Tuesday, April 7th, 2015 | 5 min read
Your brand is no longer what you say it is. To quote Wells Fargo, “Our brand is what people say about Wells Fargo to their friends and family. It’s how they feel about doing business with us and how they describe those feelings.” Smart brands leverage their most important asset: the experience they provide to current customers.
Here are three lessons in managing the customer experience from pioneering brands such as Five Guys, TD Bank, and Zappos.
Give your customers more than expected and go the extra mile. According to a survey by American Express called the Global Customer Service Barometer, “93% of companies fail to exceed the expectations of their customers.” Great companies do “MORE” and differentiate via added value. How do you stand out in a sea of sameness? You figure out ways to create signature added value. Little things that drive differentiation and add meaning. The late Ted Levitt underscores the importance of standing out through experience: “The search for meaningful distinction is central. It’s about achieving customer getting distinction by differentiating what you do and how you do it. All else is derivative of that and only that.”
Five Guys Burgers and Fries understand the importance of added value to the customer experience. The concept is baked into the business model at Five Guys with free peanuts, unlimited drink refills, free toppings, and extra bonus fries. Here is the reasoning from founder Jerry Murrell:
“We figure our best salesman is our customer. Treat that person right, he’ll walk out the door and sell for you. From the beginning, I wanted people to know that we put all our money into the food. That’s why the décor is so simple – red and white tiles. We don’t spend our money on décor. Or on guys in chicken suits. But we’ll go overboard on food.”
Take an outside-in view and think about the convenience of your customers first. TD Bank bills itself as “America’s Most Convenient Bank.” The bank is open seven days a week and most nights until 8 p.m. Convenience has become a huge differentiator for TD. CEO Ed Clark elaborated on this in an interview with the “Financial Post Magazine”:
“The great thing about our model is if I put a branch on a corner in New York City, I know five years later I will have more than 25% of the local business, because at some time in that five years someone will come by at 4:02 p.m. Their branch will be closed, they’ll look across at our store, this beautiful store, there will be someone giving dog biscuits to somebody’s dog, they’ll walk in and there’s a greeter that’s unbelievably friendly, and they’ll say, ‘So why am I banking at the guy across the street?’… It’s a very simple concept: Just be open longer and give better service.”
Customer experience isn’t an expense. Managing customer experience bolsters your brand.
Take, for example, Zappos. Tony Hsieh and his team built a billion dollar-ayear business by selling shoes online. They did it largely without spending any money on traditional media. Instead, Zappos invested back into its customers by doing the little extras that added to the customer experience. The extras included free shipping both ways, overnight shipping upgrades, a 365-day return policy, and top-notch customer service. CEO Tony Hsieh refuses to see the experience as an expense:
“Our business is based on repeat customers and word of mouth. There’s a lot of value in building up our brand name and what it stands for. We view the money that we spend on customer service as marketing money that improves our brand.”
Zappos estimates they only touch 5% of their customers directly (email or phone), but when they do they make it count. Faced with the tough situation that they can’t directly help a customer, they’ll even look to recommend a competitor to satisfy their needs.
Understand the time and resources spent managing the customer experience is an investment into your brand. Strive to add value to exceed expectations and be convenient to do business with. The best brands are seen as high value and low maintenance.
This article originally appeared in our ebook The Survival Guide to Customer Experience: 20 CXM Experts Show Us How It’s Done
About the Author: Stan Phelps is the founder and Chief Measurement Officer of 9 INCH marketing. The average distance between the stem of the brain and the top of the heart is nine inches. 9 INCH is a consultancy that works with organizations to win customers that are four times as valuable as ordinary customers. Building programs designed to win the hearts of both employees and customers.