By Mike Sharkey, CEO & Co-Founder, Autopilot
Have you flown with Virgin America before? You really should.
Unlike other airlines, the check-in area is comfortable, like a swank hotel lobby. They have music playing. There’s a beautiful rug. And the whole process is elegantly simple.
You get to the gate and the lobby chairs are quirky and stylish. Your eyes wander over to the peculiar purple lighting that’s actually been proven to be calming; that’s why they chose it.
When you board, you see “joke of the day” and the calming purple lighting, again. The touchscreens glisten from the back of every seat where you can order snacks whenever you want during the flight, and you can tell the flight attendants actually like being there.
What has Virgin America done? They have created a “wow” customer experience.
(Photo courtesy of Autopilot)
The Secret to Building A ‘Wow” Company
Technology isn’t the answer to building a great company; creating a wow customer experience is.
It is very easy to think technology was the solution. That’s especially the temptation for technologists and software people, who can bicker all day about this app versus that app. They endlessly compare and contrast the hottest apps on the web today.
But do you think the folks at Virgin America sit around the conference room wondering “Hmm, what app do we need?” No! They were asking “How can we disrupt the awful experience that is airline travel? And let’s think about everything in detail to make the customer experience as remarkable as possible.”
Don’t get me wrong, technology is a large component of the customer experience, but the actual experience should come first. Customer experience first, technology second.
Creating a “Wow” customer experiences takes effort and mistakes will be made, but there are a few simple lessons to learn that can make the road to a wow customer experience less treacherous.
Map the “interesting moments” in the customer journey
A fanatical focus on the customer journey is in, and it’s here to stay.
Salesforce called 2015 “The Year of the Customer Journey” and popular business bloggers like John Jantsch from Duct Tape Marketing are creating ebooks about how to guide the customer journey from end-to-end.
From the research perspective, Harvard Business Review found that organizations who “skillfully manage the entire experience reap enormous rewards: enhanced customer satisfaction, reduced churn, increased revenue, and greater employee satisfaction.”
The benefits are well known, but what exactly is the customer journey?
The customer journey is the chronological set of learnings, decisions, and touchpoints that a person experiences as they first get to know your company, then hopefully become a customer, and eventually become a repeat buyer and referrer.
Understanding the customer journey takes a ton of work, but it’s worth it. And it’s why companies like Apple, Amazon, and Zappos are performing so well with customers., They have a fanatical focus on the customer experience that has been built into their DNA from the beginning.
Focus on mapping out the first problem you can solve for potential customers to show value as fast as humanly possible. This is how you create the “wow” factor immediately and keep people coming back for more.
The Quality of Your Customer Experience is in the Data
What are the specific data points you can focus on to see how well your customer experience is performing?
In Virgin America’s case, if they can decrease the amount of time it takes from check-in to boarding that can drastically improve the quality of the customer experience. Or take an app like Narrative for example, by injecting behavior-based messaging into their new user onboarding they cut the time it takes to become an active user in half, making the experience more efficient.
To quantify success for your own business, focus on one key metric at a time where you can say, “If this metric improves my customer’s experience will be better.” Weed out vanity metrics that don’t matter, like page views or user signups.
From there, think about the moments in the customer journey where you can make a dent in your newly defined key metrics. The experience you create doesn’t have to be perfect right out of the gate. Start with something basic, see the results, and make changes as you learn more about your customer.
Observe the experience through your customer’s eyes
I learned this essential lesson through creating the new user onboarding process at my own company, Autopilot. We had mapped out all of the “interesting moments” in the customer journey and designed the experience we thought was best, but discovered there was a huge difference between the path we wanted users to take and what path they were actually taking.
This problem could not have been solved without the power of observation. Watching videos of real people using our site, from FullStory and UserTesting, helped us figure out ways to make the customer experience better based on observations made from their personal use.
For a brick and mortar business, observing customers is just as important. The world-class design firm IDEO are masters of this. They observe real people in real-life situations to find out what makes them tick, what confuses them, their likes and dislikes, and needs not currently addressed by current products or services.
Often the most interesting insights into the customer experience come from the gap between what is said and what actually happens. This grey area is where unknown pain points and issues can hide.
Customer experience first, technology second
We live in the “there’s an app for that” economy. For a lot us, when we encounter a problem like wanting to exercise more, actually getting things done, or becoming an author, we download an app.
The trouble is, in more cases than we’d like to admit (myself included), the technology doesn’t solve the root problem. We’re still left with the hard work of going to the gym, following through on tasks, or actually writing.
The same is true for business. The technology a business uses is not going to create a wow customer experience alone. Instead, a company must focus on getting creators in the same room, placing themselves in the customer’s shoes, and then think through every little detail to craft a truly remarkable, wow customer experience.
This article is written and provided by Mike Sharkey. Mike is the CEO and co-founder of Autopilot.
The views, opinions and positions expressed within this guest post are those of the author alone and do not represent those of CBS Small Business Pulse or the CBS Corporation. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are verified solely by the author.