Customer service has been a focus for organisations for years. Improving service can be a differentiator between alternatives available to your customers. Customer experience now brings a new angle to the focus of service delivery. With customer experience as a goal of service, we can reach the hearts of our customers.
In our work culture we are often very focused on the activity, the doing of the work, rather than the outcome we want to be working towards. Customer service is a great example of this ethos. We can often think that by delivering ‘great customer service’ we will win the hearts and minds of our customers. Sometimes, occasionally that might work – but generally it’s the exception.
What is the difference..?
By me having a focus on the customer’s experience, I am in their shoes, doing my best to understand what is happening for them and what perception of this experience will stay with them. When my attention is on the service I deliver the focus is on me, what I am doing. Did I maintain eye contact, remember to smile, use the customer’s name three times…?
When customer service people have a focus on customer experience, it will trump a customer service focus each time. For the customer, for the person providing the service and for the serving organisation.
This is the outcome we want. For the customer to feel and perceive that they have had a great experience, defined in their terms.
When we place our attention on doing good customer service we reward ourselves on what we have done, not the outcome. When our attention is on the experience the customer has, we have to truly understand where this person is coming from, what their perception is of what’s happening here..?
I was recently asked the question: “we are focused on delivering good customer service and our customers are satisfied, why do we need to bother with the customer experience stuff..?”
Good question, seems logical – “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”, someone from the industrial age once said. Whereas in this age, if it isn’t broken, maybe we need to break it or someone else will.
Customer service delivery is just that. It’s an action, and as an activity it’s passive from the customer’s perspective.
We can provide good customer service by attending to the customer promptly and politely. Whether we are talking about local government services, the bank, the supermarket or our local restaurant, good customer service is everywhere. Downright bad service might be pretty rare but does attracts a lot of negative word-of-mouth.
We typically get smiles and polite words, we often get quick service, but that is not enough. The person providing the service is often ticking all the boxes in their mental check list of what they have to do. Not thinking of what experience the customer is having.
These traditional approaches to customer service are all based on the idea of keeping customers satisfied, but satisfaction does not lead to any action by the customer. Satisfaction is a momentary feeling of being served in an appropriate way. Customer satisfaction is not a predictor of future behaviour.
Back in the day when you delivered good, personal service you knew it because the customer came back and often recommended their friends. Seems many businesses have forgotten this principle. When we measure acquisition rates and retention rates, all we seem to do is look at the numbers and find ways to influence one or the other.
Sure, we do have customer service teams that need to get the job done. Focus on their skills, and be coached by their team leaders on how to improve. The essence of this is that when we shine a light on the experience the customer is having, our attention shifts from what I am doing, to the experience two humans are sharing. And this, in the main, becomes more meaningful for both parties.
Regardless of the context for your provision of customer service; when we understand the customer experience we want to provide, the feelings we want to leave the customer with – then both the customer and the server have a better experience. In turn the service providing organisation will enjoy a better, longer term relationship with their customers. It could just be the ace you need to serve up.