It makes sense that suppliers want their customers to have a good customer experience (CX Experience) – invest in your customers, and you will be rewarded. Or, in other words, send them away happy, and they will come back and bring their friends.
Of course, what the supplier does – and doesn’t do – will affect the customer experience, but whether the end experience is good, bad, or indifferent can be judged only by how the customer feels about it. Success comes from how the customer feels, not just by whether the supplier has done what they set out to do.
Good Customer Experience: One man’s meat … customer profiles
Different folks will have different attitudes, needs, and preferences, and so what is great customer service to one may be seen as annoying and inadequate by another. Many factors can influence those differences: age, culture, temperament, and so on, as well as influencing and mitigating factors such as environment, business pressure, time of day, season, and many more. Most of us can relate to this variation. When we are rushed, we want things quickly with minimum fuss. When we are more relaxed, we will enjoy personal attention, suggestion, and discussion. To help plan for the range of customer attitudes and behavior that a supplier might expect, it can be beneficial to develop a series of customer profiles. These are models representing a representative example of a type of customer. It will include key characteristics such as age, location, personality, job type, income band, languages spoken, etc. Their responses, expected behavior, and satisfaction can then be estimated for a set of circumstances, and the features of the supply adjusted to ensure delivery of a positive customer experience that supports a successful business relationship.
In practice, successful suppliers – and especially their sales teams – will already know these things. The purpose of formal customer profiles is to capture the knowledge and allow ‘what-if’ type exercises to allow consolidation of good practices and the development of innovations that will make things better, helping take great customer experience up to exceptional customer experience. But models are only indicators and predictors; it remains necessary to get feedback from the only people who can confirm – or deny – customer experience: customers.
Seen or not seen?
Improvement is always possible; perfection a distant target, not a reached objective. This is true of customer experience as it is of every other field of human endeavor. But it certainly helps to have a vision to strive for – what would the ultimate customer experience look like. And then, having established what it might comprise, it should be possible to set up, adapt, and improve procedures and behavior to approach that ultimate goal.
However, as alluded to earlier, there are a range of visions, multiple ultimate customer experience examples to consider. And, of course, there will be an innate conflict between some of them. Let’s look at two extremes to illustrate that.
For some, the ultimate customer experience comes from the supplier and their staff being effectively invisible. The information, access, products, and so on that the customer wants are just there when needed, without having to ask, explain, or discuss. Like the perfect maid or valet who always lays out exactly the right clothes without needing to ask of the golf caddy offering the right club before you knew which one you wanted.
One small example that has stayed in my mind happened in a well-known London restaurant, one that has been working on delivering a great customer experience for just short of 200 years. There were three in our party; a front of house welcomer met us, led to the upstairs bar, drinks brought, and the orders for meals taken. Later we were taken to our table, seated, and shortly after, the waiting staff brought out our first courses. No questions were asked; the correct meals were placed in front of each of us. I did not notice until one of my colleagues pointed it out at the end of the evening. It just happened, quietly and correctly, with no need for intervention from we customers. (Looking back, I suspect it was achieved by notes passed from welcomer to server along the lines of ‘the short fat one gets the smoked eel,’ but all I saw was a well-oiled customer satisfaction machine in operation.)
Good Customer Experience: Constant reinforcement
That was very much the ‘reserved British’ ultimate customer experience example. A more new world one happened again at a high-class eatery – this time a 5-star hotel on Florida’s Gulf coast. There we were welcomed, sat at tables, and so on – but throughout our meal, there was a steady stream of visits asking what we needed, was there anything more, how was the meal, would we like, etc. etc. Clearly, to the tastes of just about everyone there who felt totally supported by the constant demonstrable customer care attitude.
These are simple, extreme illustrations to make the point: there is no single answer because what makes good, great, or even ultimate customer experience is as much a function of the customer as it is of the supplier. This means that the ultimate level will come from a combination of knowledge of the customer, their wishes and preferences, and the ability to then deliver against those wishes and expectations.
Good Customer Experience
It makes sense that suppliers want their customers to have a good customer experience (CX Experience) – invest in your customers, and you will be rewarded. Or, in other words, send them away happy, and they will come back and bring their friends. Different folks will have different attitudes, needs, and preferences, and so what is great customer service to one may be seen as annoying and inadequate by another. Many factors can influence those differences: age, culture, temperament, and so on, as well as influencing and mitigating factors such as environment, business pressure, time of day, season, and many more.