In the book “Unmarketing: Stop Marketing. Start Engaging.” written by “unmarketer” Scott Stratten, he discusses how crucial it is to engage with your customers rather than market to them. In a section of the book titled “The Experience Gap” he discusses what the Experience Gap is and how it can positively or negatively affect how loyal a customer stays to your business.
Scott defines the Experience Gap as “the space between the best experience your customer has had with you and the worst.” Ideally this gap doesn’t exist at all or is as small as possible. In the section, he explains the story of how he went from a diehard Tim Horton’s coffee drinker to a McDonald’s one, all because of how wide the Experience Gap slowly grew. You can read the story on his blog which he excerpted from the book here.
In summary, Scott talks about how positive his experiences with Tim Hortons had been through his years as a loyal customer but how eventually he started to see some “cracks” in the gap. Inconsistencies in the taste of his coffee, the inability to pay using debit and the ability to easily open the lid were a few gaps he saw in his love of Timmy’s. Now taken separately, these small issues may not seem like a big deal, but when you start to add them together, that experience gap widens and offers the competition an opportunity to take that business. Enter McDonald’s.
The Experience Gap relates directly to customer service. You hear stories all the time about how someone’s positive or negative experience with a business influenced their decision to return as a customer or leave forever. Your customer service doesn’t start and end with your customer service team but your business as a whole. From the second a customer interacts with your business, your customer service and Experience Gap have begun. This can be on social media, in person with a sales rep, on a phone call or any number of other opportunities where the customer is interacting with your business.
Your business needs to create an atmosphere of outstanding, and I do mean OUTSTANDING, customer service. Everyone needs to be on their customer service toes at all times in an effort to keep that gap as small as possible. In this day and age, competition is so fierce that even the smallest “chink in the armour” can cost your business money. There is example after example of businesses going above and beyond the call of duty to make their customer happy and they do it not for the press but for the customer. Imagine how those customers felt after those incredible experiences. They’re not only customers for life but have only good things to say about those businesses to their friends, family and co-workers in person and on social media.
The importance of keeping the Experience Gap small or completely closed is a huge part of keeping your customers loyal. Social media, online blogs and negative news hungry editors have made it all but impossible to hide poor customer service so why bother trying. Answer your customers’ needs, questions and concerns directly, promptly and in a kind and generous manner. Doing so could not only help keep that individual a customer for life but also make them a loyal brand ambassador.