The kinds of customer experience that make an impression on customers, those that have some potential to create a “wow” and to contribute to stronger relationships, cannot be scripted. They happen.
Let’s also remember that negative experiences have as much chance of happening as do positive ones. In fact, if customer complaint data are any indication, customers experience three or four times as many negative experiences as positive ones. How do you reverse that ratio? How do you increase the proportion of positive to negative customer experiences in your business?
As I see it, the elusive customer experience is comprised of three important components. First, there are the systems and processes that your company puts in place; the things you CAN design and control. Second, there is the situation in which the customer is operating on the particular day; the context in which the experience is taking place. And, third, there is the customer’s personality and mood; what he or she brings to the experience.
Your firm is obviously in a position to influence the first of these. You can design systems and procedures so that the experience is as simple and hassle-free as possible. This is what much of CEM seems to focus on. But this only addresses one component of the experience.
Understanding the context holds considerable potential for creating positive experiences. You need to know what the customer is trying to accomplish, what he or she wants to get done that day, and how you can help along the way.
You may not be able to do much about the customer’s personality or mood, but knowing how to read them and manage around them is critical. Some customers are simply impossible to please, and suggesting that you can create a “wow” experience for them is pointless.
Much of the potential to influence the experience lies in the hands of your employees, in either a face-to-face setting or through the phone or the web. You can rely on planned, designed experiences to get you only so far. The rest lies in the ability of your employees to read a situation and to respond accordingly. Creating surprises on a regular basis is important.
So, if you have been spending time and money on designing the optimal customer experience, don’t stop there. You should spend just as much on hiring and training people who can be sensitive and creative in identifying opportunities to turn mundane experiences into memorable ones.
You hit the nail on the head here, as I was thinking about how to help business owners develop their customer strategy I kept getting hung up on the “How do you teach a business owner the fine art of customer service excellence” and have it fit naturally? A vital component is the natural response to the customer’s state of mind at the time of the encounter. I just finished reading a newly published book called “Customer Tells” by Dr. Marty Seldman/John Futterknecht/Ben Sorensen (Kaplan publishing). They talk about customer tell tale signs through vocal tone, body language and vocabulary and how to adjust your conversations to communicate more effectively. They go on to help us (business owners/staff) identify personality types to increase successful interactions to difuse situations or enhance experiences. I agree with you that creating a relationship with your customer begins with creating a solid product and service strategy including hiring staff for their ‘traits’; teaching them the skills to interpret personalities and react to them accordingly. This strategy increases success when dealing with customers wanting a relationship and for those who do not.
Thank you for being here Jim, I enjoy your blogs and commitment to this subject.
Thank you for your comments and suggestions. We think alike on this subject, as I agree that the customer experience that is as natural as possible is the one that is likely to impress and to create that small “wow” that keeps customers coming back. Thank you for the introduction to Dr Seldman’s book. It sounds right on the mark. I’ll go find a copy.
The more that I explore the subject of the customer experience, the more I am convinced that its success revolves around the people we employ. Customers tell me, in the research that I do with my clients, that much of what determines their willingness to continue to patronize a company deals with how easy it is to talk with people, how helpful and knowledgeable they are, and whether they give the impression that they care. Sounds simple, but the more we integrate human resources with marketing and customer service, the more we will create successul and impressive customer experiences.