Ashley Deland is a business consultant, owner of Maison De Land (formerly Deland Marketing) and a Business Elite top 40 Under 40 winner.
When hired as a business consultant, I not only scan the obvious blueprint for success such as marketing, branding, scalable systems and a unified digital ecosystem, but also look at the customer journey and the various touch points within it.
The customer journey is a critical part of any business, but it’s one that companies often overlook. Having a well-designed customer journey is a key element of success that drives retention and referrals. When a brand focuses on providing an exceptional customer experience, they have the potential to see higher sales rates and greater brand exposure.
In my experience, people are usually willing to pay more for better customer service and a better overall customer experience. Beyond profit, creating a luxury experience should be a core part of your brand so you can add an extra layer of care and attention and show how invested you are in their overall experience.
Bring on the ‘white glove’ experience.
It’s just not enough these days to just provide average customer service. If you want to delight your customers and keep them coming back, providing a first-class experience is essential. White-glove customer service is the process of exceeding customer expectations by putting their needs first, genuinely caring about their success, and personalizing their experience from start to finish.
In the past, this level of service referred to a luxury experience reserved for customers with a high lifetime value. These customers were literally greeted by white-gloved hosts who catered to their every need and want. Now this premium experience is not reserved for VIP customers. It is an experience for everyone; you give all your customers the best you have to offer, which promotes loyalty and positive word of mouth.
How can you take your customer journey to the next level?
Building a customer-centric culture is easier said than done. Many brands want to create this experience, but they’re not sure where to start, so here are a few of my tips:
1. Create a customer strategy using a template.
A white glove experience starts with the first interaction you have with your customers. Create a customer experience strategy that guides every aspect of how you serve your customers and sets a standard for your team. A strong strategy should include your company mission, customer support vision, support process, tools and software, goals and metrics.
2. Collect customer feedback.
Before you can improve your experience, you need to understand how well you currently serve your customers. Gather feedback and outline where you met or exceeded expectations, as well as areas for improvement.
3. Map the customer journey.
Before you can implement a company-wide initiative, you need a strategy. Customer journey mapping is a great start to outlining the steps your customer goes through when interacting with your brand, including engaging on social channels.
Be sure to consider different perspectives and where they are in the buyer’s journey. Remember to consider both the pre-purchase aspect of the experience and the post-purchase experience. Many brands think they have nothing to worry about after a sale, but this is an excellent opportunity to leave a positive impression that leads to word of mouth and referrals.
4. View the journey from multiple perspectives.
The customer experience is influenced by different facets of your business, so don’t focus on just one department when auditing the customer journey. Customers interact with different aspects of your brand and you need to consider the perspective of each, including:
• Marketing: This team understands brand awareness and customer expectations and can give you ideas on how customers find your brand and how you can improve your reputation.
• Sales: This team understands the early stages of the customer relationship. Sales teams understand what motivates leads and the challenges customers face, as well as how they expect the product or service to address them.
• Customer Service: Sales and marketing provide information about your customers’ expectations, while the customer service team provides insight into the reality of their experiences. They hear customer complaints, frustrations and general feedback so they understand how you can improve the experience.
5. Personalize the customer journey.
Once you have feedback and a map, you can implement personalization strategies, especially in your emails and landing pages, that make your customer feel heard and valued.
Your goal is to create the same kind of white glove experience you would expect as a VIP customer at a luxury store, but in a virtual environment. Use your customers’ names and customize every part of their experience to meet their needs and solve problems before they even know they have them.
Personalization is not just a first name; they can be thank you emails or post-purchase gifts, customer follow-ups and surveys, and dynamic product recommendations based on past browsing and buying behavior.
The main takeaway is this: your product or service may be ideal for a customer, but they may end up with a competitor if they encounter barriers or frustrations along the customer journey. Customer demands are constantly evolving and to deliver a luxurious experience you need to improve your strategy, improve your efficiency and take your customer journey to the next level.