How to Offer Customers a Better Experience

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Customer experience is certainly not a new thing. Back in 1997, Steve Jobs said this to a large audience:

"You have to start with customer experience and work backwards to the technology. You can't start with the technology and figure out where you're going to sell out. I've made this mistake maybe more than anyone else in this room... And as we have tried to come up with a strategy and a vision for Apple, it started with, 'What incredible benefits can we give to the customer? Where can we take the customer?' Not let's start with sitting down with the engineers and figure out what awesome technology we have and how we're going to market that."

Here are 6 tips on improving today's customer experience:

1. Recognize that customer service and customer experience aren't simply departments or strategies, wrote author Shep Hyken on the Forbes site. "...you'll hear me say or write (over and over) that customer service is not a department. It is a philosophy to be embraced by every employee, from the CEO to the most recent hire. The same can be said for the customer experience. Everyone has some impact on the customer. It may be more obvious on the front line, but even the departments that don't ever see or talk to the external customer have an impact.

2. Build a diverse staff... "When we talk about how important diversity is [and listening] to the customer voice, you need people on your team who can relate to the experience of customers," said Elizabeth Petersen, chief people and strategy officer, Simplify Compliance. "Look around your office and if everyone looks the same, it is very dangerous. It helps you understand your customers when you can bring in employees from different backgrounds."

3. ...And listen for stories. "...stop trying to make the business case for diversity and digital transformation," wrote Charlene Li, principal analyst at Atimeter, on LinkedIn. Stop living in your head, and start leading from your heart... Step away from the spreadsheets and presentations and instead approach [it] with compelling stories of employees and customers who will benefit from the change, stories that move the heart and fill it with courage for the change ahead."

4. Eliminate the "but," wrote Wanda Thibodeaux on the Inc. site. "In an effort to focus on the positive, companies often tell their representatives to say something like 'I can't do x, but I can...' But this format puts what the customer won't get first, which actually can make it harder for the customer not to focus on the restriction or perceived loss. So skip the preface! Just start with 'I'd love to do x for you... so you can [customer goal]' or 'We can...'"

5. Treat customers like they're experts, added Thibodeaux. "The customer is the one who knows what's wrong, what goal they're after, and the details you need to find a solution. So right from the start, ask for information in a way that makes them feel empowered. For example, instead of saying, 'What can I help you with today?' try 'What issue would you like to resolve today?'"

6. Look for the "beautiful" and visit customers when possible. After giving an example of a food conference—Catersource—whose marketing is "beautiful" and gets "to the heart of a great customer experience," Robyn Duda of Robyn Duda Creative and formerly UBM was asked what she would do with an industry that may not be quite as beautiful. She told about a specialty chemicals conference that she took over. "Finding the beauty in that was difficult," Duda said. "I decided to make the trip to Cleveland, Tenn., to visit the chemical plant there—HAZMAT suit and all. "I ended up sitting at a table with a grandfather, father and son of this company, hearing why they weren't happy... They didn't feel like we cared about them. Nobody had ever [asked] what mattered to them. This year we launched an event on pharmaceuticals and held each of their hands, and made them feel like they were on the journey with us... and part of the family."

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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…