These days, life happens 24/7 and at lightning speed. In such an environment, it’s all too easy to slip into endless to-do lists and lose touch with customers and employees. To build repeat customers and returning patients for life, leaders must emphasize a unique experience — rather than focus on a relationship based only on transactions.
What you can’t get just anywhere
Thanks to a myriad of partnerships, innovations, and regulatory allowances, people can get pretty much anything they want — sometimes in minutes — with just a click or two. Lots of companies offer similar products and services, so you don’t have to choose one company over another, either.
So, why do you?
Let’s look at Amazon as an example. You can get a lot of the same things you’d get in other stores from this e-commerce site, such as groceries or clothes. But Amazon isn’t just selling great products. They also are giving people a great experience. It’s easy to find what you need, check out, or do returns. That’s not something customers are getting just anywhere, and that’s ultimately what keeps people coming back.
Sometimes, a great experience is all about inspiring awe, imagination, or curiosity for your customer (e.g., Disney). Other times, it’s about making your product or service convenient (e.g., McDonald’s) or more functional, consistent, or head-turning (e.g., Apple). But more often than not, it really boils down to satisfying the customer on an emotional level. In simple terms, successful companies go above and beyond to make customers feel truly great about the service or product they’re receiving.
Emotional satisfaction yields long-term connection that multiplies
Satisfying customers emotionally and connecting with them in a way that supports a long-term relationship go hand in hand. As Simon Bailey puts it in Brilliant Service is the Bottom Line, “Emotional connection occurs when customers and clients believe that an organization […] has their best interests at heart. It’s achieved when enough memorable moments are accumulated and stored in the customer’s emotional bank account that it reaches a tipping point.”
Once a customer is truly emotionally connected to you through unique experiences, they shift from being a one-time or I’ll-try-it-out buyer to a loyal consumer who is eager to experience what you have to offer. They complete many transactions in a reliable, predictable way. Not only that, but they then become what Bailey calls “contagious consumers” — that is, people who refer and recommend you with genuine passion.
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The value of real human interaction
Interacting with customers is a simple way to increase emotional satisfaction and, subsequently, retention. But some industries are naturally set up for more interaction than others. In much of retail, for example, you don’t have to talk to someone to make a purchase. For instance, you can go into a store like Walmart or Target, grab what you need off the shelf, go through self-checkout, and be done. In other areas, such as dentistry, you and the provider have to engage with each other to be safe and complete procedures with good results.
So as a leader, you might have to make a more conscious effort to ensure real interaction happens. And within that, you have to make sure that your staff is very well trained. This might mean having some appropriate scripts that get communication rolling and make customers feel seen for who they are. But it also involves teaching them how to read people better on the fly and demonstrate empathy clearly.
Because so many of the soft skills involved in this type of training appeal in universal ways, entrepreneurs and executives can work together to make sure that people have the interpersonal know-how to succeed across industries. They can establish institutes especially designed for this purpose.
As you think about how to serve and interact with your customers, consider the role of technology carefully. In many instances, technology can offer a notable efficiency or wow factor that contributes to the customer experience. But the technology is not the experience itself. Make sure that you have other elements to attract your buyers or clients aside from just your tools.
To reach the top, put experience first
Successful companies don’t put the bottom line above everything else. Rather, they focus on the experience customers have. Loyalty, high sales, revenue, and influence all come as a result. So whether you are a small business just getting off the ground or one with thousands of employees, make increasing the value of the customer experience the cornerstone of your operations if you really want to ensure true, long-term success.