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Race to the Top

Race to the Top

Delivering an outstanding customer experience may be your greatest retention tool.


We live in an age where customers are more informed than ever before. At the touch of a button, they can compare products and services between companies, and they can often find information on what your customers think about the company itself. This makes for a uniquely challenging time because your customers have tremendous access to competitors’ offers and other information that may convince them to work with somebody else.

How can you hope to keep your customers in the face of unrelenting competition?

Let’s get the obvious out of the way: You should never compete on price. That’s simply a race to the bottom, and usually the company at the bottom disappears.

The situation is far from hopeless, though. You already have your current customers’ business. Now the real challenge is convincing them that they don’t want to leave you, and the best way to do that is by providing a top-notch customer experience. In fact, putting the effort into improving the customer experience will pay off by not only helping your business retain customers but also attracting new ones.

Customers must feel that they matter to your company. So, despite whatever you may feel your company is ‘about’, or the image you think you project, or even the level of services you offer, if it turns out the customer experience you deliver is not a positive one, you still have work to do.

“Customer experience” can include many different elements, but it ultimately means how your customers feel about the time they’ve spent with your business.

Where to Start

Start by looking at the online reviews of your business and your competitors. Look at social media posts as well. What’s being said about you and your competition? What are people complaining about or sharing positive reviews about? Are there complaints about factors that seem largely out of your control (prices, delivery times), or are there things that could obviously be fixed (bad attitudes from customer service reps, mistakes on orders)? Are there positive reviews around speedy service or quality customer service? All of this information will help to paint a picture of what makes your customers happy and not so happy.

The next big step is utilizing surveys that drill-down on more specific areas that you may be concerned your company needs to improve on. By asking your actual customers directly what they like and don’t like, you’ll get a raw and unfiltered set of ideas about what might need to change at your company.

Performing surveys at least once a year ensures that you have the latest information on how your customers feel about your business. Another step to consider is sending an email survey after every e-commerce transaction is completed, which will give you even more recent (and specific) feedback on how things are going.

It isn’t as simple as just sending out surveys, though. Trying to understand your customers can be tricky. Simple nuances such as the wording of a question or the order that your questions are asked can generate very different results. This is one reason why looking at multiple sources of feedback is so important. So, as new feedback comes in, be sure to re-examine your understanding of your customers and your processes to make sure you’re still on the right track.

Tailor Your Internal Culture Toward Outstanding Customer Service

Strive to create a company culture that places a stronger emphasis on the customer experience and has metrics in place to track how well customers are being served. The quality of the customer experience needs to become a priority. Employees throughout your organization should know the key activities associated with their jobs that have the greatest positive impact on the customer experience, and you should consider putting into place incentives that will encourage your teams to engage in those activities.

Create a ‘Customer Experience Leader’

Assign one member of your team the role of ‘Customer Experience Leader.’ They can work with your existing customer service, sales, marketing, and operations teams to gather data, find problem areas, and promote good results. The key here is that all of your departments/teams will be coming together to give their input when it comes to customer experience data. All aspects of the customer experience should be analyzed. Your Customer Experience Leader can then compile and present a report to you and the rest of your executive team that summarizes what’s been found so you can start working on making any necessary changes.

Have a Solid, Appealing and Consistent Marketing Message

Don’t forget the importance of high-quality marketing and branding! You may have excellent customer service, product selection, etc., but if your marketing looks dated (or just poorly put together), it will have an impact on the customer’s experience (even if only on a subconscious level, but it will still be there).

Strive to Provide a Better Experience

Of course, there’s a lot more you can do to improve your customer experience, and any improvements should be treated as an ongoing process. The reality is that there’s never going to be a fixed end-point when it comes to customer experience because there will always be something you can do better. Continuous improvements will help you maintain an edge over your competitors, so be sure to regularly measure, monitor, and adjust appropriately.

Have each department in your business take a look at itself to see where improvements can be made. It’s worth taking the time to do so! It’s quite possible your competitors are not doing this, which means you’ll have a much greater chance of standing out.

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Susan Merlo  is a strategic marketing consultant, speaker, and trainer who specializes in digital marketing for the distribution industry. To learn more about her visit www.SusanMerlo.com or email her directly at Susan@SusanMerlo.com.

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