Customer Service isn’t Customer Experience?
This is a common question. Is customer experience the same thing as customer service? Nope! It’s not. Customer service is more reactive. When a customer calls in with a problem, customer service swoops in to save the day. Whether there is a specific team or just a policy that comes in to play, customer service is relevant after something has already gone wrong. Customer experience is before a problem has arisen. Customer experience is a weed preventer. Customer service is a weed killer. And trust me, as we’re experiencing right now in my own gosh darn just won’t look good no matter what we do yard, weed preventers are always easier. Much better to make sure you’re on the right path from the get go. Rather than spend tons of time, money, and frustration trying how to figure out how to get grass to grow in the bald areas and weeds, moss, dandelions, and mole tracks to stop growing in every other area.
So, let’s stop the yard talk and get into the details. Your customer’s experience is their entire time spent with your business – from the first moment they interact with your business – a phone call from a referral, finding your website through Google, or running across your Facebook page, to the moment they close the door on their newly designed home. And everything in between. Customer experience asks, did their time with you completely fulfill their initial reason for contacting you, was it easy, and was it enjoyable. Sounds simple, but often, it’s not.
Fulfill Their Basic Needs
First, was their reason for contacting you fulfilled? Sounds like every business will fulfill this one fairly easily. Far from it. And if it isn’t, serious consequences can result. Ever been to a mechanic and left with the same rattle you pulled in with? Happened to my husband last week. As a result, he had to take even more work off to return the car, get a loaner, pick up the car, etc. Ever been to a doctor and left with no answers on what was wrong, or even worse, with the wrong answer? Happened to me ten years ago with a severe ear infection, and I may have a tiny loss of hearing as a result.
Any business’s first priority really should be – did I solve the customer’s problem (and ideally, potentially related problems). Did I really fix their problem with their inefficiently designed furniture arrangement? Did I really fix their problem with improperly scaled furniture? Did I really fix their problem with too much natural light coming into their nursery? And if not, why not? Can I direct them elsewhere? Is there anything else I can do to help this customer out? Phone calls to make, emails to send, or information I need to share? And really, is there anything else I can do to help this person out (silly I know, but sometimes it’s helpful to just think of customers as people you’re helping out).
Make The Process Easy
The second priority – is it easy. Once you’ve fulfilled their basic need, your next focus should be on making everything as easy as possible for your customer. How easy is it for them to find your phone number on your website? How easy is it for them to get a hold of you the first time? How easily understood are the documents you give them to sign? The more hurdles someone has to jump to work with a business, the less likely they are to work with your business, the less likely they are to enjoy the experience, and the less likely they are to return. People just like easy. We all do!
Life is hard enough, so when you’re working with a business, you want things to just be easy, for once. And when they are, it’s a great and pleasant surprise. Because seldom are things easy. Because getting there, from the business’s perspective, can be complicated. It can take a lot of work to make sure that your processes and procedures are as clear and straight lined as possible. You have to put yourself in your client’s shoes and live out every step that they go through and ask yourself, is this confusing? Difficult? Is there a way to simplify this? Creating something simple, is way more difficult than creating something complicated. One big hint, ask your staff, if you have them. They often are the ones that know the most common complaints and issues that exist in your process. Another option, ask your workroom. Ask if there is anything that you can do to make working with you easier, (which in turn makes the outcome easier on the customer).
Make the Process Fun
Once you’ve managed to both fulfill your customer’s needs and make the process easy, you’re pretty much at the top 1% of businesses. But to really be an over-achiever, make it enjoyable! Make your customer feel special. Make your customer feel like they’re your sole focus when you’re with them. Birthday cards, thank you cards or little gifts, picking up a favorite inexpensive item of theirs, putting your phone on silent, etc. And of course, humor! Sometimes the design process can be quite heavy – setbacks, dust everywhere, late deliveries, and paying out A LOT of money. Anytime you can make their time with you just a little lighter, they’ll appreciate it. Anytime you can make a real human connection, create a real, trusting, enjoyable, reciprocal relationship, things work out so much better for everyone. Because really, it’s just a lot more fun to work with people you enjoy being around, and who work to make sure you have a good time.
Really, providing a great customer experience is like being the hostess with the mostess. Did your guests have enough food if they were hungry and drinks if they were thirsty? Needs fulfilled – Check! Did your guests easily find the plates, glasses, and a free place to set down a glass? Easy – Check! Did your guests enjoy themselves with great conversation, good music, and beautiful lighting? Enjoyable – Check! It doesn’t mean everything has to be perfect, but it does mean you have to take some time and think about what needs to be done to make sure your guest’s (or customer’s) experience is a good one.
Let me know in the comments below how you’ve implemented a great customer experience in your business!