The Customer Experience: How does your organization measure up?
Each growing season, my wife Laurie and I enjoy buying seasonal fruits from a local roadside stand. Fresh-from-the-orchard fruit is brought in daily; the shop's walls are lined with baked, canned, jarred and fresh items from both North and South Carolina. Although we are happy with the quality of our purchases, the less--than-special customer service greatly diminishes what we consider our “destination” shopping experience. The store is usually jammed, mostly with tourists passing the exit; sales are transactional to the staff, who seem to have no interest in whether or not anyone comes back. No smiles. No small talk. Even the simplest questions about produce from the farm they represent are met with disinterested shrugs and I- don’t -know’s. After one such trip we mused about how little it would have taken for us to make additional purchases if someone had taken the time to engage, educate and entice us with knowledge about the farms, harvest and caring that goes into each juicy bite. All that hard work to produce the fruit and vegetables, and then a let down at the point of purchase. We wondered if the owners were even aware.
Last week friends of ours mentioned a pizzeria that was relatively new. It was the second location for this Mom and Pop eaterie, and we were optimistic when we went and the owner claimed to be using his mother’s “authentic” Italian recipes. We found the food unmemorable after two visits; the other couple also gave up on it citing painfully slow service and a not-so-clean interior. It made us wonder how a restaurant owner couldn’t see what we saw; just a few days after we spoke these words we passed by and noticed it was out of business.
Then there was my recent experience with a medical specialist; due to the booked-way-in-advance schedule of the specialist I usually see at a particular practice, I took an available appointment with one of his associates. The appointment was uneventful, and I found the doctor to be very pleasant; when I got home and Googled him, there were at least a dozen online reviews by patients about his offensive bedside manner. Because of my coaching work in communication, I understood his way of being and knew how to work around it and bring out his human side--but what a shame that the doctor isn't aware of how he presents himself to the world!
In each of the above situations, business owners have what we refer to as “blind spots”, i.e., they are unaware of what is plainly seen by customers. You cannot hide poor products, service or management. In fairness to these businesses, it’s not always a lack of caring—but a lack of KNOWING, and training. Presenting a total package to your end customer is critical to success—whether you’re a large or small organization.
I have always said to clients:
“We don't know what we don't know"
If you don't know what you're NOT doing right, there are ways to gauge your staff and your customers.
- If you train once and then become an absentee manager/owner/CEO, we can guarantee there will be cracks in the system.
- If you don't set clear expectations, policies and processes, that will come back to haunt you.
- If you don't know how to hire really terrific employees to represent your company, then you are missing opportunities to increase the profitability and reputation of your business. Great products aren't enough in a competitive economic climate--your people are your greatest resource and it's up to you to maximize their strengths.