An exceptional customer experience may look so simple on its face that it is taken for granted. When everything goes smoothly, from the marketing, packaging, accessibility, value for money, all the way through to the post-purchase customer care, the customer experience is a good one. But remove just one of these elements and the results you have worked so hard to achieve begin to degrade.
It is essentially your product and your brand’s reputation that are on the line, even though the ingredients that make up that exceptional experience involve many different people and depend on many moving parts all functioning in sync with each other.
Or experience has shown that maintaining critical personal relationships is the key. It takes years to establish some of these relationships and to understand how to best communicate with a variety of personalities. The answers required are not found in the policy manuals but are realized through familiarity.
When the customer experience is being delivered in a positive and productive way, it’s not apparent how many behind-the-scenes scenarios or last minute fixes it took. Adjustments were made based solely on personal relationships.
Turnover severs these relationships.
Whether caused by unsatisfied employees or your own HR job rotation or career path policies, turnover causes the customer experience to suffer. Your new hire must now start all over again.
Maybe Mary who knew that Jimmy, who works for one of your suppliers, required a special personal reminder to order certain essential materials on time. When she left, that personal knowledge left with her. When the investigation as to why your customer was out of stock reached her replacement, you may hear, “I guess Mary had to do that, but I’m new here and how would I know?” Now it’s too late. You’ve lost the customer, and this scenario plays out in multiple relationships.
- Supply Chain Management. “If it ain’t there, they can’t buy it!” Maybe your supplier ran out or a shipping mistake was made, but due to their relationship with your representative, concessions were made to assure your product was delivered. Often times your product is available solely because of a personal favor you never heard about.
- Scheduling. Your company was made a priority, not because of a contract clause, but because the scheduler in the other company wanted to do a favor for your employee whom they have worked with for years. Your employee earned that favor by making similar adjustments to the scheduler’s advantage in the past.
- Communication. After working with the same person for years you understand their verbal nuances, inflections, and idioms. You tend to communicate quickly and easily, knowing that you understand each other. This process actually speeds up communication and reduces misunderstandings – unless you start over!
- Retail. This is where the rubber meets the road in terms of the customer experience. For instance, we found that our regional managers had to maintain an ongoing relationship with the store clerks in order to assure reorders of our products. This relationship also enabled us to gain impressive colorful floor displays that were often in excess of the recommended authorizations.
- Customer care. For us, having representatives who had been with us for some time really paid off as they grew to know each individual they dealt with and the most positive way to handle each situation. It takes time to develop this kind of tact and understanding.
When you really think about it, there’s only so much you can control with policies, procedures, packaging and products. Ultimately, long-term relationships help ensure exceptional customer experience. Don’t let turnover be the reason it is anything less.
Who Are We.
Having built and sold a bestselling national brand, we appreciate the value of brands and everything it takes to make them successful. Companies are valued by their brand equity. Achieving and maximizing brand equity requires tremendous respect for all your customers, from your wholesaler to your end user.
Starting in our laundry room with no money and no knowledge of the industry, we built the famous Barefoot Wine brand. We learned a lot they don’t teach in school and much of it the hard way. Although our success was in consumer products, our real world experience will be helpful to anyone looking for information and advice about brands.
We have written the New York Times Bestselling Business Book, The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand, which chronicles the history of the famous brand from its inception through its acquisition. Our book is now required reading in schools of entrepreneurship across the country. We hope this book will provide inspiration and encouragement for all those contemplating starting a brand or wanting to improve their existing brand.
Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey
-Barefoot Wine Founders