Bookends: a customer experience faux pas.

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customer experience

 

Customer service is the experience we deliver to our customer. It’s how we follow through for the customer. It’s how we make them feel when they do business with us.¬†Shep Hyken

 

My husband and I just returned from an away game for a sports team in the town in which we live. As members of a special club, we are treated to a complimentary away game and experience once per year. For my husband and I, this was also the first time we went away, by plane, and away from our kids. It was really exciting for us!

I was truly happy to learn that they selected and reserved a hotel for all attending that was near the beach and reserved seats on Southwest Airlines, since it’s my favorite airline. We had an itinerary, but when we arrived at the airport, it wasn’t clear for many how we were to check in for our flight. Some checked in right away and on their own. Others waited for our representative from the sports team to guide us on the process. It was a little frustrating, especially since it was the beginning of this journey.

The flight was wonderful and we arrived at the receiving airport and no one was there to greet or escort us. We were all left to find the place where our bus was and the bus was late. As we arrived at the hotel, we were pleasantly surprised and breathed a sigh of relief that this would be a positive stay. (Whew!) Then, the rest of the evening  and the following day went off without a problem, and we were enjoying ourselves indeed!

Our last night included a motor coach ride to an incredible stadium. Unfortunately, when we arrived, they didn’t seem to expect us. Again, no one was around to escort us through the crowded stadium to our special stopping point. We were all like sheep without a shepherd and no food to eat. Even though we felt special earlier in the day, this point in our journey soured us to our membership.

After that incident, luckily we found ourselves in a lovely suite with great food and great seats so that we could cheer on our team. Our representatives smiled and said all the right things. Then, in an unfortunate turn of events, and when it was time for everyone to load back on the coach back to our hotel, we were all stuck, waiting for someone to tell us what was next.

All of the smiles and promises for a fun and smooth time quickly degraded into frustrated members wondering if we would ever get back to our hotel.  They shifted us from that room to another as a way to hide our delay in leaving. All the while, we would ask when we would depart and they just continued to smile and let us know it would be soon. To make matters worse, we would need to leave very early the next morning to head to the airport.

This wait seemed to take forever. Many people sat waiting in the bus for the entire group to reunite and head back. Finally, many of those just took Uber back on their own. They were not happy campers.

The point of this story is not for you to feel sorry for me and the other members. Instead, I want to shed light on the importance of curating a customer journey that takes into consideration all touch points on the journey with your organization. A key point in this story is that customers often remember the beginning and the end of their experience journey. If the last thing your customers recall is not a positive touch point, but one filled with insincerity and vagueness, you may lose them as a customer.

I would ask that you think of this idea the same way you might think of book ends. They hold the books up on the shelf so that patrons can see the titles they want and they also maintain a more organized look on the shelves. They are the beginning and the end of a series or section. Without them, library patrons would leave not knowing where one section begins and ends. Their experience would not be great.

Below are a few ways your organization can ensure your book ends are in tact and leave the best possible impression on your customers:

Communicate often (the good and bad)

In the example above, our representatives had one part of the mindset correct in that they did not argue with any customer, and they maintained a positive smile and body language. Where they fell drastically short was in their logistic execution and in their communication about what was really happening. They painted an unblemished picture along the way. We were more intelligent than they thought.

Often, organizations try to paint a pretty picture when the picture ain’t so pretty. Customers can smell that a mile a way. Do the best and right thing and just objectively let your customers know when things are not going exactly as expected. Then, clearly let them know your plan to rectify the situation. This will keep you in a more positive light.

 

Walk a mile in their shoes

In order to curtail the headaches I described above, our representatives should have sent someone ahead to experience the journey we would be experiencing before experiencing it. For example, once we arrived at the stadium, we realized that the bathrooms were really far away and that our large group was separated into different suites, which made it difficult to meet and build relationships with those not with us. If the representative could experience this and every step in advance, they could plan for improvements along the way. To the contrary, they reacted to everything instead of curating the experience.

We all felt the impact.

 

Map their journey and include them

Journey mapping is a great exercise for codifying employee or customer journeys to pinpoint the gaps in their experience. This exercise allows an organization to hyper-focus on creating the best experience for internal and external customers. It is a great way to look at the current state, what is happening in the background while the customer is walking the journey and so much more.

Organizations that focus on understanding their customer touch points stand a better chance of retaining them and gathering other profitable referrals as a result.

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Thank you for reading this article. This was a real example of a ball dropped and a poor customer experience. Whether we are talking about employee or customer experience, organizations that are more thoughtful about the customer journey will leave their customers feeling important, cared for and heard. This is critical to a successful internal or external customer journey.

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