Value customers at every step

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Atul Vohra, VP of marketing, Dell Services
Atul Vohra, VP of marketing, Dell Services

If a brand is the promise, the customer experience is that promise kept or broken. Just as the brand is not contained in a single logo or ad, the customer's experience with a company is not based on one or even a series of transactions. It is the relationship a customer has with that organization. Like any relationship, it needs to be nurtured and not taken for granted.

The customer experience begins with the start of the relationship. It must be easy and full of promise with minimal commitment. At this stage, small things yield a huge impact. Consider how many times a customer has to give his contact information: if it is more than once, you've already failed. They should feel recognized and appreciated.

Once the relationship is established, make it simple to buy through combining choices and building product packages. A company should keep decision-making as simple as possible and avoid the “deli effect.” In a deli, a customer is faced with too many options. The financial services industry, for all its problems, does a fine job of limiting the “deli effect.” They understand and have created breakthrough products like cash management accounts and variable annuities.

The next dimension of customer experience is accessing the relationship, including online applications, a customer service call center or an in-person experience. Each touch-point must be seamless and consistent. The travel industry is great at marketing fantasy, and the online experience is typically easy and fast. However, the offline experience often leaves customers dissatisfied. This is a leadership issue. Employees may not be empowered to go beyond protocol to enhance the experience. The question is, ‘what is the discretionary customer experience budget available for front-line representatives?'

In-person engagements are the moment of truth, but far less frequent as websites, automated phone systems and social channels become more prevalent. That means when a customer does engage with an employee, the importance of that contact is increased. Face-to-face communication is the most expensive form of contact, but it's vital to cementing the customer bond. Use it as a selling opportunity and create a fabulous experience that will be spread by word of mouth.

Provide consistent, differentiated service through all touch-points. Investing in customer experience is necessary and vital. 

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