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Explore three new frontiers to stellar customer experience: Part 1
CSN Lead Trainer, Dave Bradley writes about developing the customer experience, and the people who deliver it…
‘It’s all well and good training us to give our customers a great experience but what are you going to do to train them?’
What a good question. At one time I would have moved on with platitudes like “we should keep our focus on what we can influence”. However, if we want to achieve stellar levels of customer differentiation and loyalty perhaps we need to push the frontiers of customer experience towards those things we can’t influence.
Customer Experience training assumes we take all the responsibility for ensuring our customer has a great experience but what responsibility do customers have for their own experience? How come some people often get what they want as a customer and others seem to always be in conflict and continually dissatisfied. Let’s explore these frontiers by considering how we might influence that which we cannot, on first inspection, influence?
Frontier 1: Influence The Uninfluencable
The very best organisations are beginning to recognise that a customer’s experience with their organisation can be ruined by factors outside their control. Whilst analysing the complaints received from the customers of a leading manufacturer I was interested to note that they had labelled nearly 25% of them as ‘unjustified’. When asked what an ‘unjustified’ complaint was they pointed out that it was where the cause of the complaint was due to another organisation or supplier and not their fault. What was interesting was that the customer perceived that the problem was down to them, simply telling them that it was someone else to blame did nothing to change this perception. The first frontier is to take responsibility for all aspects of the customer’s experience even those for which we have no responsibility.
We are all familiar with this, when visiting a restaurant recently we had a dreadful time. The traffic was appalling, the weather was wet, windy and thoroughly miserable and our taxi driver drove at the speed of Jenson Button but with a fraction of his talent. Once inside the restaurant our experience was fabulous, beautifully presented and flavoursome food with attentive waiting staff and convivial company. Unfortunately, at the end of the evening we had to wait for 20 minutes for ‘Jenson’ to collect us and paid the equivalent of 25% of the price of our meal for the privilege of the white knuckle ride home. Our dining experience was ruined by causes that were not the fault of the restaurant.
Compare this with a rival restaurant which had discovered that customers who used the highly unreliable local taxi firm had a poor overall experience. As a result they took a different approach and created their Diners Club. One of the benefits of the free membership was their chauffeur service with collection from your doorstep and return transportation home after your visit, for no charge. When I asked if this was cost effective the manager informed me they made £14 per person extra profit from each diner that used the chauffeur service (usually on wine). An added benefit was the brilliant customer feedback mechanism; their customers told the driver everything about their experience, what they liked and what they didn’t, a focus group on wheels! They had taken responsibility for the whole customer experience, increased profitability and you can imagine the benefit to their reputation in the local community.
Frontier 2: Educating Your Customers
The next boundary is to consider customer education. This is not about training customers; education is about helping them use your product or service in the way which suits them. Surprisingly it may not be how you want them to use your service and may well infuriate your front line staff.
Whilst working with a council team who were trying to meet their recycling targets the overall theme was a general grumble about the 150,000 people in the town who seemed incapable of putting the right waste in the right bin and putting it out on the roadside on the right day! After all they had put a leaflet through every household letterbox; ”they have been told”. Perhaps 150,000 people think differently. Then there was the CEO of a large organisation bemoaning the fact that his managers seemed to have ignored the information on slide 37 of his annual leadership conference presentation just three weeks previous. I had sat through this presentation and completely understood the reason why … it had been deadly boring. I saw more of the inside of my eyelids than his slides! It’s not the customer’s fault. If you want to help them to take full benefit of your service then you have to understand how people want to learn how to use your product.
Thousands of pounds are spent gathering data on our customers; my supermarket knows everything about my eating, cleaning and grooming habits in order to give me a better shopping experience. Their customer intelligence helps segment offers specifically to me so my supermarket experience is tailored to my lifestyle. Think on, if organisations know so much, why do their customers often use so little of the potential of their product or their website or even their supermarket?
Take my humble mobile phone as an example. It can allow me to phone, to text, photograph, video, surf, e-mail, plot my position anywhere on the planet with GPS and even play music. Brilliant. I once asked the sales director of a major mobile phone company if they sold one that simply enabled me to speak to people. I don’t do text and don’t use any of the other functions. He looked at me as if I was an idiot! I’m reasonably technically proficient but I really can’t be bothered to read the hundred or so pages of instruction in the phone’s handbook. It’s not how I learn. What more could there be to help me use the full potential of my mobile? Until they work this out I can only dream of the day when, as I emerge from a tube station, from the wrong exit as usual, instead of asking the nearest tourist for help, the GPS on my phone is my saviour.
Customer education needs to take more account of peoples’ different learning styles’. It makes complete sense that if they are able to become more involved with the experience we offer then they will become better customers.
Look out for Part 2 of Dave’s blog next week.
Dave Bradley is CSN’s lead trainer and has more than thirty years experience of developing and running cutting edge training courses that fully engage people to make improvements in the workplace.
‘It doesn’t matter if they don’t enjoy the actual session’ says Dave ‘as long as they go back to their role and use the learning to make a difference’. But luckily, people really enjoy the sessions too!
To find out more about CSN’s Academy and Engaged Customer Training Programme, click here