Leadership January 10, 2012By: Anthony Pollino

Don’t forget the customer experience.

Whether you’re a Macintosh fan or not, the technology world has lost a very significant player. No this is not going to be another “how great Steve Jobs was article” but what it is going to be is another “don’t forget the customer experience” article.  What I think is most admirable about Steve Jobs is that he never lost sight of how the customer perceived the Apple products and how driven he was by what the customer was experiencing using the products. Whether it was the track wheel of the iPod, or the ease of use of iTunes, or the characters of Toy Story, he very carefully thought through the products and services that Apple delivered by placing himself on the side of the consumer; he never forgot that a positive customer experience is vital to the success of the business.  Now I know there are plenty of Apple war stories about tech support, products, services, etc.  But the drive to creating a positive customer experience and the attention to detail that it required, paved the way to change the landscape of all digital information – music, email, phones, tablet computing– and that, is an incredible feat.

According to Harris Interactive, Customer Experience Impact Report, 86 percent of consumers quit doing business with a company because of a bad customer experience, up from 59 percent four years ago. What’s also interesting to note is that even in a negative economy, customer experience is a high priority and not something that a customer is willing to sacrifice even if they are paying a lower price for services.

A recent Accenture research found that 26% of global consumers posted negative comments after having a negative customer experience. 23% of consumers are influenced by these comments.  We’ve all seen stats that claim a dissatisfied customer will tell 10 friends whereas a satisfied customer only tells a few. But, with the social networking era now in full swing, this stat feels a bit low and may not account for the viral nature of negative feedback online now. Think about it. According to Facebook, the average user has 130 friends. If that user has a negative experience with your organization, he or she may post a status update calling you out, in fact, announcing it to his/her 130 “friends.” And of those 130 friends, they each have 130 friends. You can see where this could go…

So what do we do to improve the customer experience?

First we should target customers wisely. Not every customer is the right customer for you. Great performance requires a laser-like focus and daily actions across your organization matched to your target customer and the need you’re solving for just for them. The closer the match, the better your performance, so don’t blur the target.

Second we should anticipate your customer’s next need. By studying your customers and the evolution of their needs you gain the insight that can and should help inform your product and service development strategy. They should shape your approach up-selling and cross-selling. Since your customer’s evolving needs are the headwaters of the future demand for your company, customer needs are your long-term plan for sustainability.

In addition, know when to cut your losses. There is no shame in cutting your losses when it becomes clear things aren’t going to pan out the way you’d hoped, or in a way that you can reset, adapt and overcome. It’s a smart move to stop what’s not working and get back to doing what does work.

Finally it’s all about communication. Talk to your customers. Ask for feedback and do something meaningful with your customer feedback. Maybe this is ridiculously obvious but understand their point of view regarding how the experience is when dealing with your company. This direct feedback can lead you directly to customer “paint points” that you could probably easily solve and perhaps create added value for a much larger group of your customers. Quite often, customers have ideas you haven’t considered since they’re the ones actually using your products and services on a daily basis. So give yourself the opportunity to solve a greater number of customers needs in the future by just listening to them.

So the next time you buy a new iPhone or iPad or MacBook, or AppleTV, or iPod consider the ease of use, setup, and adoption you experience when you turn these things on and ask yourself if that can be said about your business.