So you decide to buy a pair of shoes.
It begins when you see an advertisement for a holiday special. The advertisement promises free overnight shipping with a purchase over $100 and a discount on the pair of shoes you have been eyeing for months.
Since the shoes put you just under the $100 limit, you decide to add a set of socks to the cart to get the free overnight shipping. After trying three different times to add the items to your online shopping cart, you still can’t get the free shipping to activate.
It takes almost five minutes of searching the company’s website to find the 800 number. It is hidden in small font on a Contact Us link at the bottom of the page.
As soon as you call the 800 number, you realize why the number is hard to find; the call center is obviously understaffed, and you wait almost 15 minutes before a human answers the phone.
Eventually, a salesperson picks up the line. It takes almost five minutes of explanation before the salesperson understands the situation. She then explains your problem. “I’m sorry sir, but the socks are not one of our brand items, so they don’t count towards the free shipping.”
You are now almost 30 minutes into trying to give this company your business and to say that you are disgruntled would be an understatement.
You are debating whether to just walk away when you decide to ask for a manager. The sales rep says that she would be happy to transfer you to the “customer service department.”
Fortunately, the customer service representative (CSR) is great and couldn’t be more helpful or patient. She calmly listens as you vent about how you have lost the remainder of your youth trying to do business with their company. She says all of the right things and wastes no time waiving the overnight fee.
The customer service department has their act together, and they save the sale. You finalize the purchase, thank the CSR, and then walk across the room to look for your blood pressure monitor.
So, here’s the million dollar question: How would you rate your experience with this company?
As the scenario above illustrates, a customer’s impression of a company is not determined by the customer service department alone but by every touchpoint in the customer experience. Customer Experience Enhancement (CEE) is about understanding that customers judge companies based on the sum total of their interaction with the company and the brand.
On an intuitive level, it makes sense that a customer’s total experience is important to the customer’s view of their experience with the company. While some parts of the customer experience might be more determinant than others, each part of the experience has the potential to negatively impact the quality of the overall customer experience.
On a concrete level, viewing the customer experience as a holistic process and analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of that process gives you a tangible mechanism for approaching customer satisfaction and loyalty.
The idea of customer experience mapping (sometimes called customer journey mapping) is to evaluate the path that a customer takes through your business. From the initial interaction to when they call your warranty department a year later, what steps do customers take as they journey through your business?
Customer experience mapping is useful in large organizations of course. Amazon, for example, might track how the customer first came to the site — ad, affiliate link, search engine, direct URL — and then analyze every step in the process from reading reviews, to adding to cart, to order fulfillment and beyond.
Customer experience mapping is particularly useful for organizations large enough to have distinct departments, because it can help businesses identify organizational silos and their effect on the customer experience.
The phrase “everyone is in customer service” is axiomatic in the customer service sphere. You would be hard pressed to find anyone actively engaged in customer service or customer experience enhancement who disagrees with the phrase.
Yet, organizations often do not embrace this fundamental truth.
For many, customer service is the responsibility of the customer service department; everyone else does their own thing.
In large companies, the concept is often viewed through the concept of silos. Departments, functions, territories — all can become separate silos, insular fiefdoms more concerned with turf wars and their own numbers than the good of the customer and the company as a whole.
In small businesses, silos can form as well; however, these silos are often as much mental as they are structural. The customer experience simply is not being looked at in a holistic manner.
In a small business, it’s often easy for Jim from procurement to walk down the hall and talk to Jill from shipping — but Jim doesn’t have a customer service mindset, so he doesn’t make that walk. He has been allowed to sit in procurement his whole career and to keep his job as long as the right products were ordered and his TPS reports were filled out each week.
Breaking down silos in a small business means information that affects the customer experience is flowing to Jim and from Jim. And more importantly, Jim is coached to understand that while he might never talk to a customer face-to-face, he is just as integral to their experience as the sales team.
By making sure Jim has relevant information and by helping him develop a big picture, good-of-the-company outlook, Jim can be proactive in reaching outside of his department to maximize the quality of the customer experience. So when the Port of Hong Kong has a strike, and Jim realizes the crucial holiday dolls are not going to be on the shelves in time for the shopping season, he quickly alerts marketing so they can pull the ad campaign for the dolls they had planned, averting a huge waste of money for the company and a holiday season full of customer badwill.
Customer Experience Enhancement means looking at each step in the customer experience to determine how to manage the experience at each customer touchpoint. Just as important, it means evaluating the transitions between touchpoints.
While customer experience enhancement is a detailed and ongoing process, embracing the overall concept and looking at your customer experience from the 50,000 foot view is a great exercise that can produce tangible, quick results.
You can even try this 15 minute customer experience enhancement exercise to get a quick look at the big picture.
We have all heard the old customer service adage: “Customer service is not a department; it’s everyone’s job.” Focusing on customer experience enhancement gives you a way to turn that slogan into a reality.
By Adam Toporek. Adam Toporek is an internationally recognized customer service expert, keynote speaker, and workshop leader. He is the author of Be Your Customer's Hero: Real-World Tips & Techniques for the Service Front Lines (2015), as well as the founder of the popular Customers That Stick® blog and co-host of the Crack the Customer Code podcast.