I admit to spending more time reading books, blogs and articles about customer experience, as well as analyzing customer feedback, than most people on the planet. As a result, my personal experiences often fall short of my expectations dealing with companies unfortunate enough to have me as a customer. Even those companies that are most highly regarded as models of customer centricity by the customer experience management community often miss the mark.
I am well aware of the fact that my own experience could be just a momentary slip in customer experience delivery, and does not diminish a company reputation as a whole. On the other hand, I wonder how uncommon is my experience dealing with some of these high reputation companies. In other words, do companies that are known for their customer centricity deserve their reputation?
USAA tops every list of the most customer centric companies based on institutional surveys results and well orchestrated publicity of these results. The company’s own customer reviews site indicates that 91% of customers are satisfied enough to recommend their services. Yet, there are hundreds of others on the same site who are enraged about their experience with the company. If you look at the customer reviews and complains sites outside of the company’s control, the satisfaction numbers are much lower than the levels expected of the leader in customer centricity. In fact, they are only marginally higher than the satisfaction scores of their competitors. However, apparently it is good enough to keep USAA on top. I understand that no company can satisfy every customer. I just want to illustrate that you don’t have to be the best to earn the top spot, you just have to be the best option available. Particularly, if you operate in regulated markets and your customers have to buy the products you sell (auto insurance).
Amazon is another poster child of customer centricity. This company competes in the markets where consumers have plenty of choice, unlike the previous example. Based on the ratio of customer praise and complains on the independent customer reviews sites, Amazon’s social reputation is much higher than most retailers. Bed, Bath and Beyond is the only other retail company that earned similar customer experience scores from non institutional sources. Analysis of the employees’ feedback available online, shows substantially more positive perception of the BBB than of Amazon’s. Yet, I’ve never seen Bed, Bath and Beyond mentioned as a positive example of a customer centric company.
So what helps a company to get a reputation that incites consumers to do business with them?
- Passionate, visionary leaders committed to excellence in product design (Steve Jobs or Elon Musk) or customer experience (Jeff Bezos or Tony Hsieh);
- Smart use of the customer satisfaction measurement industry (institutional) to get publicity;
- Don’t suck more than your competitors.
How to keep this reputation? Here are a few suggestions
- Understand who are your best customers and why they choose to do business with you
- Recruit, evangelize and empower the best team to make your best customers happy
- Do not promise more than you are ready to deliver consistently across all steps of the customer journey
- Execute your business processes consistently and transparently
Every company should work hard to deliver better experience to its customers than it currently does …before competitors do. The major cause of company failure is company success.