

For example, Progressive Corporation, the Cleveland-based insurer, routinely sends its claim adjusters to the very site of the accident. Not only does this practice assure the policy holder on an emotional level, but in many cases the customer receives a check on the spot — helping to turn a negative event into a positive experience — and creating tremendous loyalty in the process.

Progressive, along with Experience Engineering, Inc., deliberately conceived and designed these interactions to be an experience. One woman commented, "I didn't used to be a customer of Progressive's until I got hit by someone who was!"  This reaction occurred so frequently that the company's claims adjusters now carry around application forms to hand out upon request. 

The point is the experience is the marketing. And the more strategy and thought that is given to it, the more value created for both the company and the customer. A number of organizations are applying experience management principles to strengthen customer preference and improve business outcomes.  Here is a brief overview of those principles: 

Determine how Haphazard or Managed your Experiences are
Customers always have an experience when they interact with a firm.  The question is do you systematically manage all aspects of the experience you deliver to evoke a distinct value perception, or simply hope for the best? Establishing a plan to manage customer experiences requires far more thought and planning than most companies now give, but it is the most valuable effort you can undertake to build and secure loyalty among your customers.

Become Clue Conscious
Throughout every interaction, customers consciously and unconsciously filter a barrage of "clues"  that your business emits.  They organize them  into a set of impressions -  positive, negative or neutral - that ultimately determine brand preference. Goods and services emit clues, as do your environments and employees.  Through managing the clues your business emits, you can design a composite of clues that resonates more consistently and authentically with your target audience.

Think Holistically
Managing the customer experience is not about making a few tweaks here and there. It means using "experience" as the organizing filter for everything you do, throughout all channels of your business. Get into the habit of viewing your company through your customer's eyes, and understanding what they want to feel when they do business with you. And then translate that insight to relevant clues in the experience. 

In a marketplace that's saturated with sameness, companies that rise to the top will invest in designing and managing more preferential customer experiences. 

Lewis P. Carbone is founder, president and chief experience officer of Minneapolis-based Experience Engineering, Inc., creator of the Total Experience Management methodology. Carbone will be presenting at the 2003 North American Electrical Sales and Marketing Conference in Baltimore, Maryland.  http://www.expeng.com/; 952-942-8880

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Mike Holt's Comment: I will never purchase any more products from Dell Computers or Best Buy.

Dell — They make an excellent product but in the past 10 months they have cut their technical support staff. My last experience was that I was on the phone with them for five (5) hours, only to be told, when I finally got someone to help me, to call "Monday." At this point, I decided to return my $3,000 laptop computer, only to be told by the "return person" that they could take care of me right away! Sorry Dell it's too late.

Best Buy — I purchased a laptop computer (returned the last one to Dell) for my new video recording of "Electrical Theory," but the S-video output created lines on the video recording equipment. We contacted technical support of the equipment manufacturer, but no matter what efforts we made, we could not get rid of the lines. I returned the product within 14 days to Best Buy and they refused to give me 100% of my money back. They keep 15% as a restocking fee. Their policy is that you only get 100% if there is a defect in the equipment. I explained the problem all the way up to the store manager, and he said that I had to get a letter from the computer manufacturer that the video output was not clear, knowing that there was no way a computer manufacturer would provide this info. Best Buy - Good by. [Best Buy Co., Inc. Ocoee #443, Sales Manager Razi Usman].

My experience with these two companies was terrible. One did not offer proper customer service and the other did not honor their return policy. Either way they lost me as a customer forever. I know this does not matter to them, but I'm sure I am not the only one treated this way.

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