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Tips for building great customer experiences with personalized preferences

Get tips for building great customer experiences in this expert Q&A. Learn the importance of setting customer expectations and personalizing experiences.

What are the key criteria that make for a great customer experience, and how do these things impact customer trust?
A great customer experience will be different for each customer. One customer's warm feeling about being remembered will likely be another customer's vague feeling of having their privacy invaded. So, the first criterion for building great customer experiences is that you design each experience for an individual, based on the company's knowledge about what that particular individual prefers. Now this might be an insight driven solely by the fact that a customer is a member of some particular segment or sub-segment, or it might be driven by a more specific "memory" of a customer's previous settings, or it could be the result of accommodating an experience to the customer's own wishes as expressed in a profile. But regardless of how the insight about a particular customer's preference is obtained and evaluated, every experience is individual, so the firm's actions need to be designed to create great individual experiences.

When you think about improving the customer experience, it's important to ensure that your own organization, which is, most likely, organized and evaluated by product line, doesn't get in the way. Customers don't care about product or service lines, channels or silos. They just want to have their needs met, or their problems solved, and your firm might help them do that or it might not. So you should "mystery shop" your own company to see what it really feels like to be a customer and to ensure that your own organizational imperatives don't confound your efforts to deliver great service.

Another criterion driving a great customer experience has to do with customer expectations. Even the world's best customer experience can be undermined if the customer actually expected something better. You may ask, why would this happen? Sometimes it happens because, as marketers, we are often tempted to trumpet our plans for service enhancements and improvements in advance of actually implementing them. We put plans into development to significantly improve the user interface, or service at the call center, or the training of our point-of-sale personnel, and we announce those plans publicly, in an effort to improve the public perception of our brand. We may even put these plans in our advertisements. The problem this creates is that our customers now expect much better service, and if the service has not improved as substantially as they were expecting (based on our clever and chirpy ads) then they will actually be disappointed.

Hear more in Creating Customer Value, a SearchCRM.com monthly podcast series with Peppers and Rogers.

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