Positive Customer Experience

Companies are spending millions of dollars trying to prevent acerbic customer testimonials like the ones we’ve been talking about and to figure out tactics that will not help them keep customers, but keep their customers coming back. Scenarios such as the following will illustrate such tactics from customer focused companies around the world:

You’ve spent two grueling weeks of nonstop business in London and are ready to head home. Virgin Atlantic Airways sends a driver to fetch you at your hotel and bring you to the airport. Upon arrival at Heathrow the driver stops at an outlook kiosk. Your window magically rolls down to reveal a uniformed Virgin associate, who politely requests you ticket. As the associate checks you in, the driver retrieves your luggage from the trunk the ‘boot’, in the local vernacular tags, it and deposits it on the baggage conveyor belt. The Virgin associates smiles and hands you your boarding pass.

The driver then proceeds to the terminal, pointing the way to the entrance of the Upper Class lounge, which features sleek décor, laptop hookups, and a beauty salon. As you enter and stow your carry-on bag, a waiter asks for your drink order. Midway through your haircut, Peter Frampton walks by on his way to the bar and gives you a little wave. Once in flight, you are offered a air of fleece pajamas and a free massage.

Everyone’s been super friendly. In fact, you’ve made no special requests since you left the hotel, have barely lifted a finger and still have the cash you left the hotel with. Declaring this a far cry from your typical airport experience would be an understatement. As you take the last sip of your complementary cosmopolitan and prepare for referred boarding you make a mental note; You’ll be flying Virgin.

Notice that this particular customer experience involved no internet access. Indeed, as much as CRM technologies tend to usurp its other components, customer relationship management can be as simple as saying, Thanks for your business. Although some customers require a level of personalized services and customized products that make them feel special, others simply appreciate good manners. And this is the crux of CRM: how to differentiate customer treatment according to individual preferences.

The Virgin Atlantic scenario exemplifies the ultimate goal of CRM. When you recall your home from London, your knee-jerk recollection isn’t your aisle seat or the cost of your ticket. You remember the entire experience, from what the airline did (the limo, the massage) to that serendipitous extra in this case, Peter Frampton acknowledging your existence. Indeed, a recent Virgin advertisement wondered aloud to a fed up traveling public. Never heard of anyone cursing out the on board masseuse, how do you.

In fact, many companies have recently appended their CRM or customer care initiatives with the goal of “owning the customer experience,” The implication is less about controlling what happens during a customer interaction than it is about the ability to influence how a customer perceives her contact with her company, be it through an advertisement, ordering a product, or calling customers support with a problem. CRM can allow the company to surmise a customer’s unspoken needs.

Inciting a chance encounter with ’70 rock star is probably not in most companies’ marketing plans. But there are subtler ways to give customers an experience they will remember and look for again.

The most visionary businesses understand that singular customer experiences will drive loyalty to levels unknown. Those who have already adopted a customer-focused culture understand that CRM done well influences customer emotion. It makes customers feel good, personally connected. It humanizes their purchase or service request or complaint. These companies define the truly loyal customer as someone who feels such good will towards the company that he ‘sells’ its products to others , in effect acting as a voluntary (albeit unpaid) company agent. Moreover, he takes pleasure in appreciating the company and its products, thus repeating his own positive customer experience each time he relates his story. Harley-Davidson has mastered the use of its customers as company agents. Harley owners, who consider their “hogs” less a means of transportation than a way of life, are more than happy to praise the company’s brand and their loyalty to it on everything from embossed leather jacket to tattoos bearing the company logo.