The Customer Experience as Competitive Edge – from Wells Fargo Small Business

Posted on September 16, 2008. Filed under: customer service, small business | Tags: , , |

Wells Fargo Small Business Round up sends me links to articles once a month or so.  When I find them helpful, I share them here.  Why don’t you bookmark their page and check it now and again?

Competitive differentiation is critical. Whether your value proposition rests on price, service or offering a completely unique product or service, building the optimal customer experience can help separate you from the pack. Creating ongoing, meaningful relationships with customers may just be the best retention tool you have.

“We live in a world of abundant choice, uncertainty of innovation and change and the stress of time pressure,” notes John Todor, Ph.D., author of Addicted Customers. “From a customer’s perspective, this pushes them out of their psychological comfort zone. Bidding wars make products and services commodities, which leads to stress and the tendency to buy on price and convenience, not on value. It takes the joy and inherent loyalty out of the buying experience. But an emotionally satisfying experience gives customers a sense of belonging, helping you increase desire and demand, while decreasing the focus on price.”

Thus, the goal of building the best customer experience is to create desire, and increase demand and commitment on the part of the customer; it’s an experience customers want to return to because they derive value from it. Todor points to the experience of walking into an Apple computer store. You’re greeted by a concierge, and all the products are turned on and ready for use, which is actively encouraged. There’s even a classroom in the middle of the store to foster in-depth product learning. The value for customers is clear: They can experience the product right now, not after they’ve purchased it. They’re subjected to the potential value of owning and using the product in the future—this is the root of desire.

But you don’t have to be big to offer a great experience. “We have a local hardware store where all the employees are ex-tradespeople,” Todor says. “Most of the customers are do-it-yourselfers, so the staff works to have the right person—a plumber, electrician, etc.—talk to you about your needs. They offer solid, sound advice about projects that helps keep customers from making mistakes. They may charge about 10% more than other big box or hardware stores, but you’re getting real expertise when you visit. In this case, the shared experience is valuable and meaningful because the anxiety of concerns the customers have about doing their project without unexpected complications are defused. It turns a nagging task into a project that, when done right, leads to gratification, and the confidence to tackle more homeowner projects. The result: more business for the hardware store. A bonus: customers who spread the word to friends and neighbors.”


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