Remarkable customers experiences don’t just happen, they are carefully planned and orchestrated. A couple of years ago I developed a tool to help small businesses with this task. As of this writing the Customer Experience Map has been downloaded from this blog almost 800 times. (Revised and updated version is coming this Spring) The map, and accompanying tutorial, is by far the most popular installment of my Build Your Marketing Plan series. But it’s important to get it right. So let’s discuss what really goes into your customer experience.
(Download your copy here: Customer Experience Map)
There are three purposes of a planned customer experience:
- Meet brand expectations: Before customers arrive at your door or website, you have created expectations. They have a certain preconception of your business based on word of mouth and your marketing. They have decided to try you out based on a preconception. It’s important that you reinforce this preconception. It comforts the customer and reaffirms they made the right choice.
- Create loyal customers: A customer encounter is not a chance to make a sale, it’s an opportunity to form a relationship. Customers prefer to be loyal to a business because they don’t want to waste time finding another place to buy. Loyalty is rather easy to earn if you simply give customers everything you promise and everything they expect from you.
- Spark word of mouth: People are so excited and inspired by their experience with you that they feel compelled to tell their friends, family, and co-workers. This is where things get tricky. The most popular advice here is to “exceed customer expectations,” but that advice is of little help because it’s too abstract. Exceed them by how much? No, what really sparks word of mouth are memorable moments, or what I call magic spots in the customer experience.
Making Memories – Making Word of Mouth
As you can see from the list above, here are two things that go into a customer’s experience: what people expect, and what people will talk about. So plan your customer experience in two phases. In phase one, map out an experience that includes everything the customer expects: service, information, products. By meeting expectations you are earning trust and loyalty and eliminating negative talk about your business. In phase two, you insert magic spots at strategic points in the experience.
Magic spots are important to word of mouth because they give customers something specific to talk about. When is the last time you heard someone saying “I love my apartment complex because they exceed my expectations!” No, Instead, if someone does spread word of mouth about an apartment complex it goes something like this; “Dude, I love my place at Urbane Apartments. It’s so cool. Last weekend, we did a pub crawl. We got discounts and VIP treatment at every bar.” Customers need something specific to remember and talk about.
The big idea: Meeting expectations earns loyalty, creating memorable moments earns word of mouth.
Are you delivering everything a customer expects? What memories are you creating?