Why customer experience matters
Good customer experience is a given these days. Exceptional customer experience is the best competitive advantage a company can secure. In our previous articles, we offered an introduction to customer experience, we told you what to emphasize while developing a customer experience strategy and we also dived into the tricky world of digital CX. It’s time to extend the topic and provide examples of the most customer-centric companies, explaining exactly what sets them apart.
We know that it’s extremely hard to compete on products, services and price these days. This is why the best-performing businesses took it up a notch by focusing more on their customers and the things that matter most to them. Think about it this way: customer experience is positively correlated to the way people perceive the product or service you’re offering. In fact, most of the people value customer experience far more than the price. This virtually means that you can charge more if you know that you offer an unbeatable experience.
Moreover, customers remember the service, the experience and the interaction a lot longer than they remember the price. This is why great businesses see service not as an additional cost but more as a sales opportunity. Word-of-mouth is still one of the most powerful marketing channels so offering a positive experience results in happy customers that will be more inclined to turn into brand advocates in the future.
On the other hand, bad customer experience is extremely costly for any business. More than half of Americans have given up on a planned purchase because of bad customer service. 51% of customers will never do business with a company again after only one negative experience.
Yet you can always turn experiences that fall short of customer expectations to your advantage. Yes, people can be very demanding but they are also compassionate and understanding. If you adapt quickly and turn things around, they will be willing to give you a second chance. The key is to be willing to learn from your mistakes and to stay mindful of what your customers want and need.
What is a good customer experience?
Our friends at Hubspot summed things up pretty clearly: the way you think about customer experience has probably had a profound impact on how you look at your business as a whole. The impression you leave at the end of any kind of interaction with your prospects and clients leaves an important mark on how they perceive you and your products.
Fast delivery, convenience, irreproachable customer support and seamless communication are indispensable, yet not enough on their own. They are merely pieces of a puzzle that is yet to be completed. Customers always expect more and in order to deliver that, you need to always be mindful of what they really want.
It may be some kind of feeling they need you to recreate or unique interactions to put in place. It may imply integrating new technologies to make the processes easier and more intuitive. But above all, the constant is clear: you need to know exactly who you are addressing and draw your inspiration from the way those people live their life and shop for products and services. This is the key to delivering unforgettable experiences. The rest is left to your inspiration and imagination. You can also rely on the list of examples from B2C, B2B and retail that we have compiled, for some extra guidance and best practices within various industries.
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5 companies in B2C that have great customer experiences
Uber is one of the best case studies because it shows exactly what you need to do in order to provide an outstanding customer experience. People at Uber have identified all the pain points people faced while hailing a cab- and they eliminated them one by one. No more painstaking anticipation while waiting for your cab because you know exactly where your ride is at any time and how much it takes until it’s there.
Moreover, enabling ratings for both users and drivers is a way of ensuring that their services will always meet their clients’ and their partners’ expectations. Drivers only talk to you if you’re in the mood for conversations and some of them even offer you something sweet along the way. In-app credit card payment is also an advantage, given that fewer and fewer people carry cash on them.
Key takeaway: Knowing your market and what they deal with on a daily basis helps you innovate. Because innovation with a human focus is the trend nowadays, it’s worthwhile to take the time and listen to what your niche has to say.
Netflix is another example of a company disrupting an entire industry with amazing customer experience. They went from 21.5 million paid subscribers in 2011 to over 158 million paid memberships worldwide in 2019. If you also count the non-paying guests of those who have premium accounts, the number of people enjoying their streaming service, the number is much larger.
Personalization is the key feature of their movie and series selection. When you register, you are able to use the platform for free during the first month. After that time, you can choose one of the three membership plans (basic, standard or premium) or you can cancel your membership. The main advantage of video streaming platforms is that you can watch your favorite shows without being interrupted by commercial breaks. The possibility to download movies or episodes from your favorite series to watch later, when there is no internet connection is also a big plus.
The other advantage is related to the much wider range of productions they offer. Furthermore, when you create a profile on their platform you can choose the titles you like most so that their algorithm figures out what suggestions are the best fit. Suggestions improve as you watch and you will find yourself hooked on Netflix in no time. This is the real meaning behind their tagline: “See what’s next”.
Their online communication is also one of the reasons people are so fond of Netflix. They have dedicated Facebook and Twitter pages for each genre, as well as Instagram accounts for each Netflix original series. Bojack Horseman’s account, for example, is managed from the perspective of the main character, making it seem like you’re really interacting with him. They know how to create anticipation around their productions and they have built strong communities around them, communities that everyone wants to be a part of so that they don’t miss out on interesting, trending topics.
Key takeaway: Where basic needs, drivers of change and innovations intertwine, there’s the sweet spot. That’s what people need nowadays and it’s exactly what you should aim for. Moreover, when you find your recipe for success, make sure you communicate the benefits accordingly.
Moving on to more “tangible” experiences, it’s worth mentioning how far the staff at the Ritz-Carlton would go for their customers and their well-being. Notorious for its incredibly high standards, this hotel chain is the epitome of excellent customer experience. According to their website, the Ritz-Carlton is a place where the genuine care and comfort of our guests is our highest mission. They pledge to provide the finest personal service and facilities for our guests who will always enjoy a warm, relaxed, yet refined ambiance. The emphasis is on the personal part, obviously.
Their motto is “Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen”. They always offer a warm and sincere greeting upon their guests’ arrival. Furthermore, they use each guest’s name and they aim to anticipate and fulfill each of their needs. And make sure that they walk the talk. A story about their staff’s dedication has become viral. It is about a family staying in the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Bali, who brought special milk and eggs for their child who had numerous food allergies.
After they arrived, they noticed that the food had gone bad, so the Ritz-Carlton manager and dining staff searched the whole town for the appropriate items but without any positive results. Fortunately, the executive chef at the resort remembered a store in Singapore that sold them. He personally called his mother-in-law and asked her to buy them and bring them over by plane, which she did gladly, saving the situation and offering their guests an unforgettable experience. Sure, their services aren’t cheap but people know exactly what they are paying for.
Key takeaway: Such minor things, like listening to your customers’ problems, can make a big difference. The effort you put into solving their issues, however insignificant or great it may be, can be a powerful differentiator that will impact not only the customer experience but the perception of your business as a whole.
What about the mysterious “People Officer” from JetBlue? Airline companies are notorious for their generally bad services. Yet this is an inspiring story of a real people person. He can be seen handing out water and donuts to people waiting in line at the check-in counter, along with the other crew members. Then they went on to host trivia games during a flight and gave away free tickets to any of their 60 BlueCities to the winners.
The JetBlue team apparently goes above and beyond in order to satisfy their customers. Like when they did everything they could to return a simple pair of sunglasses to a client who left them on the plane. Empathy and cooperation are core values that trigger positive customer reactions. Something as simple as a glass of water may have been exactly what tired people in the queue were longing for. The thoughtfulness of the JetBlue staff clearly left a lasting impression on those pleasantly surprised clients.
Key takeaway: Stay original, regardless of the field you’re operating in. Always look for novel ways to delight your customers. This way, they will keep coming back to you and, more than that- they’ll enjoy doing business with you.
Last but not least, let’s talk about Disney and its extraordinary universe. It takes a lot to deliver the best customer experience to their guests. Young women who played Disney princesses at Disneyland revealed everything they went through in order to fulfill their dream of becoming their favorite characters.
When they audition, they don’t get to choose which princess they will play. If they want to play Cinderella but they are a better fit for Ariel or Belle, they will be cast as one of the latter. They have to be the right shape and the right size and they go through an extensive training period during which they learn everything about their character. They need to act like that specific princess at all times in order to offer children the most authentic experience.
Before being allowed to play their character, they spend some time as a “fur character”, such as Mickey, Minnie or Pluto just to get accustomed to the atmosphere. During their time as princesses, they should personally greet no less than 172 guests per hour and entertain them accordingly because this is what children want after all: to spend some quality time with the characters they love the most.
Key takeaway: Being detail-oriented is a must. If your business involves constant direct interaction with customers, make sure you offer them all the attention they deserve. Happy customers are engaged customers. And engaged customers, in turn, can turn into the most powerful brand advocates.
4 companies in B2B that offer the best customer experience
Buffer is a social media management tool for marketing teams and companies. But they don’t want to limit themselves to offering a super-useful tool for those who need it. They also want to earn a reputation for their customer-centric approach. This is why their customer support team is also called the “Happiness Team”. In their own words:
“We view every interaction that comes our way—every email, tweet, question, review, mention and more—as a true privilege. We know that it means someone took special time out of their day to think about us or get in touch with us. It’s a chance for us to have a conversation, to learn something we didn’t know before, to think about what we could do differently or better.”
Their main goal is to keep each and every one of these interactions special and as unique as possible. They have a reactive team (the Heroes and Warriors) as well as a proactive one, with the Community Champion sending out love to their customers all day long. They aim to build a real community around their service and they are actually pretty good at it. With quick responses, thoughtful messages and genuine interactions, they make sure they always do “the right thing”, which is staying true to their company’s DNA.
Key takeaway: Every bit of interaction counts. An omnichannel approach is beneficial, as it joins all the touchpoints between customers and brands, by offering an experience that is both unified and consistent, regardless of the customer journey they decide to take.
Hubspot is an inbound marketing, sales and services software provider. Its team knows it takes a lot to convince people to choose you over anyone else in the industry. Their solution? Providing potential customers or any interested parties with useful reports and information from the industry. They use content marketing to keep people as much as they can on their website and they always try to answer the most frequently asked questions from their field.
They always publish fresh content and adapt the old one for it to respond to the ever-changing realities within their field. They repurpose their content by transforming it into useful all-in-one guides, available for download. They do so because they understand that their audience only wants to make well-informed decisions. Therefore, they offer to educate this specific audience, thus establishing credibility and nurturing the bonds with each and every visitor. Their chatbot is also there, available at any time to help people better find what they are looking for.
They also offer free certification courses, which are especially interesting and useful for marketing professionals. What is more, they built an entire community on Facebook, counting over 200 000 people who visit the group regularly in order to find out more about various trends and have their questions asked by other trusted professionals.
Key takeaway: The content you provide can influence customers’ experiences in a positive way. Offering them relevant, up-to-date information in forms that are consistent with the way they consume content will help your business in the long run.
IBM started off as a company designing and producing personal computers. Nowadays, it does much more than just that. It offers cloud services, AI tools, business analytics, and data management software and much more. It also publishes the prestigious, award-winning Industrious quarterly publication, both in print and digitally. It features top content from the IBM Industries blog, as well as insights from various industry experts. The best thing about it is that it is available online for free at a time where most people still try to monetize their precious content. What’s more- they offer video trailers of every issue’s content, a feature particularly relevant for those who prefer other formats than the written one.
IBM senior vice president of digital sales and chief marketing officer Michelle Peluso explained where this approach originated from:
“Client and customer needs are changing at a very rapid pace. We want to make sure IBM is interacting with the people who use our systems, software and services—not just the person making the purchase decisions.”
This shows that awareness is not enough on its own, you have to constantly educate and delight your customers for them to keep doing business with you. By offering this type of content, not only do they keep their clients engaged but they also establish credibility and reinforce their position on the market.
They also assign a team of specialists to new customers to help them integrate IBM Cloud Storage into their existing processes. These experts train them by showing the best applications of the tool depending on the industry they’re in. They understood that informed customers are the most engaged ones and also the most likely to use their services in the future.
Key takeaway: Some industries are more technical, therefore they require some extra care for customers. Helping them understand exactly how your product or service helps them is a key factor in improving customer satisfaction.
FedEx is the second most trusted American B2B company. They take pride in connecting people and possibilities through their service. This cannot happen without an open, streamlined communication. They recently moved to a single customer-focused newsletter instead of multiple emails from various departments. They did so for multiple reasons, one of them being the need for more accurate and instantaneous information.
They prioritized relevance over frequency, therefore improving customer satisfaction. FedEx teams also work closely with all the external collaborators, keeping them updated and solving their issues as soon as they arise. They value customer feedback and are always open to suggestions, in a continuous attempt to set and improve customer experience best practices.
FedEx also took on social responsibility, pledging to help 50 million people by their 50th anniversary. This journey is showcased on social media, through the hashtag #fedexcares. Among others, they are using their global network to deliver resources where they are needed most in times of disaster and for special shipments. This may not directly impact their customers but they are a positive indicator of the value FedEx places on people. A brand that respects its mission and values is a brand that will satisfy customers’ needs.
Key takeaway: Working in silos is outdated. Your teams need to work closely towards one common goal: customer satisfaction. A unified team performs better than a decentralized one. Find strategies to express your brand’s values and DNA, letting people know you are customer-centric in your approach.
3 retail companies that offer great customer experience
It’s time to bring out the big guns. Amazon is known for being one of the most customer-centric companies ever. It started off as an online bookstore, aiming to enhance the process of discovery by offering a personalized experience. Now it is the biggest online retailers in the world and this shift wouldn’t have been possible without a genuine focus on customers’ interests and behavior. The more its portfolio expanded, the more integrated the business model had to become. Its customer success lays in the way its founder and engineers managed to remove friction from the online buying process while offering exceptional value in pricing and item choice.
Amazon is definitely a leader, a trend-setter, not a follower. When people feared the books would become obsolete, Amazon came up with Kindle, which is now credited with helping the digital book format to explode in popularity. When the business conquered new markets, Amazon streamlined the process by offering shoppers the possibility to browse the marketplace in their own language and pay in their own currency. They launched Alexa, their own AI virtual assistant in 2014 and the volume of vocal search queries has boomed ever since. They launched Amazon Key, a smart, keyless solution for home security, then tied it to their famous delivery process, which now offers users the option of in-home delivery.
The latest innovation proposed by Amazon is the launch of Amazon Go, a new kind of store, with no checkout required. Users can simply walk into the store, check-in with their app and then start taking items from the shelves as they go, without needing to stand in line at the checkout counter at the end. Ultimately, they will be charged through the app and their Amazon account.
Their powerful algorithm which predicts what each customer wants and then brings it upfront is one of the most appealing elements of its strategy, mostly because it fuels customers’ wish to buy more. Personalized recommendations based on shoppers’ previous purchase decisions are a big plus when you’re operating in the retail segment. One-click purchase options, fast worldwide delivery, an advanced package tracking system, their easy return policy and 24/7 customer service are other elements that keep users hooked and coming back on the website to shop for their favorite products.
Their premium membership program, Amazon Prime, is another customer success story, offering users free delivery within two days or even same-day delivery for customers in select areas. Premium members also receive exclusive deals and have access to Amazon’s entertainment platforms, offering audio and video streaming services, as well as options for gamers and Kindle readers. As of July 2019, 82% of US households have a Prime membership.
Key takeaway: Use technology to your advantage. Whether it comes to analytics tools that predict consumers’ behavior or to on-site elements, you have to know about all the latest innovations within your field. You may also benefit from reading some books on consumer behavior. We recommend “Decoding the New Consumer Mind: How and Why We Shop and Buy”, by Kit Yarrow for starters.
In a world where business leaders and marketing specialists rack their brains to eliminate all points of friction and tension from the customers’ experience, Ikea chooses to build on them instead. It may seem counterintuitive but it’s part of the Swedish company’s brand DNA. The fact that you have to go through all the labyrinthine store to find what you need, then to assemble the furniture pieces by yourself, at home, can both be important pain points but the way Ikea addresses them is the way that makes the difference.
Visiting Ikea requires customers to take an entire afternoon off in order to patiently wander around the store. The smart design of the aisles, showcasing exactly how the furniture would look in your home, is particularly appealing to customers, it’s the exact kind of experience they are seeking.
A visit to Ikea is not a thing to check off your list but rather a long-awaited experience, a calm afternoon culminating with a delicious meal at their famous restaurant. It sells more than high-value goods with a smart design: it sells the Swedish lifestyle. They place a high emphasis on functionality, bright colors, natural materials, light and the clever way of harmonizing them in order to make the most out of the available space. In turn, all these elements lead to a peaceful, quiet life, free of stress and anxiety- an ideal most of us aspire to.
Yet this doesn’t mean that Ikea doesn’t take into account its clients and their problems. The company’s mobile app allows users to browse through the online catalog, check for prices and availability of the desired products and make a shopping list to help them better orient through the stores. This is an extension of their already existing system, which offers customers shopping lists and pencils at the entrance for them to complete along their way and keep track of the desired objects. The Ikea Place app uses AR technology to help users figure out how the products would fit into their rooms before they even visit the stores, thus significantly decreasing the risk of buying objects that do not match their home environment and improve user experience.
From the standpoint of experiential retail, Ikea listens to its customers. In response to an online initiative demanding sleepovers at Ikea, “pajama parties” have been organized in Ikea stores worldwide since 2011. Selected participants received goody bags packed with sleep essentials and enjoyed the in-store sleepover with a yoga and meditation corner, breakfast in bed, and massages.
Key takeaway: Pain points are not always a bad thing. If you can’t completely eliminate them or if they are somehow a part of your identity, look for clever ways to use them to your advantage. This might be the starting point of a novel approach that will turn you into a trendsetter or a key player within your industry.
Le Bon Marché
Department stores are at risk all around Europe with the rise of online shopping. The best way to fight off this tendency is to reinvent the way these stores are doing business and it has a lot to do with experiential retail. As Patrice Wagner, chairman and CEO of Le Bon Marché Group, stated: “You have to give customers another reason beyond shopping to come to the store, such as an exhibition or collaboration.”
In 2018, they did just that by giving one of their stores in Paris a West Coast makeover with the opening of an LA-themed in-store exhibition. Celebrating the American lifestyle, they installed a skateboarding ramp, suspending from the ceiling, where skateboarders performed their best tricks. Following the trend of pop-up stores, they transformed their place into one of their own, showcasing American brands in food, fashion, beauty and home. They even opened their very first yoga studio and a temporary tattoo parlor.
In 2019, they inaugurated the “Greek Mais Chic” exhibition, which allowed customers to embark on unique 3D journeys, personalize their T-shirts with the sound of their own voice, design their own trainers or even a fragrance. Incorporating both AR and VR technologies, Le Bon Marché offered visitors the opportunity of interacting with the brands from their portfolio in an unprecedented, multi-sensorial way. All that in an attempt to revitalize a concept that has inspired French shoppers from the 19th century.
Key takeaway: When one door closes, another opens. Traditional, old-fashioned retail might be in a crisis nowadays in some regions around the world but this doesn’t mean that you’ll be hearing about the death of this business model anytime soon. Experiential retail is an important trend within this field, as it radically transforms the way customers interact with businesses. Look into your store’s design, into the kinds of experiences you can offer for an extra source of inspiration. The most relevant opportunities are right in front of you, patiently waiting for you to seize them.
What is a great customer experience? Here’s a quick recap:
- Solving for customers and designing the online and offline experiences according to their specific needs makes for great customer experience.
- Understanding why people feel the way they do about your business is crucial when you define and refine your strategy. It helps you deliver better customer experience and leave a more durable mark on them.
- Taking some time to write personal e-mails to your most important clients, crafting stories and engaging campaigns for your brand, improving the interaction across all the touchpoints and offering personalized discounts on special occasions are just a few examples. For the latter, Hubspot tells us the story of a pizza place in Boston which ran a special promo on Pi Day (March 14th, or 3.14): $3.14 pizzas for everybody. This must have been fun and attractive for math geeks around.
- Convenience, irreproachable customer support, fast delivery, which are essential pieces of the puzzle but not enough on their own.
- Flawless communication and an omnichannel approach, in order to delight more customers, regardless of their preferred channel or of their customer journey.
- Last but not least, giving people exactly what they want, right when they want it.
Business models may change but customers must remain the top priority of a company for it to stay profitable. As their priorities change, as newer trends and smarter technologies emerge, businesses need to accommodate these transformations faster than ever. Positive customer service experience is no longer enough: you need to be innovative in order to remain competitive, as the case studies above illustrate.