Having good customer service is not good enough in today's service industry. As technology rapidly evolves, so do clients’ expectations for a premium customer experience—and their expectations are being set by B2C businesses. If a company refuses to acknowledge and invest in a better customer experience, then its clients will migrate to competitors—perhaps even if the competitors’ products or services are inferior.
I previously worked as a field engineer for the world’s largest oilfield services company. We prided ourselves on our leading technology and unparalleled customer service, yet clients often chose our competitors over us. Looking back, it seems obvious why.
Imagine a typical day at my old job: it’s 2:00 a.m. and my phone signals an alarm that one of my client’s oil pumps has dangerously high motor amperage. From my phone, I could analyze and adjust the pumping speed to optimize performance and mitigate problems. I kept a go-bag in my truck and could be on the road within minutes for emergency troubleshoots. Problems were usually resolved before my client knew they existed.
So, why did clients prefer our competitors?
Our entire process was focused around a sales transaction: get the pump repaired fast, and bill the client even faster. Invoices would hit the client’s desk with no advanced notice. The only time we engaged clients was when we collected their money.
Our biggest competitor was not a multi-billion-dollar company like we were, so their technology couldn’t compare to ours. Their pumps were less efficient and had more downtime. Instead of competing against our service, our competitor competed against our experience. They equipped their shop with audio and video surveillance so that clients could watch work performed on pumps in real-time. As a pump was being dismantled and inspected, the client could ask the technician questions. Our competitor kept the client engaged and informed at all times. Our competitor’s customer experience was unparalleled.
Forrester’s most recent U.S. CX Index shows a clear link between positive emotions engendered by a brand and customer loyalty. Great experiences make your customers stay with you and advocate on your behalf. At the same time, however, it showed overall quality of customer experience is down compared to last year. With customers becoming less satisfied with their interactions with brands, that means there is still plenty of opportunity for companies to differentiate through customer experience.
There’s a subtle difference between customer service and customer experience. But that subtle difference can drive a company’s most loyal customers to its competitors.