Profit from Experience


Communications and Experiences Drive Behavior

Your best strategy, planning and marketing communications don't mean anything unless they do one of two things: create a specific perception,
or drive a specific behavior.

The rest is just noise.

Customer Experience Myth: customers leave because of your product

Customer Experience Myth #2: Customers leave because of your product or service

Happy New Year! As we head into a new year, I wanted to give you the second misconception many business owners have about customer perception and behavior. Many believe customers leave due to some issue with the product or service you provide.


According to a study by the American Society for Quality, the number one reason for low customer satisfaction is “employee indifference.” That’s right, not product quality, not service level. Employee indifference.

It’s interesting and maybe surprising that something as neutral sounding as “indifference” can drive customer behavior. Indifference isn’t “rudeness” or “hostility.” Indifference is more about lack of caring, one way or another. 

But think about it as a customer. When have you felt a sense of low satisfaction when dealing with a business? If a product was flawed and you called customer service, and a bright happy representative helped you resolve your problem, you probably felt pretty good about that company. If, on the other hand, you encountered someone who was “going through the motions,” saying what was clearly just part of a script, how did it leave you feeling?

Low Employee Engagement Equals Low Customer Satisfaction 

I’ve made this challenge and have yet to hear a good example: name a company that has low levels of employee engagement, yet has high customer satisfaction. When great “customer-focused” companies are named – Zappos, Apple, Southwest Airlines – part of the “greatness” includes the incredible engagement of the employees. Engaged doesn’t just mean chipper and cheerful. It describes employees who give a damn (in other words, the opposite of indifference). It describes employees who show up for work with some sense of ownership over the product, the service, the experience.

To me, that’s the real test of great companies, year after year. If a business creates a culture where the employees want to be there, its customers can sense it. It’s overt in everyday customer interactions. It’s implicit in the different aspects of the experience. 

You may have what you think is a quality product that you offer. You might feel your service processes are solid. But according to customers, that’s not enough. To attract and then keep those customers, your employees must care. That’s really care.

And really, wouldn’t you rather work for a business where your coworkers want to show up for work in the morning?  It’s a win-win situation. Just by creating an environment that engages employees, you by default create a business that will engage, and keep, customers.

Seems worth the effort, don’t you think?


Customers Don't Really Care What You Think

Customer Experience Myth #1: Customers Care what You Think

I’ve known business owners, CEO’s, and executives who are great people. People who care about more than just making a buck. They are compassionate people, who care about their families, about their employees, and yes, about their customers too.


These leaders want to provide a quality product or service. They want their customers to feel good about buying from the business. And that’s great.


But guess what? Your customers really don’t care what you think. Am I being too blunt? Maybe. What I mean is: your customers aren’t in a position to care what your think. After all, they aren’t mind readers.


The only thing your customers understand is their experience with your business, your product, your service. It’s what they see, what they hear, what they feel. How else can they judge you?


Truth for the customer is reflected in the experience


There’s a local coffee shop I go to regularly. It’s not necessarily the closest, most convenient location. But the employees there know me, and there’s always a cheery welcome when I walk in the door. Based on how those employees do their jobs, I’m guessing the owner is a good person. I don’t know it for sure, but I also really don’t care. The fact that my experience is great is enough for me as a customer.


Would your customers say that same thing about your business?


If you have a true heart of gold, but your service feels indifferent, you lose. If you say that you are committed to quality, but your product lacks features, or functionality, or excitement, you lose.


As a business leader, you must figure out how to translate your passion, your commitment into a corresponding experience for your customers. They can’t tell what you’re thinking. They can only see what you’re presenting in the form of customer experience.


So care all you want! Good for you! Congratulations on being a good person.


But your customers really don’t care, unless that is, you show it through an incredibly positive customer experience.


Customer experience myth #2 coming up next.

Walmart and Amazon Gear up Same-Day Delivery

Will Immediate Gratification Make Us Happier Customers?

Both Amazon and Walmart are vying to be your retailer of choice, and one aspect that we are all apparently about to start demanding is same-day delivery of our purchases. But is that really what we all want?


Amazon started testing their “Local Express Delivery” a few weeks ago in several larger markets like Philadelphia and Minneapolis. For just $10, a shopper can opt to have his or her purchase arrive at the doorstep the same day.


Walmart – which, ironically, announced recently it would stop selling the Amazon Kindle in its stores – is about to begin testing its new “To Go” program in San Francisco and San Jose.


Walmart conducted a survey recently indicating most shoppers would “consider” same-day delivery. Electronics and groceries topped the list of customer wants.


What can you buy on impulse? Everything!


I get it. When given the choice, we all would rather have something “now” than “at some point in the future.” Forgive me while I mourn the disappearance of one of my favorite emotional states – anticipation. I don’t think my children are very familiar with the feeling. It’s when you want something, look forward to getting that thing, and then make some sort of effort to acquire it.


For the most part, if we want to eat some Thai food, we call someone and they bring it to our door. If we want to watch a first-run movie, we call it up using the “On-Demand” feature of our cable TV package. If we need groceries, we can order from PeaPod and schedule a delivery.


And now, if I want some bananas and grape jelly and a 60” flat-screen television, and I want it all before the Wheel of Fortune is on at dinner time, why, I can get that too. 


I don’t think Walmart or Amazon really has a choice in the matter. If one of these retail/e-tail beasts is doing it, the other must follow suit. And if neither is doing it, it’s an opportunity for another competitor to wedge its way into the mix.


In the movie “Wall-e,” there’s a vision of our future, where humans have morphed into adult babies, with every possible need taken care of, without requiring any effort at all. I’m not saying we’re heading that way. I’m not saying we aren’t.


A few years ago, we went to southern Provence in France. We would walk down to the local market every day to buy some bread, fresh organic chicken, maybe some olive oil and wine. The walk was part of the experience. Of course, that’s a romantic notion that doesn’t really exist anymore, even for the residents in rural southern France. The future is now.


But it doesn’t mean I have to like it. 

Can a Big Company Be "Customer-Centric" without a Customer Mission?

Is Customer Focus Really Possible when the Customer Isn't Part of the Core Mission?

Tough question? Maybe. Or maybe it's easy. When you consider the almost cliched examples at this point - Apple, Southwest Airlines, Nordstrom, USAA, Ritz-Carlton, etc. - it's pretty obvious the focus on the customer is in their DNA.

And while it might be there in different ways - Southwest with better than expected, personable service and quick turnaround, versus Apple's maniacal focus on usability (at least until recently), Ritz-Carlton's over the top attentiveness - it's still there. Others, of course, mention the customer in their missions, visions, whatever. But it's often lip service.

If the customer isn't at the center of the equation, whether at the company's start, or along the way, not much will happen.

My question is: how do you take an existing business and actually transform service, product and operations in ways that would cause an outside observer to say, "yes, that's a customer-centric company."?

I think it's possible to make that transformation. But it doesn't start with a chief customer officer. It can't start at the top and work its way down the organization; it can't start at the bottom and work its way up.

There has to be a discussion and agreement between the very top, and very bottom. Unless the CEO and the frontline employee can nod at each other and understand exactly what they are trying to accomplish, and why, it won't work. The question of "how" isn't nearly as difficult if you've enlisted the Boss, and the Worker. Together, anything is possible.


A Simple Way to Improve Customer Experience and Retention

The Peak-End Rule – A Way to Improve Every Customer Experience


The only way you keep a customer, and get her to buy more, is to create a positive perception. And the only way a perception is created is through the customer experience – the communications, interactions, and other exposures. Create the right perception, and you can drive the desired behavior.


Of course, building a specific perception can be tricky, and many businesses fail not only at creating an intentional perception, but even in consciously building any kind of consistent, positive experiences with their customers.


Yet, it doesn’t have to be overly difficult if you understand some of the basics of what makes customers tick. For example, one approach you can use to analyze and improve each customer experience is to apply the “Peak-End Rule.”


Create Positive Experiences, and Reap the Benefits


The Peak-End Rule is a principal from psychology that describes how we all perceive and remember experiences. It states that a person will remember and gauge any experience by the “peak” of the experience, and the end.


Here’s what that means: the “peak” of an experience is the point in the interaction that varies the most from the “norm.” In other words, that’s emotionally either the highest, or lowest, point of the experience. The other key moment is the end or the experience.


There are several implications when looking at your customer experiences through this “Peak-End” lens. One is that you’ll find there are often only neutral or slightly negative points within certain interactions. The other is that many possible opportunities exist to pump up the perception of customers with just a little tweak to your interactions.


A good example is the AT&T stores. They noticed that it could take several minutes (at least) after a customer entered the store for an associate to be available to help. This caused some anxiety for customers, who would sometimes wonder if they were next, and how long the wait might be. So AT&T implemented several policies, including creating a system to inform a customer how many people were already waiting, and displaying the customers on a screen so they keep track of where they were in the queue.


But there was one very simple, powerful change that dramatically impacted customer experience: associates were required to acknowledge each customer entering the store within 10 seconds or 10 feet from the door. AT&T’s own research has shown that, by quickly greeting a customer, his or her perception measurably improves about the experience. In fact, when asked in a survey, the customer who’s greeted quickly estimates that the waiting time was shorter than it actually was.


It’s Not Rocket Science


It seems that changing a simple policy turned what could be a negative “Peak” into a positive one.  AT&T employees also typically will walk a customer to the door and shake hands at the end of the interaction, creating a very deliberate, positive moment at the end of the experience for the company.


Take a look at the different customer experiences you are creating – intentionally or not. Is there a deliberate, positive “Peak” in the experience? Have you taken the time to create a positive moment at the “End”?


There is a real opportunity to dramatically change your customer’s perception (and drive the behavior you want), without changing your fundamental product or service. Just pay attention and create intentional positive moments within each individual experience and you can transform how your customers think about you.


Your customers will stay longer, and buy more. Isn’t that what you want?

A Bad Customer Experience, Times Three!

Customer Saga: A Perfect Trifecta of Poor Customer Experience Shows the Challenge and Danger of Multi-Channel Customer Service Model

I won't be using real customer or company names for this story, but it happened the other day to a real person, and makes a point.

This customer, let's call him Pete, had been a customer of the very large XYZ Insurance Company for almost 30 years. At the time he was a young buck, just out of college when he bought an auto policy for his very used '77 Mustang. His insurance agent, Jerry, was "old school," kind of gruff but at heart a good guy.

Pete got married, and added his wife's Chevette to the policy by way of a phone call. Then there were kids, a house, a small claim or two, etc. Agent Jerry had more customers but a great staff who could help Pete anytime he called. Eventually Pete did some things on the company website, but if it seemed like a hassle he just called Jerry.

And then...

Customer Pete's daughter, Megan, turned 16 and got her driver's license. At about the same time Pete received a letter from an agent - let's call him James - explaining that he was going to take great care of Pete. There was nothing about why James was now Pete's agent and not Jerry. Pete was bummed that Jerry had retired, or fallen off a cliff, or whatever. But his immediate concern was getting his newly licensed daughter on the policy.

On the website when Pete logged in he saw he could email agent James directly, which is what he did with his request. And then exactly nothing happened. For two weeks. So being a "web savvy" customer, Pete logged into his account and started to "Add a Driver" to his policy. But halfway through there was a flaw in the process, saying that his answer to how much his daughter would be driving the car was wrong, since Pete didn't say "100%" when given a variety of possible answers. As 100% was not Pete's answer, he could not continue.

Email fail, website fail, and next?

Pete went to his last option of calling this new agent he didn't know and who hadn't emailed him back, James. Pete got a staff member, who wasn't entirely clear about what information she might need to add Pete's daughter to the policy so Pete helped her out. Pete also asked another question about his policy, which she would "check into," and call Pete back.

Pete was frustrated. Pete is still frustrated, a day later, hoping maybe his "new" agent's office might call Pete back sometime.

Pete is getting quotes online for auto and homeowners insurance.

If you offer customers different ways to interact with your company, make sure they work. That's not creating "wow" factor. That's bare minimum. Experience is in the stupid little details that aren't stupid or little to your customers.

Stepping Back: Why Customer Experience Matters in Business

Customer Experience: Why it Matters - if You Care about Profit

Note: this is a version of an initial column I wrote for the FortuneChina website. Since I assume most of you can't read Chinese, I thought I'd include it here as well...

We’re all in different industries, at different companies, serving different roles. Leaders at every company understand that an emphasis on sales is critical for successful top line results. And all businesses comprehend that optimizing operations and shaving costs can dramatically impact the bottom line.


But to many businesses, the discipline and strategy of improving customer experience is somehow amorphous. It’s the “soft” part of business. Is it customer service? Training? A philosophy? Should there be an employee solely responsible for customer experience? What’s the ROI associated with improving customer experience? Why should a company make a substantial investment in various interactions – online, in person, over the phone – so that a customer might “feel” (a concept of “feelings” is tough for many companies to embrace) a little “happier?”


All it really takes is to look at results of the companies who pay attention to the customer experience.


Companies that focus on the customer make more money


In the U.S. airlines industry, Southwest Airlines’ strategy does not include spending the most money on its customer experience or its operations. In fact, they’re zealous about cost control and efficiency: they pride themselves on quick turnaround of their flights, to the point of asking departing passengers to help clean up as they leave. Southwest doesn’t give you a specific seat. And yet Southwest leads the customer satisfaction rankings of US airlines, year after year. They also have unusually high levels of employee satisfaction. And guess what else is consistently high? Its profit levels. Southwest was the only U.S. airline to turn in a profitable performance every year over the last decade. Its competitors were either losing money of filing for bankruptcy protection.


Here’s a different but equally powerful example: In the hospitality industry, Ritz-Carlton is well known for its obsessive focus on world-class customer service. When a guest has a question or problem and tells an employee, that employee owns the issue until it is resolved. It could be the general manager or the doorman. Doesn’t matter. Everyone is responsible for the customer experience. Front-line staff members are allowed to spend up to $2,000 or more without approval to solve a problem or delight a guest. Yes, without approval!


We all know the management team of Ritz-Carlton includes some smart folks. They wouldn’t create policies like that simply because customer satisfaction is a “soft” issue. In fact, they figured out several years ago that the average customer lifetime value of a Ritz customer was around $250,000!


So, what’s that mean for you and your business? You’re not Southwest Airlines, and you’re not Ritz-Carlton. Why should you focus on improving customer experience? And how do you go about it?


No matter your type of business, improving experience can increase retention (how many customers you keep), save you money, increase revenues, and, most importantly, drive profits.

Worth the effort, don't you think?


For Customer Experience, the Details Matter

Great Customer Experience? It's in the Details.

I peruse the New York Times – the paper version - every morning (though I’m forbidden from doing the crossword, which is my wife’s domain). Over the last year, I’ve been progressively more disappointed with the quality of the content. Misspellings, questionable or just incorrect grammar, repeated words, even repeated sentences. Come on, NY Times! I know money is tight, but your whole deal is to put out one of the world’s great papers. A little more


As you know, it’s not just the Times that is sliding. I find it ironic that – while more and more web professionals claim to be “User Experience” experts - the experience on most websites I encounter hovers between “ok” and “pathetic.”


The power of customer experience comes down to deciding what your business should be serving up (products, communications, service, etc.), and then ensuring that every point of the customer's experience lives up to that promise. Yet, think of the last few sites where you’ve tried to “do something.” Is it flawless? Is it easy? Does it leave you with an impression that there are people back there who care one way or another?  The web, mobile, apps, etc., are opportunities to create new possibilities with customers. But it can also be a place to hide. It’s a way to not talk to your customers.


While researching some sites recently, almost without exception, I noticed typos, poor grammar, and more. But worse, there are dead-end alleys, and often a lack of any personality or soul. It all needs to be there, and that’s hard work.


But it’s work you need to do if you give a … hoot about your customers.

The Paradox of Customer Choice

Give the Customers Everything They Want? No!

I keep reading that customers have become more sophisticated, and more demanding than ever before. Because of the sheer number and variety of products and services available, the impression is that - unless you can somehow meet the incredibly specific needs of each customer in the marketplace, you'll lose.

Sure, there are companies that try to cater to different customer needs, and do it well. Ritz-Carlton does just that in terms of service, but customers pay a premium for it. Grainger carries over 900,000 industrial supply products, seemingly something specific for almost everyone.

But more often, successful companies flourish not because they offer everything their customers say they want, but rather offer a small number of products or services that are done incredibly well. In the recent Steve Jobs biography that many of you no doubt read, it's clear that one of the main reasons for Apple's dramatic turnaround when Jobs returned to the helm of the company was that he axed many, if not most, of the different product lines and models, parsing it all down to a few basic lines, with only two or three models in each category. At some of the best restaurants in the world, where the best chefs practice their craft, there's no menu. You pay handsomely to sit down and dine on what the chef has decided will be served that day.

If you own a business, the big decisions are, to paraphrase Jobs, not what you will offer to your customers, but what you won't. If you focus on what you're good at, and don't get distracted by the millions of products or services or features you think a few of your customers might like, you're on the right track.

Nobody is in charge of customer experience, but everyone is.

Who's in Charge of Your Customer Experience? Nobody, but Everyone

Chief Customer Office, CXO, CEO? Director of Customer Service? Just who is responsible for the customer experience?

More and more businesses, especially larger companies, are carving out a "C-level" position, designed to improve customer experience from a enterprise-wide standpoint. But there are three reasons this effort often just doesn't work:

1. Power - If the CEO isn't totally committed, in a big way, to providing unique authority to the CXO, he or she simply will not have the ammunition to truly impact customer experience across the company. By nature companies have silos. It's a necessity to form at least in part by functional areas. Each area has leaders. Those leaders may not be to keen on dramatically change process or structure to satisfy this new CXO. And customer experience doesn't improve unless all areas, channels, platforms, etc. are aligned.

2. Employee Engagement -
I'll be blunt: top-down customer initiatives don't work. They never, ever work. Unless a value has always been placed on customer experience (in which case customer experience is already pretty good), employees are incredibly skeptical about "year of the customer" or some such effort; they know in their hearts that it's a management "flavor of the month" that they'll just need to wait out, and things will go back to normal.

3. Lack of a Process & Vision - It may be great to tout your new Chief Customer Officer. But the concept of "improving customer experience" is amorphous. What do you improve first? What does success look like? The fact is that each organization is different; each has its own strengths and weaknesses. Without ultimate clarity on a vision, specific goals, and the processes to get there, you're wandering in the desert.

The solution? Embrace the idea of the customer experience...your customer experience. Start with the idea that there is a process and there must be a vision. (I can help with that). And, instead of telling employees what to do, provide them with the vision of your company's ideal and differentiated customer experience, and empower them to move the company forward with their ideas and solutions. You have great employees (don't you?). Why not take advantage of their knowledge, energy and commitment?

How does your customer evaluate your company?

Customer Perceptions of Your Company: What Do They Have to Go on?

Over time your customers build their own perceptions of your business. How does that happen? You probably know the answer. Customers base their opinions and their actions on all their interactions and experiences with you.

All means all. All includes the tone of voice of the customer service representative who spoke to the customer. All means the wording of the email from your billing department. All means the number of clicks needed to navigate your website.

If you want to create a positive customer experience, you need to take the time to identify all of the experience. Some of it isn't sexy, but it's all important.

Getting and keeping customers is a you have a key?

How to attain focus in your customer experience and retention efforts

If you're a senior manager, you want to get and keep more customers. You even seek to be good to your customers, and your employees. And you're concerned when it seems customer service isn't all it could be. Employees don't seem to feel the same obligation to treat customers well as you do.

But it's not the employees' fault. It's yours.

Sorry to break it to you, but if you're not providing some type of focus around what you mean when you say "we need to improve customer experience," your employees have no way to make specific, actionable and measurable strides in that area.

The 2 steps to better customer experience

Step 1: You must hone in on your "differentiation." This is not the reason a customer might pick you the first time. It's the reason a customer comes back a second time, or chooses to stay with you. For example, if you have a shoe store, and a mother walks in to purchase a pair of shoes for her 5-year old son because she saw a pair of sneakers on sale in the window, she will need a reason to come back a second time to buy a pair of shoes for her daughter. What is that reason?

Step 2: Communicate that differentiation clearly to your employees, and then empower them to identify ways to "operationalize" that differentiation. It's not enough to ask for their buy-in. You must ask them to find the opportunities to improve - based on your differentiation. By providing a focus, you allow employees to use their brains, to engage and create answers. They gain ownership over the customer experience.

Provide a differentiation - something for an employee to connect with that's more than "create better customer service" - and you'll find there's an added energy and sense of engagement.

That alone will dramatically improve customer experience.

Employees know more than you think for improved customer service

Want to improve customer experience? Ask your employees.

I've seen it happen often: the senior management team comes up with some fabulous "customer service improvement" initiative (maybe they used a fantastic consultant). They are excited about the plan and then communicate it to the front-line employees. The leadership team thinks the big kick-off meeting went really well.

And then nothing happens. Why?

Too frequently, there is little about an initiative like this that is for or about the employees. There's no real incentive to do the work involved in making changes to process or service. Also, front-line, customer-facing employees can often tell immediately that the "improvements" will probably not improve anything - for the customers or the employees - so why bother trying. Finally, workers have been trained to expect senior management to lose its focus after a few months, so the effort will die on the vine anyway.

So, what's a leader to do?

It's really pretty simple. Let the employees figure it out. That doesn't mean you aren't involved. But you must make front-line workers (as well as other operational areas) an integral part of any team that's exploring ways to significantly improve customer experience. After all, they see the opportunities and gaps in service every day; they aren't guessing from a corner office.

And more importantly - if your front-line folks help to form the solutions, you don't need to beg them for buy-in and effort. They know it will help, because it was their idea!

A challenge to you regarding employee engagement

Show me a company with high customer loyalty and low employee engagement - I dare you

It's a challenge because, as far as I can tell, companies with very high customer loyalty and low levels of employee engagement simply don't exist.

Look at all the usual suspects - Apple, Southwest Airlines, Zappos, etc. They are the iconic examples of high customer loyalty, retention, even passion. Look at the Container Store, at Ritz-Carlton. To a company, employees are highly engaged, empowered, even impassioned. There are different reasons from one business to the next. It involves who they hire, how they train, how they incent and measure performance, and - most importantly - the culture itself. The means to the end can be slightly different, but the end itself is the same: when employees care, it shows.

More importantly - when the employees don't care, it shows!

It might be possible to have engaged employees and not have the highest possible retention rates. But if you start with disengaged employees, you've already shot yourself in the foot. You can't get there (high retention) from here no matter what you do.

What are your customer experience intentions?

Regarding your customers, are your intentions honorable?

Maybe you don't think about your customer relationships in terms of honor. Maybe you don't think about customer experience much, one way or another. You might have some customer service training, some processes, some signs on the wall.

But it all starts with your intentions. Just what are they? If you don't consciously decide what you're trying to accomplish, and how, the resulting customer experience becomes a crap shoot.

But here's the bigger point: intention is necessary, but it's not enough. The intention is square one. Decide on, and commit to, your intentions for how you want to treat your customers. Then you must execute. Your intention as such has nothing to do with how your customers feel about you until you execute against it.

When you build a customer experience based on your positive, specific intentions, when you thread your intentions through the fabric of your culture, you have a chance to create great customer experiences. And that's what translates into crazy loyal customers.

Why User Experience Is The Most Important Thing

It's not about the Media, It's About the User/Customer Experience

Fast Company has a story, Why User Experience Is Critical To Customer Relationship, in its latest issue that rightfully states we shouldn't approach all the new and different media as platforms where we just want to be "present." Rather, we should use the media and technology to build valuable customer experiences.

Seems obvious.

Granted, it's a much more complicated world and customers are more places, doing more things (sometime at once) than in the past. And it seems a foregone conclusion that you should be where your customers are.

But how could the value of these exposures and interactions be judged by anything other than what it does for the customer? Haven't customers always made decisions and behaved based largely on how you treat them and what the perceived value is?

Whether it's about always sincerely smiling and welcoming a customer into a store, or remembering the customer's name at the community bank, or giving a good customer a special discount at the dry cleaner, we've always been judged by customers based on the experience. No reason it should be different on Facebook, through your mobile app, or on your website.

It's always about the experience.

The culture of customer focus

How customer focus drives culture

You can sense it, can't you?

When you walk into a company - in any industry - you can tell after spending a little time if they have their act together. You can see it in the employees' eyes. That glimmer of mission, and energy. And you feel it in the way they interact with each other and, of course, with their customers.

Companies with a strong customer strategy have a focus. They know what they are trying to do. They aren't as political, they don't have endless meetings. In short they are engaged.

It's not about a two-paragraph mission statement, or a grand vision that borrows phrases from other visions that talk about "world class" or "high quality."

It's about simple, focused, and yet full of purpose.

Got focus?

Great customer strategy boosts profit, but it's not easy

In tough times, commit to your customer strategy for a better bottom line

Many businesses continue to struggle in this difficult economy. It's harder, and more expensive, to acquire new customers than ever. Some companies turn the screws down on cost (a reasonable step), but few take the time to consider if they have an effective customer strategy and plan that will enhance the bottom line.

Consider that bumping your customer retention up by just 2% has the same financial impact as reducing costs by 10%. Which seems more realistic?

It's interesting that almost any truly successful company has a specific customer philosophy, but it's never the exact same philosophy. Apple, for instance, is totally committed to the product - the innovation, functionality, aesthetics, everything. It drives hiring, planning, and execution. Do they do extensive customer or market research? No, because they aren't committed to what the customer says she wants; Steve Jobs instilled the drive to figure out what the customer will want. Customer focused? Absolutely, and in a specific way.

Zappos, on the other hand is committed not to the product (it's basically a distributor), but to customer service. While a lot of companies say they're committed to customer service, the proof is in the pudding. You see Zappos' commitment not through process or lip service, but through employee engagement. It's been shown that engaged, empowered employees love doing the right thing for customers. Any company that sends its new hires through two weeks of training and then offers those folks $2,000 to walk away no questions asked, finds and creates engaged, loyal employees. And that drives incredible customer service.

So what's your core customer philosophy and strategy? If it's not obvious through the way your business walks and talks everyday, you need to start figuring it out. That's the bottom line to whether you will succeed or fail today.

What Clients Are Saying:

Bill’s customer strategy workshop helped us confirm that our customer philosophy and approach made sense, and was our competitive advantage. We now have clear next steps for continued improvement. Karen Drinkard, COO, Gregg Communications

"Bill was able to look at our business, listen to our goals, and then step back and develop a manageable client experience process that we are now incorporating into our practice." Clark Bellin, Principal, Mundy and Associates