Monday, November 10, 2008

Customer Experience Pt 1 - Introduction

Post series written by Andrew McMillan (Principal Consultant at Charteris specialising in customer experience). Before joining Charteris Andrew had a 28 year career with John Lewis and spent the last eight years of that career being responsible for the quality of service and selling across the UK department stores.

This series of blogs is about what it takes for any organisation to deliver a consistent and distinctly identifiable quality of service through its employees. I would welcome, and will respond to, any comments or thoughts of your own that you may wish to add as we go.

Delivering Customer Satisfaction

I want to start by putting the customer experience factor (or whatever you might choose to call it) into some context with other business activity.
In simplistic terms the customer experience and consequential satisfaction or otherwise of a customer delivered by any organisation can be divided into 3 key areas:
  1. The competiveness/desirability/relevance of the product or services the organisation is providing.
  2. The effectiveness of the systems or processes to deliver that product or service to a customer, in other words – how easy are you to do business with?
  3. The way the staff in the organisation interact with its customers, ideally leaving them feeling they have been treated as an individual rather than being part of a process and, when appropriate, genuinely cared for.
If you were starting your own business tomorrow it would probably be because you felt you had an idea for a product, proposition or service that nobody else, or nobody else in your area, offered. Possibly this might be offering better quality or price than any existing potential competitors too. Consequently that has to be the starting point for all organisations as it must be the reason for their very existence. If the product or services you are offering don’t represent an attractive proposition for your target customers the organisation is destined for failure.

What’s next?

Well there is no point in having a great product or service if your customers find it easier to do business with your competitors. The systems and processes are very important as in a time pressed world nobody appreciates confusion, complication or errors. The knowledge and advice you are able to impart about your product or service are also very important as you will be perceived as an expert in what you do and customers will want to trust your advice.

Finally, you are really going to look after your customers and care about them individually as you will want the business to grow. Consequently you will want your customers to come back and bring their friends because they have enjoyed dealing with you.

So, all pretty obvious stuff, and even more obvious if you are still thinking of a small business where the owner is the person the customers interact with. Of course you are going to be easy to do business with and you are going to care about your customers and leave them feeling good about the transaction because you have a vested interest in making the business succeed.

What happens when the organisation grows to 100 employees? Well, the product or service will remain the same or perhaps diversify a little and the owner is still likely to be driving the development. The systems and processes may have become more complex as the organisation has grown but, to a large extent, the logistical challenges of the growth will have ensured the processes have developed in tandem.

So what about the people and customer experience they deliver?

Intentionally or accidentally, the organisation will have developed its own culture and that will have a significant effect on how its customers are treated as the owner will no longer be dealing with each customer personally. That will affect how those customers perceive the business when they interact with it. However, because the culture of a business is less tangible than its products, services or processes it is often the case that there is less overt awareness of how the evolving internal culture can affect customer service. This can often be to the detriment of the business as a whole, which is why I believe we have such a reputation for poor service in the UK.

So, I hope I have put business culture into some degree of context within the overall operating model. Next time we shall look at culture and how you can positively shape it in a large organisation.

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