Who Is Managing Your Customer's Experience?

When I analyze the level of service an organization delivers, I often start with this question: “Who is managing the customer’s experience?” The answer is often the customer, when it should be the organization that manages the experience.

Yes, I know that many customers choose self-service options and want to handle everything themselves. But I believe that’s usually a result of poorly designed processes that aggravate customers to the point that they simply prefer to do things themselves.

Here are some recent personal examples of the customer (me) having to manage the experience because the company abdicated the responsibility:

  • A store I visited didn’t have the product I wanted in stock, so the salesperson ordered it for me. He told me when I could expect it to arrive so I could swing by the store and pick it up. I showed up on the scheduled date and was told it hadn’t arrived yet. “Why didn’t you call to let me know?” I asked. “I apologize,” the salesperson responded, “it should be in next Tuesday.” I was a little smarter the next Tuesday and called before driving to the store and, you guessed it, my order hadn’t arrived yet. This happened two more times before the order finally came in. I like the product but I was the one managing the experience with the store, and was frustrated.
  • At a recent doctor appointment I didn’t see the doctor until 50-minutes past my “scheduled” appointment. Every ten minutes or so I asked the receptionist how much longer it would be. “It will just be a few more minutes,” was the response each time. Right. Yes, I finally saw the doctor, but I had to manage the experience with his practice, and was frustrated.
  • Finishing up a meal at an airport restaurant, I needed my check so I could get to my flight on time. My server was nowhere to be found. After a few minutes I asked another server for my check and she said, “Let me get your server.” A few more minutes went by and still no check. I asked another server for help, and he eventually found my original server who delivered my check with a terse, “Have a nice day.” Yes, I had a decent meal but I had to manage the experience of paying the check, and was frustrated.
  • Entering a store I had never visited before, I was overwhelmed by its size. Wandering the aisles to find the product I was shopping for, I looked for someone who could help. I finally found a couple of employees chatting with each other, and asked where I could find the product. “It’s on aisle five.” Well, aisle five was huge and it took me about five more minutes to find what I was looking for. Yes, I found the product, but I had to manage the experience of finding it, and was frustrated.

No wonder so many customers prefer self-service options. Since customers often have to manage critical parts of the experience anyway, they might as well manage the entire experience. And it’s pretty hard to differentiate your organization when your customers have given up on expecting decent service.

On the other hand, when an organization effectively manages the customer experience, we feel understood and cared for. We appreciate their efforts.

  • The doctor’s office that sends the pre-visit paperwork in advance so you can fill it out at your convenience (and with easy access to your insurance information, medication information, etc.) rather than finding out about the 8-page form when you arrive.
  • The Walt Disney World parking lot with a cast member who directs you down a specific aisle of the parking lot, another who guides you into a specific space, and a tram operator who reminds you several times where you’re parked.
  • The customer service agent who explains your issue to the appropriate rep when transferring your call so that you don’t have to keep repeating the issue each time you’re call is transferred.
  • The auto repair shop whose technicians note your radio presets, and after the repair resets the radio so you don’t have to.

In each of these scenarios, the organization has thought through what the customer experience should be, and manages the experience so the customer doesn’t have to. The result is that we feel cared for and have a sense of confidence in the organization. That translates to customer loyalty. And in today’s market, customer loyalty is the name of the game.

Something to think about: What can your organization do to better manage each element of the customer experience so that the customer doesn’t have to?