The world is changing and so is the way we, as business owners, interact with our customers.
Although technology can open new avenues of communication and revenue, there is no way to truly replace one-on-one interaction and experiences.
The other day I was drawn into a conversation with some co-workers. They were reminiscing about experiences they had as children. Those childhood memories included special trips with their mothers to the tea room at the Crescent in Spokane.
They were trading stories about how much fun they had dressing up and how it was such a fine and memorable experience. Most of us have had wonderful experiences that have shaped our lives.
It’s no different with customer service. You either experience a lovely interaction or you’re sorely disappointed. Customer service is an experience and those memories, good or bad, stay with us.
The power of the childhood tea room memories made me really think about the importance of customer service from the experiential perspective. What do we have today that compares? Have we lost the value of the truly fine experience? Are we embracing mediocrity and expecting it to deliver us a disproportionate level of success?
I strongly believe that part of providing outstanding customer service involves providing a total experience. It is all the more important in this day and age when we are hyper-connected electronically but lacking in human connections.
Our customers are also seeking out that personal interaction and want to be treated like an individual and not a transaction. I believe it is worthwhile to stop and consider every aspect of what our customer or client experiences from the time they enter our place of business to the time they walk out our door.
Does our place of business look clean and well-kept or does it look like we are hanging by a thread? Are they treated like a guest? What do they hear? What atmosphere does the lighting create? If appropriate are they offered something to drink?
Give me a cappuccino and you just gave me a reason to browse for at least 20 minutes whereas without it, I may have grabbed what I needed, made a lap, and walked out the door. There are many low-cost measures we can take to provide the type of experience that make our clients comfortable, secure in doing business with us and want to continue to do so.
First we have to design a well thought out customer experience. The misconception here is that designing such an experience is costly.
Certainly there are many worthwhile investments that we can make in the workplace to create an outstanding experience but many of the elements that make or break the customer experience are simply a matter of time, thoughtfulness and imagination.
Interestingly, some of the most delightful experiences I have ever enjoyed in a customer service setting were created with very little expense to the business owner. I fondly remember a Valentine’s Day dinner at a local restaurant.
To our surprise when we arrived, the path into the restaurant and the linen-covered table tops were sprinkled with rose petals, a simple bud vase with a rose was placed on each table and they were offering a special valentine-themed cocktail.
The point here is that the entire concept and experience was created with minimal investment from the business and the experience had maximum impact on their customers. I took friends there the next weekend and I raved on and on to people about how great it was.
Secondly, we have to deliver that experience. We have to execute this well thought-out plan and follow through on delivering that experience to our customers consistently.
We have to have employees in place that are well trained, empowered and believe in the importance of delivering this exceptional experience, one that exceeds our customers’ expectations. This is a key way to retain customers, build customer loyalty, and create customers that are growth advocates.
Thirdly, we want to come up with systems and procedures that enable us to deliver that exceptional experience to our customers over and over again. Our businesses have to be dynamic and not stagnant in our operations.
We must constantly be obtaining and responding to customer feedback and adjusting accordingly, adapting to meet their needs. In the day of tight budgets an intense competition, it is not enough that we deliver an exceptional experience once, we must prove to our customer over and over again that they have made the right choice in doing business with us.
I would challenge all of us to consider the overall experience from the customer’s perspective. What do they experience from the moment the drive up to the time they walk out your door?
If you truly want your business to succeed and exceed expectations it’s important to design, develop, and deliver a customer focused experience.
When you aspire to over deliver and exceed your customers’ expectations, your customers will remember the overall experience of doing business with you. Your business will reap the benefits and you’ll see the results.
Businesses that uphold the tradition of excellence in service not only stand apart from the masses, they earn customer loyalty and outshine their competitors translating into increased revenue. Creating total customer experiences is another key strategy to continued growth and prosperity.
About the Author
Rene’ Johnston-Gingrich completed a Master’s Degree in Adult Education and Human Resource Development and has been a business owner for 16 years. Rene’ works as an independent trainer and consultant, developing and delivering training in the health care, telecommunications, and retail and service industries.