Years ago, when I started in the business world, we weren’t focused on customer “experience”. We were focused on creating accurate, well-written content. We were focused on creating marketing content that triggered an action from the potential customer – perhaps a phone call or a walk to a store. Our technical content was designed to be accurate and complete.

But, it’s not years ago. Today, we are laser-focused on customer experience. And not just any customer experience. Exceptional customer experience.

Why is that? The reasons are clear. Today, as a customer:

1. Competition is very easy to find.

With just a few taps on my screen or clicks of my mouse, I can find all of your competition. I can check them out, see what they have to offer, and easily walk away from you.

2. I can read reviews of your product and your service.

According to Vendasta, a marketing automation platform company, online reviews are critical. Here are some of the stats they quote:

– 92% of consumers read online reviews vs. 88% in 2014
– 40% of consumers form an opinion by reading just one to three reviews
– 68% say positive reviews make them trust a local business more

3. Access to products and services is global.

Back in the day, your competition was often geographically unreachable. When all I had was a phone, a phone book, and limited transportation, it was almost impossible to purchase a product from far away. If I knew what I wanted and where to get it, I might be able to call the shop (“Long Distance!”) and order something. However, paying for the item was also problematic. Credit cards were invented in the 1950s. In the scheme of things, that’s relatively recent. My personal marketplace was most often local to me.

From a company perspective:

4. You can’t compete on price alone anymore.

Many markets are flooded with competition. This means that the “race to the bottom” for pricing is a reality. Trying to shave pennies off of your price can not only devalue your brand, it leads to much lower margins for your company. This means that you need to distinguish yourself in different ways.

5. Customers do not forget easily. They need a reason to be loyal.

When faced with so many other options, your customers have no reason to be loyal to your brand. If they have a poor or even mediocre experience with your company, they will walk away. And they won’t come back.

Rather than simply shopping, your customers are now looking for an exceptional experience. They are looking to be well taken care of, wowed, and impressed with each and every interaction they have with you, your company, your product, your services, and your content.

Exceptional experience is what differentiates you from your competition. 

Let’s take a personal example. I have been part of the American Advantage program for 28 years. I am a “platinum” customer. As such, American provides me with an exceptional customer experience when I travel with them. Here are some examples:

  • I have a special telephone number that I can call to access special customer service.
  • I check in for my flights on a special line that is always shorter than the average line.
  • I always board with first class, even when I’m flying economy.
  • I always get a seat with more legroom, for no extra charge.
  • I can use their airport club, which provides a quiet, separate atmosphere in an otherwise chaotic airport. The club serves free food and drinks of all types.
  • I am upgraded for free when there is space available.
  • I always feel like I’m special.

I’ve heard many people grumble about American Airlines. But not me. I go out of my way to fly American because my experience is exceptional. When I fly United, where I have no status, I get nothing. I usually board at the very end. Unless I’m willing to pay extra, my knees usually hit the seat in front of me (those of you who’ve seen me know that I’m on the short side…). My experience on United, Delta, or any of the airlines where I have no status is, well, poor. It’s not even average. It’s poor. Maybe that’s because I’m accustomed to exceptional from American – so, to me, average is interpreted as poor.

Whenever I deplane a flight, regardless of the airline, the announcer always says, “We know you have a choice in air travel. We are glad that you chose <Airline> for this trip.” Because of the exceptional experience I have on American, I am loyal. I am even willing to pay a little more to have that experience. And I am happy to be vocal about my experience, too.

Where do companies need to be exceptional? Companies need to be exceptional at every customer touch point. Often, the experience starts with search. When I look for you, your product, or your service, do I find it quickly on the major search engines? Are you at the top of the results? or at least on the first page?

Once I locate you, how is your corporate website? Whether or not the site has built-in eCommerce, the content must be exceptional. You cannot have typos, grammar errors, style errors, or incorrect wording. The site needs to be engaging. You need to lure me in so that I am interested in looking at different pages. You need to make it easy for me to find what I want as quickly as possible.

How easy do you make it for me to take the next step? If I get stuck, do you have representatives available to chat online with me?

How good is your follow-up after I’ve made a purchase? Do you bother me incessantly? Do you reach out at all? Finding that happy medium is not easy. In order to create an ongoing exceptional experience, you must search for it.

Providing an exceptional customer experience is not an easy task. However, if you want to remain competitive in your marketplace, it is an imperative.

Need help creating exceptional experiences through content? We can help.

Val Swisher

Val Swisher is the CEO of Content Rules. She is a well-known expert in global content strategy, content development, and terminology management. Using her 20 years of experience, Val helps companies solve complex content problems by analyzing their content and how it is created.

When not blogging, Val can be found sitting behind her sewing machine working on her latest quilt. She also makes a mean hummus.

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