Superior Customer experience is not about fire fighting


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How often have you heard a company executive boast that his company delivers exceptional customer experience and when asked for evidence he offers that they are able to solve problems faster than the competition can? Cringe. In my experience he’s missing a big part of the point. 

If customers continue to have problems and demand resolution, albeit with faster service recovery, we cannot fail to miss the point that fundamentally they still had a problem and the company had to mobilize significant resources to solve the problem, only to face additional challenges and often the same ones again.

I want to put an idea out there for you to consider. 

Exceptional customer experience is built around a company’s ability to identify areas in their own business process, training, staffing, operation and even culture that are creating negative customer perception and proactively considering appropriate redesign where needed. The purpose of course is to eliminate the issues causing the customer outcry before a customer is negatively affected such that there is no reason for service recovery in the first place.

Let’s go even a step further.

There are corrective actions and then there are exceptional ones. Often corrective actions are ones which only bring a company to a point where they are simply meeting expectations. This is far from delivering WOW! service, but simply getting by through the elimination of reasons customers complain. While meeting expectations maybe adequate to retain some number of our customers, making fans out of them will need us to go quite a bit further and indeed uncover and implement different ideas to exceed expectation in every customer interaction.

Think of the early days in the fastfood hamburger war between McDonalds and Burger King. As an early entrant, McDonalds set the fastfood bar with customers by delivering adequate food fast and cheaply so families could feed their kids inexpensively and without much hassle. Any other fastfood chain would need to be as fast and as cheap in order to remain competitive. 

When Burger King came into the market years later their slogan was “Have it your way”. Considering the norm in the industry was adequate food but cookie cutter preparation, Burger King realizing a desire to Wow! McDonald’s customers and convert them as their own, raised the bar in a way McDonald’s couldn’t match and indeed won fans. They did this by not looking to meet competitive parity in customer expectation setting, but identified a means of really wowing them. They created memorable experience for their new customers – ones that brought them back into their stores and won significant share of wallet in doing so.

Had McDonalds been correct in their belief that customers really only wanted adequate food and service there wouldn’t be a Burger King in business today.

Let’s apply this back to our businesses. 

If executives at a company believe that they can deliver exceptional customer experience simply by efficient service recovery, they are deeply mistaken. While providing fast problem resolution is in my opinion the rough equivalent of McDonald’s fast and cheap strategy, doing this, without seeking to raise the bar with Wow! customer ideas and innovation won’t be enough for true competitive sustainability. 

Instead, we need to look at customer experience improvement as a journey with many interim checkpoints on our way. We need to look at the whole business, and not only from the standpoint of external customer views, but equally so from the viewpoint of the employees that create experiences for our customers daily. We need to look with a thoughtful and strategic lens when considering how to plan a course to more ahead, and be willing to accept corrective action maybe deep cutting into our current culture, process, and overall ethos. Anything less will largely be a band-aid “fix”, akin to taking a painkiller when indeed we have a broken bone. Symptomatic aspects will change and likely appear to improve but without recognizing and addressing the root causes in our current situation, they will likely pop back up sooner than expected and possibly in a more damaging way.

If instead we accept a firefighting approach in our thinking about customer experience and boast fast service recovery times for example, I suspect customers are less than WOWed and maybe either shopping around behind our backs threatening a silent competitive defection or minimally, spending money elsewhere that could be spent with us. We’re leaving considerable money on the table in either case. Meeting expectations is not sufficient any longer in today’s marketplace and economy.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Marc Mandel
Marc Mandel is a Regional Sales Director at Allegiance, Inc.


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