How Does One Achieve Customer Experience Excellence? Just Do the Right Thing!

Check out iCIMS' latest blog post from iCIMS blogger Adam Feigenbaum.

One of my favorite topics to explore is that of Customer Experience Management.  Part of it stems from the personal pride and passion I have for delivering on the commitments we make at iCIMS.  However, I think my interest in the topic largely derives from being a consumer myself. Just like many people out there in the world, I like to spend money while receiving amazing customer service. According to a CEI Survey, 86% of buyers will pay more for a better customer experience. I find it compelling to see what other companies do to "delight" their customers.  It's rather incredible to see how much companies are now investing in things like “Voice of the Customer” programs, not to mention internal training to make sure a customer's experience is not only excellent, but is also consistent across broad teams and thousands upon thousands of interactions.

Despite all the attention on the topic, it still seems many companies drop the ball in one key fundamental area: The response to when a customer's experience falls short of expectations. The same CEI study also estimates that 1% of customer feel that vendors consistently meet their expectations. Let's face it ... no company is perfect and there will be times every business will falter in spite of all the best efforts and intentions. It is the reaction and response in these not so good times that, to me, is the truest test of a company's commitment to Customer Experience.

An advisory note: If your business is not ready and willing to "do the right thing" when the Experience you deliver goes awry, stay focused on the things your company IS willing to commit to. A half-hearted commitment to your customer feels worse than no commitment at all. It's as if you know what the right thing to do is, but still won't do it! 

I recall a time when I was getting a laptop repaired at one of the better known big box technology stores. I had done all the right things; bought the coverage, brought it back to the store of purchase, explained my issue … everything.  The representative explained my issue was not under the coverage (Frustration #1) and that they could fix it if I paid more (Frustration #2) because they had to send it out for service for 3-weeks (Frustration #3). I actually accepted all of that because sometimes that’s just the way it is. Fast forward 3-weeks later, I return to pick up my laptop and the issue is still happening.  When a different service specialist reviews it, he mentions that this kind of issue usually requires you to replace the machine entirely because it is too expensive for the company to replace.  On top of that, I was refused a credit until I escalated the issues for several weeks to their corporate offices.

Had they just done the right thing from the start and explained the situation, I probably would have bought a new laptop then and there.  If they had given me an immediate credit, I still probably would have bought a laptop at that time.  Instead, I took my purchase elsewhere and turned the store credit into gift cards for others.  They had lost my trust.  They had lost my business.  And it was all because they would not do the right thing.

If your business is willing to make the commitment to your customers, here are some guidelines I've found to be useful:

Hire Right
Do the people you hire believe in your brand?  Regardless of the role, if employees believe in your brand they will be more inclined to try to make others believers as well.

Own the Issues
Many times, a customer's issue might not be your fault, but that does not mean it is not your problem!  An upset customer just wants to be made whole again and by making yourself a part of the solution will only strengthen that customer's impression of your brand.

Empower Your People
We have all heard the ol' "Let me talk to my Manager" line.  Nothing is more defeating to a customer to always be talking to the "wrong" person. If you have hired right and your team owns issues, loosen those reigns and let the front line folks do what's right by the customer.

Don't let it Fester
The reality is that empowerment comes with boundaries and some things are best left to be escalated to different resources in the company.  That's OK, but make sure that the escalation and resolution happens fast! The more time a customer sits in limbo the worse the experience becomes.

Many times, a customer's impression of your business only goes as far as their last interaction with you. A thousand positive experiences can be erased by one not so positive one.  Unfortunately, a negative experience might still linger even after a thousand positive ones! It's a tough standard, but that's the reality. But by staying the course, trusting your people, and just doing the right thing by your customers, you'll soon find that improving the experience of your customers is not so complicated after all.

Check out iCIMS' latest blog post from blogger Adam Feigenbaum.

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