Managing Customer Experience, by Omagbitse Barrow

Managing Customer Experience, by Omagbitse Barrow

One of the ways to ensure that you are able to continuously attract and retain customers in your business is by paying attention to managing your customers’ experience. The way your customers experience your products and services is an integral part of the product or service itself. By paying attention to experience, you are able to tap into the emotional side of customers and ensure that your business is able to continuously attract, retain and transform customers into loyal advocates. Here are a number of pointers on things you can do to manage your customers’ experience:

  • Define the Experience: Think about the different places and opportunities that customers have to interact with your business. We call them customer touch-points. Firstly, you have to identify all the various touch-points that customers have with your business, and then for each touch-point, you need to define the type of experience, i.e. the quality of experience that you want each of your customers to have. For example, for a school, you could identify your security personnel, the parking space, your website, the reception, and bursar as examples of customer touch-points, amongst others. For each of these touch-points you will need to define the type and quality of interaction that your customers should receive. For the parking space, you may define the experience as having sufficient space to park, polite and smart security personnel to help with parking, and secure parking. For the security personnel you could define the experience as having security personnel who are well dressed, courteous, and knowledgeable about the school and have good communication skills. For a restaurant, a touch-point could be the waiters and you could define the experience as attentive, timely, courteous and knowledgeable about the menu. For a hospital, it could be the emergency room reception: accessible, clean, well-ventilated, and for a website for a retail business: colorful, bold lettering, easy to navigate and error free. Whatever business you are in, you must begin by identifying your various touch-points and then defining the experience you want your customers to have at each touch-point.
  • Build resources/structures to support the experience: Now that you have defined exactly the service and the quality that you expect at each of your touch-points, you will have to build and implement the systems, processes and structures that will support such an experience. For example, at your restaurant you expect the waiters to be courteous, timely and attentive. To achieve this, you will have to look at the average traffic in your restaurant and ensure that you have enough waiters to ensure that they are always timely. To ensure they are courteous, and attentive you will have to provide training that helps them to practice and role play for different customer situations, and if you have a multi-cultural clientele at your restaurant, you may want to hire multi-lingual waiters or train for cultural diversity. The important thing for the business owner at this point is to be very clear about ensuring that there are adequate resources, systems and structures in place to ensure that the experience that you desire for your customers is achieved. There is no point therefore in indulging in mere wishful thinking about how you want your customers to experience your service without being deterministic in achieving it by putting in place the resources, structures and systems.
  • Measure and Track Experience: It is very important to measure and track what your customers actually experience at each touch-point. You can achieve this by experiencing the service yourself, mystery shopping or by implementing a survey for customers to solicit feedback on their experience at each of the touch-points. When you measure the experience, you will be able to get useful data on the effectiveness of the systems, structures and processes that you have put in place and make corrections/improvements as the case may be. Our firm recommendation is to institutionalize the process of monitoring and evaluation and even use the results to reinforce the behaviours that you expect especially from service personnel. So, if the results of your evaluation show that certain employees have achieved high ratings for delivering on certain aspects of customer experience, then you should recognize and incentivize such employees while sanctioning those who fall short of the expectations.
    As a business owner you must have a keen eye for the type of service that you want your customers to experience and be vigilant in observing these touch points by yourself. Visit your website, make purchases on your e-commerce platforms, use the bathrooms in your facility, purchase your own products and see for yourself what works and what doesn’t. Chances are that if you experience is good/bad, most of your customers and prospects are experiencing the same.
  • Make Improvements: Beyond recognizing or cautioning employees based on the results of your evaluation of customer experience, you should be primarily concerned with using the feedback you receive to enhance the quality of experience that your customers receive. You should take each of the areas that are deficient and develop clear actions for overcoming those challenges. The action plans arising from this process will keep you and your entire team occupied and busy in the right direction. A school for example noticed that it was losing pupils because parents did not have a channel for laying their complaints regarding the service they received. As a service recovery strategy, the school decided to create customer complaint boxes, an email-based complaint system, and institute a policy for investigating complaints and sanctioning erring employees. The school experienced a 90% reduction in exiting pupils within two terms of implementing this program. In fact, one previously dissatisfied parent commented that by just creating such a program and communicating same to parents, the school had shown its commitment to higher quality, and that this was enough to justify retaining her child in that school. The feedback from your evaluation could also inspire you to set higher standards of quality of experience at the touch-points especially when you observe that your organization easily achieves the existing standard. This way, your business gets better and better by pushing itself to even greater heights.

Creating and maintaining the right experience for your customers is critical to ensuring the highest quality of service in any organization. As the business owner, you play a critical role in defining what the experience should be, providing the resources to support this experience, measuring and tracking the experience, and very importantly driving improvements across your organization. No matter how fantastic your product or service is in meeting the needs of your customers, customers must have a positive experience when trying to access or use your products. Do not ignore or under-estimate the importance of managing customer experience – it makes a significant difference to your customers.

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