Customer Experience Success: 3 Actions For An Authentic Connection

by Sarah Wechsberg

I’m going to be straight with you. Every relationship takes work.

This isn’t new to those in romantic relationships or those that are married. What I mean, is that ALL relationships take work and this expands to the business realm.

If you’re looking for new customers, retaining your existing customers, hiring new employees or retaining rock-star employees then you likely know every single relationship requires effort and attention. Each person wants to feel special, heard, significant and above all, valued.

In my last post, I wrote about how most businesses today have lost the authentic connection with people and “Yes, customers want businesses to help them but a genuine empathetic dialogue goes a long way, reducing frustration, increasing satisfaction and loyalty…” Customers are looking for a real person on the other end, not a predicable response.” There is a way to connect more authentically with your employees and customers. In fact, we’ve narrowed it down to three key components. But first, I want to share a short story that involves the key actions for an authentic connection. If your time is limited, skip down a couple paragraphs for the tips.

Dare I say I had a near “perfect” recovery customer experience recently. A few weeks ago I ordered a tent from REI ten days before a camping trip. The website transaction said it would ship and arrive within a seven days. “Ok, no problem” I thought. One week went by and no tent. “Hmm. That’s strange” I thought. I checked the shipping info and saw that it was late and would not arrive for another whole week!!! I was thinking all kinds of things because here’s the dilemma, I was going camping that coming weekend (three days away!).

As I thought about not having my tent for the camping trip or having to buy another tent before, I started to feel disappointed and frustrated. I had always loved REI but this experience was impacting my feelings toward the company. I went online to see how and who I could talk to about this issue.

I saw that they had a live chat option. “Great. Let’s see if this helps” I thought. I signed on and entered my info, name, email, order number, etc. I had no wait time, to my surprise, and the person on the other end, Kat, quickly jumped in to help. She asked how my day was going and I explained the situation to her and how disappointed I felt that I might not have my tent in time for the trip.

She too thought that was awful. She empathized, apologized and quickly connected with REI customer support on my behalf. She handled all of the details and found a way for them to overnight another tent for me and cancel the original order before it got to me.

Before we ended the call, Kat emailed me a confirmation number, tracking code and told me to check my email to make sure it all came through. I checked and told her it all looked good and thanked her for helping me. She asked if there was anything else (pretty standard) and said “have a great camping trip”. That felt meaningful to me. We both signed out of the chat and the next morning, less than 24 hours, my tent arrived and I was able to go camping that weekend as scheduled. And it WAS a great camping trip!

This experience with REI could have ended differently and with a very disappointed customer.

A Bain & Company report found that “A customer is four times more likely to defect to a competitor if the problem is service-related rather than if the problem was price or product-related”. Instead of any loss in revenue from me defecting and from others I told and influenced, REI did the right thing and made sure I had the best experience even despite a hiccup in the fulfillment and delivery. A disappointing experience turned into a great experience by delighting one of their loyal customer.

How do you put value on that? Well, researcher Peter Kriss (no, not the legendary drummer from the band KISS) wrote about this in Harvard Business Review and found that “customers who had the best past experiences spend 140% more compared to those who had the poorest past experience.”

We shall see if I’ll buy even more because of this experience but what Kriss has discovered is a pivotal tipping point for businesses. As long as businesses can keep the experience positive, customers will spend well beyond what an average customer would spend anywhere else. Essentially, a positive customer experience is huge and so much so that it will set you apart from your competition and even drive up revenue.

At any point along the journey a customer has with your brand, an authentic connection can drive a positive customer experience and it can help to resolve issues when something derails a positive experience. As you can see from my REI story, it was the authentic connection with Kat along with her compassionate expediency that left me delighted. And there are three key active components to this connection that made it a success.

  • Speed: There was no wait time. This is often a challenge for some companies but it is vital to have a low call or chat wait time because it will only anger customers more longer they wait. Also, the speed at which Kat was able to resolve the problem was impressive. I chatted with her all of seven minutes and I felt that she valued my time and my need to resolve this as soon as possible. Time is money. Money for your company and money to a customer. Value their time and they’ll value you.
  • Understanding & Empathy: Kat came across as friendly from the start by asking how I was doing and after I shared my problem, she expressed how frustrating that must be and how she would find a way to fix this. I felt heard and understood. Folks, this is more of a point of “how to be a good person” and this is critical that everyone learn ways to understand others and empathize, especially the front-line staff. She didn’t have to tell me to have a great camping trip, but she did. And it felt like she authentically meant it. She could empathize directly with my frustration and dealt with it in a way that made me feel that I was being taken care of, in very little time.
  • Follow-through: Kat made sure that I had the confirmation email and tracking code before she got offline with me. This showed me that she cared about getting the right information to me and this extra level of care truly impressed me. She did not leave any room for misinformation. She closed the loop on my experience and even delighted me by overnighting the item to me.

Three simple actions can create a connection that feels authentic, successful and even delightful. When used consistently, these actions will show your customer that you value them and you value your relationship with them. Remember, everyone wants to feel significant and with the elements of swiftness, understanding, empathy, and follow-through you can foster a more success customer experience and apply these actions to improving your employee experience. It all starts with one step, one pilot at a time.

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