When I was in college I basically worked at my university’s version of the Peach Pit diner — it was popular, fun and the food was great. Needless to say, my friends knew my schedule so they would pop in regularly and request to sit in my section. The thing is, everyone enjoyed themselves so much that it wasn’t hard to convince them to come back — in fact, I didn’t have to at all.

Not only did the restaurant offer great food and a solid vibe, I quickly learned that what I had to offer was also important: consistency. Sure, I might’ve been delivering a burger and fries to a table, but I was a good read of my customers and became more and more proactive about their needs. I knew that if I observed, listened and put patterns together, that I could anticipate almost any request. Turns out that led to more tips, more regulars, and for me, a greater sense of satisfaction.

Experiences Can’t Be Transactional, They Must Be Long Game

What I learned back then I’ve carried with me throughout my career — I was able to create and shape experiences that were valuable and everyone enjoyed, including myself. I built a reputation for myself not only through excellent service, but also through new and interesting ideas that I shared with my manager. I was loyal, dedicated and understood that it wasn’t just what we had on the menu that made the difference, it was also about our presentation and, more importantly, how it was received.

But back then CX didn’t exist — at least not in the way that we think of it now, which is essentially the sum of all the (digital) experiences a customer has with a brand.

So, for instance, I travel a lot for work and am loyal to one airline in particular so I don’t mind if that means I’ll have a longer layover somewhere or have to take a multi-city flight as they’ve consistently gone out of their way to take care of me. And that loyalty has been well-rewarded as they’re going for the long game by understanding how these experiences are not just mutually beneficial, they’re genuine and keep me coming back.

Related Article: Building a Next-Level Customer Loyalty Program

Training, Tech Savviness and Feedback Are Key Differentiators

Technology keeps getting better. and that’s also been an integral part of my experience with this award-winning airline. Its app is intuitive, easy to navigate and provides a satisfying user experience — and ultimately, a superior customer experience. Training is also part of this equation as the airline’s employees are well-versed on the technology and systems they use, so it’s not just about what they can do for customers, but also what the airline does for their employees to exceed those expectations.

Learning Opportunities

I reflect back on all of those experiences in my current position where I lead executive search and strategic intelligence mandates for clients across commercial as well as corporate functions. Not long after I started down this career path, I realized that the internal tools and technology we were using were also fair game for our customers. In other words, I wanted to expand the scope of our in-house resources to include our customers’ perspective and feedback so our approach would be more comprehensive, inclusive and based on real-world experiences.

Related Article: Perks, Promotions and Personalization: Brand Loyalty in the Age of Inflation

Processes That Add Value Build Customer Loyalty

I’m now implementing these CX best practices across my current organization, which has helped our customers revamp hiring processes to become more efficient, for instance, while also leveraging a tech-driven approach to finding and hiring the best talent. The ultimate goal here is to add value through a truly consultative, research-driven process that deepens client relationships. These experiences exceed expectations, build long-term relationships, and establish loyalty regardless of the product or service — by the way, it also shouldn’t matter if the relationship is personal or professional.

When we adopt this approach we put the customer at the center of our strategy, allowing us to anticipate their needs in a way that’s proactive, thoughtful and personalized. My serving days may be over but to build upon the old adage that the customer is always right, I’ve learned that great experiences are really what keep them coming back.

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