Category Archives: Customer Experience

Never go to a doctor whose office plants have died.

“Never go to a doctor whose office plants have died.” Erma Bombeck

What do dead plants in the waiting room have to do with the skill of the doctor? Logically nothing, but to the customer, everything.

When we are sick, we go to the doctor because we do not know what is making us sick. The doctor is the expert. Even if he misdiagnoses the illness and prescribes the wrong medicine, we would still take his word for it since we have no experience in medical diagnosis. We assume that the doctor is the trusted authority. In fact, we assume it so much that we don’t ask the doctor to prove it. No one has ever walked into a doctor’s office to ask “Before you examine me, from what medical school did you graduate?” We take his expertise for granted because we have no benchmark.

But we can judge a doctor on what we do know. We know what clean and orderly looks like. We know what friendly looks and sounds like. We know what waiting too long feels like. And we certainly know what dead looks like. And with past experiences we can judge how our doctor visit stacks up to those experiences. And based on the entire experience we will decide whether to come back or not, and depending on the experience, will either refer our friends or tell the world to stay away with an on-line bad review. Is that logical? Of course not, but as management consultant Tom Peters says,

“Customers perceive service in their own unique, idiosyncratic, emotional, irrational, end-of-the-day, and totally human terms. Perception is all there is!”

When there are dead plants in the waiting room, the customer is saying to himself, “If they can’t even take care of the plants, why do I want them taking care of me?”

While a general manager at a resort up north in Michigan, I served as an adjunct instructor for many years teaching customer service at the local community college. To their credit (pardon the pun), the college made my customer service class a prerequisite for the office administration and medical administration paths. They understood that it is not what you know; it is how you say it. At the end of the semester, a survey was given to the students on how I did. Was I on time for class? Did I cover the objectives defined in the syllabus? Was I available after hours? All the survey questions were focused on the instructor. As part of the class session discussing customer feedback, I surveyed the students on their school experience. My question was, “If there was anything you could improve in your education experience, what would that be? Very few answers were specific to what the administration thought was the college experience. Rather the improvements ranged from the parking lot to the restrooms. What does the parking lot have to do with higher education? Logically, nothing. But to the female student who is taking night classes, everything. She perceives a burned out light in the lamp post as an unsafe parking lot. What does the restroom have to do with the education offered? Nothing. But as a female student wrote in her survey, “During the winter, the restrooms are so cold, I can’t even think after going in there.”

Several weeks ago, I needed to see a dentist. When I asked a friend for a referral, she gave me the name of her dentist. I asked why she thought the dentist was so good. She said the waiting room had Wi-Fi, they offered free bottled water and juice and there was a large flat screen TV in the waiting room. And, as an afterthought, she said the dentist was nice, too. The most important aspects of her dental experience were the touchpoints that eliminated the waiting time and angst of the perception of visiting the dentist for the first time.

So don’t be too focused on just your expertise. Your customers have no way to judge you on what you know. But they can grade you on the other touchpoints that they have experienced before. Take the time to look at your entire customer experience. Identify all the potential dissatisfiers and remove them. Then replace them with something positive.

What potential “dead plant” dissatisfiers in your customer experience are you leaving unattended?

2 Comments

Filed under Customer Experience, Customer Service

Silent gratitude isn’t very much use to anyone.

“Silent gratitude isn’t very much use to anyone.”  – G.B.Stern


Since this is the week we celebrate Thanksgiving in the United States, I want to take this opportunity to wish those who celebrate this holiday a very Happy Thanksgiving.

I also want to express my thanks to all of you everywhere for following me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ or right here on WordPress. I certainly have enjoyed and appreciated connecting with hundreds of people throughout the world via these social media platforms, something that wasn’t even possible just a few years ago.  And while I enjoy blogging about my passion for great customer service, I certainly have enjoyed as much the dialog I have had with many of you. So thank you to all.

While the above quote about giving thanks is one of my favorites, here are several more about gratitude that I hope you enjoy as much as I do. And for leaders, while all of these quotes are common sense advice to build employee engagement and customer loyalty, we have to commit to making this common sense advice truly common practice in our day-to-day efforts.

Thanksgiving Day comes, by statute, once a year; To the honest man it comes as frequently as the heart of gratitude will allow.  – E. S. Martin 

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them. – John F. Kennedy

God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today.  Have you used one to say “thank you?”  – William Arthur Ward

Appreciation is like an insurance policy. It has to be renewed every now and then. – Dave McIntyre

Kind words can be short and easy to speak but their echoes are truly endless. – Mother Teresa

3 Comments

Filed under Customer Experience, Leadership

Great Service is Great Theater

Great TheaterIn their book, The Experience Economy, Joseph Pine and James Gilmore define that “Work is theater and every business a stage.” If you were an actor delivering a great live theatrical performance, the audience becomes wrapped up in the experience and as they walk out of the theater, they are telling their friends that it was the best thing that they’ve enjoyed in a long time.

It does not matter to the audience that the actors are performing for the 100th time. The audience has paid very good money to see the show and expect that the actors will deliver their performance with the same passion as on opening night. Your customers expect nothing less. As it is in Great Theater, you have to “act it like you mean it”. Do not confuse this with “fake it until you make it”. Your customers, like any audience, can see right through that kind of performance. Do you always feel like working every day, five days a week, 8-10 hours a day, on your birthday, the holidays or even on scheduled days off? Of course not. But do you think the customer really cares how you feel? Of course not! No customer walks into your establishment with an expectation of being dissatisfied. So you have to deliver Great Theater every day whether you feel like it or not.

When you perfect the delivery of the script, you perfect your performance. Break down your customer experience, act it like you mean it and deliver Great Theater. For example:

ACT ONE. Scene One.

 The Customer enters from offstage.

SERVICE PROVIDER: “Good afternoon, how may I help you?”

Motivation: Never say “May I help you?” If the customer is standing in front of you, he obviously needs help or he would have bypassed you completely.

CUSTOMER: “I believe I have a reservation. Last name is Smith.”

SERVICE PROVIDER: “Yes, Mr. Smith, we’ve been expecting you. Welcome to The Best.”

Direction: Maintain eye contact for at least seven seconds and smile as you say your lines.

Motivation:

  • As Dale Carnegie says in his book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, “Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” So start with the customer’s name.
  • What do you think is the very first question running through the mind of a customer when coming up to an airline counter, front desk, host stand, or reception desk? That question is, “I wonder if they have my reservation?” So to establish a great first impression, incorporate this statement into your welcome, “We’ve been expecting you.” It immediately removes that mental dissatisfier and puts the customer at ease.
  • Follow that up with the name of your business.

Let it all flow together.

“Mr. Smith” (you’re very important to us). “We’ve been expecting you.” (No need to worry about your reservation. We have it.) “Welcome to . . .” (Where did Mr. Smith feel the most comfortable in interacting with a company? With you, of course. )

Define each scene in the customer experience and practice it often off stage. Never practice on the customer. Then perform your role so well that all your customers say to themselves and others that your service was the best that they have enjoyed in a long time. And when you deliver that kind of Great Theater performance consistently, you will build repeat business and customer loyalty.

1 Comment

Filed under Customer Experience, Customer Loyalty, Customer Satisfaction, Customer Service

No Surprises. No Excuses.

Displeased young girl has a serious conversation with the hairdresser

“Customers perceive service in their own unique, idiosyncratic, emotional, irrational, end-of-the-day, and totally human terms. Perception is all there is!”

Tom Peters

When your customers call or walk into your establishment, they already have a perceived expectation of what your customer experience should be. Your advertising, website and salespeople, which serve a promise to your customers, have already shaped that expectation. Deliver on that promise and your customers come to trust you. Fall short and you have broken that promise and trust. For example, a restaurant menu is a promise to your customers that what is printed on the menu is what you have to offer. If you have to tell a customer that he has an old menu, the new menus haven’t been delivered by the printer and the dry-aged steak is not on the new menu, then to the customer, you failed. He doesn’t care about the printer. All he cares about is his steak. And you failed to deliver it. And his perception is all there is.

Customers don’t care that it’s your first day on the job. They don’t care that you are understaffed because someone called in sick. Customers don’t care that the computers were down when they called.  They only care that they are your customers.  They are willing to give you their hard-earned money in exchange for an experience that they feel is more valuable to them than their money.  And when they come to you, they never have an expectation that they will be dissatisfied.

So how do you live up to your customers’ expectations? At the very least the customer experience you deliver should be with no surprises and no excuses. To your customers, any experience less than their expectation is perceived as a dissatisfying surprise. And any reason you offer to explain why you could not deliver is perceived as an excuse. And their perception is all there is.

So do everything you can to make sure there are no negative surprises. Get rid of any potential dissatisfiers.  For example, remove forbidden phrases such as “I’ll be back in a second,” Can you hold for just a minute?” and “I’ll be right with you.” Such phrases only frustrate a customer when more than 60 seconds go by.  Review all the customer touchpoints and take any negative issue and make it a neutral.  Minimize wait times. Clean dirty restrooms. Create “no hassle” return or exchange policies.  Then, as Larry Winget, the Pitbull of Personal Development puts it, “Do what you said you would do, when you said you would do it, the way you said you would do it.”  That’s it. It’s that simple.  Just “do what you said you would do, when you said you would do it, the way you said you would do it.”

And if the customer is unpleasantly surprised because you could not deliver, then offer no excuses. Simply apologize. Even if the customer asks for a reason, just say, “It doesn’t matter. We failed. It should never have happened and I apologize.” Remove the surprise and offer some form of atonement.

To drive customer loyalty, deliver to each customer an experience that has “No Surprises. No Excuses.”

1 Comment

Filed under Customer Experience, Customer Loyalty, Customer Satisfaction, Customer Service

Your Satisfied Customers Are Leaving You

Too often, the only way a business asks for customer feedback is with the question, “How was everything?” And for many owners and managers, the response “Everything was fine.” is enough. If you are one of those who is satisfied with “Fine”, then know that your customers are leaving you.

Think like a customer. You hear of a new restaurant in town. You decide to try it out. There is no hostess upon arrival. When she does return back to the stand five minutes later, she curtly asks “How many?” with no other greeting. During service the server wasn’t rude, but he certainly wasn’t exceptional. The meal took slightly longer to be served than you expected. The beverages were never refilled until you asked. Yet when the manager comes up to the table and asks, “So how is everything?”, what do you say? “Fine.” The manager is thinking, “Another satisfied customer,” but you’re thinking to yourself, “Never again.” Your customers are no different. If service is only adequate, there is no real desire to return.

Maybe that’s too harsh. What I’m saying is that if your customers perceive your service as merely satisfactory, it simply is not good enough for them to want to return. They’re perfectly satisfied for the moment, but they’ll switch to a competitor if something better comes along.

Loyalty among satisfied customers is fleeting. In fact, research conducted by Xerox and featured in a Harvard Business Review report by Thomas Jones and W. Earl Sasser, Jr. found out that on a 1-to-5 satisfaction scale, the very satisfied customers who ranked their experience a 4 were six times more likely to defect than the extremely satisfied customer who rated their experience a 5. Creating only satisfied customers will not build your business. In fact, if you are only creating satisfied customers, your business will suffer. Proof? How about KMart versus Wal-mart? Circuit Cityversus Best Buy? Borders versus Barnes and Noble?

Does your product have such an overwhelming quality or price advantage that your customers won’t consider your competitor? If not, then the key criteria to driving loyalty will be how your customers perceive their overall service experience.

If you want to retain your customers and grow your business, you need to deliver service that exceeds their expectations and fully satisfies them. So how do you do it? You must deliver a consistent experience without any dissatisfiers and full of positive Moments of Truth.

I’ve discussed dissatisfiers and Moments of Truth in previous posts. So what is the takeaway in this one? Continue to ask the question, “How was your experience?” And when a customer responds, “Fine,” immediately ask, “Is there any one thing we could have done to make it more enjoyable for you?” Then do whatever it takes to deliver it before he has a chance to walk out the door.

Leave a comment

Filed under Customer Experience, Customer Loyalty, Customer Satisfaction, Customer Service

To be the World’s Best, Create Their Experience, Not Yours.

How do you get your customers to feel that their experience with your business is so over the top that they want to tell the world? In order for them to be that delighted, you have to answer this question for your customer “What would World’s Best look like?” or “WWWBLL” (pronounced “Weeble”).  And it is not “World’s Best” as you see it, but it is “World’s Best” as your customer expects it. Once you understand the WWWBLL expectation of your customer, then you need to deliver that experience consistently. There are Three Principles to delivering the WWWBLL experience:

  1. Think Like Your Customer.
  2. Create Their Experience.
  3. Make a Difference.

I addressed Principle One in a previous blog. On to Principle Two.

Principle Two of the WWWBLL Experience: Create Their Experience.

Customers walk into your establishment with expectations. Creating their experience means understanding those expectations. Too often, businesses are telling their customers, “Here’s what we offer that is different from our competitors?” Instead they should not focus on the “what” but on the “why” they offer it and make sure the “why” is important to the customer. When I was general manager for a business hotel, we offered free high-speed internet, a mouse pad, and upon request, at no charge, in room computer printers and basic office supplies. We thought the reason why guests chose us over our competitors was because we created an atmosphere where they could be more productive. We invited our frequent corporate guests and meeting planners for lunch to confirm that we were on the right track. To our surprise, we were not only on the wrong track; we were going in the opposite direction. They said, “We aren’t looking to be more productive when we get back to the hotel. In fact, we do that all day when we are out there pounding the pavement or making sure the meeting runs smoothly. When we get back into the room, all we want to do is decompress. Offer us things that allow us to do that.”

In our case, the reason “why” customers selected our hotel was not to be more productive, rather it was to relax. Once we knew that, we offered amenities and services suggested by our guests that allowed them to do just that. The list included Bose® IPod speakers, aromatherapy candles, memory foam pillows or foot massagers upon request, an extensive wines by the glass room service menu and in room massages. Of course, we continued to offer the other amenities but we had created loyalists and advocates of our hotel because we asked and answered the right question, “Why?” We had created their experience, not ours.

Once you have created their experience by understanding the “why” from your customer, then deliver that experience consistently. Make sure you remove all the potential dissatisfiers. Just ask this question, “Is there any one thing we could have done to make your experience more enjoyable?” Whatever your customer mentions is a dissatisfier. Do all you can to eliminate each dissatisfier from future experiences.

But meeting the expectations of your customer by addressing the reason why he wants to do business with you and removing all the dissatisfiers only gets you to be competitive. What do you need to do to stand out and become your customer’s “World’s Best” favorite?

PRINCIPLE THREE OF THE WWWBLL EXPERIENCE: Make a Difference.

Leave a comment

Filed under Customer Experience, Customer Loyalty, Customer Satisfaction, Customer Service

To be the World’s Best, Think Like Your Customer.

How do you get your customers to feel that their experience with your business is so over the top that they want to tell the world? In order for them to be that delighted, you have to answer this question for your customer “What would World’s Best look like?” or “WWWBLL”.  And it is not “World’s Best” as you or others see it, but it is “World’s Best” as they perceive it. Once you understand the expectation of WWWBLL for your customer, then you need to deliver that experience consistently. There are Three Principles to answering the WWWBLL question: Think Like Your Customer. Create Their Experience. Make a Difference.

Principle One of the WWWBLL Experience: Think Like Your Customer

To your customers, their perception is their reality. Jan Carlzon, then president of SAS Airlines, coined the phrase “Moment of Truth,” which defined any time a customer comes into contact with any aspect of a business, and based upon the collective sum of those “Moments of Truth” forms an unshakeable perception of that company.

Why is the male grooming standard at Disney theme parks so strict? If children are not brought to Walt Disney World by their parents, they are brought there by their grandparents. Ask Grandma if she would leave her grandchild in the care of the teen attendant with the body tattoos, long hair, beard and multiple body piercings – a Moment of Truth. Grandma may not say it, but she’s certainly thinking, “Of course not! If he’s not doing drugs, he’s probably selling drugs.” That attendant could be Disney’s Cast Member of the Month. It doesn’t matter. Grandma’s perception is her reality.

If you dine in a restaurant for the first time, have a decent meal, but, at the end, step into the restroom – a Moment of Truth – and you find it filthy, you may not return. You are thinking to yourself, “If the owner doesn’t feel restroom cleanliness is important, he probably doesn’t think it’s important in the kitchen either.” Your perception is that if the restroom looks and smells this bad, then how clean could the kitchen be. And your perception is your reality.

Customers buy with emotion and justify that decision with their own logic. Customers are willing to pay a premium, above what others might define as reasonable, because emotionally it makes them feel better. Think about a Four Star resort spa experience. The reality is that you will go into a private room and take off all your clothes. A complete stranger is going to come into that room and for fifty minutes touch you all over your body. And for that experience you are going to pay the spa about a hundred dollars. Realistically why would you do that? Because emotionally you believe you feel so much more relaxed, it was worth it. Your perception is your reality.

If you want to relax at home, envision yourself in a “Calgon, Take Me Away” moment, soaking in a bubble bath, surrounded by candles and listening to Kenny G. You can go to any dollar store and buy a pack of ten emergency candles for a dollar. That makes each candle just ten cents – very reasonable. But for some of you, that is laughable. If you are going to relax, dollar store candles just won’t do. You’ll go back to that spa and get one of their scented candles. The spa sells their candles for ten dollars each. You could get one hundred dollar store candles for the price of just one spa candle. One hundred candles! You could have a bonfire in the bathroom with those candles! But which candle would make you feel better? You’d say it’s because the spa candle smells like mango-papaya. I could tell you that you could go back to the dollar store to buy air fresheners, pop them open and put them all over the bathroom. But you’d respond that it just wouldn’t feel the same as how the spa candle would make you feel. And as hard as I might argue, your perception is your reality. You, thinking like a customer, are willing to pay a premium because it makes you feel better.

Now you are thinking like your customer. Your customers’ perceptions are their reality and they buy with emotion. Their expectation of customer service is no different. Maya Angelou said it best, “People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.” If your customers’ Moments of Truth interactions with your business are “wow’s” and, in the end, they feel great, they will be sure to tell their world of family and friends. So how do you create an experience that will emotionally bond your customer to your company?

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Customer Experience, Customer Loyalty, Customer Satisfaction, Customer Service