How To Improve Customer Experience in Your Business
Business busters and loyalty losers do nothing to improve customer experience
My friend flew business class with her two-year-old son on a four and a half hour journey. Three hours into the flight the boy became fidgety and loud. My friend asked the stewardess if there was a coloring book or other child's toy onboard.
The stewardess went to check and returned with this response: "Yes, we do have giveaway kits on board for small children." "May I have one please?" my friend asked.
"I'm sorry," was the reply, "the children's giveaway kits are only for flights above five hours."
New title for this stewardess? Customer Alienator. She doesn't know how to improve customer service at all!
When my daughter Brighten was eight years old we were shopping together in an attractive clothing store. The shirts and pants on display were the right size and absolutely the right color for her.
A young saleswoman approached, looked at my daughter and asked immediately, "How old is she?" I was shocked by her aggressive tone and replied defensively, "Why do you want to know?" She repeated her question. "How old is she?" "What difference does it make?" I asked, now perturbed.
"We only have clothing for up to six years old," she replied with a snap, ruining any chance to improve customer experience. Since when does the age of a customer make more sense than the fit of the clothing?
New title for this saleswoman? Business Buster. She sure ruined any opportunity to improve customer experience. A well-known fast-food restaurant offers "Teen Discount Cards" to attract more young customers from 2:30 to 6:00 p.m. (a slow period between lunch and dinner).
One day a young customer joined a long and slow-moving line at 5:50 p.m., patiently waiting his turn, hoping to use his card to improve customer experience. But when he got to the counter it was 6:05 p.m. The supervisor said his discount card was no longer valid. The young man (and his friend) walked out and into the restaurant next door.
New title for this supervisor? Value Vaporizer. He made all chances to improve customer experience disappear along with a sale! Vineet from India wrote about a coffee shop that gave away free hot drinks when customers filled their "frequent customer cards," but wouldn't give away iced coffee drinks to improve customer experience. This continued until a new staff member pointed out to the manager that adding ice doesn't raise costs - but does raise customer delight and will improve customer experience.
Someone should put a few ice cubes down that manager's pants to teach him how to improve customer service! And when he is wide awake, teach him this key point: Cutting costs should be the last thing on your mind when rewarding your loyal customers, the ones you want returning again and again. Generosity going out equals profits coming in and will improve customer experience.
New title for this manager? Loyalty Loser. Clancey in Dubai took his son Denis to an ice cream parlor for dessert. When his son stepped into the parking lot the ice cream fell out of his cone - plop! - onto the ground. The boy began to cry. Clancey walked back into the store and told the clerk what happened. The clerk took a new cone, packed in a new scoop of ice cream, then turned it upside down and handed it to Clancey. With a stern look and a sterner voice he said, "Our ice cream doesn't fall out of the cone."
Someone should put a scoop of ice cream down that clerk's pants! And when he's wide awake, teach him this key point: Never make your customer feel wrong, stupid or untrusted. Not only will this do nothing to improve customer experience, it might lose you a customer permanently along with everyone they know! New title for this clerk? Enjoyment Eliminator.
Instead, with a smile on your face say joyfully, "Here's a brand-new cone for you. I packed it in extra tight this time - just to make sure you and your son will enjoy every lick. And thank you for coming back in. See you again soon!"
My friend sent his inkjet printer to the manufacturer for repair. The service center technician sent him an e-mail with estimated charges and asked him to print it out, sign it and fax it back to approve charges for the service prior to making the repair. How could my friend print out the e-mail when the service center already had his printer? New title for this technician: Absurdity Agent. His lack of common sense did nothing to improve customer experience! My neighbor prefers white hens eggs as opposed to brown ones, but they were hard to find in our local grocery store. After not seeing them at all for several weeks, she asked the manager why.
He replied, "The white eggs were selling out so fast that we had trouble keeping them in stock. So we quit carrying them." New title for this manager who doesn't seem to understand how to improve customer experience: Marketing Mistake.
Two close friends enjoyed an extraordinary world-class cruise. The cruise company worked hard to personalize the vacation for everyone on board to improve customer experience. Pre-cruise telephone calls identified each traveler's likes and dislikes, hopes, dreams and concerns regarding the upcoming voyage.
Onboard the ship, the staff memorized every passenger's name to improve customer experience. Personal preferences were rigorously recorded and used to upgrade the intimacy of service every day.
On the final morning, a questionnaire was slipped under the door of my friends' cabin asking for feedback and suggestions for improvement. The first three questions on the form were: Your name: Your cabin: Today's date: An entire cruise devoted to impeccable, personal service, and one impersonal, generic form at the end reminds guests that they are not really so special after all. Not a great way to improve customer experience!
New title for the survey specialist: Anonymity Enhancer. I visited a coffee shop where the staff was apologetic but unwilling to give me one free coffee drink even though my "Frequent Customer Card" was all filled up. (Their "special promotion" expired one day before, while it took me two weeks to fill the card from a series of ten paid drinks.)
The frontline staff said they would love to give me the drink, but "management" told them not to. I was so perturbed by the lack of generosity and frontline empowerment that I avoided that brand for months. They didn't improve customer service, so I didn't go back for a long time.
Notes to coffee bean counters:
- Cost of giving away one free drink = pennies in ground beans, paper cup and hot water.
- Value of lost business from one unhappy coffee drinker = many dollars.
I shared this experience with many friends (upset customers usually do). One told me how pleased he was when "someone with a brain" gave him a free drink to improve customer experience even though the promotion had expired. Another said he got a free drink and was given a cookie, too! Both promised to patronize their outlets for months to come because of efforts to improve customer experience.
Notes to coffee bean counters:
- Cost of giving away one free cookie = less than a dollar.
- Value of repeat business from happy coffee drinkers = endless.
- Value of positive word-of-mouth = you can't ever buy such credible and powerful promotion.
If the purpose of a promotion is to encourage repeat business, why even have an expiration date? Who cares when customers buy their drinks, as long as they keep buying and drinking and drinking and buying?
New name for these out-of-date coffee bean counters: Profit Reduction Specialists. They clearly have no clue how to improve customer experience.
Key Learning Points
Every business has procedures, policies, products, packaging, pricing, places and promotions. But people hold the ultimate key to improve customer experience, loyalty and delight. One smart cookie beats a bureaucratic full house to improve customer experience. Give your customers positive pleasure, not pesky problems. They will return and reward you.
The next time your customer confronts the stupidity of a policy that doesn't make sense, or the absurdity of a procedure that just doesn't work, be the person who can and does make a difference to improve customer service.
Speak up! Stand out! Champion your customer's cause. Take a stand for common sense in your business to improve customer experience. Be the one to stir the pot. Remember, your company's pot (not the policy manual) fills your bowl every morning.
About the Author
Ron Kaufman is the world`s leading educator and motivator for upgrading customer service and uplifting service culture. He is author of the bestselling UP Your Service books and founder of UP Your Service College. Read more articles and get tips about how to improve customer experience at http://www.upyourservice.com