Culture and Customer Experience: Delivering That “Mmmm Mmmm Good” Feeling

Jul 30, 2012

“It’s the culture, stupid!”

Add that to the umpteen zillion variations of the famed political phrase, “The economy, stupid,” coined by political strategist, James Carville. But as any top marketer knows, their “corporate economy’s” health begins with something more profound: their culture.

We speak often about the importance of engaging loyalty programs that do more than offer a cookie-cutter card and points accumulation regimen. But it’s equally important to step back and remember that before a comprehensive loyalty program is in place, an inviting culture that makes consumers feel like people and not points on some revenue projection is key.

It may seem obvious, but surprisingly, it’s not. If it were, there wouldn’t be a need for research and consulting firm Temkin Group and its 2012 Tempkin Customer Experience rankings. The organization surveyed consumers, ranking 206 companies, asking them three questions about their customer experience.

Questions were divided into three subcategories across 18 industries:

• Functional
• Accessible
• Emotional

The Functional question asked consumers if they were able to accomplish what they set out to do. Accessible asked consumers how easy it was to reach that goal, and Emotional asked consumers to gauge their overall feelings about the other two levels of interaction. Phrases ranging from “upset to delighted” or “completely failed to completely succeeded” were assigned a number and ranked on consumer response.

Sam’s Club and Publix landed in first and second while Starbucks and Subway, among others, tied for third. Apple – often considered the public’s darling – landed 89th of 206, interestingly enough tie with eBay.

It’s also interesting to note that many of the leaders of the 206 hailed from the food services industry. When you think about it, that makes sense. Food purchases really span the three categories: they are a highly emotional, accessible and at once functional kind of personal experience. And whether purchased for later consumption or eaten in-store, food quality and the quality of the people who serve it to you figures prominently. As a Florida resident I can attest that Publix’ popular “where shopping is a pleasure” slogan really does have merit. It’s a pleasure because I’m treated with decency and respect. Food managers point me toward the correct aisles, cashiers smile and give correct change, and baggers tell me to have a nice day.

Zappos, an example not part of the survey, deserves strong praise too. The online shoe and clothing retailer is all but famous for the lengths it will go to please its customers. In 2011 Zappos sent flowers to a woman who ordered six pairs of shoes after her feet were injured from “harsh medical treatments.” The company also overnighted a free pair of shoes for a best man at a wedding and last November even paid the $1.50 tolls on a section of the Massachusetts Turnpike as it teamed up with the state’s DOT. These are the types of company anecdotes that add up to some serious customer loyalty – and deservedly so.

But Zappos and other success stories aside, the Temkin Group survey underscores that too often, these experience-driven interactions are left off company to-do lists. Kobie strives to reach that goal every day, beginning with our revamped (and mobile-friendly) website and continuing when you walk through our doors. We’re all human beings and we want consumers to feel like they’ve been treated as such. It’s also why our company bios include personal tidbits – facts that tell visitors more about us as people and less as a collection of “living resumes.” Does my piano playing by ear necessarily drive revenue or a greater ROI? No. But it might inspire a connection with a new client or at least speak to our own fun company culture.