Posted: April 4, 2013 by Bill Cunningham in Leadership, Marketing, Startup

Bill Cunningham Bio“A business absolutely devoted to service will have only one worry about profits. They will be embarrassingly large.” — Henry Ford

Henry Ford didn’t sell automobiles, he created a great customer user experience that resulted in the tremendous success of Ford Motor Company. Whether you deliver products or services, your customer experience determines whether customers buy and more importantly, whether they will buy again.

The cycle of user experience begins with the first impression of your organization. In Malcolm Gladwell‘s book, Blink, he proves that you make snap decisions within a single microsecond at the start of a user experience and keep that portrait in your mind

Malcom Gladwell

despite evidence to the contrary. You have all heard that you only get one chance to make a first impression. More importantly, according to Seth Godin, is not the first impression, but the realization that you do not know when it will occur. This means you must be ready 24/7 with how customers acquire the user experience with your company.

Seth Godin

Your award winning website generates thousands of looks, but a call to your customer service line may tell a different story. Your sales force sets your company apart from the herd by understanding your customer’s needs and making it easy to buy from you. However, if your installers leave the place a mess, or there are mistakes on the bill, or the customers believe the product doesn’t meet expectations set by your sales rep, then you create a bad user experience. According to Godin, the last impression is even more important than the first impression. What you leave them with is what they will remember.

With Facebook, LinkedIn, Yelp, Angie’s List and even Google/Yahoo/Bing, almost unlimited sites create reviews of your company and can be the source of your first impressions. The only way to maintain a great customer experience reputation is to be authentic. Cincinnati’s startup pioneer Pete Blackshaw (who launched PlanetFeedback in 1999) published Satisfied Customers Tell 3 Friends, Angry Customers Tell 3,000 and relates that “a company that is authentic is one that is perceived to be real and sincere, consistent and genuine.”

So how do you keep up your authenticity?

First, become a customer of yourself!

  • Call your toll-free number and see what you experience.
  • Google, Yahoo and Bing yourself to find out who talks about you and what they say.
  • Find your Yelp, Angie’s List and other business reputation sites view of you
  • Ask for feedback from your customers — through surveys, phone calls, user groups and newsletters.

Next, fix the problems that damage your customer experience.

  • Be consistent in your LinkedIn, Facebook and web page messages including your employees personal pages
  • Listen for customer issues through Google Alerts and other web watching applications
  • Turn lemons into lemonade for your customers – fix problems and make them a raving fan.

Buddy LaRosa

Finally, communicate this to your troops – walk the talk. Actions speak louder than words.

  • Empower the frontline to be fearless and take care of the customer (See Ray Attiyah’s new book)
  • Treat everyone as a customer: employees, vendors, investors and, of course, customers
  • Continually learn from the masters: Seth Godin, Guy Kawasaki, Ray Attiyah, Pete Blackshaw and Buddy LaRosa – never stop learning. As Buddy says “”Good, better, best. Never let it rest, until your good is better and your better is best.”

Visit our website at for links to resources.

Bill Cunningham is the founder of and shop foreman for the Greater Cincinnati Venture Association.

Seth Godin’s Great Blog

Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink

Ray Attiyah’s Fearless Frontline

Pete Blackhaw’s Book:  

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