If you’re in the market for a Lamborghini Aventador and you don’t see a color you like in the brochure, no problem. Send a color swatch to the factory in Sant’Agata Bolognese, and they’ll match it. Talk about delighting customers!
During a recent tour at the headquarters of the Italian supercar builder, we learned about the Swiss businessman who sent the company a bottle of his wife's favorite nail polish and asked them to build him a car that matched the pink shade. Buy one of these beautiful cars, and Lamborghini gives you the option to choose leathers and synthetics in dozens of colors and combinations. Customers even select the color of the contrasting threads used in the leather-wrapped interior.
While exclusive cars like Lamborghinis are prized for their engineering, speed, and edgy design, they also evoke an abundance of emotion and loyalty from their wealthy devotees (the Aventador's "base" price: $350,000+). But it's this emotional engagement from customers that makes them more likely to recommend and repurchase the products themselves, according to consulting firm McKinsey & Company.
McKinsey says, “Emotionally engaged customers are typically three times more likely to recommend a product and to repurchase it themselves.” Additionally, companies that consistently delight its customers can exceed peer gross margins “by more than 26 percent.”
Why Customer Experience Matters
Companies have known for years that at least one path to market dominance is blazed by a strategy that’s focused on delivering one-of-a-kind customer experiences. After all, says the Harvard Business Review (HBR), “We buy from a company because it delivers quality products, great value, or a compelling brand. We leave one, more often than not, because it fails to deliver on customer service.”
While not the largest personal computer manufacturer, Apple dominates specific niches and it also consistently ranks number one in customer and technical support. According to Consumer Reports, Apple crushes the world’s largest computer manufacturers Dell and HP when it comes to customer technical support.
Apple's around-the-clock telephone support is provided by experienced and trained experts that can usually solve your most vexing issues on the phone (I've never been let down by Apple tech support). In writing on the topic of customer experience on Inc.com, Jeffrey Phillips insists that "Whoever gets the experience right will be the winner, because people don't always want the least expensive thing, and early majority and late adopter customers don't appreciate the newest technology, but everyone wants a great experience."
But how does the typical company go about transforming itself into an organization that’s obsessed with delighting customers and delivering unforgettable experiences? Or to put it another way, “Why is customer experience so difficult to get right?” That’s a question posed by the authors of “The Secret to Delighting Customers” from HBR.
The research shows that the companies obsessed with delighting customers manage and lead according to the following four guidelines:
- Listen to employees
- Hire for attitude, not aptitude
- Give people purpose, not rules
- Tap into the creativity of your front line
1. Listen to employees
If you take great care of your employees, they'll pass that care to your customers. Establish mechanisms and processes that give you the ability to listen to your employees' concerns.
2. Hire for attitude, not aptitude
If you want friendly, exceptional service, hire friendly people. A change in who you hire, however, may require you to change your hiring practices and the steps you take to assess candidates. Zig Ziglar said it all when he once observed, "Your attitude, not your aptitude, determines your altitude."
3. Give people purpose, not rules
“To motivate employees and give meaning to their work, leading companies define their common purpose.” Once more, when employees are trusted to do their jobs, they’ll feel more valued and thus more motivated to go the extra mile for your customers.
4. Tap into the creativity of your front line
When you give your frontline employees responsibility and autonomy, they'll do whatever it takes to delight your customers. I once took a MacBook Pro with a defective screen to the Apple store to get it repaired even though the laptop's warranty had expired eight months prior. The Apple Genius, however, felt the screen shouldn't have failed and promptly installed a new one. An $800 part, no questions, no talking to a manager; she just did it! That's also how you create raving fans.
If you want to create raving fans and grow your business faster, maybe it’s time to start delighting your customers.