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Creating Exceptional Customer Experiences

FastTrac, Kauffman Foundation

Generally, there are two ways to grow your business: selling more to the same customers or finding new customers and selling to them. As an experienced entrepreneur, you’ve probably already figured out that it’s a lot easier to sell something to a current customer than to a new customer. One of the best ways to grow is to provide customers with such a great experience that they return again and again.

Providing exceptional products, services, and interactions has the added advantage of attracting new customers as well. You may have heard of the concept of viral marketing. That’s when a product or service becomes so popular among current customers that the word spreads from them to others like a flu germ at the height of flu season. The point is that there’s nothing better for growth than customers who sing your praises to all their friends and colleagues—and the only way to get that kind of momentum is by making a conscious decision to create exceptional customer experiences. Attention to your customers will reap more business from their friends and colleagues.

Sales and customer service strategies can build the reputation you desire for your business as well as for your products or services. You may already have effective sales strategies that focus on attracting and retaining customers. Maybe you have policies, warranties, guarantees, terms and conditions, or procedures for dealing with customer complaints. One of the key things to remember is that every interaction with a customer is an opportunity to create an exceptional experience. From the first time a potential customer hears about your company, goods, or services to their experience long after the sale has been made, everything matters.

Every time your client thinks about your company, your people, your products, or your services is an opportunity to make them happy or disappoint them. John Nordstrom, founder of the national department store chain Nordstrom® created a culture on the retail floor that epitomized the right attitude. He didn’t emphasize a long set of rules for his sales people but rather a few simple principles: Listen to the customer. Provide them with what they want. Appreciate the fact they came to your store, and do everything within your power to ensure that they’re satisfied when they leave. Another Nordstrom secret is to instill this attitude in everyone throughout the chain of command, empowering each employee to make decisions on their own about how to satisfy customers.

If you’ve ever been annoyed at the local supermarket when you have to wait five minutes for the manager to hit a key on the cash register after the cashier makes a simple mistake, you’ll know why empowering employees to make customer-satisfaction decisions is so important. You can’t just will these exceptional customer experiences into existence. You have to inspire your people, train them, and empower them. The more you empower your employees to act on behalf of the customer, the more likely your strategies will build a competitive advantage in the marketplace. When employees respond quickly to customer issues, recognize and reward them for doing so.

© 2006 Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. All rights reserved.

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