3 questions with Dan Gingiss: On customer experience as the 'last great differentiator'

Dan Gingiss's 20-year career has consistently focused on delighting customers. Here, the podcast host and former Fortune 300 leader talks about why customers are your best marketers.

Megan Boley

Megan Boley was a content marketing writer at WSB. ...

Dan Gingiss knows the importance of delighting your customers. Your customers are your best marketers after all, he says.

No one shares with others an average experience, he continues. They share the things they love, and things they can't stand. That's why creating remarkable customer experiences is at the crux of thriving in a world ruled by social media.

Gingiss held leadership positions at Fortune 300 companies, like Discover, Humana, and McDonald's, where he learned the importance of crafting and cultivating the customer's journey and interaction with the brand. His 20-year career has been devoted to the commingling of customer service and using social media to create buzz-worthy experiences.

We asked Gingiss for his insight on fostering interactions that are worth sharing and talking about.

1. You say customer experience may be the “last great differentiator” for companies. Tell us more about your perspective here.

The reality is that in business today, competing on price is a loser’s game — just ask all the car dealerships and credit card companies that competed on interest rates all the way down to 0 percent. And competing on product is becoming harder and harder as most everything can be copied — just ask Uber, a long-heralded innovator which was then matched by Lyft. So what’s left? Customer experience.

The reason why customer experience, or CX for short, will prevail as the last great differentiator is that it is what consumers are demanding and it is almost impossible to copy. The experience that a company delivers to its customers or clients is often built upon some form of human interaction, and no two companies have the same set of humans delivering on that experience.

Customer experience is also one of the best ways to retain customers after the sale. Think about the customer who shops based on price; as soon as a lower price is available, that customer jumps to another company. But a great CX creates loyalty, which in turn increases the tenure of existing customers and plugs the “leaky bucket” that many companies miss due to their over-reliance on sales metrics.

2. What are the biggest challenges that keep businesses from offering a better customer experience?

The biggest challenge is organizational structure. As companies grow, they tend to become siloed — and these silos, while often not intentional, become apparent to the customer.

A great example is a salesperson who promises the world to a prospect, and then after the sale hands the customer to a different team to execute. That team isn’t informed of what the salesperson promised and the salesperson is already on to the next sale. The result is a disappointing experience for the customer because his or her expectations aren’t met.

Silos in companies also cause choppy experiences throughout the customer journey, because each step along the journey is controlled by a different part of the organization. The credit card application and process is handled by one team, the card issuance and onboarding by another team, the usage and rewards programs by another team, the billing and payments by another team, and the customer service by yet another team.

To the company, it makes sense to organize in this way because it can hire different skill sets and each area represents a different profit center. But to the customer, each experience along the journey is disjointed and not connected to the one before or after.

A related challenge for companies is ownership of the customer experience. Does CX exist as its own department, or does everyone “own” it? Either scenario can work, but there must be a firm directive and support from the top of the organization that customer experience is critical to the company’s success.

3. What marketing and social strategies can organizations implement to get closer to their customer?

The first recommendation is core to customer experience management: Walk in the shoes of your customers. If you don’t like pop-up ads or auto-play videos or robo-calls, it’s fairly certain that your customers don’t either. The typical rationale that these techniques “work” usually fails to consider the loss of customers associated with an otherwise successful marketing campaign.

Executives also have to recognize the fact that no one wakes up in the morning hoping to hear from their credit card provider, health insurer, or cable company. Once that fact is accepted, teams can consider how to engage with prospects and customers on their terms instead of the company’s. Consumers will respond to marketing that actually has value to them.

Finally, being responsive to prospects and customers in all channels is a must. Whether someone is complaining, complimenting, or asking a question, they deserve to be heard and answered. It is truly remarkable how often angry customers can get turned into brand advocates simply by helping them solve their problem.


Want to create remarkable experiences for your customers? Connect directly with Dan Gingiss here to start a conversation.

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