We had been consulting with one of the largest accounting firms in the world, guiding them in building a stronger client experience model. About a year into the CX project, there was still a small percentage of the accountants, including partners, who had not totally bought in. At one of our regional workshops, one of the more influential partners (let’s call him Larry) asked if he could share a story with the group. His story was about how one of the firm’s largest long-term clients had recently changed its CEO.
A New CEO Can Mean Big Changes for Your Organization—and Your Customers
Any time an organization changes a CEO, all vendors are in danger of being replaced. So, Larry went on to share that he knew he had to quickly demonstrate to the new CEO (let’s call him Greg Benedict) how valuable and how brilliant the accounting firm was before the CEO decided to start shopping the accounting services of less expensive competitors. He needed a way to make price irrelevant and admitted it was a struggle. Every meeting with Greg was short and very transactional. Every time Larry and his associates tried to make small talk, share advice, or demonstrate their expertise, Greg, who is known by his close friends as “Benny,” was not interested in engaging in anything more than the facts. He just wanted bottom-line answers for his business goals. It was not the most positive experience, and Larry knew that once their current agreement expired, they would lose this large client.
That is when Larry started thinking about all the client experience project training, systems, and tools they had been going through. He admitted that while he didn’t put much stock in it, he had nothing to lose. So, the first thing he did was figure out what Customer intelligence he had collected on the new CEO. He realized that there was very little he had learned in the few meetings they had. He remembered the FORD method (family, occupation, recreation, and dreams) and started doing some research online, via social media and Google. Through those platforms, he discovered many interesting things about Greg, most notably that he ran marathons and was a big supporter of multiple sclerosis causes. At the end of their next meeting, Larry briefly asked Greg, “Is it true that you have run some marathons? It is on my bucket list, but it seems impossible.” As Larry shared, “Greg’s eyes lit up like cannonballs! Next thing I knew, we were in his office and he was showing me pictures on his walls of different marathons he had run and was sharing experiences of how he couldn’t even run one mile when he first started running.”
The personal communication didn’t stop there. Greg—claiming that if it were possible for him to run marathons, it was possible for anyone—continued sharing information with Larry via words of wisdom, articles, and even books on marathon training. The most significant discovery for Larry was that Greg’s daughter suffers from MS, hence his huge support of the cause.
Larry said that six months later he ran his first marathon, with his new buddy and running mentor, Greg. Additionally, he has since become a supporter of the event Greg holds every year for MS. Larry went on to tell the group how Greg’s company renewed its annual contract with Larry’s firm. Talk about a competitive edge leading to a great business outcome! Best of all, Larry said that every note or email he gets from Greg is now signed “Benny.”
Post-pandemic, the Human Touch Matters More Than Ever
As noted by Forbes, it’s crucial not to underestimate how much consumers desire and even expect high-level, in-person interaction. Over fifty percent of people making online purchases would prefer to talk to a customer service representative more often than not, and nearly sixty percent of these buyers are more likely to become loyal customers. On the flip side, not only can a lack of interactions with human beings lead to bad customer experiences in general, but unhappy customers are likely to complain to family and friends—often via social media—and write negative online reviews.
Who Benefits From a Personal Connection?
Best-selling author Daniel Pink wrote a great blog about the power of making it personal, something that the companies with the best customer service understand. Pink tells the story of a study of Israeli radiologists whose jobs were to read scans on computers. The radiologists were divided into two groups. The first group read scans as usual. The second group also read scans but was given a photo of the patient for each scan. The latter group, those furnished with pictures, wrote longer, more meticulous reports. That was interesting, says Pink, but further into the study, it got really interesting. After a period of time, the researchers went back to the group who had been given the pictures of the patients and, without them being aware, had them read the same scans as before but without the patient photos. The finding was that about 80 percent of the previous findings were not reported! Truly a stunning example of how a small change in customer experience strategy could be a matter of life or death.
How Can You Make Your Customer Experiences More Personal?
Think about that. The way most people see it is, the Customer is the one who benefits when the employee makes a personal connection, and in today’s hyper-competitive marketplace customer expectations are certainly at an all-time high. But this example clearly shows that it goes beyond simply avoiding a bad experience or making customers happy in the moment. When the employees—in this case, the radiologists—have a personal connection to the Customer, they do a better, more thorough job. With the longevity of patients at stake, this is one of the more dramatic examples of personalized experience and how employees can affect customer journeys. But in nearly all situations business models that avoid the common mistake of overlooking brilliance in the basics and have a strong focus on excellent customer experience typically result in a greater quality of life for all concerned, with customer loyalty a natural and most welcome side effect.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“Do not ask the customers what they want; give them something they cannot live without.”
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