Can you vastly improve the customer experience without breaking the bank or exhausting resources? Yes, says one expert, and he has unique ideas on how.
“The good news is that, while there may be a limit to value-added generosity, there is no limit to value-unique ingenuity,” says Chip Bell, author of Kaleidoscope: Delivering Innovative Service That Sparkles.
You don’t have to — and probably can’t — give away the farm to impress customers. But you can give them unique experiences that keep them loyal.
Here are five unexpected ways, plus how companies have made a unique delivery on each:
Customer service can be captivating and make customers excited to come back to experience it again. But enchanting service needs to evolve, or customers will get used to what’s special and want something different.
That’s why employees at The Lodge at Sea Island regularly ask the “one thing” question. Then they can continue to captivate customers in new ways. They’ll ask customers, “What’s one thing we could do that would enhance your experience?”
That makes employees feel like an integral part of the experience. They’re also excited to hear what customers love and look forward to implementing new ideas they get from those conversations with customers.
When you “enlist” customers into the experience, you make them feel like a partner — you’ve included them in the process. They weren’t just going through the process.
“They want to feel like, ‘I was part of the band,'” Bell says.
Medtronic, a Minneapolis-based medical device manufacturer, asks customers — who’ve used their products — to come in and talk to developers, customer service personnel and executives. They ask customers about their journey and what they feel the company can do to make a positive impact going forward. It shows employees the positive impact they have on customers’ lives (literally), plus helps connect customers to the people who were part of helping them through critical medical situations.
“Customers value those organizations that help them grow,” Bell says. “Look for ways to add to their wisdom.”
You can improve any customer experience by giving the customer more knowledge, extra tools or increased skills to move forward in life and business.
When the Mayor of the City of Santa Clarita, Marsha McLean, wanted to give citizens’ more information that would be helpful, she didn’t go straight to the citizens because people often can’t identify what they want until its offered. Instead, she has a “hair dressers’ banquet” where she talks with people who hear daily citizens’ complaints, wishes and desires. She uses that insight to provide more information and services on the things citizens want.
Customers want to go where the flow of the service is easy and it makes sense, and where they don’t run into physical and emotional barriers. They want the solution, not your process.
You can’t eliminate the process. But you want to make it as friction-free as possible. Bottom line: “It needs to make sense to customers,” Bell says.
Regularly ask first-time customers, “What didn’t make sense?” to uncover the friction you want to eliminate.
“This is an experience that is full of character, full of integrity,” Bell says. Companies need to allow employees the time, creativity and resources to create authentic experiences.
The best way is to train, empower and give them guidance. For instance, part of Marriott’s mission is to “provide an extraordinary and pleasurable experience for our guests and partners.” The basis of that is guidelines employees know and practice, such as:
- reservations that are easy to make
- quick hassle-free check-ins
- rooms that are immaculate, and
- a staff brimming with vitality and smiles.
Employees use the values as a start to engraving an experience. They add the character based on training and their guidelines.