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Customer Experience

What Corporate America Taught Me About Customer Experience

A woman shopping in a store looking at a wall of coffee choices. Customer experience in Corporate America needs to become the norm.

When I first started out in Corporate America, there was no such thing as customer experience. It wasn’t something we were conscious of, and we definitely didn’t track it.

But an early interaction with a customer at my first job demonstrated the power of creating a relationship with each individual customer. 

A Personal Touch: Going Above and Beyond

I was working in the marketing and product management area of the Danbury Mint, a high-end, direct-to-consumer collectibles company based out of Norwalk, Connecticut.

For some reason, a customer’s phone call came to my desk instead of to the Customer Service department. I answered the phone and there was an upset woman on the other line. She said that Christmas was going to be ruined because she had not yet received her gift for her granddaughter.

I didn’t know exactly what to do, because I didn’t have access to her account information, so I did the thing that came naturally: I grabbed a pen and paper and asked her for her name, address, and the name of the item. And I told her that I’d take care of it for her.

I went to the warehouse and pulled down the item, brought it over to the packaging area, carefully packed it up, and personally walked it to the FedEx station. I wanted to make sure that package was going to be delivered overnight on December 24th, because no way was Christmas going to be ruined by my account!

Here’s the moral of this story: I never asked anyone’s permission to do this. I don’t know if I broke any company rules that day, but I never got into trouble. And that customer remained a happy customer for many years to come.

I’ve taken that experience and remembered it throughout my career. Many years later, my boss at Discover Card noted that in meetings, I was always wearing the “Customer” hat. What exactly does that mean? I always tried to look at business problems through the lens of the customer. Because if the company does right by its customers, the revenue and profit usually follow. 

Customer Experience In Corporate America Would Be Better If People Stopped Talking And Started Listening

Far too often in Corporate America, people debate opinions that aren’t really relevant to the customer experience.

For example, at one job I was asked for my opinion on which of four different marketing pieces I liked the best. An entire conference room of people looked expectedly toward me, awaiting my decision.

I think I disappointed them when I told them that my opinion didn’t matter. What mattered was what the customer thought. What mattered was which marketing piece would cause the most customers to take action. And that had nothing to do with my opinion of which creative I liked best. 

But most executives aren’t like that. Most executives believe that they “know” what customers want. Instead, they should listen to what their customers actually want.

At the end of the day, it didn’t matter which marketing piece we went with. Because in more than 20 years in Corporate America, I’ve learned that a remarkable customer experience is the best marketing strategy.

That’s an ironic conclusion given that most of my career has been as a marketer. I have led teams of marketers overseeing almost every marketing channel there is, from direct mail to social media and everything in between.

But no Facebook ad, billboard, or email campaign has quite the same effect as one-to-one human connection.

Related: Why Subjective Marketing Can Lead To Poor Customer Experience

Companies Must Address Small Irritants For A Better Customer Experience

Creating a remarkable experience doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive. Often, the best improvements to the overall experience come from fixing seemingly small customer irritants.

Examples include a button that doesn’t function correctly on the website or a mobile app that keeps crashing. These are extremely frustrating moments to customers, and too many of these moments will cause customers to flee to the competition in search of an easier experience.

So I always urge companies to begin by removing the barriers that make doing business with you more difficult than it should be. Look for opportunities to reduce the number of clicks or taps to get to one’s destination. If takes two clicks, find a way for it to only take one click – or even zero clicks, like my team and I did at Discover Card.

Opportunities To Enhance The Customer Experience In Corporate America

Once you remove customer irritants, it’s time to look for opportunities to add positive experiences. One place to look? Where there is no experience currently.

It could just be something that’s a little bit better than it is today. Look for opportunities to make doing business with you easier and faster.

Here’s what customer experience in Corporate America should always look like: During Prime Day I ordered a new set of pots and pans from Amazon. I was pleased with the deal, but when they arrived, one of the glass lids was shattered. So I called Amazon, hoping they could send me a replacement lid. They couldn’t, but they told me they would issue a complete refund and that they didn’t need the pots and pans back.

I started off being bummed about a broken lid. But almost immediately I thought, “Lid? What lid? I got free pots and pans!” The entire experience flipped 180 degrees.

Do your policies and procedures allow a customer service agent to make a customer that happy?

When you create happy customers, they can’t wait to tell their friends about the experience (I call this Shareable). And when your customers are doing your marketing for you, it is far more credible than any marketing campaign. 

Photo by Dollar Gill on Unsplash.

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