old ceramic piggy bank on a table
PHOTO: Jude Beck

Remember that piggy bank you had as a child?

Every time your grandma gave you a quarter or you found some change in the couch, you banked it. Little by little you built up what amounted to your pre-adolescent mind as a fortune. And then you were able to drop that fortune on baseball cards or candy.

It was probably the first experience you had building wealth of any kind, and it was probably where you learned that a penny saved is a penny earned. 

What you may not have realized, however, is that you also learned your first lesson in creating a great customer experience.


an example of a brand mascot: a golden retriever Barkley dog behind the wheel of a Subaru
PHOTO: Subaru

Customer Goodwill Is a Currency

The customer is not won or (usually) lost in a single event. Their experience is a collection of many events, large and small, that make up a kind of nonspecific aggregate experience.

Each of those moments in the customer experience is a unit of currency. That currency represents the goodwill that you build up with said customer.

For every positive moment that customer experiences, you put some goodwill currency in the piggy bank. For every negative moment, you take some out. 

If you go broke, or even get close to it, you start to lose customers. You start to elicit bad reviews. You start to create negative brand equity.

Related Article: Critical Moments: Where Customer Experience Is Won or Lost

Paying Back the Customer

It’s not always negative when some coins come out of the piggy bank. Sometimes you need to spend some of that goodwill intentionally.

Asking customers to help you build your business costs goodwill currency. Maybe you want to do a case study or a joint webinar. Maybe you’d like to highlight what you’re doing for the customer in some form of advertising. Maybe you want referrals from your customer.

These aren’t negative experiences per se, but they are ones where you ask the customer to do something that isn’t necessarily of value to them.

If you’ve got no pennies in the customer goodwill piggy bank, how are you going to spend any to get help from that customer?

Related Article: Rewriting the Language of Customer Engagement

Keeping the Piggy Bank Full

Managing your customer — giving them a positive overall experience with your company — is about keeping the piggy bank full. Over time, you’ve got to be putting in more pennies than you’re taking out.

Here’s some advice to help you make sure that happens.

Pennies In, Nickels Out

With your piggy bank, you put in a nickel here and a quarter there. Until eventually you spent some or all of it by making a large withdrawal.

Much the same, the amounts of customer goodwill you bank are going to be smaller and the amounts you take out are going to be larger. This means to stay above water, you need to add positive goodwill credits far more frequently than you cash them in.

Certainly look to minimize bad experiences, big and small. Friction in a buying process, unclear or unfair terms of service, and goofy billing practices are all examples of seemingly small ways you erode customer goodwill. The big ones are obvious.

Bad customer experiences can destroy the relationship fast. Almost a third of customers only need one bad experience to move on. It’s far more likely that a bad experience will have a larger impact on goodwill than the average positive one. You can build up an awful lot of goodwill and lose it all in one mistake.

Minimizing bad experiences isn’t enough. You have to inspect your customer journey, beginning to end, and look for every opportunity to create a positive customer touch — even if it’s tiny. Each one is a small amount of customer goodwill added to the piggy bank.

Pay especially close attention to critical moments in the customer journey. Positive or negative they are going to have an outsized impact on your balance of customer goodwill.

Related Article: Customer Experience Isn't About Fixing Discomfort, It's About Preventing It

Experiences Come From Everyone

This means that every single possible touchpoint with your customer is an opportunity to add to the goodwill piggy bank.

There are obvious, generally understood places to do this. Have a well designed, on-brand website or application that makes tasks easy to complete. Have friendly people answering the phone. Clearly document business requirements during an onboarding project.

These are all table stakes. Make sure they are positive experiences.

But you really start to bank some goodwill when you put love into the non-obvious parts of the customer experience. How do you make receiving an invoice a notably positive experience? Logging a defect or a feature request? Learning how to use a difficult feature?

Everyone at every time has an opportunity to add goodwill currency to the piggy bank. Leave no stone unturned.

Related Article: The Customer Experience Hierarchy

Quantify These Experiences

Sophisticated marketing automation, CRM and CDPs give you the opportunity to automate and measure these experiences.

With a very clear, heavily digitized customer experience, you can log when different positive and negative experiences occur. For example, count the number of times a user clicks the “thumbs up” button after a support request or the number of times a user completes a critical action in your SaaS application. Maybe count whenever a task takes less than a pre-determined time threshold to complete, because you have evidence that fast completion equates to positive experience. Perhaps you can even assign impact scores to them to create a customer success rating — one piece of data to indicate the staying power a given customer has.

There are many activities you can measure, and as long as you reasonably believe they are correlated with positivity, you can use them to quantify the customer experience.

Combine this kind of measurement with product usage data, NPS scores, and some of the other traditional measures of success, and you can create a pretty sophisticated customer experience profile.

You can’t improve what you don’t measure, so start measuring (even if imperfectly).