Customer experience is fast becoming the buzz word in business.
Companies are talking about wanting to improve it. They are sending their staff on courses to learn how to provide better customer service.
But do you know what providing a better customer experience really is? And how do you stand out from the rest?
Firstly, what is the difference between customer service and customer experience?
Customer service is simply what you DO. Companies will proudly announce on their websites and in their marketing materials about their service that is second to none, how they listen to their customers, and how customer service is their priority. Customer first! They show images of happy, smiling faces serving happy customers. But that’s where the disconnect happens. Their customers may not be consistently experiencing that.
Customer experience on the other hand, is what your customers see, hear, and feel in their journey with your business. Things roll along smoothly while your customer is happy. But what happens when the interaction becomes sticky and your customer turns sour? Do your people know how to diffuse them and turn around their experience, before they go off and post negative reviews?
This concerning disconnect I have observed in my experience as a customer is backed up by research that shows 80% of companies claim their customer service ranks “superior,” but in reality only 8% of their customers agree.
The disconnect that results from a misalignment between what you claim to DO and what your customer experiences, can quickly erode TRUST. Perfect example, my customer journey with my optometrist. I have been a customer for longer than I care to remember, and have had great experiences and not so great experiences. They pride themselves on giving friendly, personal service. When my experience has been not so great, I’ve given the manager feedback because I want to continue as their customer. On my last visit, my experience was particularly poor. I could tell trying the assistant was trying to provide good customer service but it was clear she was way out of her depth. She did not ask the right questions or listen to discover my needs, had little product knowledge and was under confident. After battling through the interaction which, due to her incompetence took a frustratingly excessive period of time, I walked away with the feeling I’d had a really shabby experience. I telephoned the manager to offer my feedback. She did not display any empathy, explained that the assistant was new, and dismissed the situation with an insincere “sorry about that.” Yes she apologised, but it was clear she did not care about me or my experience. My next move was to post a 1 star google review, which I did. I vowed to change optometrists.
To rub salt into the wound, my glasses came apart one morning just as I was just opening a workshop to a group of business people. It was not a good look having to present the workshop with a mass of ugly sticky tape holding my glasses together. Today I visited the store to collect my repaired glasses. Before leaving, I asked the assistant to remove my records and not send me any future reminders as I was intending to take my business elsewhere.
This is where my experience turned around. A sincere look of concern came over his face. Explaining that he was the new store manager, he asked if I could tell him the reason. Finally someone actually cared! I started to explain about my many varied experiences and how bad the last one was. He listened well. He validated my feelings. He sincerely apologised and offered his card so that I could contact him personally in the future. He managed the situation well and I started to develop trust. He converted me into a happy customer once again.
Customers can be demanding but it doesn’t take a lot to ensure they have a great experience. They just want to know that you care. John C Maxwell, leadership author said “Customers don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care”. So how do you show your customers that you genuinely care? Here are my top three tips for converting an unhappy customer into a happy customer.
1. Validate their feelings and be genuine in your apology. An apology doesn’t necessarily mean you have done something wrong. But when your customer feels they’ve been wronged, it shows that you care.
2. Show your interest by asking the right questions. Know when to ask open questions to build trust and discover information, and when to ask probing and closed questions to confirm your understanding of their needs.
3. Listen actively. Focus on their needs and listen beyond their words, to their tone of voice, so you can better understand them. For example, they may be sounding in a hurry or angry. Use this information to steer the conversation. If things start going pear shaped again, go back to Tip # 1
It pays greatly to invest in your customer experience. Because as is becoming increasingly relevant in today’s competitive marketplace; if your customer does not feel cared about, they will find a business that does care about them. And that will most likely be your competitor.