Customer service is a department. It’s also a job title.
And, it’s often the biggest obstacle customers have to getting what they
Traditionally, customer service has focused on two
functions. One is delivering the product or service after the sale. Two is
resolving complaints customers have regarding the delivery of the service or
Looking at those two functions you can see where
performance metrics might develop. Phone call length. Number of complaints.
Delivery time. Fulfillment errors.
Nowhere do we see anything about how the customer feels
about doing business with us. Or, what their experience is.
I understand, experience is not an easy thing to measure
or even define.
But, it’s a much more important factor in customer
retention and referrals than anything else. Customer experience is the sum total
of everything we do for our customers. It’s the complete picture of how they
feel about doing business with us.
And it’s driven by our actions. Every time we make
contact with our customers we create an experience with them.
Of course we need all the functional aspects of customer service. Orders need
to be fulfilled, work needs to be done and mistakes need to be corrected. But if
that’s all we do for our customers, we’ll lose them.
Eventually, they’ll find someone who does it better, faster, cheaper, closer
or nicer. Great customer service is less than adequate these days. It’s a
starting point. It gets you in the game.
If you want to be a player though, you need to deliver a great experience.
You need to discover what your customers expect and then deliver that plus more.
And you need to do it in a way that thrills them every time with no
I know that sounds like a lot. It is. Here are some tips to make it easier.
First, be your own customer.
Find ways to see your company as your customers do. Walk around in their
shoes to understand their perspective. If this is not feasible then hire people
to be your “secret shoppers” and have them report in detail how they experienced
Second, ask the Ultimate
Question of your customers.
The Ultimate Question helps you start conversations with your customers that
will improve your understanding of how they view your company. It’s a simple
question but if you ask it diligently and consistently you will get valuable
information on whether your customers are getting a great experience from your
company, or not.
Third, create customer roundtables for feedback.
Setup a monthly or quarterly program where you invite different customers to
a lunch meeting (plying people with food is always good). Then have a discussion
about your industry and what they want from it. Get your customers talking
openly about the good, the bad and the ugly. Do this on a regular basis and
you’ll get priceless intelligence on how to serve your customers.
Tom Peters tells us we’re in an experience economy and he’s right. To keep
your organization healthy and sustainable you need to focus on the experience
you’re delivering your customers. Do that and customer service will take care of