Customer first

Profit and growth tied to customers’ ‘total experience’ with your company

Products and price always matter, but customers increasingly demand ease of doing business–even delight–on nearly every interaction.

Can you say with certainty that each one of your customers and prospects has an extraordinary experience from start to finish?

That’s a tall order for even the highest-performing companies.  But “customer experience”–every aspect of your customer’s interaction with your company–is becoming a core pillar of modern management and marketing.  It’s no fad of the moment, and it’s not simply “customer service”.

The thinking:  referrals, new business and profitable growth only happen when your customers are truly satisfied with nearly every interaction they have with your company.

What customers and prospects want and expect is the central question that the best business owners and leaders are asking today, according to McKinsey & Company’s The CEO Guide to Customer Experience, published in 2016.

“The best leaders understand they are in the customer-experience business, and they understand that how an organization delivers for customers is beginning to be as important as what it delivers,” the report said.

A customer’s interaction with sales and service teams typically is not their total experience with your company.  In an age when every in-person and digital interaction adds to–and magnifies–the totality of their experience, every connection point with customers demands extra scrutiny.

I was recently chatting with the owner/CEO of a mid-size commercial printing company.  It had first-class offset and digital capabilities and an impressive customer list.  The topic got to the importance of the customer’s total experience with his business.  “Our sales and customer service teams,” he said without hesitation, “are really good.”

But on a closer look at some common physical and electronic “touchpoints” with the company, the reality was more complex.

A listless front desk worker handled the switchboard, and the voice mail system was tedious.  The company’s website was outdated and needlessly complicated.

Estimating was prompt, but pricing could sometimes be opaque.  New orders on the web-to-print portal often required CS support.

The inside and outside sales teams largely were expert and dedicated, but not everyone was consistently high performing.  Tight quality control across prepress, the pressroom and postpress ensured consistent print excellence.  Shipping performance was consistently strong, but the company’s invoicing could be confusing.

Your company really is your customer’s total experience with it.  And any point of friction between your company and your customer or prospect is increasingly not tolerated.

To start assessing and solving problems, the first place to look is at every customer touchpoint. Among the things to focus on:

• Your website, web-to-print portal and e-storefront.

• Estimates, job submission and proof approval steps.

• Are your outside and inside sales teams extraordinary–careful listeners, proactive and deeply knowledgeable about their customers’ businesses?

• Does your production team look at their job from the customers’ point of view and get rewarded for speaking up when they see something that can be improved?

• Are your prepress, on-press and postpress departments flawless?

• Is shipping and delivery flawless?

• Are invoices detailed so all charges are crystal-clear to the customer?

Proven software, data and e-communications solutions can all help greatly improve customer experience, of course.  But many billed as “turnkey solutions” can quickly turn into time-hogging, over-budget, hard-to-implement messes.

Former HP executive Lior Arussy, now a consultant on customer-centricity and organic growth, says digital interactions with customers and prospects will deepen and improve.  “But the real customer experience resides in the decisions that your employees make every day.  Your company is the sum total of nearly every one of those decisions.”

Key question:  does every one of your employees consistently deliver excellence?  Your company’s future depends on it.

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