What Separates A Great Company From All The Others?

What separates a GREAT company from all the others? A positive customer experience.

Q. How is a positive customer experience different from quality?

A. Quality is a word that is exhaustively used in describing the mission of practically every business. Every business strives to provide quality products, quality services, quality talent and quality client service. But the word quality has no real meaning because everyone uses it to differentiate themselves from competitors.

The quality of a product or service is certainly important to the success or failure of a business, but it is the quality of the customer experience that separates the great from the good, first place from second place, loyal customers versus one-time customers. It is the subjective feeling a customer has about the total experience with a company. Often, a company will use price, functionality and other objective facts to demonstrate product superiority. But a bad customer experience will cause those facts to no longer be relevant in a customer’s decision. A customer’s feelings and emotions (in other words, how they were treated) becomes the determining factor in making future purchases.

Q. What is a positive customer experience?

A. A positive customer experience is all about the golden rule: “Treat others the way you want to be treated.” A positive customer experience is when the customer feels good about their buying decision, after doing business with your company.

When customers are willing to pay a little extra for your product or service, or when they are willing to drive the extra mile or wait in line, they believe the positive experience is worth it. Their loyalty is steadfast, and unwavering, in light of all other perceived benefits of competitors. The customer becomes your greatest sales and marketing voice by singing your praises even when not provoked.

Q. How do you assure a positive customer experience?

A. First, get to know your client. Take the time to get to know individual clients and their unique needs. What problems or challenges are they trying to solve? What fears and concerns will influence their decisions? Let them know that their satisfaction is your number-one priority.

Second, make your communications and customer interactions person-to-person to create a positive emotional experience. In other words, don’t let technology function as the face of your company. No one likes talking to a computer, a machine or e-mail. Reach out to make clients feel valued and that they are your only client.

Third, strive to exceed your clients’ expectations. Standard service and quality is no longer good enough. Your goal is to make your client step back and say, “WOW! THAT WAS GREAT!”

Next, deliver what was promised and create realistic expectations that you can deliver. Overselling or failing to keep a promise is a formula for an unhappy customer.

And finally, make delivering a positive customer experience part of the DNA and culture of your company.

Q. How do you know whether you’re delivering a positive customer experience?

A. The simple answer is asking the clients to tell you what they really think. Follow-up and follow-through demonstrates that you care and value their input. This is an important part of building customer loyalty and long-term customer relationships. Your customer will invest in you, if you demonstrate that you will invest in them.

When a problem occurs, make their problem your problem. There is no such thing as perfection in a business-to-business or business- to-consumer relationship. Things just happen; things will not always work as intended. The follow-through and support after a transaction becomes the determining factor whether customers will be repeat customers. Do they feel good about how they were treated and how their problem was treated? Also, do they believe the company actually cares about customer satisfaction?

Q. Who is responsible for creating a positive customer experience?

A. Everyone in the company is responsible for creating a positive customer experience. Anytime an employee has contact with a customer, that customer forms an opinion of the person, the event and the company. Whether a customer’s opinion is right or not it doesn’t matter. If the customer has a negative impression, after any contact with your company, the efforts of other employees could be meaningless. The customer comes to you with an expectation. That expectation can be good, bad or indifferent. After a transaction, customers will feel good, bad or indifferent. Their feelings about whether their expectations were met (or not) or even exceeded will become the basis of your company’s reputation.

There are a lot of businesses that won’t survive this recession and economic crisis. Those that do will have made changes and adjustments to their business model in response to the changes in customer mindset and buying habits. The companies that succeed will have recognized that the best way to differentiate themselves from their competitors is not only on price and/or quality, but also on delivering a positive customer experience.

There is so much information available in the market, product and performance rankings, customer reviews and social media communications. Today, technology controls and determines the flow of information to the public. Customer postings on the Internet primarily relate to the customer’s experience, which has become the basis for forming a company’s reputation. A positive reputation is what separates a good company from a great company.