By Judy M. McCutcheon
This customer service excellence thing seems to be like chasing an elusive dream. We know that giving customers great experiences is what helps to create customer loyalty, so why aren’t we out there creating experiences that matter. My friend was telling me about her New Year’s Eve experience which shows that business owners and managers still don’t get the point. I understand that businesses want to capitalize on the symbolism of New Year’s Eve, but if you are going to do it, do it right. If you have two restaurants catering to patrons on NYE and you are also having a party, then your restaurant-only patrons should be adequately provided for. My friend said when they got to the restaurant, they were told that they had to park on the road and walk to the restaurant. They were not allowed to park in the restaurant car park, imagine that. The service at the restaurant was another thing. Now I like sushi, but eating with a chopstick proves to be problematic, so asking for a knife and fork is what I would do, and that’s what my friends did. However, they were met with gross disrespect and were told that all the knives and forks were “over there”, pointing in the direction of the other restaurant. But it wasn’t just that, it was the attitude that went along with it. Your customers don’t care about your issues, they just want great service.
I have decided that I am not going out for another New Year’s Eve event again if I can’t find a place with service to match the prices being charged. I went to this “fancy pansy” place with my friends for dinner, it was nice, and I did have a good enough time. But here’s the thing, the restaurant manager greeted every table, except ours, and oddly enough, we looked different to the other diners. I must admit though that I found his behaviour very amusing. Behaviours like that don’t offend me. I must point out, however, that if you take a job in the Caribbean, there is a 100% chance of having to interact and even serve people of various hues. The thing that business owners and operators must realize is that their employees are a great contributor to their success as well as their failure. Therefore, improving the customer experience involves majoring in the minor; size does matter when it comes to the type of service you provide. For instance, when the nail salon called on the same day and the exact time of my appointment to ask me if I am going to make it to my appointment. The appointment was made about a month and a half prior, getting the reminder the day before would have been handy. Remember that the perception of the customer becomes the reality that you must deal with.
When most people talk about improving the customer experience, they think about customer service training, and while training is an integral part of creating that experience, it is not the most important part. Most companies do not have a customer service vision that maps out the customer journey to ensure that they deliver unique experiences to the customer and differentiate themselves in the market. Companies must understand clearly, that in this era, the experiences you create for your customers are what will set you apart from your competitors. Winning in customer service requires you to take a broader and different approach, it can no longer be business as usual. As small as you might think this market might be, other competitors will enter and find your weak spot. You must start to see your customers as experience seekers and create bigger, better, and different experiences for them. Your approach to creating loyal customers requires you to truly acknowledge that your customers are the lifeblood of your business. Improving the customer experience starts with having a customer-centric culture, it involves creating value for your customer, it involves creating delightful experiences for your customers from the very first touchpoint to the last.
What about your employees? They are your value creators, your experience givers, how are you treating them? If you think that they are less than important, then they will treat your customers as less than important. If you think that they are a dime a dozen, then that’s exactly how they will feel about your customers. In creating value for your customers, you must be able to create value for your employees. Creating great experiences for your customers is about having a culture that supports your vision, it’s about leadership and accountability from the top of the organisation right down the line to the janitor. It’s about using the available technology to listen to the voice of the customer and having an improvement plan in place to ensure that you consistently create unique experiences for your customers. It’s about developing a customer experience strategy that articulates clearly the experiences that you want to create in support of your brand. Think about it carefully and ask yourself if you are doing everything to create loyal customers. It’s no longer about the service you provide, but rather about the experiences you provide along with each touchpoint of the customer journey.
Judy McCutcheon is a certified John Maxwell Leadership Coach and the CEO of Go Blue Consulting.