Build a Better Customer Experience
By: Kelly McDonald

It doesn’t matter the location: Communities today don’t look anything like they did 10 years ago. And 10 years from now, they won’t look anything like they do today. These changes and shifts in population—and lifestyles—have significant implications for business. Smart companies know this and recognize that taking a more customized approach to the customer experience pays off—in sales, satisfaction, and loyalty. In short, to be successful in business, a “one size fits all” approach to customer service is no longer a viable option.

While the economy, the stock market, and the cost of goods and labor are out of the control of business owners, there is one thing that is controllable: the customer experience. And given the changing and diverse customer pool, it’s more important than ever to build a meaningful customer experience for different types of customers and potential customers. To that end, here are three of the seven principles found in my book, Crafting the Customer Experience for People Not Like You:

1. Hire and staff diverse talent.
This is the single best tactic for creating a fantastic customer experience for people not like you. Who knows better than a Gen Y person what another Gen Y may want, need, or value? An Asian employee may have unique insights into the local Asian community that others simply don’t have. A bilingual employee who speaks Spanish as well as English will be a huge asset because he or she is likely to understand not only the language, but also the culture.

When you hire people who are not like you, you’ll find your business will grow with new customers very quickly. That’s because we all have a network of friends, neighbors, and family, and we tell people about where we work and what we do. So when you hire someone who is tapped into an entirely new network, word gets around that your business is the place to go. Then, when you treat these new customers with respect, care, and understanding, it shows that you value them.

2. Product or service tweaks. To reach people not like you—or not like the customers you are already getting—sometimes you need to “tweak” your product or service. Tweaking or modifying a product or service can mean a great deal to someone of a specific market segment. It can be a small tweak, such as creating a business app that Gen Y customers will want to use, or it can be a big tweak, where an entirely new product to serve someone different from your core customers is created.

I recently saw an impressive new type of umbrella. What could possibly be new in the world of umbrellas? This particular umbrella has a four-finger grip that is ergonomically correct so that users can hold the umbrella while still holding a mobile phone. The basic product is a typical umbrella, but the tweak shows that they get how tech-dependent customers live: Their phones are never out of their hands.

3. Customer service and support.
The customer experience can be enhanced for people not like you by thinking through all aspects of what it’s like to do business with your company. For example, great customer support for different groups would include that provided by a storage facility near a military base. Storage facilities have different types of customers, including unemployed young people who are moving back in with their parents temporarily and deployed military personnel who need to store their belongings. This storage facility realized that the payment needs of the young people living with their parents are very different from the payment needs of those in the military.

Military customers want to set everything up to be paid automatically from their checking accounts once a month. It’s efficient and easy—and one less thing for someone overseas to worry about. But the young person who is struggling financially may find it difficult to make a monthly payment. It may be easier for him or her to come up with $15 each week than $60 all at once.

As a result, the storage facility created different ways that customers can pay. This is a great example of offering different payment plans to meet the needs of the customer. Both groups need storage. It’s only the way they prefer to pay for it that differs.

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