The Customer Experience
To manage a positive customer experience, sales reps must recognize the clues that the customer is sending.
Managing your customer’s experience can be done in a variety of ways. For instance, the customer experience can be designed around an immersive combination of sights, smells, tastes, and emotions – think of the many entertainment industries like movie theaters, theme parks, and dining establishments. They curate an environment that employs many aspects to evoke positive reactions from their customers. Those positive reactions enhance the perception of the overall value of the entertainment or food.
While we’re limited in our abilities to influence the customer experience over the phone or during appointments, it is definitely possible to do in some way with each and every interaction.
What we know
Using what we know about our customers’ businesses and needs is step one in customer experience management. We don’t want to try and sell something to a customer that has no need for the product. We also want the customer to understand that we do know their business. We care and focus on the success of their business. We want to offer products that not only make sense for their business but provide information as to why it is beneficial for them to purchase when you are recommending the sale.
Gaining additional knowledge from the customer at the time of our interaction is imperative. Customers are people just like us. They all have their own priorities, agendas, and emotions. Experienced salespeople can identify a series of “clues” that collectively meet or exceed people’s emotional needs and expectations.
A salesperson’s first step toward managing the total customer experience is recognizing the clues that the customer is sending. What is their demeanor at the time of interaction? Are they relaxed and engaged, or are they hurried and impatient? Anything that can be perceived or sensed is an experience clue. Things that are recognized because of their absence are also clues. When a repeat customer seems hurried or agitated, you can tell there is an absence of engagement or patience. When we present to our customers, the product or service for sale gives off one set of clues, the setting of the interaction offers more clues, and the emotions, gestures, comments, and tones of voice – still more clues. Each clue carries a message, suggesting something to the customer and we receive the same information in return. The trick is to train yourself to read these clues and respond accordingly. The composite of all the clues makes up the customer’s total experience.
To fully leverage experience as part of a customer-value proposition, we must manage the emotional component of experiences with the same rigor that we bring to the sales of product and services. The way to begin that effort is by intentionally observing customers and talking to them about their experiences in order to gain a deeper understanding of the clues they’re processing during their encounters with us. We cannot be solely focused on our own agenda.
This will not go far in proving a true customer experience. Any human interaction can technically be termed an experience.
We are focused on providing good customer experiences. This means that our agenda and emotions are not the primary drivers or focus during the interaction. If the customer enters the conversation hurried and agitated, the first question we should ask is, “Is now a good time or should I call back later?” If they want to proceed, you should mirror their pace and ensure that you are not adding to their hurried feeling.
Acknowledge that they seem to be pressed for time and that you will make this quick. If it is not a conversation that can be completed quickly, you should offer to reschedule for when they do have more time. This shows that you have their interest at heart and are not just focused on your agenda.
The opposite can be true when you are required to reach out to many customers in a short time. You may feel rushed and focused on delivering your message to as many as possible. If you approach an interaction with a customer moving at a much slower pace, you must adjust your approach to mimic their pace. This will allow them to engage better with you. These are very small examples of managing the customer experience.
The old cliché, “People like to do business with people” rings true, otherwise, we would not be able to forge relationships with our customers. Everything would be done online, and price and availability would be the only deciding factors. Little to no human interaction does not build loyalty. Creating the best human interactions requires attention to the customer experience.
If you are managing your sales, you must manage the customer experience. Learn more about the clues that your customers provide to you. Each interaction is a new set of clues to be recognized and responded to accordingly. When you master this skill, you will confidently be providing good customer experiences. The more you practice, the easier it becomes. It truly can become second nature and almost effortless, creating an excellent experience for both the customer and you.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
President of Same Page Consulting Inc.
Photo credit: istockphoto.com/skynesher