Go­ing the ex­tra mile for cus­tomers is as cheap as horse­feed, says Jac­que­line Ire­land. And very ef­fec­tive.

New Zealand Marketing - - Contents -

Go­ing the ex­tra mile is worth it, says Jac­que­line Ire­land.

ANY­ONE WITH TOD­DLERS IN the house will know that an iPad is like cat­nip. Leave it ly­ing around any­where in the vicin­ity and you will find them curled up some­where, swip­ing their lit­tle grubby fin­gers across it and nav­i­gat­ing the apps with a kind of in­tu­itive ease and nat­u­ral abil­ity that takes an adult’s breath away.

Another thing that re­cently took my breath away was be­ing billed $ 140 from iTunes for some­thing called ‘vir­tual horse feed’. When I had re­gained my com­po­sure, I re­alised that my five-year-old had racked up this sum on a game she finds ir­re­sistible—‘My Horse’. Ig­no­rance was my only de­fence so I promptly emailed the com­pany, plead­ing for for­give­ness, while qui­etly also steel­ing my­self for bat­tle should my pleas fall on deaf ears.

To my sur­prise and de­light, how­ever, iTunes re­funded the amount in full, no ques­tions asked, and as­sured me I was not the only techno-dunce par­ent out there (“It hap­pens all the time” was, I think, the ex­act quote). Quick to thank them for their won­der­ful, em­pa­thetic ser­vice, I re­ceived another re­sponse from the com­pany: “Dear Jac­que­line, Thank you for your re­ply, this is Su­gata from iTunes cus­tomer sup­port. Jac­que­line, you’re very wel­come. I’m glad to hear that your is­sue has been re­solved. Noth­ing makes Ap­ple hap­pier than to hear that we have pleased our cus­tomers. I hope that you con­tinue to en­joy the iTunes Store. Have a good day! Sin­cerely, Su­gata.”

It’s a re­sponse that, while quick and pain­less to com­pile, has paid off for Ap­ple. Rec­om­men­da­tion is a pow­er­ful force and can make or break a brand even more quickly in this con­nected world.

I have told count­less peo­ple my story, and will con­tinue to ex­tol the praises of Ap­ple as an or­gan­i­sa­tion that I truly be­lieve is ded­i­cated to mak­ing my life eas­ier and more en­joy­able. And in do­ing so, it has set a new bench­mark for me in terms of the level of ser­vice I know I can ex­pect. Meet­ing those high ex­pec­ta­tions chal­lenges any brand, in­clud­ing Ap­ple, to con­sis­tently im­prove.

And con­sis­tently im­prov­ing, striv­ing to stand above the crowd and of­fer­ing some­thing that goes above and be­yond your com­peti­tors has never been more im­por­tant, de­spite the fact that cus­tomer loy­alty, across the board, is on the rise.

We’ve been track­ing Net Pro­moter Scores (cal­cu­lated by sub­tract­ing those who would rec­om­mend an or­gan­i­sa­tion from those who would not) across a range of ser­vice in­dus­tries over the last four years, and in ev­ery case the score is im­prov­ing over time.

It seems that af­ter sev­eral decades of fo­cus­ing on im­prov­ing the cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence, busi­ness is start­ing to see the re­sults of all its ef­forts. The real chal­lenge, how­ever, is that ev­ery­one IT SEEMS THAT AF­TER SEV­ERAL DECADES OF FO­CUS­ING ON IM­PROV­ING THE CUS­TOMER EX­PE­RI­ENCE, BUSI­NESS IS START­ING TO SEE THE

RE­SULTS OF ALL ITS EF­FORTS. is im­prov­ing at roughly the same rate. Across in­dus­tries and cat­e­gories we are wit­ness­ing a nor­mal­i­sa­tion of sat­is­fac­tion lev­els, with very lit­tle dif­fer­ence be­tween the main play­ers. The re­al­ity is that most are hov­er­ing around the 7.5 out of ten mark, with very few break­ing through the eight out of ten bar­rier.

The im­prove­ment in cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion and loy­alty is driven by fewer re­ally un­happy cus­tomers, rather than any sig­nif­i­cant rise in those who are de­lighted. Busi­nesses to­day are less likely to get things badly wrong on a reg­u­lar ba­sis, and as a re­sult there is less of a push for cus­tomers to ac­tively look around for al­ter­na­tives. Re­la­tion­ships are ‘stick­ier’, and there has to be a re­ally com­pelling of­fer or propo­si­tion to dis­rupt peo­ple out of their in­er­tia and en­cour­age them to switch.

So what does the next gen­er­a­tion of cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence lead­ers look like? How do they sep­a­rate them­selves from the rest of the pack? The an­swer is pretty sim­ple, if not fre­quently hard to em­bed in an or­gan­i­sa­tion. In short, hav­ing ad­dressed the real prob­lem ar­eas in the ser­vice that cus­tomers re­ceive, at­ten­tion now needs to move to de­liv­er­ing a truly dis­tinc­tive ex­pe­ri­ence that re­flects who you are and what you stand for. Con­nect­ing and en­gag­ing with cus­tomers in a way that is uniquely ‘ you’, also termed the branded or pur­pose-driven ex­pe­ri­ence, is easy to recog­nise when you ex­pe­ri­ence it.

And in my view, Ap­ple’s one brand that has ab­so­lutely got it right.

Writ­ten by JAC­QUE­LINE IRE­LAND Ire­land is chief ex­ec­u­tive of Col­mar Brun­ton. Jac­que­line.ire­land@ col­marbrun­ton.

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