Customer experience is like a wheel. What goes around comes around. You put something out there and it affects your customers and potential customers. And rest assured, it will come back to you, good or bad.
The wheel should always have the customer at its center. Everything you do in your relationship with the customer should revolve around them. I see three stages in the customer relationship: getting to know us, doing business with us and ensuring the customer’s continued satisfaction.
Getting to Know Us
In the customer experience context, “getting to know us” involves sales, marketing, word of mouth and good will in general. A customer gets information about your company and determines from your interactions whether they like you. If they do, a good customer experience can tip the scales in your favor, even if a competitor has a lower price or is a “known quantity.” And even if you don’t land the deal, the customer experience you provide might prompt them to recommend you to someone else. What goes around comes around.
Security Isn’t Always in Numbers
The last time I moved, I wanted a monitored security system in my home. Among the welcome-to-the-neighborhood ads were promotions for alarm systems, and based on reputation, online research and recommendations, I narrowed it down to two: the one that the prior owners had used and the one already providing my phone, cable and Internet services.
The first company’s equipment was old, but already installed. It wasn’t cutting edge, but it was loud and lights flashed and police showed up all the same. I found from their web site that this was a family-owned, 50-year-old business that was monitored locally for most hours of the day.
The second company would’ve bundled its security system with our other services for a lower price. Their equipment was very up-to-date, but beyond a few motion sensors and a main keypad that were included in the price, I had to purchase any extra equipment. One hundred percent of their monitoring was done from more than 1,000 miles away, but the kids loved the idea of operating the alarm remotely using our mobile phones.
On paper, each company had its pros and cons, but they were ultimately comparable. So how did we choose? Here’s where a good customer experience can win the day—after getting to know them, how did we feel about each company? What impression did they leave us with?
We chose the original company. Why? A powerful reason was that the prior owners couldn’t say enough about them—“attentive, professional, worth paying a little more.”
When they sent out their tech for an estimate, I noticed that she removed her shoes in the foyer. A small gesture, but a nice touch. She was definitely a salesperson, but also a very knowledgeable technician who understood and could explain the workings of the system. She was candid, telling us what we really didn’t need as well as what we should update. She showed me how the various windows and doors were wired and where we were vulnerable. She wrote down the questions she couldn’t answer and followed up the next day with a phone call.
The estimator from the other company was perfectly professional and arrived on time, but he didn’t seem to know the product all that well and was trying to upsell me on several motion detectors, which were nearly $200 each. He was slightly sensationalist about what could happen if an intruder wanted to get in. He also revealed that he worked for a third-party vendor, not the company’s security department.
After the estimates, I asked each of them why I should go with their company as opposed to their competitor.
The technician at the first company outlined how her products were less fancy, but solid; how her monitoring was mostly local; that she was only selling us what we needed; that we didn’t have to buy our own equipment; and the fact that their customer loyalty (her words) had kept them in business for more than 50 years. She also noted that her company’s only business was security—the other one was just dipping its toe in that pool. She then quipped, “And they screw up the stuff they’re already doing.”
Most importantly, she said she worked for the best company in town, that they really cared about their customers and employees, and she really loved her job.
When I asked the same question of the vendor from the second company, his answer was this: “I honestly don’t know. I guess I should think about that one. What did the other company tell you?”
Whereas he never even followed up to see whether we had made a decision, his competitor sent me a hand-written thank-you note for becoming a customer.
Thankfully, most people never need to find out how attentive their security company will be in an emergency, and I suspect either firm would respond about the same. But when I was getting to know the alarm company we selected, they created the perception that they wouldn’t just call the police—they’d care what happened to me. Is all of that worth $10 more per month? You bet.