Guest Post by Scott Carlson
On a recent trip to a local bookstore I was having trouble finding a particular title. Not seeing any nearby store associates, I walked to the centrally-located Help Desk hoping to find some assistance. Unfortunately the Help Desk was not staffed and there were already two customers queued up ahead of me. Noticing two idle associates at the checkout counter, I walked there and asked one of them to check if the title was in stock. After a brief title search she indicated that the book was indeed out of stock but that it could be ordered – not by her but back at the Help Desk. I walked by the still unstaffed Help Desk with two customers in line and left the store empty-handed wondering why it was so difficult to do this relatively simple task—and whether I would be returning anytime soon.
On the outside, the store seemed like it would pass any customer experience test: the store looked great and the staff was friendly and likely executing their duties as defined. But while clean stores and friendly and competent employees are of course key elements of any good customer experience, customer experience goes much deeper than that.
Understanding this customer journey begs the question “How could this customer experience have been made easier?” And that’s at the root of understanding not only this individual experience, but how to improve customer experience as a whole: it’s not just about friendly staff, but competent staff who are able to make getting from Point A to Point B as simple and painless as possible. Continuing to ask ‘Why?’ helps to highlight candidate enhancements involving operational processes, job duties, and/or technologies that could have made the journey quicker, easier, and would have accomplished the mission.
One of the ways to accomplish this is to reinforce a culture of empowerment where employees are encouraged to take care of the customer’s needs whenever possible rather than implying ‘your need is not my job responsibility and good luck finding the right person to help’ as the customer is sent away. Instead of requiring a customer to tell his story multiple times to multiple representatives, focus on ways to empower employees to meet customer needs quickly and efficiently with the intent that customer expectations are at minimum met and ideally exceeded. Failing to be easy to work with is one of the easiest ways to send customers to your competition.
In their book Outside In, Harley Manning and Kerry Bodine use the illustration of a Customer Experience Pyramid. Much like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, it indicates multiple levels of customer experience, each building on the other. To deliver an experience that goes beyond simply meeting basic customer needs, we need to next focus on being easy to work with. In fact, unless your business is a monopoly you should consider being easy to do business with as an ‘ante’ simply to have a seat at the table if you hope to win your customers’ business.
So what does it mean to be easy to work with? Apple has been a consistent leader when it comes to user interface ease of use. While an intuitive, easy-to-use interface is a very important product attribute, if we want to ingrain an ‘easy to work with’ philosophy within our entire organization we must think holistically about all the customer touchpoints throughout the customer journey and seek out ways to simplify processes.
Journey mapping exercises can help to identify the customer’s actual ‘As Is’ process as they interact with your brand. Journey maps can help to highlight areas of opportunity where processes might be complex or cumbersome, leading us to question how we might make customer experiences simpler and more satisfying. The sticking points discovered in this process can help to inform where to streamline customer interactions.
At the end of the day, a customer’s interaction with an organization is about more than the surface aspects—it’s truly about the customer’s entire experience.