Delivering Intentional Customer Experience

by: Doug Michaelides

Want to create successful long-term client relationships and drive repeat business? By now, almost everyone knows that basic customer satisfaction isn’t enough.  The most successful companies strive to deliver not just transactional customer satisfaction, but a unique overall customer experience.

Creating an “Intentional Customer Experience” requires effort in two domains:

  1. Culture:  ensuring that our employees have the best of intentions, and
  2. Process:  becoming intentional in our actions

Customer-centric leaders (eg.  Sales people, customer service managers, etc.) can foster appropriate cultural norms across an organization in a couple of ways:

1.  Leading by example through demonstrating customer-centric behaviors:

  • Responsiveness to internal and external clients
  • Going the extra mile to ensure seamless “warm” hand-offs to colleagues on client actions
  • Speaking frankly internally and with clients
  • Celebrating success internally and with clients
  • Taking the time to cultivate relationships while meeting deliverables
  • Showing respect for others (especially clients) by preparing for meetings
  • Saying “thank-you”

2.  Coaching other employees on:

  • Developing a game plan for a client interaction
  • Listening skills (when to listen and when to talk)
  • Responding to customer questions
  • Building relationships (connecting)
  • Soliciting feedback from the customer

Documented processes can complement cultural norms, by increasing the odds of successful client interactions.  They are a safety net for complex interactions or in rapidly growing or large companies in which culture isn’t always enough.  Many companies actually do follow best practices for a positive customer experience without even realizing it.  To become intentional, perform a review of successful client engagements for practices that could become part of an intentional client engagement process.   These might include:

  1. Initial assessment of the client and opportunity (this might enable the tailoring of a customer experience to different customer “personas”)
  2. Early engagement meetings with company experts to create shared understanding of the customer’s needs
  3. Designating an executive “sponsor” who can rally internal responsiveness to the client
  4. Establishing “status checkpoints”, including internal “synch meetings” and client “feedback meetings” leading up to proposal and throughout the engagement
  5. Rehearsals for critical client meetings

Of course no amount of good service can overcome a bad product.  Effective value delivery (ie. the transaction) is the core of a customer’s experience and the foundation of successful customer relationships.  However, the many customer interactions that occur before and after the core transaction are what truly distinguish brand leaders.

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