If we were to ask 100 people "what makes great customer experience?" they would list all the obvious things we have talked about in our book and on this website.
High up on the list would be "responsiveness". People want immediate responses to their enquiries. They want quick deliveries. We live in a time hungry world.
Unsurprisingly they want "great products". People love to tell others about novel, innovative good quality and well-designed products. The product is, after all, at the heart of any purchase.
Some will say they want to be pleasantly "surprised". An experience that is memorable is usually one that is different. Obviously, it is best to be memorable in a nice way.
There will be a host of other things that people may mention. They may say that the best customer experience is when the supplier listens and responds to their needs. They may say that they value respect shown by the supplier. They may appreciate great knowledge a supplier has of its products and services so it ensures that what it bought is what is really needed.
These are things on a list that we can tick off to make good customer experience. Large consumer companies such as restaurant chains have to create customer experience models that can be replicated across their many sites. And many of these companies do a good job; often a much better job than B2B companies. They work out the best way to deliver customer experience and train their staff to deliver it.
Most B2B companies haven't reached this stage. B2B companies are more likely to be held back by fiefdoms and silos than their consumer cousins. Production, finance, sales and marketing departments, can all enjoy lots of independence. Think about it. Which is the most important department in most B2B companies? We wager that it is the production department. This is the heart of the B2B company, producing products and services that customers need. It is often where the company began – making chemicals, machine parts, software programs etc. Sales and marketing departments have grown out of necessity because the products must be sold. However, it is the sales and marketing departments that obsess about customer service. And yet they often have to accept that a production director cannot (or will not) change the schedule for a desperate customer. The finance department may not yield or make an exception for a customer that needs extended credit.
This does not mean to say that B2B companies cannot provide amazing customer experience. Many do, but it tends to be sporadic and inconsistent. It is why B2B companies have to become more like McDonald's in delivering good customer service.
It shouldn't stop with the checklist of things to do. The very best customer service comes not from a checklist but from a culture. This means great customer service has to go right through the company just as words go through a stick of rock. The person at the top of the company must have a total commitment to customer service. Customer service must be the driver of everything that the company does. If this is the case, people who are recruited to the company will only be taken on if they are customer orientated. Everyone within the company, whatever department they work in, will recognise the importance of great customer experience. This leads to the following formula:
Structure + culture = great customer experience
We finish with a quote from Jan Carlzon, one of our heroes. He ran SAS Airlines through the 1980s and turned it from losses to profits with amazing customer service:
“If you’re not serving the customer, your job is to be serving someone who is.” – Jan Carlzon