“There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else”. Sam Walton, Founder of Wal-Mart
The importance of a satisfied customer cannot be overstated. Little wonder then, that most of us are regularly faced with the customary “feedback forms” – after every meal at a restaurant, every stay at a hotel & every flight in an airline.
Often times though, the overuse of a tool can dilute its effectiveness. Here is a truth test for you: When was the last time you enthusiastically filled up the restaurant feedback form? Here is another: How many times have you pretended to be asleep when the air-hostess comes along with the feedback form? The answer to these two questions highlights – how tired most of us as customers have grown of the standard methods of measuring customer satisfaction.
As an organization then – are there any other alternative methods to really understand how much your customers love your product, service or brand? Can customers ever really build a meaningful emotional connect with a brand – or have a relationship with a brand?
Marketing literature interestingly tells us many such stories.
Some brands get customers; the best brands create cult following. Stories of Apple customers queuing up and waiting outside their stores for hours when Apple introduces a new product is by now legendary. Then, there are the obsessed fans of the furniture brand IKEA – who create fan art, write songs, beg to sleep in the stores overnight and even get married at IKEA stores. For many people around the world, Starbucks coffee has become a daily “necessity”. And for the hardcore motorcycle enthusiast, the only acceptable brand is often the iconic Harley Davidson.
The raving fans, or brand lovers even go to an extent of getting their skins permanently etched with the logos of their favorite brands.
It’s astonishingly intriguing, why would customers tattoo themselves with the brand they love? And think about it – would your customers tattoo your brand onto their skin?
However, the most prevalent place for customers to tattoo the brands they love – is not their arms, shoulders, or even backs— it’s in their minds. Customers instinctively create mental tattoos, powerful associations between brands and experiences.
Cult brands create an experience that’s like no other and that never, ever, falls short of the customer’s expectation. For example Apple customers are notoriously loyal and it is because Apple understands that great customer experience help transform good products into great products. Their employees are told (and trained) not to sell, but rather to help customers solve problems and deliver consistently great customer experiences.
Lets hear from Harley Davidson’s European VP, John Russell – he explains how his company offers great customer experience – “We don’t actually ‘create’ loyalty. Our customers give us their loyalty. It’s their choice. They choose to show they have a belief in us and in the way we run our business and processes. Most companies see ‘brand’ as some connectivity to a badge. Harley goes far beyond that. The customer experience is the brand. Employees are empowered to engage with customers on a day-to-day basis and constantly find out what they need to do to meet customer needs, and then do it!”
Think about the difference between purchasing a hot coffee from a normal coffee shop and purchasing the same from a Starbucks. While the product is similar, the experience is incredibly different and that’s what creates a loyal customer base. This loyalty creates that emotional connect and eventually an unconditional love for the brands which makes customers react in a very natural way. The way we react towards a person we love and respect.
Our work involves conducting different kinds of workshops for our customers. These are workshops that are centered on Leadership, Innovation and Teamwork. For most people in a corporate job, attending these kinds of workshops is almost a routine. This is also why people are generally bored, cynical and largely unenthusiastic when nominated for such workshops. Our challenge hence – in every workshop we conduct – is to think, “How do we create an outstanding experience for our participants?” “How do we make it so memorable and so unique that the experience sticks with them?”
The answer to those questions is perhaps the subject of another subsequent blog post. However the core of our work and philosophy is to ensure that these two questions are answered in each one of our workshops.
But we are talking customer satisfaction here. So, how do we measure it in our work? Well the literature around Organization development throws up some well accepted models like the Kirkpatrick model. However, as in the “feedback forms” that we talked about earlier, there is something sterile and not so warm about these kind of methods.
An alternate method that we subscribe to is the HUGS barometer. If you have seen Munna Bhai MBBS, it is also called the “Jadoo ki Jappi”. When we conduct a workshop that truly touches peoples hearts and minds – it expresses itself in people (yes, even in India) spontaneously walking up to us at the end of the workshop, throwing their arms around us and giving us a warm, human hug. When a sufficient number of people in every group do this, we know there is no need for any feedback form or even any spoken words.
Why does this happen? We are still working on a definitive answer to that one – but a part of the reason, we think is because, in our workshops we get people to shed their inhibitions in a very unobtrusive way. We get them to have the most meaningful discussions, but in a very fun way that says, “Its ok not to take ourselves so seriously”. We get them to know hidden aspects about each other – which makes them relate to each other in a whole new way. And most importantly, we give them the license to be kids again, without embarrassing any of them. When all this is done along with multimedia elements like music, lights and video – the whole experience comes together to create the “WOW” moment. And this wow experience is what gets people to spontaneously express it in the form of HUGS.
Are you creating a wow experience for your customers? Do you have customers who embrace you and say thank you for the excellent experience you have given them?
Do share your story with us too!!