Positive experiences for your customers

As the Covid saga continues to unfold, it feels like a good time to focus on what we’ve learned in the face of the difficulties.

What have you learned? Are there issues that you’ve identified within your company? Are there opportunities you’d like to pursue? Are there changes you want to make?

Finding a better way to compete

Most companies are struggling to find new ways of competing in this changing marketplace. They’re looking for a secret recipe — a unique product or service that will help them stand apart. Many of  those companies have learned the answer isn’t a secret at all. They’ve found they can compete more effectively by focusing on improving their customers’ experiences.

That’s why I suggest you stop thinking about the product or service you’re delivering; you’re probably doing fine with that. You can create a far bigger sales opportunity if you’ll just improve the way you interact with your customers. That’s because your most important product isn’t your product or service at all. It’s the quality of your customers’ experience in doing business with you.

Your most important product

Your customers’ experience is your most important product. Show them how good it feels to do business with you.

Why not aim to provide the kind of positive experience that your customers get from their favorite suppliers — throughout their personal and business lives?

Look for ways to make it easy for customers to do business with you.
Making it easy to do business can change your customer relationships in the most fundamental way, and it will help you to keep more of your existing business and win more new business as well.

Start by looking at the most basic ways in which you do business. Are there things that get in the way of positive customer experiences? Of course, it’s helpful to offer flexible scheduling and a fast delivery cycle, and a fast and easy ordering process can’t hurt. But you can go far beyond those basic elements.

What gets in the way of positive customer experiences?

Even routine products or services can be enhanced without changing the product itself. Car dealers understand there’s no unique way to perform an oil change or wheel alignment, so they focus on making the rest of their customers’ experience better — making it easy to schedule the appointment, check in, pick up and pay.

They turn something ordinary into something special and make customers feel good about the entire experience, from start to finish. They make the experience more important than the product itself, and wind up with happy (and profitable) service customers who are much more likely to buy their next vehicle from that dealership.

Steps for improving customer experience

You can affect your customers’ experience in countless ways. What stands in the way of you delivering a truly superior experience?

Most companies get lost in the uncharted territory that lies between good intentions and good implementation. You’ll need real tenacity to make some fundamental changes, but the pay-offs can be really large.

  • Start by streamlining and/or automating your ordering process. Eliminate handoffs and resting places in your order-processing by creating online portals for clients with recurring work, and by using other portals to automate simple jobs that shouldn’t require human intervention or analysis.
  • Reduce turnaround time for proofs. Start by eliminating paper proofs. (You’re hanging on to old bad habits if you’re still producing more than 10% paper proofs.) And stop working around clients’ native file formats.
    Create a streamlined pathway for proofs through an automated file submission portal — so clients can submit and pre-flight their files on-line. This will squeeze time and costs out of schedules while also making it easier for the clients.
  • Reduce your turnaround time for quotes. Aim for completing 80% of your quotes in four hours. It’s a competitive advantage that makes a real difference.
    Only about 25% of your quotes require the skills of a professional estimator. Simpler quotes can be done by the people who do your order entry. You can make the entire process even easier and faster by creating templates or standard products. Many companies have found this simple step has reduced their turnaround time for routine quotes by 50% or more.
  • Don’t count on production miracles to deliver on time. Be realistic about scheduling from the outset and eliminate unproductive calls to clients, asking whether it’s okay to deliver little late. (It’s time to stop that behavior. They’ll say YES, but your relationship will be dented.)
  • Have information on job status more easily at hand, so clients don’t have to wait for answers. Consider using a portal to offer clients a view of where their job is in the production process. (And as your delivery promises become more reliable, clients will relax, dramatically cutting back their questions on job status.)
  • Connect with your clients. Acknowledge that client continuing orders are just as valuable as their first order. Demonstrate your appreciation for every order, and seek out signs of approval from them, by giving them a convenient way to make suggestions.

Here’s the crucial question

What stands in the way of you delivering a superior customer experience?

Good for customers, good for YOU

Being easy to do business with has a real impact on customer satisfaction and on sales. It also offers operational benefits — producing operating efficiencies, reducing costs and improving responsiveness at the same time. But more importantly, it will provide a new customer-centered focus that your team can rally around.

Making things easier for customers makes operations more effective inside and out, offering a competitive advantage and a profit advantage too. It’s quite a pay-off.

Want to find real competitive advantage?

If you’re looking for a real competitive advantage,
make your customers feel good about doing business with you.

It’s not enough to deliver projects on time and without mistakes. If you want to compete more effectively, why not aim at being able to say: “our customers love doing business with us.”

It’s a high standard, but it’s a helpful way to focus your attention. And it’s something worth striving for every day. How is your company doing?

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Getting unstuck

This list is filled with things you already know. But most CEOs get stuck and don’t make the progress they need, because they face conflicting demands on their time and attention. Are you too busy because you’ve become a Prisoner of Other People’s Priorities (P.O.O.P.P.), or are you not getting the right kind of help from your team?

Whatever the reason for the lack of progress, if you want to compete more effectively in today’s marketplace, it’s time to find ways to build positive customer experiences. Don’t get stuck in the never-never land between good intentions and good implementation. Why not make 2021 the year you finally accomplish the breakthroughs you’ve  been wishing for but not getting?

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