Required Reading: How to Wow Your Customers

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It’s no secret that the differences between products and services are constantly diminishing, and customer experience can make or break a company. But in his new book, How to Wow, author Adrian Swinscoe points out that “customer experience” covers a lot of ground; he defines it as “the sum of all experiences that a customer has with a company.” Associate Editor Oren Smilansky recently spoke to Swinscoe, who shared some insights on what companies can do to improve their customer experience little by little.

CRM: You offer 68 tips in this book. How should readers approach it?

Adrian Swinscoe: It’s certainly not a one-size fits all. It’s more of a pick and mix, depending on where you feel that your business has problems, and how you want to improve. Many of the insights won’t necessarily apply to [certain] businesses, but there’ll be a number that some of them can apply.

In the introduction, you say the book is less about technology and systems than it is about relationships and people. Were there any challenges with this focus?

Not necessarily. I’m interested in companies that do great things for their customers, and for their employees, to allow them to do great things for their customers. If they look after their people, they’re probably more inclined to look after their customers, who then look after them, and so it goes on.

When I talk to technology companies, I always tell them I am not necessarily interested in what the technology is, and how you built it, but in the outcomes it achieves.

Do you think readers will find any of your advice surprising?

The subtitle of the book is 68 Effortless Ways to Make Every Customer Experience Amazing. [But] these things aren’t always effortless. They are quite straightforward, but they do require you do the work. There probably should be a subtitle in there, written in invisible ink, which says How to Wow: It’s Not What You Think it Might Be. Because the interesting thing is when you think about “wow” service, a lot of people might think that’s about surprising your customers—those little chocolates you find on top of your pillows when you check into a hotel, all those little things. What I’ve found is that customers value consistency and certainty and not being disappointed way more than they value joy and delight and good surprises. And that’s backed up by a lot of neuroscientific research.

“Wow” service can just mean being brilliant at the basics. If you’re brilliant at the basics, that gives you the platform to do all sorts of other things that can surprise and delight your customers.

Out of all the tips, which ones are frequently overlooked?

People don’t work hard enough to keep their surveys as short as they can. They tend to look at it from a perspective of “We want feedback from our customers, but we’re going to demand the terms upon which we get the feedback.” If companies were to think about how they can make the feedback process quick and short and easy, and do it well, and get the time and the context right, they’ll get a very immediate bump in the level of feedback.

Another thing they don’t do is tell the customers what they’ve done with the feedback, and what happened. That’s an incredibly valuable opportunity that many companies miss.

Behavioral science interests you. What are some lessons businesses can take from it?

Most coffee chains have loyalty programs—these little cards you get stamped; if you buy eight or ten, you get one free. In behavioral science, there is something called the Endowed Progress Effect. What it means is that we ascribe more value to something that we’ve been given a helping hand to get started on. One coffee chain had one loyalty card: If you buy eight cups of coffee, and you get eight stamps, we get you one free. [They did an experiment where] they also had a bunch of cards printed out with 10 spaces. But instead of having 10 blank spaces, they stamped the first two, so you’re essentially getting the same thing—you’re buying eight cups of coffee on both cards. The people who used the cards with 10 spaces and two pre-stamped spaces went on to complete the card quicker, had higher levels of satisfaction and advocacy, and so forth. This is mind-blowing stuff, and sounds simple, but nobody does it.

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