“That made the experience memorable for that customer at minimal cost” – Ted Johns
Reading the quote above it is obvious that making memorable experiences for customers does not always have to be an expensive proposition. Even a small gesture and acts of human kindness can transform an average experience for a customer to a memorable one. Despite the fact that we all are human, the humane touch in customer experiences rarely happen, which is one of the top reasons for customer dissatisfaction and the failure of companies. It is in the best interest of a company to ensure memorable experiences for customers since the experiences that would keep customers coming back, and they would remember these memories when planning their next purchase. Research shows a strong connection between experiences and customer loyalty. A greater number of memorable experiences would ensure that customers would be more likely to overlook errors, forgive blunders, and more amenable to trying new products and services from a company.
Given the many advantages of making memorable experiences for customers, it seems strange that companies continue to falter in this realm. Is your company equipped at creating such memories for customers? Consistent memorable experiences for customers help in building a sense of dependability and trust, giving them the assurance that they are important and their business extremely valued, and that the company is committed to making their lives easier and successful. Memorable experiences include resolving their issues swiftly and efficiently, even at the cost of inconvenience and a small temporary loss to the company. The ‘successful’ companies of today are so because they prioritize customer experiences over their internal processes, and have customer-friendly policies. These policies make customers feel a sense of comfort and confidence in these companies. Making memorable experiences for customers is not hard, and every company can ensure they happen simply by viewing everything from the customer’s perspective and making policies and guidelines around their needs, and empowering employees the discretion to make customer-friendly decisions.
One of the top ways to making memorable experiences for customers is through empathy. This means understanding the most important needs and top emotions of customers, and delivering on their expectations throughout the ‘customer’s journey’ with the company. Understanding what customers want and expect will ensure that a company does not apply guesswork when trying to meet customer needs, and the company would have accurate information in order to personalize and customize the experiences and offerings. Problems in customer experiences often occur due to a gap between customer expectations and the understanding a company has of those expectations. This is often referred to as the ‘service gap’ and is one of the top reasons for customer dissatisfaction and churn.
Even in the realm of business, the minute details and everyday pleasantries make average experiences, memorable ones. When customers walk into a store of a company, for example, pleasant smells, smiling staff, and soft melodious tunes may seem insignificant but they do have a profound experience on the impression customers would have of the company. Having a children’s play area, with staff to manage the kids at grocery stores or a large departmental store, would ensure that while adults make their rounds of the aisles, the kids remain happy and entertained. In fact, this feature could be one of the reasons that customers return to shop. It is not easy to create memorable experiences for customers since each customer is different – their expectations and needs are unique, and an ‘umbrella’ approach that most companies seem to follow, falls flat. Transforming average experiences to memorable ones, as mentioned, is usually a factor of simple and common sense solutions, but which have a profound effect since they would find relevance and use for the target audience.
As mentioned several times, service and experiences for customers is affected through the employees of a company. This means that a company should hire right, have adequate training programs, build a culture of service, and have a robust reward and recognition program in place for employees that exhibit the company’s values. This is especially true of the customer-facing employees since their interactions with the customers would define the experiences customers have with the company. In addition, a company must set internal guidelines and expectations for its employees that would make feel important, give them a sense of belonging and ownership, and would be more inclined to provide memorable experiences for customers. Making brand ambassadors out of employees is one of the surest ways to gain customer appreciation, loyalty, and brand advocacy.
Another factor in the building of memorable experiences for customers is expectation setting. It would be necessary to set realistic expectations with the customers, since false expectations are one of the top reasons for botched experiences and customer ire. Putting in place written service level agreements will ensure that customers know what to expect, and what could be an unrealistic demand on their part. Unrealized expectations cause disappointment and annoyance, and could ruin a potentially great experience for customers. It is therefore, imperative for a company to manage experiences and commit to managing the expectations of customers. To do so, a company must work as one cohesive unit, since that is how customers view a company. If a company is plagued by silos, the good work and memorable experiences for customers created by one department could easily be negated by another through the failure to match up to their expectations and keep the promises made the service department (for example). Customers would view the failure of one department as a failure of the entire company, which would lead them leave and spread negativity about the company.
Making memorable experiences for customers or not, would be a factor of significant events – both negative and positive – that could become entrenched in the memory of customers. These events when recalled in the future could trigger negative or positive feelings and emotions, depending upon the experiences a customer may have had. Positive feelings can give rise to loyalty only when they are consistent and profound, and hence it should be the endeavour of a company to ensure that it affords experiences for customers to feel warmly towards it. Strangely, one of the most memorable experiences for customers is, according to research, top class service recovery. Customers do not expect perfection, but they do expect and demand that when a company does mess up it make amends instantly, and goes the ‘extra mile’ to make up for the inconvenience caused to the customer. Customers that are ‘dazzled’ by recovery have a greater likelihood of becoming loyal and profitable. Nonpareil service recovery ensures that company stands out from its competitors, and its efforts remain etched in the memory of not just the one customer, but also all those who read and hear about the service recovery.
The intelligent, well-informed, and empowered customers of today expect a lot more from companies. For making memorable experiences for customers, a company must ensure that the experience must meet the actual needs of the customers, and including the ones that customers may not even know they had. Understanding what customers value, and giving it to them on a consistent basis via memorable experiences, is one of the most effective ways of retaining customers for a long time, and gaining more and repeated business from them.