This article follows on from my previous article on customer service. When I was younger watching my parents grow their business, I saw how they perfected customer service and more than anything how important customer service is. I asked my father ‘why are you focusing so much on customer service’ he said ‘because it’s just a great way to run your business’.
I sat there and thought about what he said and asked him ‘what do you mean because it’s just a great way to run your business?’
His answer I found to be quite profound and it impacted me for the rest of my life.
He said ‘when you focus your business on customer service you get less complaints, customers are happier and you get less people wanting their money back, it makes sense to focus your business on this area’.
Ever since then I have seen the power of service. However this is all about customer experience management, and managing your customers experience so how does all this tie together?
Very simple… You use customer service to deliver the experience.
When you become a customer experience specialist, you look at every touching point with your customer and think of ways to create a positive experience for them. Let me give you some customer experience examples. A ‘touching point’ is a point in which you have contact with a customer, phone call, email, face to face, come to the office, meet in a restaurant or meet at an event etc.
What you need to think about is how can you create an experience for them and a positive one too that makes them think about you when they leave.
Every business you go to you receive an experience if you go to a restaurant you have set levels of expectation. You expect the food to be good, the restaurant to be clean and the waiter to be polite and responsive. Now when any of these areas do not meet your ‘set level of expectations’, you have a bad experience. The problem is almost no business puts thought into creating experiences and if they do, you get a bad experience and then they do nothing to make it right.
Business owners very rarely look at how to improve customer experience and create a good customer experience, or as I like to say… outstanding customer experience!
Your customer experience strategy is the difference between your customer coming back to you or heading to someone else, them talking about you to everyone they know, or them not saying a word about you. The problem is that very very few businesses have customer experience training because most of them don’t have a clearly defined customer experience definition.
When my parents had our business we were masters of customer experience. Let me give you some ideas to improve customer experience so you can create a quality customer experience strategy. The importance of customer experience is the difference between creating a recession-proof business or a business that struggles.
Ideas to improve customer experience
My family owned a very large vacation resort. One day we had a client that was using the laundry facilities, as her clothes were being washed the washing machine broke right in the middle of the cycle. The lady walked into the office very upset ‘I’m in the middle of washing my clothes and the machine has broken, my clothes are locked inside and soaking wet’.
We didn’t own the washing machines, a company placed them into our business and we split the money, so it wasn’t our responsibility and most businesses would wipe their hands clean of the situation here. However, they were our customer so therefore it was our responsibility and we needed to look after them. Here is what we did.
We had our maintenance team remove the clothes from the machine, and then we took the clothes to the dry cleaners. Once the clothes were ready to be picked up, we placed them neatly folded inside her home on the kitchen table (we had to keep keys to every home for security reasons) with a bottle of wine, a bouquet of flowers a box of chocolates and a card.
Our customer was over the moon that we did this for her. Here is the funny thing… what did that really cost us? Let’s say £20 for the dry cleaning, £10 for flowers, £10 for wine and £5 of chocolates and about £3 for a card. So we spent about £48 to make this customer happy, which if you look at it is nothing compared to the fact that she bought a vacation home off us for £85,000
Here is the really great thing when you improve customer experience strategy. Our customer told so many people what we did, it was all over our resort and everyone was talking about it, it cost us £48 to have all of our customers talking about us. So these are some great ideas to improve customer experience.
Here is another example, and our families biggest story.
In 1997 we had a colossal storm hit us. Now let me give you a bit of back story so you understand. In the UK vacation resorts are usually open 10.5 months of the year and they have to close down for a six week period. Our business like many other resorts opened up on 1st March every year. So the 1st of March is our busiest day of the year, everyone wants to come back to their home after the six-week break. However, this year about 8pm we were hit with a tremendous storm and our resort was FULL!
The storm was SO bad we lost many homes, thankfully no lives but our resort looked like a bomb had gone off and the resort was destroyed. As I drove into the resort as everything was going on, I couldn’t get over the number of police cars, ambulances and fire engines. The place looked like a war zone.
So here is what we did. We rounded every customer up into the main building in our cars, and then we contacted all the hotels in our area, bus companies and taxi companies. We moved every single customer to a hotel for safety, this may sound easy but we had over 600 people standing there needing a safe place for the night. We contacted all the hotels that our customers were going to stay at and told the hotel that our customers have an open bar tonight. Now you may think ‘damn that's going to coast a fortune’ and it did, however, our insurance covered everything.
A few hours later all customers were in hotels and already a few drinks deep. For us, the work had just begun. We had to shut the resort down for three weeks to clean up when I say this place was a disaster I mean it was a disaster, vacation home roofs everywhere, glass everywhere, homes that had exploded because the wind got inside and blew them up etc. The resort was a total and utter disaster.
Ok, that story is over. However here is what I want you to understand. Every single customer that we helped that night was so blown away (excuse the pun) with what we did for them, our city was amazed what we did that we literally became the talk of the town for months. We were the resort that went so far above and beyond for our customers that everyone even inside our industry was talking about us. We made the front page of the paper, we got more attention from people and news outlets that we sold even more homes. It was unbelievable! And all because we did the ‘right thing’ in the beginning.
We were able to turn a disaster into one of our singles biggest marketing plays we’ve ever had, and we didn’t even realize it.
When you as a business come from a place internally of actually caring about your customer and you really show this by creating outstanding customer experiences for them, you can’t help but succeed.
Now I hand this over to you, what have you learnt from reading this? What are you going to do in your business? What touch points with your customer can you create experiences?
I so often hear, what is customer experience and what is the importance of customer experience. My stories above are great examples of how you can blow your customers out of the water by doing what no other business thinks about doing. You should have someone in your business that is highly creative and give them this role to create experiences in all the different touching points you have with your customer. You can also create in-house customer experience certification and create customer experience jobs for your team.
I’ll leave you with one last thing before signing off, and this is powerful!!
Really good customer experience is created in that moment. What we used to do for all of our staff was give them a limit to spend on a customer should something ever go wrong. Here’s what I mean.
We told every member of staff that you have £100 that you can spend without ever asking us for permission to put a customers situation right. So anytime a customer had a problem we made our staff think for themselves, and if they saw a way to fix the problem and they’re managing the communication correctly with the customer they can rectify that problem up to £100 to make sure the customer was happy.
I have actually never come across a business that does the same. In fact, I often hear the ‘manager ruins customer experience because she doesn't like me and I can't get anything done’. When this happens it is time to replace the manager, you must all work in harmony together to achieve the same common goal.
In this article, I have given you, ideas to improve customer experience, how to improve customer experience and shown you exactly what makes a great customer experience.
Please share my article around, like it and comment on it I need your support to help others.
Feel free to connect with me at my website www.ianhoughton.com
My facebook group - Global Small and Family Owned Business Forum
My facebook page - https://www.facebook.com/IanHoughtonBestsellingAuthor/
Please watch this video relating specifically to the article - Here
Linkedin - Here