How to Create Outstanding Customer Experiences

Throughout my career I’ve always believed that in order to be successful in the long run, businesses should focus primarily on creating exceptional customer experiences, because customers drive innovation, productivity, and as a result, revenue growth. To my surprise, however, the major problem that I’ve experienced so far as a customer is a lack of great service – even from businesses that claim to be ‘the best’. That doesn’t mean that my customer experiences are poor (or at least not all of them) – but instead, I would describe most of them as just about average. Of course, there are also exceptions that exceed my expectations, but these are few and far between – and consequently, highly valued.

What makes the difference between average and outstanding? To me, it’s the HOW component, not the WHAT. Great customer service feels genuine, instead of transactional or scripted. It’s adjusted and customized to each and every customer based on who they are, their needs and expectations, as well as the situation. This is what I feel many businesses are missing nowadays by focusing solely on sell-at-all-costs strategies.

Your customer doesn’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. ~ Damon Richards

Building genuine relationships based on shared values, respect, trust, and integrity is what I’ve been doing throughout my career, regardless of my title and role. My philosophy behind it is that loyal customers and business partners increase profitability, so if you take care of them, the bottom line will follow. Building business relationships is very similar to building friendships – as the saying goes: “To have a friend, you have to be a friend”. There were many times along the way when my customers have become my friends – not necessarily the type of friends that I would meet on the weekends, but rather people I truly cared about and who cared about me.

To my surprise, a few months ago I received a LinkedIn connection request from a former customer who has recalled me, even though more than 10 years have passed since we’ve done business together. My feeling of appreciation in that moment can’t be described in words – but it has reinforced my belief that the service provided at that time seemed valuable enough to be remembered.

On a different note, if there’s one thing that I feel constantly judged for by many, it’s my perceived high standards. Although this may appear as a weakness on the surface, to me it’s actually a strength, because my standards have always driven me to accomplishments and provided me the motivation to persevere in the face of discouragement and obstacles. I have utilized them all along as a reference point not only to set my goals, but also to treat people the way I wanted to be treated and create experiences that exceeded their expectations. After all, don’t we all tend to stick with people that make us feel valued and appreciated?

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. ~ Maya Angelou

One of my best customer experiences, due to its genuineness and unexpectedness is provided by a cashier clerk that works at one of the supermarkets that I regularly visit in Toronto. Every time he notices my presence there he asks me to come by once I’m done shopping. He remembers my name, my background and interests, even though he handles hundreds of customers daily. He greets me with a warm smile, engages in conversation and shows a genuine interest to go above and beyond his duties. None of his colleagues at that store delivers this type of service and it’s obvious to me that his job description doesn’t include it, either – and that’s precisely why I appreciate it even more. Simply put, he delivers the type of customer service one would expect in a luxury environment, but definitely not at the cash register of a supermarket.

Most people only do what’s required by their role, are passive and reactive, they need specific instructions to follow and have to be micro-managed – in other words, they are playing it safe. Taking initiative always involves some degree of risk, because there’s a great chance to encounter rejection; also, you’re putting yourself out there and there is a chance to fail…but if you don’t try, you’ll never know. In order to deliver an outstanding experience, we first have to build rapport with others by keeping in mind that people like people who are just like them OR who are just like they want to be – and learn to wear many hats, according to the situation.

To sum it up, each of us is a ‘business of one’ whether we work for ourselves or for others. We don’t have to follow old rules just because “Things have always been done this way” or “This has never been tried before” as I’ve heard it many times. So what?! Here’s a chance, as a business, to be a pioneer and try something new, to make a change in your field or industry, and lead by example. Change is inevitable and those who can anticipate trends and adjust accordingly will definitely gain a competitive advantage.

If delivering an outstanding customer experience was easy, everyone would do it – however, if we aim to make a difference, we simply can’t afford to be just like everyone else. Therefore, we have to develop the courage to be bold, challenge the status-quo and break the old rules by adopting a unique approach and offering genuine service that adds value to others – and the results will follow.

Give every man more in use value than you take from him in cash value; then you are adding to the life of the world by every business transaction. ~ Wallace D. Wattles

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