The Key to Breakthrough Performance ~ Engaging Your Customers at Every Touch PointWritten by: Terry Murray
Every company strives to create satisfied customers, but research conducted by The Gallup Company® and reported in the Harvard Business Review®* indicates this is not enough. The study identified the fact that rationally satisfied customers purchased no more and were no more likely to stay with a particular vendor than dissatisfied customers. The study found the difference in gaining additional wallet share and cultivating customer loyalty lies in creating emotionally satisfied customers. The study went on to demonstrate that companies that engage both their associates and their customers on an emotional and cognitive level enjoy a 240% increase in financial performance. Additional research from the field of Applied Behavioral Economics supports this perspective. Researchers from this field have concluded that economic decision making is 70% emotionally-driven with the remaining 30% grounded in rational thought.
Companies like Apple Computer® have mastered this approach. Their customers are passionate about their products. Think back to when they launched the iPad not too long ago. People lined up for days for the privilege of handing over their money for a product they didn’t really need but had to have immediately. The first week or so of sales approach $1 billion. That’s the definition of emotional engagement!
During a recent radio interview I referenced the Apple example, and the host commented, “What about the company that’s never going to launch the next killer app? How do they leverage this approach for their own success?”
It was a great question, and fortunately, there’s a very straight forward answer; focus on your customer’s experience at every touch point. Variability and disconnects at customer hand-off points erodes your customers’ quality of connection with your firm. Here are a few quick tips to help you get your arms around this challenge and cultivate customer passion for your business.
- Introduce a project designed to elevate the customer experience throughout the entire sales and support cycle. Making the sale is only the first step in driving emotional engagement. Clearly articulate the objective of the project to everyone in the company and share your vision consistently at every opportunity.
- Process map every touch point between your firm and your customers. To do this, have your project leadership team literally follow an order through the entire system. Start with the sales team. Get out into the field and observe and document the pre-sale activities that are critical to connecting with and engaging your prospects. Look for the disconnects between your sales team’s perspective of sales support. Speak with your customers about sample support, technical support, and their entire experience with your firm. Literally map this out and identify the customer hand-offs as these will be the points where variability of experience can emerge.
- Follow sales orders through your fulfillment process. Again, identify the hand-offs and look for potential disconnects.
- Process map your post-fulfillment support activities. Is your follow-up pro-active or passive? Are you taking the time to say Thank You? Is your sales representative or a field support person present with your customer to ensure a smooth adoption of your product or service?
- Use the project to fully engage your associates. Gallup’s ongoing research on employee engagement indicates only 29% of employees show up with enthusiasm and passion for their work. In addition, a white paper released by Maritz Research® in June, 2011 revealed only 14% of employees feel their company listens to them and cares about them. This is a wonderful opportunity to take action and actively listen to your frontline associates. Emotionally engaged associates create emotionally engaged customers.
- With this information in hand, initiate a master project for customer experience improvement. Break it down into small working groups that handle each touch point and roll it up into a coordinated strategic initiative to drive emotional engagement. Have your project leaders familiarize themselves with the work of Dan Ariely, a leading behavioral economist that has written two exceptional books on the subject called, “Predictably Irrational – The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions” and “The Upside Of Irrationality”. Dr. Ariely’s work will provide fresh insights to help guide customer engagement through the lens of Applied Behavioral Economics.
By understanding the entirety of your customers’ experiences, on both a cognitive and emotional level, and initiating a project designed to wring out the variables at every touch point, you’ll be well on your way to creating a remarkably differentiated experience for your customers.