You want your customer to have a great experience.
That’s a given. So, how do you make that happen? And, what the heck is customer experience anyway?
Here’s a great definition Annette Franz posted on her CX Journey blog:
Customer experience is the sum of all the interactions a customer has with a company over the course of the relationship lifecycle.
As Franz explains, customer experience is more than just one interaction. It's all the interactions. And, what's most important is how the customer feels about the company over the course of those interactions.
Giving customers a consistently great experience can be difficult.
There are traps along the way. Most of them are beyond your frontline employees’ control. In his book, Strategic Customer Service, John Goodman identified the top three causes of service failures:
- Defective products, systems, or processes: 50 - 60%
- Customer errors or unreasonable expectations: 20 - 30%
- Employee mistakes or bad attitudes: 20 - 30%
Customer service training can help, but it won’t fix systemic problems or customer errors. Something else is needed.
A process called customer journey mapping allows you to look at customer experience holistically, through the eyes of the customer. The only drawback here is the process can take time.
A shortcut would be handy.
If you’re pressed for time, you can start by focusing on these five simple rules of outstanding customer experience.
Rule #1: Keep Your Promises
Let’s forget the wow factor for just a moment. Companies have a tough enough time keeping their basic promises.
A basic promise is the fundamental customer expectation that you get what you pay for.
Imagine you check into a budget hotel. They promise few frills, but they do offer a clean and comfortable room, free breakfast, and free wifi all for a low rate.
You’d be wrong to expect luxury linens or a five star restaurant at this hotel. But, you’d be right to be disappointed if your room was in poor condition like the one in this video:
There’s no excuse for this. Get religion about avoiding broken promises and you’ll eliminate most of your poor experiences.
Rule #2: Make It Snappy
Customers hate to wait.
Here are just a few examples:
- Consumers now expect businesses to respond to email in just one hour.
- Waiting is the #1 reason people complain on Twitter.
- Customers notoriously perceive they’ve waited longer than they actually have.
Can you really blame them?
You can enhance your customers’ experience if you can reduce the time they spend waiting for your company to get things done.
Consider these examples. Which would you rather experience?
- A repair technician arriving sometime in a four hour window or at a precise time?
- An online order arriving in five days or two days?
- A one day response to a credit application or an instant notification?
If you can shorten wait times, you’ll likely improve customer experience.
Rule #3: Make a Great First Impression
First impressions have an enormous impact on what customers remember about their experience.
Beware! The first impression doesn’t necessarily occur when a customer comes into contact with one of your employees.
In many cases, it happens much sooner. Here are just a few ways a first impression can go wrong before your employees even get a chance to help:
- Struggling to find parking before visiting your store.
- Getting aggravated by a phone menu before reaching a live person.
- Searching your website in vain for the answer to a simple question.
The list goes on.
You can avoid a lot of customer headaches if you identify the likely first impression in your customer’s journey and make sure it’s a good one.
Rule #4: Make a Great Last Impression
The last step in your customer’s journey is another critical moment.
Once again, it’s not necessarily the last contact your customer has with an employee. This makes it essential to identify where a customer’s journey is most likely to end. That ending should be a happy one.
Here are a few examples of how things go wrong:
- A helpful CSR promises to fix a billing error (great!), but the error is still there when the customer receives their next bill (fail).
- A hotel guest has a wonderful experience (great!) until a valet attendant loses their rental car key and causes them to miss their flight (fail).
- A customer buys a dress for a special event (great!) but notices the dress is torn as she is getting ready for her event (fail).
A failure at the end of the journey becomes the story your customer tells. But, here’s the good news:
Even if a problem happens somewhere else along the journey, you can create a positive experience if the journey ends on a high note.
That makes it critical to detect and solve problems before it’s too late.
Many people instinctively think to do a survey, but customers are getting tired of surveys. Ironically, the survey itself could create a poor last impression.
The good news is I can think of at least five ways to collect customer feedback without using a survey. Pay particular attention to #5 - ask customers directly.
Rule #5: Do One Thing Really, Really Well
Most of our experiences as customers are utterly forgettable.
That's okay! You don’t need every moment in your customer’s experience to be memorable. You just need one.
Customers tend to remember their peak experience more than anything else. The peak is defined as the part of the experience that’s the biggest difference from the norm.
The peak could be good or bad. A bad peak can be difficult to recover from. A good peak can etch a feeling of goodwill into your customer’s memory.
So, how do you create a good peak?
In their book, Uncommon Service, Frances Frei and Anne Morriss argue that companies must sacrifice excellence in some areas to be outstanding in others.
Here are just a few examples:
- In-N-Out Burger provides awesome service and terrific food. The trade-off is you can expect to wait twenty minutes in the drive-through line for a cooked fresh to order meal.
- Alaska Airlines provides great service in comfortable planes for a low price. The trade-off is they typically fly to underserved markets, so you can’t fly them everywhere you go.
- Amazon offers great prices and fast delivery. The trade-off is it can be hard to get a wealth of product information on many items (with the exception of books).
The key is these companies sacrifice something that’s less important to customers in favor of doing something great that customers will really notice.
If you can find one way to be awesome, you’ll probably create a memorable experience for your customers.
Mapping your customers’ journey is ultimately a good idea.
Until you do, focus on these five simple rules and you’ll stand a great chance of creating an outstanding experience for the people you serve.