Is your customer experience something you’ve experienced (as a customer?)


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If you haven’t yourself experienced the customer experience at your business, is it really wise to invite an unsuspecting public in? Can you assume, with any confidence, that they will enjoy something you’ve never tried yourself?

I’m always startled when businesses don’t work at finding out, firsthand, what it’s like to use their own service or product.

Of course, it’s easy to fail to use your own product or service: Separate employee entrance, separate employee parking, separate, streamlined login process on your website, separate everything. Drive home at night, wash your hands, put work behind you. Until the next morning.

The photo below (from an otherwise very serviceable hotel, FWIW), shows the hazards of such oversights, in a very minor, non-life-threatening way. Let me explain.

high and wobbly hotel desk
High and precariously leveled hotel desk, low desk chair.

As a guest hoping to work from my hotel room, I’ve hand-cranked the desk chair — which is a nice chair, thoughtfully provided by the hotel, if not actually a Miller Freeman Aeron chair, at least a serviceable “Ikea Freeman” knockoff — to literally its highest possible level. Yet even so, I am being asked by the combination of lowish seat and highish desk to type with my elbows. Which is the kind of acrobatic maneuver I’m not at all deft at.

More easily curable, but also, as the kids say, awkward: the desk–again, thoughtfully provided–was so wobbly it took all the paperboard I could scavenge to prop it up to plumb. [see the lower l.h. corner of the photo.]

Both if these mismatches–table height to maximum chair height, desk instability to needs of guests–would have been obvious if someone on the hotel team had tried, even once, to use the desk.

This, I argue, would beat hearing about it on Tripadvisor, wouldn’t it? Or more likely, never hearing about it. A fate that is probably even worse.

When I consult for a business on customer service and the customer experience, one of the first steps I take is to secret shop the establishment. I’m pretty obsessive: A typical report, for, say, an excellent restaurant that wants to improve further, is some 35 pages of photos and text.

Such a report may seem excessive, and perhaps it is. But you should be trying at least a scaled-down version of shopping yourself. As often as possible.


PS: To correct a misconception I’ve seen elsewhere: No, you don’t need everyone who works for you to necessarily be the target customer of your business. This is a misconception in the other direction, and obviously unworkable in many situations. For example: While the five-star Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts company does permit employees stay–free–at any of their resorts, occupancy permitting, that doesn’t mean they expect their employees to entirely channel the reality of their Bentley-driving median customer. Likewise, you don’t have to be a skate punk to sell skateboard gear. And so forth. But you do need to have your eyes open.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Micah Solomon
Micah Solomon is a customer service consultant and trainer who works with companies to transform their level of customer service and customer experience. The author of five books, his expertise has been featured in Forbes, Fast Company, NBC and ABC television programming, and elsewhere. "Micah Solomon conveys an up-to-the minute and deeply practical take on customer service, business success, and the twin importance of people and technology." –Steve Wozniak, Apple co-founder.


  1. Heartily agree. To add, also important for anyone training people in an organization on customer service, AND consultants.
    What I do, when I have a chance, is prior to putting together training sessions for my Defusing Hostile Customers seminars, to actually DO a customer facing job at the organization.

    One customer (a government liquor control board) wanted me to do a seminar for them, so I actually arranged to work at the cash (actually as a booze bagger), for a few hours at one of their toughest stores (i.e. lots of low income, and homeless patrons). I had a good time, found out that even bagging those bottles, took skills I didn’t have handy, and got a good feel for the issues they wanted me to address.

    Also did that with a DMV. The idea was I would go out on driver testing, but it didn’t quite work out, but I still got a good feel for the realities.

  2. …has to do with new physicians on the staff of the Long Beach Memorial Medical Center in California, one of the most highly rated hospitals in the U.S. An innovative technique they apply for improving the quality of patient care is having incoming physicians pose as actual patients, assigning them a mild illness and having staff doctors, nurses, and support staff provide care for them. This unique approach enables the new physicians to experience the hospital in a manner that only patients, and their families, can otherwise have.


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