What is it Like to be Your own Customer?

Häagen-Dazs strawberry ice cream. Ecco shoes. The New York Times. WordPress blogging software. We all have our favorite companies, products and services. Products that deliver exceptional value, services that are reliably great, and companies that are easy to business with.

haagen dazs strawerry ice cream

Photo credit: Haagen Dazs

Now look in the mirror: is your business as consistently excellent as your favorites? If you’re not sure, then you probably have work to do. After only a brief glance in the mirror, I buckled down and got to work.

Benchmarking Customer Experience

I started by taking stock of what I deliver, my uniqueness and the promise I offer. This was the easy part, because I get to define the playing field. Just as you can’t play tennis without lines and a net, you can’t benchmark your business without a measure of capabilities.

The next step was also easy. I examined my “first impression” touch points: my email footer, my voicemail greeting and my home page. Did they match the benchmark I set for my business? I made a few small adjustments to be more consistent, clear and customer-aware.

Finally I talked to customers, prospects and partners. I asked two direct questions:

  • How did our project improve your business?
  • Would you recommend my company to others?

I listened. I wanted to hear about numerical results. Was there more revenue, more leads, repeatable campaigns? I wanted to hear about problems that are now behind them and a clear path toward their exceeding their goals. And finally, I wanted to hear that they’d recommend me to colleagues and friends.

I got exactly the answers I wanted to hear. Honest answers about what we’d accomplished together. In addition to the good things I wanted to hear, I learned about rough spots and frustrations. In other words, I learned that the core value is solid, but there is room for improvement in multiple areas.

For me, the greatest take-away from this exercise is that I learned I need to be consistent at everything, not just at my core advantage. My customers want excellence everywhere, from an initial proposal to a final invoice, and from a second campaign to ad hoc phone advice. This makes a lot of sense. My favorite companies have a level of consistency and quality across multiple processes and multiple employees. My goals are not just helping customers succeed, but improving my business across all dimensions.

Walking the Walk

Let me be clear. I’m not advocating for perfect products or over-the-top money-losing service levels. I’m merely suggesting that it’s worth benchmarking customer experience and see if it meets your standards. Creating value is the core of what I do very well. By upping my game, I make my business one that my customers respect, rely on and recommend to others.

Ideas in the Social Media Era: I’ll Get It Right the 5th Time

I love this chart. Not only is it funny, it gets to the core of how the social media era is disrupting creativity.

The chart puts its focus on article length (and perhaps the quantity of postings and/or impressions). The chart is silent on quality.

Great ideas have always been distilled to their essence through pity catchphrases. With social media, any idea, even before it’s refined (let alone great) is distilled for social network impact. The network for disseminating ideas is becoming more powerful than ideas themselves.

This is a new challenge for the creator and innovator. When is an idea ready to be published? What are readers’ expectations for quality and accuracy of new ideas? Does it help or hurt your reputation to publish many unrefined ideas? Is your idea sharing risk tolerance dependent on the size and nature of your social network? Are facts and accuracy destined to become endangered species during the social media era?

I don’t know, but I’m going to publish this now and refine it later. My sense of optimism suggests that we’ll muddle through.