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Ask the Expert: Master basics of customer experience

By BOB FERNALD
Special to the Union Leader

December 03. 2017 9:31PM


BOB FERNALD

It seems cliché to say “your clients are everything” in business.

But how much does your organization realize the importance of these words? It is key that your organization believe this, and live this day in and day out, especially in service-intensive business models.

You need to ensure your organization is covering the basics:

• Define the customer experience.

• Measure the customer experience.

• Reward the customer experience.

Define it

How can you make your products sell? Happy clients come from these key ingredients: Marketing research leads you to a market and a product offering with a compelling advantage greater than other market options. Proper customer expectations are set by the product definition, what is committed to by the person selling it, and what is actually delivered. The latter is key for service based products with recurring interactions. Be clear about your products to your clients. No gray areas should exist. The “second most important” sales person is likely your satisfied client who would be willing to offer you valuable referrals, or testimonials. There is real risk of overselling the capability of your product. In the days of social media, bad news about your company’s ability to deliver what you sold can travel incredibly fast.

Measure it

Metrics! Metrics! Metrics!

Consider internal metrics that will allow your product to take shape and improve in the market versus simple customer satisfaction feedback forms.

Sales metrics should effectually measure what is finally sold, versus your ability to deliver.

Operational metrics and financial metrics centered around the delivery of the product (i.e. on time delivery, response time, gross margins, etc.) are inferred.

Softer metrics that address the “sold to” product versus the product definition will focus the business of making commitments and meeting them.

These metrics will lead to customer satisfaction. A client does not like feeling that what they bought is something other than what is delivered.

Pay close attention to customer satisfaction survey results, and what they actually say.

Keep the old management adage of “bad news is good news, good news is no news, and no news is bad news.” Oftentimes when the client isn’t providing any news about your product, it is because your competition is busy talking to them.

Reward it

Incentivize the behavior your business needs!

Reward the sales team for delivering the product that is actually defined. The product definitions should be well thought out, so they don’t strain operations for delivery and meet or exceed commitments. When sales teams rush to close deals with discounts, or overcommit, the result can produce a hit to the bottom line, an unhappy client and a public scar on your brand.

Far exceeding sales forecasts can put your brand at risk. Product quality always suffers when operational capability is over committed and underdelivered.

Reward those who deliver the product, as these organizations cultivate the trust between your company and the client. Every employee remembers a time when they received outstanding service. Challenge the organization to deliver the product as defined, and to strive for exceeding the expectations laid out. This leads to an assured revenue stream, and the all-powerful referrals and testimonials. This holds true for a company of any type or size, and in any stage of a company’s life cycle.

Wherever feasible, reward your customers for their loyalty with special incentives, bonus point programs, or early access to new product releases. Be creative. Your clients truly are your everything. Treat them as part of your success with ongoing recognition of the importance of your relationship.

Define it, measure it and reward it. Following these basic steps with your customer experience will create alignment internally that impacts bottom-line profits, and a higher confidence in revenue planning.

Bob Fernald owns Fernald Consulting, a services consulting firm focused on mastering the client experience. With 30 years of professional work history, Fernald Consulting offers clients’ best-known practices gained from capital equipment, telecommunications, software, food service and public safety communications business sectors. Contact him at rfernald@sbcglobal.net


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