I got the opportunity to participate in a “Women in Business” conference hosted by PINK Magazine at the Intercontinental Hotel in Atlanta, GA today. While there were definitely a lot of eye-opening takeaways around the challenges that women face when trying to start, grow, or sell their businesses, my biggest learning was this:
Businesses, no matter what the size, experience the same Customer Experience challenges.
An interesting thing was happening while women were talking about the companies they owned or worked for. The small companies often got started because they found a niche and established very close personal relationships and were emotionally invested in their customers’ success. As the company grew, leaders were forced to make decisions about their ability to provide that same level of personal attention. As one of the speakers said, you get to a point where you either “work more hours, or influence those in your company to live your value system.” And then the women kept on talking and sharing – and I came away with these common Customer Experience challenges organizations of any size face:
- If you don’t set an upfront tone for the relationship that you can sustain throughout the entire customer lifecycle, you will have failed your customer. Establishing expectations for an unsustainable relationship will put you at a severe disadvantage and won’t get much sympathy or forgiveness when things go wrong (which they will).
- It doesn’t matter how much love you wrap around your customer – if you don’t have a solid product or service that is solving a true pain, then you won’t keep them long. Lots of companies survive for years on mediocre products and services and mediocre experience – but you’re never going to grow and thrive under those conditions. Start with solving a true customer pain, then build a killer experience for the market you’re targeting.
- There comes a point where you need to make some decisions about which aspects of your experience you’re going to prioritize over others. You can’t do it all, not with the constant operational budget challenges. As a result of your inability to be perfect for every customer in every situation, you will lose some customers, and you will have to come to terms with that (see #1).
- Relying on customer feedback completely to evolve and grow your company is a mistake. Customers will often tell you what they need to alleviate an immediate pain, as opposed to thinking 2 steps ahead of your competition and provide innovative solutions to the larger story. Use a combination of customer feedback, your advisers, and your own visionary leadership.
- Every interaction that your customer has with you is an opportunity to secure a future sale. It’s difficult to think further into the future than the chance to meet your numbers now, so more often than not, the overall experience is compromised. Customers will appreciate your working with their best interest in mind as opposed to yours, and you will build loyalty and recurring business as a result of that.