Customer Experience: The “last great differentiator” for companies?

Imagine you make a large purchase after working with a salesperson. Maybe it’s a new car or windows for the house. The salesperson makes lots of promises that the “account manager” or customer service representative can’t keep. Sound familiar?

It did to Joey Coleman, a customer experience expert and keynote speaker who learned that in virtually every industry, between 20% and 70% of new customers will leave a business in the first 100 days. That’s a lot of unkept promises.

“Basically, companies are hemorrhaging,” he says. “They’re spending all this time, effort, and money acquiring new customers, but not spending a fraction of that time, effort, or money keeping those customers.”

“Getting customers is important, but keeping customers is even more important,” he adds.

Coleman’s expertise is in creating “remarkable customer experiences — the kind of experiences that will transition someone from being a transactional customer to a customer for life.” His theory is that during the first 100 days of a customer’s interaction with a company, they need to be walked through “a systematic process that is designed to introduce and welcome them to your business…so that they become a raving fan.” In fact, he developed such a process, and called it the First 100 Days®.

The process centers around what Coleman refers to as “expectation design” — a far cry from what most companies do, which is “manage expectations”. When expectations, and the resulting customer experience, are co-created between the company and its customer, the result is “an experience that is lasting and continues to deepen the relationship,” says Coleman.

In several ways, Coleman equates customer experience to marriage. First, he says, companies should “talk about what [the customer is] hoping to get out of this relationship”. And second, not every interaction can be quantitatively measured.

“If you approach a marriage based on an ROI [Return on Investment] equation, you’re divorced within a month,” Coleman says. “And yet the same analogy can be applied to our business relationships. Why are we looking to create ROI on every interaction?”

A better way, he says, is to teach employees that “everyone is in customer experience” and that “solving the problem is often more important than what it costs to solve the problem.”

While customer experience has always been an important part of the business equation, “it’s more important today than any other time in human history,” Coleman says, particularly since all experiences — whether they start online or offline — can be amplified by customers in social media. This applies to both positive and negative experiences, and requires social care agents to be knowledgeable in all parts of the business in order to respond to inquiries on virtually any topic.

“The bar for customer experience in this country, and frankly in the planet at large, is lying on the ground,” Coleman says. “What you need to do to create a wonderful, magical moment for a customer is listen and care. It’s not any more complicated than that.”

He adds that customer experience is “the last great differentiator” because price and product can be imitated. In contrast, customer experience is individually designed by each company, it engages employees, it is very difficult to copy, and “it is a lot more fun for your customers to talk about,” says Coleman.

Why should marketers care about customer experience? Because “remarkable experiences” cause people to talk about your brand to their friends and family — which is also called word-of-mouth marketing.

Coleman took time out of his busy schedule to talk with me for Episode 51 of the Focus on Customer Service podcast. His passion and enthusiasm for the customer is contagious, which resulted in a lively discussion.


Here are some key moments of the episode and where to find them:

1:47 Joey describes his “eclectic past” that led him to becoming a professional speaker

4:30 The research that spawned Joey’s First 100 Days® methodology aimed at keeping more customers

7:55 How emotions play a key role in the customer experience

13:10 Why companies need to work with prospects and customers on “expectation design”

15:30 Joey shares a case study where a company convinced him to by a less expensive item than the one he thought he needed

18:18 How companies can ensure a seamless experience across multiple customer touchpoints, including social media

22:22 Why the customer experience can’t be measured with ROI

27:15 Why the sharing of customer experiences on social media further emphasizes the need for companies to focus on the experience

31:23 Why customer experience will become the last true differentiator for businesses

34:17 Joey unveils the title of his new book for the first time to the Focus on Customer Service audience

Links to items mentioned in this episode:

“A Tale of Two Sales” blog post

Dan’s “Fireplace Guy” — ask for Bryan Smith

Your free First 100 Days® Starter Kit

Joey’s website

Joey Coleman on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn

To listen to previous episodes of Focus on Customer Service, visit or check out iTunes, Stitcher, SoundCloud, or your favorite podcast app.

#CustomerExperience keynote speaker and consultant. Author, podcaster, Forbes contributor. Former executive at McDonald’s, Discover, Humana.