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What is the Customer Experience?

Customer success, customer service, customer experience.  How do we tell one from the other, and why does it matter?

Who are Your Customers?

Customers, buyers, and clients want to pay a fair price for quality service, and feel satisfied they have paid for a service and received what they have paid for in return. They also want someone to take care of them. They need someone to understand their needs and help answer them. They need someone to hold their hands and walk them through a process. Customer service starts with the ability to listen to the customer and find out through polite questioning what he/she needs or wants. But, it doesn’t stop there.  This is only the beginning of the customer experience.

Customer service and contact with a client mean that the customer will be heard and his/her problems will not go unanswered or ignored. It also means getting to know your client, his/her likes-dislikes, ideas, background, etc. You have to consider in every communication the lifetime value of the client.

The other most important aspect to do is to listen to what the customer is saying. If people do not understand what is motivating the customer, they will not be successful in handling them.

Do your research on customers, their habits, and what they want and expect.

Most customer service is defined by how a company or organization treats “external customers,” but there is “internal customer service” as well. While this manual mainly addresses “external customers,” expanding your definition of customer service to include co- workers will lead toward even greater success. Remember, the internal customer chain is just like the external, we are all customers both inside and outside the company or organization.

As a Wall Street Journal article succinctly put it, “Poorly Treated Employees Treat Customers Just as Poorly.”

Develop a Customer Friendly Approach

One commonality among all companies or organizations that provide good service is the development of a system and attitude promoting customer friendly service.

By “customer friendly” we mean viewing the customer as the most important part of your job.

The cliché, “The customer is always right” is derived from this customer friendly environment.

Two critical qualities to the “Customer Friendly Approach”:

  • Communications
  • Relationships

The two main tasks of successful customer relations are to communicate and develop relationships. They don’t take a huge effort but don’t happen instantaneously either. Positive dialog/communication with your customers and developing ongoing relationships with your customers are perhaps the two most important qualities to strive for in customer service.

What Customer Service Means

As mentioned earlier, customer service means providing a quality product or service that satisfies the needs/wants of a customer and keeps them coming back. Good customer service means much more – it means continued success, increased profits, higher job satisfaction, improved company or organization morale, better teamwork, and market expansion of services/products.

Think about it places where you enjoy doing business – stores, gas stations, suppliers, banks, etc. To be honest, I stopped going into gas stations years ago except when I am on my annual journey to visit family across the country in MN.  Why? 90% of them have terrible service, and terrible attitudes the places just make me cringe.  And I can evaluate this from the perspective of the worker as well.  I paid my dues as a gas station attendant while I was in high school as well as college

So aside from the actual product or service they provide, do you like doing business with them? You probably find them courteous, timely, friendly, flexible, interested, and a series of other exemplary qualities. They not only satisfy your needs and help you in your endeavors but make you feel positive and satisfied. You come to rely on their level of service to meet your needs and wants.

On the other hand, let’s review a business you dislike patronizing maybe even hate utilizing but in some cases do so out of necessity. Maybe it is the DMV when you need a new driver’s license or maybe it is the local store that carries a product you need but who offers lousy service when you purchase. In both of these cases we are willing to hypothesize that the customer experience is marred by long lines, gruff service, inefficient processing, impolite and unfriendly clerks or salespeople, lack of flexibility, and no empathy for your customer plight. In these cases you feel abused, unsatisfied, and taken advantage of – in essence, your experience is wholly negative.

Unfortunately, in the cases we outlined above there is no competition for the services/products offered or you would gladly not consider using either the DMV or the rude department store. This is the advantage of a monopoly on a good or service because in a competitive marketplace, the unsatisfied customer shops elsewhere.

Remember, good customer service results in consumer satisfaction and return customers and growth in business. Poor customer service, except for monopolistic strongholds, generally results in consumer dissatisfaction, lack of returning customers and dwindling business.

Customer Service Qualities

Customer Service = Accountability + Delivery

Professional Qualities in Customer Service

Professionals who constantly deal with customers (inside and outside the company) need to strive for certain qualities to help them answer customer needs.

The professional qualities of customer service to be emphasized always relate to what the customer wants. After years of polling and market research, it turns out customers are constantly internalizing their customer service experience. What this means is they are grading your customer service during each transaction, but you rarely know it. While there are a multitude of customer needs, six basics needs stand out:

  • Friendliness – the most basic and associated with courtesy and politeness.
  • Empathy – the customer needs to know that the service provider appreciates their wants and circumstances.
  • Fairness – the customer wants to feel they receive adequate attention and reasonable answers.
  • Control – the customer wants to feel his/her wants and input has influence on the outcome.
  • Information – customers want to know about services but in a pertinent and time-sensitive manner.

It is also very important for customer service employees to have information about their or service. Service providers who answer, “I don’t know” or “It is not my department” are automatically demeaned and demoted in the mind of the customer. These employees can end up feeling hostile as well as unequipped. Customers want information, and they disrespect and distrust the person who is supposed to have information but does not.

Good Information is Often Good Service

Employees need to be empowered to satisfy customers. Employees will give bad service to customers if they themselves receive bad service and little feedback from their managers and supervisors. Remember: external customer service starts with internal customer service.

No matter how great you think your customer service is, there is always going to be room for improvement.  If you stay ahead of the game, and strive to go the extra mile it will pay off in future returns.