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Editor’s note: the following article is a guest post by Shay Namdarian, GM of Customer Strategy at Collective Campus.

It is no coincidence that the most innovative brands in the world are also leading the way in customer experience. Brands like Apple, Disney, Zappos, and Amazon are front of mind during conversations about memorable customer experiences. To thrive in this era of rapid disruption, other organizations also need to invest and focus on the customer journey.

The trend is set to continue as highlighted in a study from Gartner. The study found that in 2010 only 36% of companies expected to compete mostly on customer experience, whereas in 2016 that percentage increased to a staggering 89%.

So what makes these leading brands stand out from the rest? What can we learn from the experiences they provide their customers?

Apple

Lesson: Provide a consistent customer journey

Each touch point with the customer matters, whether it be early in the journey or towards the end. Customers value and appreciate a journey that is consistent and Apple is a brand that does this extremely well.

Let’s take the iPhone as an example. Apple provides a memorable experience at every point in the journey, from the research phase (clean and slick website) to the communication while waiting for your iPhone (email and sms delivery updates). A standout moment in the journey (often overlooked) is the suspense encountered when lifting the lid off a new iPhone box. It takes about five seconds to slide off the lid – the excitement, the anticipation, the joy – it all forms part of the experience.

Disney

Lesson: Create a seamless experience

Customers are connecting with companies in more ways than ever. Mobile, email, instant chat, social media – the list goes on. Disney continues to enhance their omni-channel experience and this is apparent in the customer journey at Disney World. The seamless end to end journey starts from the moment a customer visits their mobile-responsive website.

After purchasing their tickets and prior to arriving at Disney World, customers receive Magic Bands in the mail. Each family member has their own assigned Magic Band but these aren’t just ordinary wrist bands, they provide visitors with an experience like no other, acting as a hotel room key, ride reserver, and a method of making payments. What about all the photos your children take with Disney characters? Well these also get stored on your Magic Band and can be accessed later. In true end to end customer experience, Disney follow up with customers after their visit, thank them for visiting and share photos of memorable moments during their visit.

Zappos

Lesson: Build a loyal customer base

Temkin Group recently reported that loyal customers are five times as likely to repurchase, five times as likely to forgive, seven times as likely to try a new offering, and four times as likely to refer. Given these statistics, it is no surprise that Zappos places a focus on creating lifelong customers.

Customers are considered the most valuable asset at Zappos, but how are they creating lifelong customers? Here is a snapshot of the innovative approach taken in creating their loyal customer base:

  • Zappos directs you to a competitor website when they are out of stock of a product
  • Repeat customers are provided with surprise shipping upgrades. An order placed before midnight will be at your doorstep the next morning, creating a WOW experience for the customer
  • Zappos places its phone number at the top left hand corner of their homepage. They use conversations with their customers as a method to learn and improve. Last time I tried to find a phone number on a website it took me 5 minutes because the number was buried seven pages deep

As Ted Rubin pointed out on episode #11 of the Future Squared podcast, the marketing focus needs to be on building relationships and metrics that expand beyond ROI to include ROR: Return on Relationship.

By successfully building a loyal customer base, significant marketing for your business will come from the resulting word of mouth.

Amazon

Lesson: Deliver experiences for millennial customers

The expectations of millennials (born between 1982 and 2002) differ from previous generations. Millennials are impatient, expect quick responses, and don’t like to wait. They know the difference between good and bad experience. Amazon is currently resonating the most with millennials, being voted the top brand amongst millennials in the recent Brand Relevance Index published by Global Marketing Consultancy, Prophet. Why were they voted number one? Here is what their millennial customers are saying:

“It makes my life easier.”

“It delivers a consistent experience.”

“It’s available whenever I need it.”

Millennials shop on Amazon because it is fast and easy. By introducing Amazon Prime, Amazon further strengthened their appeal to millennials, providing a fixed membership fee so customers no longer need to pay for shipping throughout the year (addressing a millennial pain point).

Building your customer experience is a marathon not a sprint. As competition continues to increase it is imperative that brands in turn continue to improve and enhance their customer experience. Brands such as Amazon (Jeff Bezos) and Zappos (Tony Hsieh) have leaders that are driving the customer-centric approach and it is time for others to follow in their footsteps.


Shay is the GM of Customer Strategy at Collective Campus. Shay has launched two CX-conscious fashion startups and has helped drive customer experience and innovation across large organisations in industries such as retail, utilities, financial and legal services.