I was incandescent with rage.
How can you “lose” a $3,000 watch?
I had bought a Breitling watch several years ago that I planned to keep as an investment but at a very low point in my life, out of work, I was forced to pawn a few of my possessions in order to raise cash for basics such as food and fuel so that I could keep looking for work.
I went to one of the best specialist lenders in the market and took out a six month loan against my watch.
Borro’s outstanding customer service
Six months later, I was horrified to discover that the watch had been sold by mistake.
Furious, I asked to speak to a senior manager and in walked Claire Barrington-Jones, the VP of client management.
Before I could say anything, she said, “Mr. Pereira, I’ve just been informed about your watch and I’m so, so sorry that this happened.
We have very rigorous controls but clearly something has gone badly wrong here. I can’t apologise enough – we’ve let ourselves down and it’s inexcusable”.
She then said, “What would you like me to do to make it up to you?
You will of course get back all the money you’ve paid plus all the interest and we can either try and find your watch, or we can find one almost exactly like it or if you’re not happy with either of those options, we will buy you a brand new watch.
It’s entirely up to you and I’m so sorry.”
Not only did Claire ensure that I got the full replacement value of the watch but she also gave me $1,500 towards a charity that I support called Kiva.
See what just happened?
- Claire realized that the company’s process had gone wrong and the company’s policy authorized her to take personal responsibility for resolving the issue. She didn’t blame anyone.
- She apologized unreservedly and gave me all the options I needed to fix the situation.
- She over delivered by donating a substantial amount to a charity of my choice.
Bad Customer Experiences Destroy Your Business
You picture yourself as the owner of an exciting, relevant business that everyone will love it and customers will soon be standing in line to buy from you.
You’ve invested in your brand, great design, website and people.
You have amazing products and services.
You’ve spent heavily on attracting traffic and social media loves you.
But over time, your customers stop buying from you.They see your offering, shrug, and say “meh” as they give their money to other, less worthy, companies.
What should really concern you about this is that all the customers who DON’T buy from you do so after going through one of four decision making patterns, even if they don’t realize they’re doing it:
- Some people love browsing through all available options (“I’m going to my favorite clothing store to see if they have anything new I like”),
- Others prefer to look at a maximum of three or four options (“I need new jeans. How quickly can I grab two pairs just like the ones I own?”)
- Some decisions are made on the spur of the moment (“Look—an ice cream shop! Should we stop for ice cream?”)
- Other purchases are carefully planned and researched (“Which neighborhood has the best schools?”).
This is happening to your business right now even if you THINK you provide a great shopping experience.
Let’s use a real life example of how a customer ends up being unhappy (and sharing her unhappiness) at different stages of the buying process:
- A critical problem needs to be solved
- Searching and evaluating
- Entry into your store (bricks and mortar or clicks)
- Buying Signals
- Post purchase
The Shopping Journey
Holly is a 35 year old mum with two children under ten.
She drives a three year old Range Rover that’s never given her any problems.
1. A Need Arises : An Urgent Problem:
The decision-making process starts with a need—a gap between the person’s current situation and their desired situation.
This morning, on a bitterly cold morning with temperatures below freezing, Holly’s car won’t start.
She now has a need for functional transportation.
2. Information Search and Evaluation of Alternatives:
Holly reviews the information she has calling her husband who advises her to look under the hood and test the battery.
She then calls her brother Jake, who’s knowledgeable about cars who advises her to call the mechanic who last worked on the car, or the dealership that sold them the car.
Whilst she waits for someone from the dealership to call her back, she also checks public information, such as Googling “my car won’t start.”
She now starts weighing up her options.
She talks to her husband and they consider obvious factors such as cost of various options, the benefits of each approach, and the urgency of their situation (is the car their only way to get to work, can they use the second car?).
Holly also considers not-so-obvious factors such as smells, sounds, and past experiences.
These subconscious factors are the part of the decision-making process most often ignored by sellers.
Holly then narrows down her top options:
1) buy a new battery at an auto parts store and having her husband or store install it,
2) take the car to their mechanic or
3) take it to the dealership.
She considers each choice, either consciously or unconsciously.
If she installs a battery without having the car checked for other possible problems, it might be a waste of money.
- The auto parts store plays a radio station Holly hates.
- The mechanic who last worked on their car stocks his waiting room with Vogue magazine, one she enjoys reading but can’t justify buying.
- The car dealership is all the way across town, and the salespeople there were rude once.
All these factors are involved in the buying decision, whether you as the seller (or your buyer) are aware of them or not.
3. Entry into Store (Web or Bricks, Staff Interaction)
Holly “enters the store” by making some kind of contact with a seller.
This time, it’s a phone call to the mechanic shop. (In other situations it could be driving to a store, visiting a website, or emailing the vendor).
Remember that even if the shopper has decided to buy from you, the sale is not yet certain.
The entry-into-store phase is the company’s opportunity to make (or miss) a connection with the prospective customer.
If you’ve built your business properly, the customer will feel valued and reassured by contact with you.
Your website will guide them quickly to the information they need.
Your staff will answer their phone call or email speedily.
If you haven’t built your presence properly, the customer doesn’t progress toward a sale.
They leave this contact frustrated and irritated.
Holly calls the mechanic’s shop again, but no one answers.
She tries again 30 minutes later and someone answers, but their tone of voice is clipped and irritated.
Holly, a little anxious now, asks about looking at the car but the mechanic gives as little information about the process as possible, forcing our customer to ask multiple questions to find out cost, the time involved, and openings in the shop’s schedule.
Although Holly had decided to bring the car to the mechanic, by the end of the phone call she’s changed her mind.
Unpleasant interactions with staff or websites keep people from buying.
4. Layout (Merchandising/Signage)
Holly now has no option but to use the family’s second car and she drives to the nearest auto parts store to buy a battery herself, instead of dealing with the unpleasant staff at the mechanic shop.
She walks into the store, determined to buy a battery—but the sale is not sure yet!
By now, she’s nervous, anxious and frustrated. It’s cold and she’s wasted two hours already.
She approaches the store entrance with trepidation.
Will the aisles be wide and easy to navigate?
Are departments clearly labeled or hard to find?
Is there a large sign hanging from the ceiling that says, “BATTERIES” in a bright color or will she have to wander through the entire store until they find the batteries in a back corner, gathering dust?
(It’s unlikely the store keeps batteries out front, but they could put a large, colorful informational poster about batteries at the counter—which is where battery shoppers need to go.)
Are store personnel easy to find and work with?
Do they smile and communicate that they are here to take care of shoppers, or is it clear they can’t wait to get off work?
Fortunately for Holly, the shop is well lit with helpful signage and staff cheerfully helping other customers.
After wandering around a bit to get a feel for the mood of the store, Holly approaches the sales desk—but the sale is still not sure!
Let’s look at the interaction between staff and Holly.
5. Buying Signals
Holly’s giving off strong buying signals now.
(If you’re selling online, check out what Glen Springer of Gabriel Sales shares about online buying signals.)
Holly looks right at the cashiers and smiles.
She even gets out her purse to be ready to pay.
Unfortunately, the two cashiers are in the middle of a conversation.
They ignore Holly for a couple of minutes, and she becomes increasingly irritated.
Finally, one cashier turns to our customer and says, “Did you need something?” in a condescending tone of voice.
Holly is no longer smiling or giving anyone eye contact—but she still needs to buy a car battery.
In a cold voice, our car owner explains that she needs a battery for her Range Rover.
The cashier, unused to a foreign car, goes to get assistance from a manager.
The cashier retrieves the battery and brings it to the counter but in the meantime, the second cashier does nothing throughout the transaction except watch Holly sullenly.
Money and the battery change hands and Holly leaves the store with the battery and a grumpy mood.
If the staff had done their actual job (building the business) instead of their supposed job (retrieving merchandise and collecting money), this interaction would have gone much differently.
There would have been eye contact and smiles on both sides, as well as polite concern for the shopper’s needs.
For online stores, the checkout interaction should flow smoothly along and require as few steps as possible.
7. Post Purchase
That evening, Holly and her husband install the battery and the car starts!
They have transportation again and the problem is solved.
However, the unpleasant interactions with the auto parts store and mechanic shop staff are still bothering them enough that they’re in the mood to complain to someone.
They might tell two or three people at work, or post negative comments about the companies on a couple of social media platforms.
These needlessly unpleasant interactions leave customers unhappy—right after they willingly bought from a company!
Things That Can Go Wrong
According to Why We Buy by Paco Underhill, founder of Envirosell, sellers miss opportunities to gain loyal customers by ignoring the subtle, almost hidden, factors that buyers use in making decisions.
Case study #1: Airlines suffer because of secrecy
Shoppers want to feel confident that they’re making good decisions when they buy.
Airlines have hidden, complicated algorithms to determine ticket prices.
It’s nearly impossible for shoppers to answer basic questions like:
How much is a fair price for my ticket?
Will the price go up or down tomorrow?
Should I buy online or through a travel agent?
When is the best time to buy?
Buyers are constantly second-guessing their decisions, which makes for a hesitant, nervous buyer and that hurts the industry’s profits.
Case study #2: Ignoring complaints means ignoring opportunities
According to Jay Baer, author of Youtility: Why Smart Marketing is About Help not Hype, 70% of companies ignore their customers’ complaints on Twitter—even though a response would make an astounding 83% of them happy customers again.
Can you think of an easier way to turn loud complaints into happy brand evangelists?
Case study #3: Sears loses its identity
Sears, Roebuck & Co. used to be a colossus in the retail industry.
People trusted the brand.
They knew what Sears sold and so did Sears.
But then it seemed like Sears forgot what it was (a retail store), because it 1) bought a financial-services firm and a real state agency and 2) sold brands and stores that were making money.
Companies need to do what they’re good at, and stay good at what they do.
To be truly and consistently successful, the greatest opportunities to create loyal customer relationships start with designing your customer experience long before your customer enters your business whether it’s a real or virtual storefront.
So how do you DESIGN your business to do that?
The Extraordinary Customer Journey
So why is your customer experience so important in creating loyalty?
- All our experiences are based on emotions we have and these experiences influence how we FEEL ABOUT OURSELVES.
- The experience belongs only to the individual person and they only exist within the context of the goals this person is trying to achieve and the activities they undertake to get them towards their goal.
- So any positive experiences that help us towards achieving our personal goals align us to the brand, company or individual who’s helping us on that journey.
- People remember powerful experiences, whether positive or negative and they use them to make decisions and create meaning for themselves.
- If you make your customers feel understood, safe, in control and reassured, they will feel positive about your company, your products and services.
- If you make them feel stupid, frustrated or angry, they will have strong negative feelings about your brand.
Before you take one more step toward starting the business that will change your life, you need to know:
• The typical customer journey.
- What initiates the buying process—every time?
- What’s the easiest way to build loyalty?
- What purchasing factors are most often ignored by companies and what can your business do to fill that gap (and shout about it)?
• Proven selling strategies.
- When do people not buy even when they like the product or service?
- What makes them hate a company—even right after they’ve bought from it?
- How can you recognize your customers’ “buying signals”?
• Real-world strategies you can use to grow your business.
- How have established, familiar companies gained customers?
- What can you learn from their stories that will help your business succeed?
- Are there subtle factors you can use to increase your sales—without changing any advertisements?
Creating an extraordinary customer experience requires that you consider how prospects think.
How to Make Things Go Right
Remember that you’re not only selling a product or service—you’re also selling a mood or environment.
When potential customers encounter your site or store, what do they feel?
That’s up to you; excellent customer experiences begin long before the customer buys from you.
1. Design for customers, not products/services.
Most new business owners start by thinking of how they can best promote what they’re selling.
Sales-focused thinking traps you inside your own mind, instead of your customers’ minds.
Let’s say you’re opening a used-book store. you want to fit as many books as possible into your small storefront.
You give customers places to sit down—on furniture salvaged from friends’ discards, which you think will give the shop a hipster feel.
Now let’s switch to the customer’s point of view:
Do book buyers want to shop in a crowded shop with narrow aisles and stacks of books looming over them?
Do they want to look at your shop’s couch and wonder if it’s clean enough to sit on?
No, they don’t.
Make the aisles wide and the shelves un-crowded.
You can keep the rest of the books in a storeroom, then say to your customers, “I’ve got something in the back that I think you will really love. I’ll be right back”.
The used-book store that designs their store with the customer’s shopping experience in mind just might avoid becoming yet another failed used-book store.
2. Build experiences of shared trust.
Your company needs to create a place your customers trust.
In The Nordstrom Way to Customer Service Excellence, author (and retail-leadership instructor at the University of Washington’s business school) Robert Spector reports that Nordstrom doesn’t have a detailed returns policy.
Instead, new Nordstrom employees are taught to “use good judgment in all situations” and that “if you’re going to make a mistake, let’s make sure you make it in the customer’s favor.”
Do customers trust Nordstrom and want to not only shop there but tell their friends to shop there? You bet they do.
The easiest way to build loyalty is by building a relationship. Create a sense of community—even family and customers will forgive your mistakes and promote you to their friends.
Of course, building that community means being transparent and owning up to mistakes.
3. Color the experience.
Your brand’s colors instantly create emotion, so use them wisely.
Yellow and purple feel playful.
Gold and black feel elegant and luxurious.
Blue and green feel sensible and cost-effective.
Tuscan colors feel sociable and relaxed.
Apple has long used color as a way to stay in front of market trends.
When competitors are minimalist, Apple unveils colorful products.
When the market catches up with the colors, Apple swings to muted elegance.
Color is mood. Color is brand. For Apple, color is soul.
The same principles apply to other sensory details, such as smells (your grocery store put the bakery near the front door so you can smell the bread baking), touch (have you ever bought clothes online, only to find you hated how they felt when they arrived?
Your local mall couldn’t be happier about customers’ need to touch before they buy), and sound (high-end jewelry sells better if classical music is playing).
4. Create joy.
We humans love the anticipation of owning something new, and we are more motivated when we expect to gain a good thing than to avoid a bad thing.
Fill your shop (brick-and-mortar or online) with messages that support joy and positive thinking instead of doomsday avoidance messages.
Have you noticed how often Zappos.com uses exclamation marks in their site messages? They use them often! They’re excited about their merchandise, and they know you will be, too!
Life is exciting at Zappos, and customers pick up on that.
5. Sow a little; reap a lot.
Customers know you’re in business to make a profit.
When you give them even a small bit of proof that your people haven’t abandoned their humanity in the name of greed, they remember and they tell people.
Let’s imagine that a customer contacts you because their purchase has arrived broken and they’d like a replacement.
Is your response, “sorry, our policy is no returns or exchanges” or is it, “I’ve already refunded your money and your replacement product will ship tomorrow. Please let us know how it arrives”?
Disney theme parks make their money off their rides, shows, and other entertainment.
But they have created an enduring brand and won visitors’ loyalty by offering cleaner grounds and friendlier staff than other carnivals and parks.
As an entrepreneur, you can learn from others’ mistakes (and successes) to create a solid, thriving business that understands their customers’ needs throughout the entire buying process—and wins their loyalty.
Creating repeatable excellent customer experiences is no accident; it requires dedicated planning, a little ingenuity, and a clear vision of the kind of company you want to create.
How will you help them to create new possibilities to reduce the efforts they’re making to reach their objectives?
For example, in my travel business that targeted wealthy middle aged customers, I emphasized how they could travel to exotic destinations but also have the medical, safety and health resources always close at hand.
Almost all of them relate to how they FEEL and how you can make them feel good about themselves.
Every one of your customers MUST feel that signing up to your brand is one of the best choices they ever made.
And don’t stop there.
When you’ve found twenty ways to delight them, find another twenty.
And keep going.