A couple of my favorite bloggers have written recently about their own experiences as customers. Jim Fallows wrote about his excellent service experience when his Bose noise-cancelling headset broke. Seth Godin leads into a post about outsourcing by describing his equally bad car servicing experience. I’m fascinated by the power of companies to leverage those moments or to totally blow it. You have to consciously decide what you want the customer experience to be and (here’s the important part) you have to actually execute it.
At Eclipse Aviation, we had an unusual challenge. We were selling business jets for about $1m each. That’s a very cheap price for a jet and a key piece of our corporate messaging was that we were much more efficient than traditional business jet manufacturers, which spend months cultivating a sale, build each jet by hand, and which entertain their customers lavishly. If you’ve ever visited a corporate chalet at the Paris Air Show you know what I mean. On the other hand, customers were spending a cool million with us and they expected to be treated pretty darn well.
So we developed a very explicit strategy for customer events, which in essence was: (1) make sure things work right and (2) overstaff. We figured that respecting our customers time and attention was the best way we could show them appreciation without succumbing to the lobster, champagne and limo ploys of our competitors. We invested many, many hours figuring out logisitics and planning the programs for our events. We spent reasonably on catering and other production costs – no one would call our events lavish. When the day of the event came (whether a trade show or our giant “roll out” event) we overstaffed like crazy. So when a customer realized they’d left their camera at the hotel, one of our folks would drive them over to get it. When someone arrived late for the painstakingly planned factory tour, one of our folks would step in and give a special tour. Our team was very knowledgable, very cheerful and very helpful.
I’ll give a plug here to Mach 2 Management, which brought their event expertise to bear and also provided incredible temp staff that was indistinguishable from our own employees. Great execution is hard work, but without it the best strategy in the world is worthless.