Imagine being a fan of a ball team (football, baseball, basketball, whatever) who loses much more than they win. Their game plan is rarely good and the experience of their fans seems to work in tandem to that. Before you know it, you are no longer a fan. This is one example of what I call the Process-Experience Loop where the game plan (process) has a direct influence on what the fans (customers) experience. A good game plan results in wins and loyal fans whereas a poor game plan results in losses and less loyal fans. Let’s look at this in business.
For most brands, the main goal is to capture customers and get them to make a purchase. For this to happen, businesses create processes and systems for acquiring customers, selling to them, and getting products in their hands. Below is a high-level view of the most basic kind of business process that moves from attracting customers to long-term support once they have the product. Let’s break it down.
Attraction is typically thought of as marketing but it can manifest itself in a variety of ways that isn’t limited to ads or other “designed” communications. It could be something as simple as a sign beside your place of business or word of mouth from a current or former customer.
This includes 1) the initial contact that creates that all-important first impression, 2) your sales process whether it’s speaking with a sales person, perusing products on shelves, or reviewing a menu, and finally, provided things have gone well, 3) the agreement or contract to purchase.
Whether it’s the customer walking away with the product, having it shipped, or experiencing the service requested, there is some sort of delivery required.
Completing the process is the long-term support of the product or service where problems are solved, updates proffered, new products announced, etc .
Every business has a big-picture process like this and while many of these big steps may have smaller, more detailed processes within them, the essentials are pretty much alike from business to business. For example, in your business’s engagement segment there may be multiple interactions with individual departments that all have processes with their own personalities, quirks, and details; nevertheless, it’s all part of the larger engagement piece.
However, regardless of the minutiae in these details, there is one truth that holds for all of these processes for any organization. They all have an impact on customers which always needs to be considered.
THE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE
This is where the journey for the customer begins. Marketing, word of mouth, and any number of other references to the business are the initial attraction elements that cause the discovery of the business. It is here where the customer reaches out and the business starts to engage. This is a crucial point for the business where an impression is created that either invites or pushes away.
Assuming the impression is inviting, the ensuing sales engagement is where the customer begins to consider and evaluate the pros and cons of the product or service.
This is the culmination of the engagement/consideration stage where the customer makes a decision to purchase or not.
Assuming the customer purchases, the product or service is delivered and they take ownership. From there, they experience whatever long-term support is available as needed.
At some point, the customer has further needs or a desire to repurchase. It is here where the quality and ease of the support provided has either built or diminished trust and thus influences the customer’s future choice to leave the brand or remain loyal to it. Some key decision-making criteria here include:
- Was the overall experience easy?
- Was it enjoyable?
- Was I successful, i.e. did I get what I came for and did I accomplish what I wanted to accomplish?
- Do the answers to those questions compare favorably to the price?
So, what’s the point?
Three key insights come to mind.
- Every part of the overall process your business implements has an impact on the customer. Any part that is difficult, confusing, or redundant eventually affects them.
- The difficulty of the process isn’t only important to customers; it matters to your employees too. If the process is fraught with pain for the employee, you better believe it affects their attitude and happiness, and if your employees aren’t happy, they will find it hard to make customers happy.
- Difficult processes are usually inefficient and cost you more. These costs hit you directly in wasted time and indirectly when passed to customers as you get complaints that cause you to discount or worse yet, defection to your competitors which costs you not only the lost customer but also the expense of finding new customers to fill the holes.
Interested? Begin examining your Process-Experience loop.
First, think about your customers. Do they seem to enjoy working with you and your teams? Do they think you are easy to do business with? Do you know whether they feel successful with your product or service?
To get firm answers to these types of questions, you should be sending out evaluations and/or interviewing those who’ve made a purchase. Ask them about the effort involved. Ask them if they feel successful. Ask them if they enjoy your people. And most of all, ask them if they would return to do it all again. If any of the responses are negative, make sure to enquire as to why things were difficult, not enjoyable, or what made them unsuccessful.
And it doesn’t end with customers. Ask your employees about your processes. Are there things that are difficult and time consuming? Are there things that are redundant? Are there unnecessary steps? Ask your employees, they are the ones who have to deal with it all.
Then compare. Compare the voice of your customers to the voice of your employees. Look for holes, gaps, time-wasting or unnecessary steps, and genuine points of pain. And then redesign things so they are easier, more enjoyable and lead to success for both employees and customers.
This should be an ongoing and constant pursuit. You will never reach perfection here because needs and wants change, but by making this a constant in your organization, you will see more loyal customers and more loyal employees resulting in greater long-term business success.