May 20, 2024

Small Business Advice

The customer experience is a journey worth taking

Jerry Osteryoung | 11/14/2016

"Revolve your world around the customer and more customers will revolve around you."

~ Heather Williams

I have written many, many columns about customer service because it is such a critical element each and every business must master. However, too often I have seen businesses fail at their customer service because they are not looking at the entire customer experience.

Consider a restaurant, for example. Maybe you think the food is what is important to a customer of a restaurant, so all you have to do if you are a manager is ask your customers how they enjoyed their food, right? Unfortunately, no.

If you are only asking your customers how they liked the food, you may be missing how they feel about the service, the ambiance and even the noise level. You are missing the big picture, which is important because a customer does not just experience touchpoints. They are influenced by the experience in its entirety, which is typically called the “customer experience” or “customer journey.”

It is vital you look at the customer experience as a path or journey your customers take to acquire your product or service. To be successful in your customer service delivery, you must understand what your customer experiences from beginning to end -- not just at one moment.

For example, one company I was working with really felt the quality of their customer service was a competitive advantage. However, they found out it was actually failing when they evaluated the total customer experience. The customer had to wait an average of five minutes to speak with someone in the service area, so while their customer interaction was great, it was upsetting many of their customers to have wait this long. In terms of the total customer experience, it was very poor.

One easy way to get a good understanding of the experience you are creating for your customers is to map out the entire interaction from when they place an order to when they receive the product. Make a simple chart and clearly identify each touchpoint.

The next step is to find out which touchpoints are not working well and correct them. I am always surprised to see how often these are overlooked by management since all it takes is a simple exercise.

In one such case, an appliance company had great sales and top-rate products, but the quality of their delivery personnel was much lower. They did not realize this was an issue until they walked through all the touchpoints and saw how ineffective the process was at that step. Once they had identified this problem, it was easy to fix.

To ensure you get buy-in from all your top staff members, it is important you make this exercise a team activity.

This process is one that large businesses have been doing for a long time. Small companies can also benefit by adopting this process of mapping the entire customer experience and evaluating how successful they are at every touchpoint.

You can do this!

Dr. Osteryoung has directly has assisted over 3,000 firms. He is the Jim Moran Professor of Entrepreneurship (Emeritus) and Professor of Finance (Emeritus) at Florida State University. He was the founding Executive Director of The Jim Moran Institute and served in that position from 1995 through 2008. His newest book co-authored with Tim O'Brien, "If You Have Employees, You Really Need This Book," is a bestseller on Amazon.com. He can be reached by e-mail at jerry.osteryoung@gmail.com.

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