Beyond Customer Service: Exploring Customer Experience Management
June 11, 2014
Going Beyond Customer Service
Businesses around the globe are going above and beyond what we traditionally consider to be good customer service. When we think customer service, we think about literally providing service, answering questions and solving problems in a positive light. And in today’s connected society, customers have grown to expect great customer service… or else.
Luckily, with new social media outlets and review sites popping up on almost a daily basis, a simple search engine query can tell you how your employees are doing and what points need improvement. But let’s be honest, you are a customer in daily life, so you probably know what good customer service looks and feels like. That is why it’s time to think about going beyond providing great customer service. It’s time to start designing a customer experience. But what does that mean?
You walk into a business for an appointment on a warm summer day. You’re relieved with a blast of air conditioning as you walk in. A fresh, clean scent fills the air and you are welcomed by a smiling face in the waiting area. You decide sit down in the waiting room to pass the few minutes until your appointed time. After glancing around the room at the other waiting faces, you pick up a magazine or newsletter to read. Then, you are approached by a member of the staff asking if you would like some complimentary water or coffee. Still feeling a bit fatigued from the summer warmth, you accept the water and continue to skim your reading material.
A few minutes later, a staff member calls your name and directs you to your appointment. You find that the person you are meeting with has been well informed, has reviewed the materials that were sent ahead of time and is prepared to help. You have a brief greeting and a few minutes to catch up and then get straight to business. After a successful appointment, you are directed back to the waiting area by a staff member. When you get there, he or she asks you if you have already set up your next appointment or if you would be interested in using any of their other services. You walk with that staff member over to the desk area and he/she gets you set up and hands you a neatly written note card with the information for your next visit. On the back, there is information about the added services offered by the business. After a friendly farewell, you head home.
You arrive home to see you received an email confirming your next appointment with a personalized thank you message capturing the highlights of what you accomplished today and with links to further information about the added services you had expressed interest in.
Would you say you were satisfied with today’s imaginary visit?
I know I would be! That experience would leave me with a smile on my face. Further, I would definitely recommend it to a friend who needed a similar appointment. The staff was able to anticipate my needs, direct me to the right places, follow up promptly on requested information and I was left feeling like a valued customer.
That is customer experience management at its finest.
More About Customer Experience Management
Customer experience management goes far beyond good customer service. It's about catering every customer need, from delivering meaningful and actionable marketing campaigns to analyzing the design of your facility to meet the needs and go beyond the expectations of your customers. With this approach, you anticipate customer needs before the customer even has the chance to ask for help. The controlled environment and in-depth level of customer interaction puts service and hospitality businesses in a prime position to offer a truly great customer experience. While details may vary, the process of a customer interaction itself is roughly predictable, and points where they might encounter difficulties or want additional services can be easily identified.
For example, a lot of hotels design the customer experience through items like decor, custom scents for air fresheners, name brand products in bathrooms, luxury furniture in-room, supporting spa services, shopping magazines or even local food and retail guides and some hotels even partner with up-scale restaurants to offer in-house dining.
In the class based business, you have the same opportunity as hotels and resorts to explore and develop the ideal customer experience based on points of contact, customer needs and daily hassles. Consider offering supporting services such as a visiting physical therapist, a snack and juice bar or an equipment/gift shop. You can even offer the convenience of free charging stations for popular mobile devices that customers may frequently carry with them and need to charge.
Whatever you choose to do, the key is in anticipating the wants and needs of the customer , then providing a solution to those wants and needs before they become a problem. Your employees should be able to provide great customer service, but they should also have training to be able to anticipate questions, identify positive and negative body language, and be proactive with customer service. All of these qualities will help to contribute to a better overall customer experience.
How do I start?
It definitely takes some time to design a unique customer experience that anticipates customer needs and promotes added services without pressuring customers or putting them in any number of awkward positions. Follow the steps below to get started on designing and implementing your ideal customer experience.
1. Observe. Take the time to observe what customers are doing at every stage of service. Whether it’s waiting around between classes or moving from one piece of equipment to the next. When do they need a refreshment? How often are they engaging with a mobile device? Are there obstacles that are in the way of the customer accomplishing tasks? Is the route between activities too long? What questions are coming up frequently? And at what point of service do they arise?
2. Brainstorm. Take the time to review your observations and come up with a few ideas about how your business could be doing better or providing a new service to solve each observed problem.
3. Ask customers about their experience. Don’t assume that what you’ve observed is the whole truth. After making some observations and brainstorming ideas of how to improve, run them by your customers. Have staff members bring up questions in conversation and consider creating a survey to ask customers to rank options or add feedback about changes or services you are considering.
4. Implement the changes and empower staff members to improve the system. After collecting feedback, implement the desired changes. Be sure to clue in all of your employees about the changes and why you’re implementing them. Ask them to keep an eye out for any potential problems or concerns and encourage them to take an active role in improving the experience of each customer. (For example, some hotels offer bellhops and front desk personnel a weekly budget to handle customer complaints, replace lost, damaged or stolen items, etc. without having to consult management. Class based businesses could take a similar approach and provide the staff with a budget for commonly needed supplies. Even items as simple as having access to hair ties, wraps or sleeve braces could make or break a customer's experience.)
5. Evaluate the experience. This can be done in one of two ways. First, you can ask customers directly about specific portions of their experience to gage their impact. Or second, you can recruit “secret shoppers” to come into your business and experience it firsthand. Afterwards, give them evaluation forms and interviews to rate and discuss the services they received. This feedback can help you identify new problems and give you inside information about what your customers are saying and thinking about your business.
6. Make adjustments. You probably aren’t going to do everything right the first time. Review the evaluations you receive and make adjustments to provide a better experience.