Back in 1999, B. Joseph Pine and James H. Gilmore published a groundbreaking book entitled The Experience Economy. In it, the authors described how a variety of companies built customer goodwill by developing and delivering remarkable customer experiences. In many of the cases, the businesses went beyond the usual please-and-thank you politeness when interacting with customers and literally gave them experiences that were extraordinary, not only building goodwill but a tribe of devoted fans.
This is analogous to the oft-quoted Steve Martin saying “Be so good they can’t ignore you.
Creating remarkable customer experiences is, of course, not a new concept. For years, people in the business world pointed to such companies as Nordstrom, Southwest Airlines and Disney, to name just as few, as providing exemplary experiences. What is happening, though, is that many companies, including lots of newer ones, continue to rewrite the rules.
The upshot of all this chatter is that providing remarkable customer experiences is something every CEO, company owner and entrepreneur would be well-advised to do. At Thorwin Properties, we strive to do this on a daily basis. Our philosophy is that if we can reinforce to our customers that we want them to be satisfied and happy, it will help us strengthen our relationships with them.
It’s not difficult to do. In fact, it’s just the opposite. And when your customers begin to respond favorably, you’ll realize that it truly is worthwhile. Here are a few things to keep in mind.
- Realize that it’s the customer who gets to determine what is remarkable, not you. In other words, you can only provide excellent experiences once you know what’s valuable to the people with whom you do business. This is where it’s going to take some work on your part. Talk to your customers, get to know them and keep notes when they ask about something. The more you communicate with them, the greater awareness you’ll have of what they want.
- Surprise them. In The Experience Economy, Pine and Gilmore describe a restaurant that randomly, without any notice, would give a customer a free meal rather than presenting them with a check. As you can imagine this action delighted diners and created buzz on the restaurant’s behalf. If you were one of the customers whose lunch tab was picked up, wouldn’t you tell people about it?
- Exceed their expectations when you can. This can mean going over and above when you provide a service. Let’s say you repair automobiles. After you’ve performed a repair to a customer’s car, return it to him or her with indications that you cleaned it afterward, maybe put a paper mat on the floor or gave it a wash. This wasn’t part of the arrangement, but in a simple way you demonstrated respect for the customer’s property. A small act of kindness can pay big dividends in enhancing your reputation.
Depending on your company and how you interact with customers or clients, I’m sure you can develop a plethora of ways to provide exemplary customer experiences. Remember—you might offer a wonderful product or service, but the experience is often what shapes our customers’ perceptions.