Principle 5: Total Customer Experience

Book Discussion:
“Sticky Branding” by Jeremy Miller

Are you ready for Principle 5 about “Total Customer Experience”? If you haven’t read my previous blogs and would like to catch up, just start here.

Ready? Off to Principle 5. What does Miller mean by “Total Customer Experience”? The following sentence covers it in a few words: “It doesn’t matter what the company promotes, it’s what the customer experiences that counts. […] Sticky Brands provide their customers [with] compelling experiences that keep them coming back.” (page 82)

By now, I believe it is abundantly clear that emotions are a main driver in our customers’ decision process. It is not enough for us to tell them how great our product or service is, our customers have to feel the difference between you and your competition. Do you only say you care, or do you really care?

Having a sweet tooth and loving Belgian chocolate, Miller’s example really resonated with me. The words he used in describing his experience with the Canadian Chocolatier Purdys speak volumes.

Miller went to one of Purdys’s retail stores, “a chocolate lover’s paradise,” (page 84) located in a busy train station late on a Friday afternoon. Entering the store he felt that “the chocolates engage [his] sense of taste and smell,” (page 85) but he was very “surprised that a retail associate, her name is Nora, would spark a conversation in such a busy environment” and ask him about his favorite chocolate. (page 85) In response he was given two samples, and their conversation continued about the chocolates.

The simple gesture and genuine curiosity “What is your favorite?” […] “may seem a little mundane” because “any retailer can ask [this] question. But the fact is, most don’t.” (page 86) The “authentic curiosity” that Miller felt is “an anomaly” (page 87) and transformed his chocolate purchase into a compelling experience. Very simple, but extremely powerful.

Don’t we often say: “The devil lies in the detail?” So often it’s the little things that can make all the difference and, in this case, they don’t even cost a dime. I frequently hear that businesses should strive to delight their customers and exceed their expectations; most don’t. And most of the time it’s, as mentioned above, the little things that are missing. One of my favorite examples is the difference between going shopping at Trader Joe’s and ShopRite. Just to be clear, I don’t get any commission for writing this, but at Trader Joe’s the staff goes out of their way to help me find a product; they even check their new deliveries if it’s not on the shelf. At ShopRite I’m lucky if the employee doesn’t walk away when I approach.

You, as a small business owner or entrepreneur, have it in your hands to make your customer feel special and important. There are a million different ways to do it. Listen to your customers and be proactive. They’ll tell you what they want. Or ask them what they miss or what they struggle with, help them, and you are well on your way. As mentioned in my previous blog , humans are hard-wired to notice differences. Use it to your advantage.

How does Purdys manage their customer experience? They sell their premium chocolates only in Purdys stores and online. They hire the right people and train them to be Purdys chocolate ambassadors. I don’t know Purdys or their chocolate, but I’m pretty certain that their sales staff loves chocolate as much as their customers.

Enough about chocolate (at least for now). Let’s look at some other companies that have a great reputation with their customers. How about Apple, Virgin, Tesla or Starbucks? How about Trader Joe’s and Mini Cooper? Each adds their own flavor to an excellent customer experience. And that is exactly what makes them Sticky Brands, brands their customers come back to over and over again. They are by no means perfect, and they don’t have to be. But they add their personality at each customer touchpoint, and their customers talk about them.

Coming back to my introductory sentence, it’s not about what a company says, it’s about what they do and how they make you, the customer, feel. What is your special skill that makes you better than anybody else in your industry? What do you do better than anybody else? Let’s sum it up with Miller’s own words: “Each place your customers engage with your brand is an opportunity to create a compelling experience. Look at all your customer touchpoints: website, apps, your facilities, salespeople, customer service, your products, marketing material, and any other place your customer may come in contact with your brand. Each of these points is an opportunity to engage your customers and enhance their experience.” (page 91)

Over to you now. Where can you engage with your customer? What can you do to support them in a more meaningful way or make it easier for them? Let me hear what you have learned and what you are planning to do in the comments below.

If you’d like to read more about this topic you should check out the article “Branding Through Customer Service” by Carole Mancuso of Brand Building for Small Business.

Until next week

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