Customer Experience is the New Competitive Advantage

Every firm knows it needs to innovate to stay competitive. The question is, innovate what? Technology? Training? Processes? These are all important areas. But in today’s market, the single most important differentiator between the best and worst in any industry is the experience of customers.

You’ve no doubt read about customer experience pioneers, like Disney, Southwest Airlines,,, Ritz Carlton, and Nordstrom. Fortunately, customer experience is not limited to the big brands. In fact, by 2021, every firm will be competing to offer a better experience to keep existing customers and give new clients a reason to check them out.

This is great news for professional service firms, because delivering a great experience to your clients is something you can be REALLY good at. It’s not always easy to do the hard work of stepping back and honestly looking at your business through the eyes of your customers. Sometimes this exercise reveals attitudes and behaviors that are surprising or inconvenient or maybe even a little disappointing. But if you take the plunge, you’ll be rewarded with an accurate map of your customer journey that pinpoints the most meaningful opportunities for innovations that will improve your customers’ experience and help you build your business.

It can take as many as five good experiences to outweigh one bad one

There’s been a ton of research done on why unpleasant experiences are more memorable than good ones. Maybe we just analyze bad experiences more than good ones – or it could be an evolutionary leftover from a time when remembering bad things made survival more likely. Whatever the reason, it’s critical to think about this fact as you’re examining your customers’ journey.

Imagine this scenario: You’re looking forward all day to dinner at a top chophouse. You arrive and don’t get seated until an hour past your reservation, then the waiter takes forever to get your drinks, and it’s another 45 minutes before the food arrives, half of your order is wrong – and then the bill is messed up. Even if they give you a discount, you’ll still be disappointed and annoyed. And you probably won’t even care how the food was, because all you’ll remember is that you had a horrible night. More important, how soon will you be willing to make another reservation at this restaurant?

You may think your brand is whatever you say it is, but actually, your brand lives in the perceptions of your customers. And that perception is the sum total of every experience they have with you – from how you answer the phone to the support you provide to how you resolve issues. As we are increasingly competing on the edges for market share, what may seem like a “small thing” to you can make or break your brand. So when it comes to crafting your customer experience, I say absolutely – sweat the small stuff – because either God or the devil is in those details. At every point along the journey, you want to be listening for these five words: “Wow, what a great experience.”