I provide a seminar on customer service, and have a keynote presentation called The Customer Never Forgets. I have studied customer service, read a lot about customer service, and written quite a bit on customer service.
But more than anything else, I am a customer. Constantly. Practically every day. Increasingly, my customer experiences are on-line. And most of these experiences are fully what I hoped – one-click, fully satisfied little miracles. I click my mouse, and my product shows up on my doorstep two days later. Wonderful!
But occasionally, not so wonderful…
Recently, a disappointing customer experience, which cost me a little embarrassment and about one hour of my time, which was completely the fault of the company providing the service because of a mistake by one of their people, made me think a little more about this whole “how do we provide a better customer experience?” question.
So here is a snapshot of my latest thoughts..
In my training, I state that all customer experience boils down to two critical elements: be nice, and, be competent. I am convinced that if a company provides both of these, they will, in fact, keep their customers coming back. If the product or service is what the customer wants, and the interaction between the company representative and the customer is nice and hassle free, you’ve got a real winner on your hands. (We’ll leave it for another discussion about what happens when a competitor has a “better” product or service to offer. That is a different issue).
If you force me to choose, I will take competence over nice. If the product or service is exactly what I want, and I can’t get it anywhere else for less, I will take a slight absence of “nice.” Nice without competence does not satisfy – I need to be able to rely on the product or service more than I need someone to treat me in a nice way. But, give me both, nice and competent, and I am happiest.
But the real moment of truth is when there is a problem; a “mistake; a “disappointment.” When the company messes up, this is the acid test. And when I call to say, “you have made a mistake,” the first thing I want is “empathy,” then I want it fixed. I am not happy if it is fixed first. And, no matter how nice the person is, after I sense empathy, if it is not then fixed, I am not happy.
Consider this as a way to think about providing that better customer experience:
|If I need a precise product||The company provides it, with no hassles||I am happy|
|If I need a product, but don’t know exactly what I need||The company suggests the right item/solution – I get it, try it, like it||I am happy|
|The company messes up||The representative of the company tries to fix it, but without empathy (including a genuine “I’m sorry”), before they then fix it||I am not happy|
|The company messes up||The representative of the company is really empathetic, but does not “fix it” well||I am not happy|
|The company messes up||The representative is genuinely empathetic, then fixes it||I am happy|
So – Empathy first, fix it second. This is what I need when a company messes up. And without that empathy first, I am not happy – and might look for an alternative.
I have recently presented synopses of two terrific books related to customer service excellence. One is Demand: Creating What People Love Before They Know They Want It by Adrian J. Slywotzky. This book is terrific on the issue of removing hassles. And people really do not like hassles!
The other is Prescription for Excellence: Leadership Lessons for Creating a World-Class Customer Experience from UCLA Health System by Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. Michelli is a superior observer, and he is especially good at pulling out insights that you can transfer into your own arena.
Both of these books are worth reading. And, you can purchase my synopsis of these books, with audio + comprehensive handout, at our companion web site, 15minutebusinessbooks.com.
And, if you are interested in bringing my customer service training, or my keynote presentation, into your company or organization, click the “hire us” tab.
It’s in the sub-title: Prescription for Excellence: Leadership Lessons for Creating a World-Class Customer Experience from UCLA Health System by Joseph Michelli. Ponder the phrase, mull over the concept: “customer experience.” I am increasingly convinced that this phrase, “customer experience” is the best phrase to use to talk about customer service.
Think about the depth behind this statement: “It’s been my experience…” When a person utters those words, it communicates a whole lot. Each person passes judgment on a company within each and every experience.
In discussing this concept, Michelli refers to the book The Experience Economy: Work is Theatre and Every Business a Stage, published back in 1999 (this is a book I presented at the First Friday Book Synopsis over 11 years ago; Spring, 2000):
– from Gilmore and Pine, 1999, The Experience Economy:
• Even in difficult times, 50 percent of consumers will pay more for a better service experience.
• A full 68 percent will sever a customer relationship because they were treated poorly by a staff member.
• Companies that are successful in creating both functional and emotional bonding with customers have higher retention rates (84 percent vs. 30 percent) and greater cross-selling ratios (82 percent vs. 16 percent) compared to companies that are not.
And UCLA has developed a true customer-centric/customer-experience approach to their core business – taking care of patients. Principle 1 of their 5 core principles is this: Commit To Care — Care Takes Vision, Clarity, And Consistency. And the UCLA Health System requires each and every employee to sign the CICARE promise:
• “CICARE” – (pronounced “See-I-Care”) — the “short version”:
Connect with the patient or family member using Mr./Ms., or their preferred name.
Introduce yourself and your role.
Communicate what you are going to do, how it will affect the patient, and other needed information.
Ask for and anticipate patient and or family needs, questions, or concerns.
Respond to patient and/or family questions and requests with immediacy.
Exit, courteously explaining what will come next or when you will return.
(the longer version, teaches… elements of Courtesy; Professionalism; Respect)
I thought of all this as I had three different customer service experiences this week. I use these three “services” each and every month. They include Constant Contact, and two others. Here’s what I have experienced: whenever I call Constant Contact, the person I reach is easily understandable; is fully knowledgeable; is always polite – almost pleasant. And I always get what I need, with no hassle, and no feelings of frustration.
The second company (notice I am not naming the other two) is hit-and-miss. One time, I have a terrific customer experience. The next, maybe not. Every person I have ever called at Constant Contact seems fully ready to meet my need. This second company, I either get lucky, or I end up slightly to more-than-slightly frustrated.
The third company, well… don’t even get me started. With practically every call, the person is not all that pleasant – it’s as though I am interrupting his or her day with my question/need. They are not knowledgeable. They do not have answers. And though they are not rude, they are nowhere near pleasant.
Let’s think of these as three different spots on the customer experience spectrum. One, I would gladly recommend to you. (That’s Constant Contact). The second, I would recommend, because the service is really, really good. But don’t expect the same level of experience. The third, I’m about to drop – even though I like their “service,” and dropping it will mean more work for me. I’m simply tired of dealing with them, and I’m looking for an alternative.
Or, to put it another way — I don’t mind it when I have to call Constant Contact. I sort of mind it when I have to call the second compnay. I practically dread calling the third company.
Think about your customers, your clients. Do they walk away from every encounter with you having experienced a genuinely, hassle-free, fully liked, experience? Or — not?
By the way, there are no short cuts to providing such a true good experience culture. It takes constant attention, over the long haul. You can never let it slide!
Every customer encounter is taken personally by that customer. Every experience is judged. Every time. And each bad experience can lead to the loss of that customer (A full 68 percent will sever a customer relationship because they were treated poorly by a staff member). You don’t want that, do you?
This Friday (Aug. 5), 7:00 am, is the First Friday Book Synopsis. If you live in the DFW area, this provides a great opportunity for networking, with a terrific dose of content, quickly delivered…
Karl Krayer will present his synopsis of TouchPoints: Creating Powerful Leadership Connections in the Smallest of Moments (J-B Warren Bennis Series) by Douglas R Conant and Mette Norgaard.
I will present my synopsis of Prescription for Excellence: Leadership Lessons for Creating a World Class Customer Experience from UCLA Health System by Joseph Michelli.
Both of these will provide valuable content, with useful, transferable principles. Come join us!, Friday, 7:00 am. (We finish promptly by 8:05). At the Park City Club, near the Tollway and Northwest Highway, in University Park.
Click here to register.
On Thursday (Aug. 4), noon, I will present my synopsis of The Death and Life of the American School System: How Testing and Choice are Undermining Education, by Diane Ravitch.
This is an important book, dealing with a genuinely serious issue.
I don’t think it’s personal, Dana.
Oh it is personal, Jeremy.
(A scene from Sports Night – How Are Things in Glocca Mora, when Pete Sampras allowed an unknown to take him to five sets – thus delaying the airing of Sports Night)
Here’s the lesson. There is no business encounter, no business transaction, that the customer does not take personally. Thus, a company must view each business encounter, each business transaction, as a personal encounter.
In other words, humanize each and every business encounter and transaction.
I’m reading Prescription for Excellence: Leadership Lessons for Creating a World Class Customer Experience from UCLA Health System by Joseph Michelli for next Friday’s First Friday Book Synopsis. It’s good. (Bob Morris says it is Michelli’s best book – read his review here).
In the book, Michelli states:
It can be argued that certain business transactions, such as fueling your car or buying a product online, are impersonal. By contrast, businesses like childcare and healthcare are high-touch industries.. In healthcare, personal connections obviously matter, and the ability of staff members to create authentic caring relationships leads to success. However, even in businesses where service seems secondary to product, strong customer connections drive brand differentiation and other positive business outcomes.
In other words, all business encounters are taken, and experienced, personally.
So — how are you doing?