The power of positive customer experiences
By Kim Proctor

Research has proven that customers are seeking positive experiences. Yes, I did say seeking.

Let me illustrate this point with a 2-question exercise.

Question 1 : When was the last time you had a positive experience with a company you do business with? Think about your phone company, insurance company, retailers, restaurants and so on.

Question 2 : If you knew you could get better service from a particular store would you go there (assuming all things were equal)? I would. That is why I stopped going to the Stop & Shop near my house (1/2 mile away) and now drive several more miles to get to a store with nicer help and better selection and product availability.

At this point, I am seeking good experiences.

For example, when I needed a laser printer I looked at Hewlett Packard - but their phone customer service was rated poorly. So I looked for an alternative and found Canon. Their service is strong and customers love them - so I bought a Canon.

I'm not willing to settle for bad experiences anymore. Customers lose time and sometimes money when service isn't good. Time is too valuable to be wasted in frustrating phone queues and receiving poor service. I'm guessing you can relate.

Why do you want to provide positive experiences?

A positive experience is the foundation for a long-term relationship - one that has a higher likelihood of re-purchase and positive word of mouth - two things that directly impact your bottom line.

Here is another reason you want to provide positive experiences: getting just 5% more of your customer base to be loyal would lead to an average increase in profit per customer between 25% to 100%. This is a compelling statistic from Frederick Reichheld's book The Loyalty Effect . A key way to get to that loyalty is by offering positive customer experiences on a consistent basis to all your customers.

This reveals the opportunity to grow your business by keeping existing customers happy. Those happy customers will stay with your business longer and are more likely to spread the word - bringing you new customers with no acquisition cost.

How do you know if you are providing positive experiences to your customers?

You can evaluate the experiences your customers have by looking at every "touchpoint" you have with your customers and (a) looking for customer feedback on those points; (b) talking to employees who interact with customers at those touchpoints; and, (c) asking customers at those points for feedback.

Satisfaction does not reveal loyalty or measure experiences

Many are tempted to think that customer satisfaction surveys and results tell the full story. They don't. Customer satisfaction surveys measure past satisfaction and do not equate with loyalty or the potential to spread positive word of mouth.

If you track and measure the customer experience you can get a faster read on the health of your business. Gallup has done much research on this and the worldwide consulting group Peppers & Rogers has affirmed the power of the customer experience as well.

To track the customer experience, revisit the touchpoint exercise above. If you can capture feedback about the experience (ask specific questions not general satisfaction ones) at the touchpoint or soon after that is the best way to see how it's going.

Lastly, I propose that shifting a percent of marketing dollars toward customer experience management will help a business grow faster and for less money than a pure focus on customer acquisition. For example: shift 15% of your customer acquisition budget (advertising or trade shows) to improving customer experiences (increasing training and compensation for front-end employees, improving web customer service, upgrading systems so you can provide seamless customer service). When you shift, track a few key variables and see what happens to customer retention, satisfaction and more. You will see a difference. Oh, and check your bottom line, too.

More and more businesses are doing just this. Why not yours?

Kim Proctor is a Customer Relationship Consultant with . She has 11 years of experience in developing long-lasting relationships by improving communications and customer experiences plus using market research tools to better understand customer needs and preferences. She is reachable at


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