customer experience is an investmentBy Laura Petrolino

Customer experience is something many organizations continue to struggle with.

They struggle to find ways to help team members at every level understand and execute upon the customer experience standards they wish to uphold.

Consistency is spotty, at best.

And translating the importance of building “relationships” with customers to team members who don’t have a vested interest in the company is challenging.

In many cases the source of this problem is a mighty case of short-term thinking.

But it can be resolved, or at least improved upon, by a change in perspective.

The Keys to a Customer’s Heart

The other day I was telling a friend about an amazing experience I had several months ago with a locksmith.

I had lost my keys at the gym (someone had actually picked mine up by mistake–for once my keys were not lost as a result of my absent-mindedness, woohoo!)

So there I was, stuck. No house keys, no car keys, no one in town with spares. NOTHING!

I desperately called around to locksmith after locksmith to find one who could help.

Finally, referred to a company that could do both car and house keys, I found my savior.

This particular locksmith, while servicing my area, was based about an hour a way. Being it was rather early in the morning, he hadn’t started his day yet, so he needed to drive the full hour to reach me.

I waited—patience not being a virtue—making small talk with the friendly gym staff (who obviously felt badly for my pathetic locked out self) and trying to do some work on my phone.

Finally my locksmith arrived. I ran out to tell him where to park and when I ran back in to grab my hat and, lo and behold, my keys had been returned!

So there I was, with a locksmith who had just driven an hour for a job that would potentially make him a lot of money, who I no longer needed.

Ok, I thought to myself…how can I talk my way out of this one so I don’t have to pay a fee for him coming (or at least I could keep it to a minimum)?

So I pulled out all the Petrolino charm and marched out there to explain the situation.

What happened next will surprise you…. (I just had to say that so I could feel like a headline to an Upworthy column.)

He didn’t charge me. He didn’t moan and groan.

Instead he told me how lucky I was and warned me that “you never need a spare key, until you need a spare key,” and that I really should have several made and distributed.

Customer Experience is a Long-Term Investment

Seeing my opportunity to at least pay this super amazing locksmith angel something, I asked if he could make me some spares.

Sure, I’d love to. How many would you like?

Five minutes later he hands me my spares. I pull out my credit card and he looked at me perplexed.

Oh no ma’am, we don’t charge for spare keys. Here you go, I hope I never have to help you again, but if I do, you have my number.

And he pointed to the little branded keychain my now new spare keys were attached to.

So let’s recap, shall we?

This man drove an hour to make me free spare keys.

Sure, he could have (very understandably) charged me. But he didn’t. Instead of focusing on the short-term reward, he focused on the long-term investment.

He didn’t make any money on this transaction, but when I needed a locksmith again last week, who do you think was the first person I called (and once again they provided exceptional service).

I am a customer for life.

I also posted positive reviews of him EVERYWHERE I could and have recommended him to at least a dozen people by now.

He thought in the long-term, and that’s not just crucial for an amazing customer experiences, it’s the only way to effectively grow a business.

Short-term Gain vs. Long-term Investment

To help your team understand how to best provide a valuable customer experience, you must help them understand the value of the long-term.

A long-term investment in customer experience is worth much more than the short-term gain of a quick sell or increased transaction rates.

Study after study backs this up and reinforces the fact a quality customer experience is in most cases the biggest differentiator between successful and unsuccessful organizations.

According to the authors of Leading on the Edge of Chaos: The 10 Critical Elements for Success in Volatile Times, a two percent increase in customer retention has the same effect as decreasing costs by 10 percent, and reducing your customer defection rate by five percent can increase your profitability by 25 to 125 percent.

For your team to understand the value of the long-term, both their goals, and your company goals, must reflect it.

In fact, the first place to look if you are having a customer experience problem is at the goals your are and your team are trying to reach.

Often a company will talk big about the importance of providing the best customer experience possible, while having goals that focus only on the short-term, such as call handle time for call centers or number of tickets served or completed in a certain time frame.

While looking at these metrics can be helpful to understand efficiency and how overall operations are going, they do not align with prioritizing customer experience.

By looking internally, realigning expectations and goals accordingly, and continuing to help your entire team understand both how and why to provide the best customer interactions possible, you can change your growth strategy to one of long term investment instead of short term gain.

Laura Petrolino

Laura Petrolino is chief marketing officer for Spin Sucks, an integrated marketing communications firm that provides strategic counsel and professional development for in-house and agency communications teams. She is a weekly contributor for their award-winning blog of the same name. Spin Sucks. Join the Spin Sucks   community.

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