Today’s customer is no longer satisfied with “good enough.” If you’re going to earn their attention, their time, their money, or anything else they value, you’re going to have to be the best. There’s simply too much competition to strive for anything less. And being the best is, in many ways, the responsibility of the marketing department.
But here’s the tricky part: How do you know exactly what each unique customer views as the best?
The answer requires marketers to take a step back from tactics and metrics and begin with the end in mind: what sort of experience do your customers want to have? It’s not just a matter of offering a product or service that fills their needs or desires, but how do they want to feel about the entire experience?
Once you have that figured out, you’re in a position to design that perfect customer experience from the ground up. Here are six best practices that will help you to design the best customer experience possible.
1. Design the value promise into the experience
The brand’s value promise is essentially what you – as the brand – are promising to provide to your customers in exchange for the money, time, and attention they give to you.
A fast food burger joint can and should stress speed, taste, and low prices because that’s what they’re going to give to their customer in exchange for the $6.99 they spend on a value meal. But high quality nutrition is not really a reasonable promise to make, so it would make no sense for the customer experience to stress health and nutrition.
Instead, the entire customer experience needs to back up the value promise without a disconnect that can jar the customer with its inconsistency.
2. Understand the customer
Obviously you can only design the perfect customer experience if you truly understand your ideal customer. This starts with a detailed initial buyer persona, but must go even further because the customer experience encompasses all the interactions the customer has with your brand across all touch points, before, during, and after the purchase.
So that buyer persona must constantly be in a state of improvement. Every new interaction that is recorded and measured should be used to tweak the persona for that customer type and improve your understanding of their transactional and relationship needs.
3. Design for consistency
One of the most common roadblocks to a great customer experience is inconsistency. It’s like listening to a CD with a scratch across its surface. Just the tiniest pause or jump in the music can ruin the entire song.
Similarly, any real or perceived inconsistency can create a jarring, disappointing experience for the customer. Imagine, for example, walking through a sparkling clean restaurant dining room and then entering a disgustingly dirty bathroom. Is your mind going to dwell on the fact that the dining room looks great…or on the fact that the bathroom doesn’t? Your experience has been negatively affected by this dramatic inconsistency, perhaps irreparably.
4. Focus on differentiation
As noted above, competition and the savviness of today’s consumer require that brands offer up the very best customer experience possible if they’re going to succeed. But, beyond just designing a great experience, they also need to ensure that the customer can and will identify with the brand as the experience is going on.
For example, if a startup coffee house did everything in their power mimic Starbuck’s customer experience – from the look and feel of the sitting areas to the sound of the cappuccino machines – they would likely be able to satisfy some local customers. But will they be able to parley that into a multi-billion dollar international franchising powerhouse? Not likely, because everyone who goes there will remember it as “just like Starbucks.”
It’s especially important to focus on differentiation at those “moments of truth” when the customer must make a decision or take an action that directly interacts with the brand. Now, in the example above, if a customer enjoyed their “just like Starbucks” experience, but then paid just $0.99 at the register for their super-cocoa-mocha-chullapoccino, they’re bound to remember that differentiation.
5. Harmonize the customer experience across functions
Internally, it will be impossible for your brand to create a truly great customer experience without various teams being ready, willing, and able to collaborate on both the initial design and the ongoing improvement of the experience.
That means aligning both their functions and their metrics to ensure a sustainable customer experience design from the beginning.
6. Commit to measurement
Now, at the beginning we recommended stepping back from tactics and metrics to really get to the heart of what the customer wants and needs. But now that you’ve done so, measurement once again becomes important.
If you’re not effectively measuring the customer experience, there’s really no value in designing it to begin with. Although you’re beginning with educated guesses about your customer, only through continual measurement and improvement will you be able to truly establish a spectacular customer experience that differentiates your brand effectively in a highly competitive marketplace.