The Key Differentiator

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Recently, I was siting in a room with a CEO whose products are part of the luxury goods market. During our time together we were addressing what is the key differentiator of the CEO’s brand and their direct competition. At the end of the conversation, it was apparent that the crucial element that was needed to break away from the pack was a “Best in Class Customer Experience”.

One of the most common and comforting lies brands tell themselves is that they provide great customer service. In fact, the exact opposite is true. According to research, roughly 82% of customers leave a brand because of bad customer service. While many brands will admit it is a problem, many choose to put their collective heads in the sand and solely depend on KPI data and cost to “justify” the quality of service they provide their customers.

Over the course of my twenty two plus years in the call center industry, I have only seen a handful of brands really tackle this issue head on. I understand why, as it is a journey where leaders have to look themselves in the eye and admit that they are not providing “best in class” experiences to their customers. If you are ready to distinguish your service from your competitors and have the courage to admit you need to make changes, you are already ahead of many brands. Congratulations!

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So what do you do now? There are some understandings and questions you must ask before we look at any data. First, think about what brands come to mind when you think about “Best in Class”? What are the commonalties across these companies? For me, they are the brands who have a strong culture, puts customer before cost, acknowledge people are one of the dominate parts of the business, and focus more on quality than quantity.

Second, what are the generational impacts in today’s market? Did you know that we have entered a period of time where we have to concurrently support four sizable generations of consumers and each one has their own preference of how they interact with you? For example, “Baby Boomers” will prefer engaging in person or over the phone. Generation X leans more towards interactive chat. Finally, the Generation Y and Z customers want to do everything on social media or a mobile app. Whichever brand understands their customer expectations in regard to how they prefer to interact and fulfills that demand, will create separation for themselves from their competition.

Third, spend some time online reviewing what your customers are saying about your brand as well as your competition. Too many times we establish quality programs and metrics based on what we feel the ideal customer experience should be. Why do we do this when we have a plethora of information on the web from the very users we are trying to WOW? The CEO and I were not shocked to find it was the Customer Experience that suffered the same across the market. It was an ah-ha moment. The brand and product were already superior so making changes to how the company’s service department interacts with the customer would be monumental in separating the brand from the rest of the pack.

Finally, you need to ask yourself, what you are prepared to do with this information? I would encourage you to use it to define what “A Great Customer Experience” should look like for your brand. Use it to determine which channels to support based on your customers wants. Hire the right people to support this vision and, finally, identify which data you must measure to know if you are delivering that experience. Brands are either dying or moving forward. If you choose not to change and listen to the customer, they will find someone who will.

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