A customer’s experience is easily altered by the choices the service provider makes in the moment.
Sometimes it’s the choice of words. Sometimes it’s the tone of voice the provider chooses. Sometimes it’s choosing to offer or not offer a resource to the customer. In any case, choosing to serve has elements to it and all of those elements require being present.
When a service provider is present, they hear the customer’s expectations even though those expectations may not be articulated.
When a service provider is present, a relationship is possible.
When a service provider is present, a potential conflict is mitigated by the expression of empathy.
When a service provider is present, it is powerful. Engagement with another human being who hears our story and responds in the moment without scripts, without thought of financial gain or status is a pure and powerful thing. It costs nothing so why is it so rare?
The New CX Buzz
We even have a text worthy abbreviation for it now–CX as customer experience. We’ve arrived all together at the conclusion that the customer’s experience is what we want to manage. We’ve stopped talking about customer service. Improving the customer experience is the thing today. We speak about it generally as if it was always a good thing for all customers. But the reality is that there can be a downside for some customers when improving the experience of another customer segment.
Last year Delta Airlines changed the Sky Club experience with notably improved food selections throughout the day, furniture upgrades and most importantly a return to a more serene atmosphere. You see, Sky Clubs had become overcrowded to the point of insufficient seating. Children ran back and forth from the buffet consisting of very limited choices and the place was downright noisy. Instead of thinking, “I’m so glad I can be in the Sky Club for this two hour wait,” the average member was thinking, “I wonder if I will be able to find a place to sit and work.”
The Negative Effect of Rule Relaxation:
In an effort to improve the customer experience, Delta with good intentions relaxed the rules and allowed even members with individual memberships to bring their entire families into the club. Personally, I brought my family of six into the club on several occasions. The ultimate effect was a customer experience reduction for the rest of the members. Purchasers driven by the promise of a quiet, comfortable environment were faced with the actual circumstance of an environment similar to the one in the terminal.
In addition to the increased fees, today there is a strict enforcement of the rules. I’ve tried on several occasions to bring my spouse into the club and was met with an invitation to upgrade my membership or pay the daily fee for him.
The sheer number of people in the lounges has decreased. The food is better with more options. It is quieter. It seems cleaner. It is the respite I desire while traveling. I am happier. My customer experience is better. However, some customers are unhappy. They long for the day when Delta did not enforce its rules. So the question begs, “What experience do you want to provide?” Do you want to offer an experience that is okay for all or one that is exceptional for some? There is no right answer. It is simply a choice. It depends on your ultimate goal. How exclusive do you want your experience to be?
Now if they could just do something about the guy pacing back and forth in front of me while talking loudly on his cell phone–should the customer experience be managed to that level? Hmmm…. I wonder.
A new year is here and many of us are six days into executing the personal changes we’ve decided will make our lives better. There is a definite excitement about getting a fresh start, having a new day, beginning again–or whatever words you want to use to describe that feeling of renewal.
And for companies, something similar is happening. Often the strategic objectives hammered out in the fourth quarter become initiatives for the new year–typically at least one of these is about making the customer experience better. Slogans are produced and hung from every available surface. Meetings are held to keep the initiative alive. A customer appreciate day is scheduled. Managers talk about the customer experience a lot–for a year. These changes are all easy. After the initiative is over, everything goes back to the way it was before and employees say things like “Are we still doing that customer service stuff?”
The key to improving the customer experience is to take it out of the pile of strategic objectives and do the hard work of making it your culture. It requires beginning with a true belief that the customer experience matters. If the customer experience matters then changing the culture, although a challenging endeavor, is deemed worth it. Real change, sustainable change occurs over time. Typically, it’s not easy.
Heading into the seasons of giving, giving thanks and receiving is a great time to reflect on the importance of being sincere. It occurs to me that often as a customer I say “thanks” when the service provider does not. However, putting that issue aside, think about how “thank you” is typically expressed–with no feeling, no intent to really express appreciation and quite frankly, in a thankless manner. It has become hollow–a meaningless social ritual.
What would happen if people actually expressed appreciation with meaning? It seems like a real human connection would take place. Imagine if the words “thank you” were hurled your way with vigor and luscious meaning. My guess is that you would be struck with an understanding of the value you brought to the business or person you just interacted with.
And that would be something to be thankful about.
The taxi driver, who took my husband and me from Logan airport to downtown Boston last weekend, did not once interrupt his loud cell phone conversation. And he took us to the wrong hotel. He was highly surprised by the amount of his tip. What comes to mind is this. Awareness is critical to service success. This man thought his role was transportation. He was unaware that being an ambassador and providing a good customer experience was his real job. I will tip well for that.