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Idea Generator Pages First

Match the DNA

Any claims you make about your products has to be overtly represented in the process someone goes through to buy and use them. Otherwise you have not only cast doubt on the intention of your customer experience, you have called into question the quality of the products themselves.

Always Do This

  • What are the adjectives your company uses to describe any product’s reliable special features, quality standards and intention?
  • Make sure that these same adjectives are applied to the customer experience – the process of buying and using the product.

List up to six adjectives that most describe your product/service DNA.

Focus on the Field of Awareness

You may understand your business very well, and marvel at the intelligence, discipline and complex mechanisms required to deliver it to your customers. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean your customers always understand these things or attach any importance to them.

Your customers are neither as knowledgeable about, nor infatuated by, your organization it is. The strategies that sound urgent and glorious in your conference rooms will often fail to even attract the notice of your customers in their own world. What your customers do understand and appreciate is what is most relevant to them, especially when they can compare and contrast quality between your company's version and other experiences.

The key is to focus on what your customers will immediately notice and care about – what they’ve seen before in the experience of buying on behalf of the enterprise and as a consumer themselves. Focus on what they do understand and they’ll grant you credibility for everything they don’t.

Always Ask Yourself This

  • What do your customers care most about in their experience?
  • What can they most easily understand in the experience?
  • What in the experience would they be able to differentiate between typically (poorly) done by others or spectacularly well done by you?

Always Do This

  • Focus highlights of the customer experience on the fields of awareness.

Exaggerate the Experience

There isn't a legendary customer experience feature from any company that made financial or operational sense when it was first suggested within the company. It only made sense when it made sense to the company's customer culture and served the company well. And that only happened if the feature made no sense at all.

The irony of communicating to a culture is that something has to be exaggerated to be believable. Any exaggerated protection or promotion of what your company says is important to you will become a legend in your customer culture. Legends are how a culture communicates and stores information.

Therefore, the customer experience has to feature exaggerated aspects that have no obvious connectivity to a financial return for your company - apparently an unnecessary, over-the-top waste of effort and money for the company. Your customers can see that this has no apparent financial gain for you. Why would you do this for them? It doesn't make any sense. Of course not; but not making sense is exactly the point. The only way to comprehend it is that it's a tangible proof point of your commitment to a spectacular and signature customer experience.

The keys are that the exaggerations have to be linked to your larger brand intention, activation categories and communications personality, and that they are obvious: overt, unavoidable and easy to understand.

Always Do This

  • Develop exaggerated features (or events) of the customer experience that have no obvious relationship to your company benefit — only your customers' benefit.
  • Focus exaggerated features on the customer fields of awareness.
  • "Waste space" by providing something of pure customer benefit, unrelated to any financial transactions.
  • Give something to customers after they have already bought something from you - when they least expect the brandable experience to continue.

Exaggerate the Experience

Create the Echo of a Thousand Good Times

Two companies that sell exactly the same thing at the same price. In one, customers get an intuitively warm feeling, making them want to linger and return often. The other leaves customers intuitively cold, wanting to depart quickly and not return. It marks the difference between a company that leaves customers cold and a company that produces an intuitively warm feeling in its customer culture.

In the warmer, inviting company there is an intangible “echo of a thousand good times” as if you can feel the spirit of customers just like you who had been there before and been treated right. Translating this feeling means creating tangible proof points of three committed relationships that are clearly precious to the company: The relationship between your company and your customers, between your company and your employees, and between your company and your local communities.

The relationship between your company and its customers would be seen, for example, by celebration of any significant event in customer’s lives – the company is aware of these things because it is close enough to the customer and cares enough. It celebrates it to the customer and in some cases celebrates it about the customer in its own company. The relationship between a company and its employees is important because customers are made up of people who are employees of other companies themselves. They are naturally supportive of any company that treats its own staff with respect and affection. It is seen, for example, in the celebration of its own employees significant life events- a celebration that reaches the customer because a company this close to both its own people and its customer wouldn’t put a barrier between the two.

The relationship between a company and its communities is important because the customer belongs to these communities too and will notice if the company gives back to the environment from which it takes revenue. Support of local charities is an example of this but it’s not about giving money as much as giving time and intelligence – providing the expertise that it sells to the customer for free. And it’s not only the support of local charities but the communities themselves: spotlight what is right and stand up for what needs to be fixed.

These relationships slop over traditional lines of demarcation in the relationship between a company and its customer, but it isn’t sloppy in presentation – just enthusiastic and often informal – genuine, not calculated.

Always Do This

  • Show tangible evidence of the relationship the company and its customers. Publicly celebrate customer life events so other customers can see it.
  • Show tangible evidence of the relationship between the company and its employees. Place recruitment collateral in the branches and in customer sections of the website that show the respect and affection you have for your people. Publicly celebrate employee life events so customers can see it.
  • Show tangible evidence of the relationship between the company and its local communities. Highlight both major employers and small businesses. Shine a light on the best of the community and advocate for – and participate in – improvement. Show that you intimately know what life is like within the communities you serve.

Create the Echo of a Thousand Good Times

Remain Relevant

Traditional business thinking says that a company will be successful if it has a great value proposition. In this age of massive consumer buying choices and immediately shared rating within a customer culture, going to market on value alone risks that a company will be perceived as a commodity. The companies that will be the most successful will go to market on both value and relevance.

The world is complex. There’s a lot happening in it and it happens to your customers. If your company only wants to be relevant to them when you’re trying to sell something and they’re somewhat interested in buying it, okay. But that means you are choosing to be irrelevant to them for the rest of the time, which is a dangerous strategy.

Your company may understandably want to stop short of taking a social activism position on world events, but your customer experience can still reflect an understanding that the world exists beyond the company-customer relationship. It can show some attitude about what is beautiful about the human condition and make some comment about when that human condition is despairing to any reasonable human being. After all, people don’t trust companies, they trust people.

Always Do This

  • Take a social (humanistic, not political) stand on world events that significantly affect your customers’ lives. Don’t pretend that the world isn’t happening outside of your company.
  • For B2B customers, offer support – empathy, insight, solutions, community -- for urgent and chronic business issues.
  • For B2C customers, offer support for issues that affect customers’ lives, above and beyond their business with your company.

Remain Relevant

Control the Damage Ahead of Time

Your customers’ awareness of your company’s experience is most acute when something has gone wrong. This is the time when the experience means the most and when they’re most convinced they’ll be let down or forced to be their own vigorous advocate. By an unfortunate coincidence, this is typically the time when they’re fundamentally let down by most companies or forced to be their own vigorous advocate.

That it doesn’t happen at your company is the point; your customers have faced this from other companies and they anticipate and judge your company accordingly. Even the most advantaged customer has experienced more bad service than good service. To combat this misperception your experience has to be as spectacular and signature and sustainable when things go wrong as when things go right.

When things go wrong, companies are generally at their reactionary, defensive, uncoordinated worst. This will allow your company to be at its outstanding, coordinated best. You should almost be hoping for something to go wrong to prove how good your customer experience really is.

It includes exaggerating the response and resolution to any problem, for the same reason that exaggerating other facets of the support experience will create legends amongst customer cultures.

Always Do This

  • Plan ahead for what can go wrong in the customer experience. Develop a brandable response for each situation. Write them down, make access immediately available to all involved employees, and practice responses like fire drills.
  • Make your customers whole for the damage they’ve incurred. It’s not enough to simply rectify the problem; they’ve still had to endure that problem.
  • Give authority to employees to resolve as many problems as possible. Management should be notified when the problems occur but not step in unless a situation has escalated to that level or the employee wants to show a customer that management is aware of the issue.

Control the Damage Ahead of Time