Anyone who knows me knows that I’m passionate about customer experience in both my work life and personal life. It’s in my blood. My grandparents owned a mom-and-pop shop that sold uniforms for police, firefighters, and postal workers. My dad grew up there and took it over when it was time to pass the torch. When he got married, my mom joined him. Together they designed, manufactured, and sold uniforms, and I grew up in the heart of this family business.
I can still vividly recall the way my grandfather and my father treated everyone who walked into the store. My father knew all his customers’ names, wants, needs, and preferences. He knew every uniform of every police and fire department in the state of New Jersey and parts of New York and Pennsylvania. I’d hear customers say to my dad:
- “Jon, what’s the color of the new shirt my department specified? I can’t remember.”
- “Jon, what’s the best bulletproof vest on the market today?”
My dad made the experience personal for everyone. The importance of exceptional service was ingrained in me before the term “customer experience” was ever created. My grandfather, and then my parents, operated the business with the following mindset: “The customer is always right – even when they’re wrong.”
The 3 Steps to CX Success
While I might not be running a family business, the work I do is dedicated to the customer experience, or CX. Whether it’s B2B or B2C, most of my days are spent discussing CX, honing in on the challenges the market is facing, and advising leaders on how best to use CX as a competitive advantage.
From my many decades living and breathing CX, I know one thing for sure: customer experience is the ONLY differentiator we have left in the marketplace today. Because product or service (or uniform) can and will be duplicated overnight. If you think you have outdone a competitor with some new twist on a product, you might be right. But just wait; the next greatest thing is about to pass you by. However, what can’t be copied – ever – is the way you deliver that product or service. The personality behind it all. That’s your CX, and that my friend, is unique just to you, just like your fingerprint.
If you’re unclear how to ensure your CX is the best it can be, I want to share three things that need to happen.
- Your organization needs to have a customer-centric culture. If caring about the customer isn’t baked into your organization’s very essence, then you’ll never be a leader in CX. Any organization can say CX is a priority, but only the ones that live and breathe this mindset will be the ones to set the bar.
- You need to empower your managers to act like owners. Many leaders preach that the customer is the main focus. But then they drop the ball instead of passing that ball to managers. Your managers are your conduits to the masses. Give them the autonomy and confidence to make decisions in the moment that best support your company and the customer. Your people need to be able to act like owners in real time.
- People at the front line need to deliver an authentic experience. If you want your people to help the organization create loyal, lifelong customers, they need to create authentic relationships. And this will never happen if your front line is reciting a script. To excel in CX, your people need to have the confidence to be themselves. Leaders need to arm them with all the information and help them gain the skills they need – and then trust them to do what is best for the customer – and the company.
Exceptional CX Requires Authentic Connections
We’ve all had great customer experiences – and bad ones, too. The best ones happen when we feel a connection with the person we are working with – or even with the digital experience. Without a doubt, exceptional CX happens when an emotional connection is made between a brand and a customer.
When you build an emotional connection, you build a customer for life, and it happens the moment you combine a customer-centric culture, empowerment, and authentic experiences.