Posted by Becky Carroll on May 4, 2007
Does a travel website compete with a bank? From a customer experience standpoint, yes, it does! I was asked to speak to a combination class of marketing and advertising students at University of California San Diego Extension this past Tuesday. My topic was customer-centric marketing and advertising, and we discussed how to market experiences rather than products.
As I said to the class, customers are more empowered than ever before. They have more choices in the marketplace. They are better informed via the internet and the amount of research they do before making buying decisions. They are collaborating both with each other as well as with organizations in many new ways.
They also have higher expectations than ever before. No longer are customers willing to settle for mediocre experiences. Every touch point at each organization, both B2B and B2C, creates an impression of that brand and its products and services that is colored by other touches at that organization, as well as touches at other organizations. I may be an executive for a large high tech company putting my servers out to bid, and my expectations are created not just through my business dealings but also by my experiences as a consumer.
I asked the class to share with me their worst and best experiences. The worst experience was for a travel website. The student, an enthusiastic marketer with experience in business, had booked a hotel using their services. When she arrived at her destination, she had major problems with the reservation, which had not been executed properly. She was very unhappy about her experience.
The best experience was shared by one of the professors whose wife also owns our local bakery, The Village Mill Bread Company in Carmel Valley (San Diego). The owners usually head to their local bank at certain times during the day to make sure they have the change they need. In this instance, it was during the Christmas holidays and they couldn’t break away to make it to the bank. Their banker, realizing they must be busy, got in the car and came to them at the bakery, money in hand. The owners were incredibly grateful for the assistance!
When I asked the student if she would use the travel website again, she said no, definitely not. When I asked the professor if he intends to stay with his bank, he gave me an emphatic YES and they bring free bread to the banker on a weekly basis as a thank you (and it is 6 months later!).
Having an experience like the one from the travel site is very disappointing, and it is not a surprise that their customer has left them from this one experience. Now, let’s focus on the positive experience. The professor has had wonderful customer service from this individual; hopefully, that same attitude permeates the rest of the bank’s employees! His expectations have now been set for excellent service. Although he may not expect every establishment he deals with to have that same level of service, the bar has been raised for what great customer service looks like. Subconsciously, he will be comparing other experiences to that one.
Your customers are comparing similar experiences as they deal with top-notch customer-focused organizations. What is your organization’s customer experience? Will it meet or exceed customer expectations? If you don’t know, go put two things into play.
1. Find out what your customers are expecting from you and from others. What do they consider great customer service? What would set one experience apart from another?
2. Do some detective work on your own organization. What does it feel like to be your customer? Either do some “mystery shopping” or bring someone in who can do it for you with an unbiased perspective. What happens when you call your own customer service? Where does that phone number really go that is listed in your marketing campaign? Are your websites directing customers to the right places?
Once you have done this legwork, you are ready to create the experiences you want your customers to have. This kind of planning will strengthen your brand as well as lay the foundation for building strong customer relationships.
Related post: Who Are You Competing With?
(Photo credit: Eraxion)