Customer experience means different things to different people. For some, it readily conjures pleasant memories of unparalleled products or unsurpassed service. For others, the experience may have fallen short. In most instances though, what we’re recalling about the experience is how we felt about it. Surprised or delighted, frustrated or furious. And it’s because of the feelings tied to these experiences that they become so powerful and so important.
The Crankshaft Story
At Park Industries, customer experience is central to who we are. Take for example, our Crankshaft Story. If you are not yet familiar with this story, it describes an experience that one of our owners witnessed decades ago, and the lessons it teaches have since been woven into the fabric of our culture. In short, our owner was at a car dealership and another customer had a broken crankshaft – a part that shouldn’t ever break. The dealership decided to charge him for its replacement because the car was out of warranty. Was it the right thing to do? Depends on your perspective. Sure, the dealership got paid for the part, but I would argue that the cost to the relationship with the customer far outweighed the price of a single part. I know how I would feel if I were the customer, and the story likely would have ended the same way. I would’ve purchased my next vehicle from a different dealer too.
The Crankshaft Story is just one of many like it. Every business must decide where the line is, and what its response to customers will be. All of us have countless stories of exceptional experiences and still other stories of horrendous experiences. But good or bad, what is it worth and at what price? It’s easy to form an opinion from the customer’s side of things, but what about the business side of it? How do you create positive customer experiences? What will it cost your business? What are the rewards? Is it possible to surprise and delight your customers and still make a profit? Absolutely. But first, some context.
In the book, Satisfaction: How Every Great Company Listens to the Voice of the Customer, by Chris Denove and James D. Power IV of J.D. Power and Associates, three broad groups of customers are identified – Apathetics, Advocates, and Assassins. The book talks about the three customer types from the perspective of satisfaction, but many of the same concepts apply to customer experience. In fact, there is a direct correlation.
Consider for a moment an interaction where you’re the customer. Chances are, following the interaction, you’ll leave feeling good, bad, or indifferent about it. I would offer that most customer interactions are neutral – they are simply transactional. You give me money; I give you something in return. Not good. Not bad. It just is. The customers in this category are Apathetics. They don’t really care one way or the other, and they seldom think about the experience once it’s over.
Now, imagine again that you’re the customer and your recent experience was an outstanding one. The employee helping you not only met your baseline requirements, but they went above and beyond, meeting needs and expectations you didn’t even know you had! The product and/or service couldn’t possibly have been improved on. In fact, the whole experience surpassed a typical transaction – how did the sales associate know that blue was your favorite color? Or that you had a dog? Or that your dog’s favorite color was also blue? An exaggeration for illustration, but perceptive employees know how to create incredible experiences.
Now that you’ve imagined this almost too-good-to-be-true scenario, imagine what your response will be. I’ll wager that you’ll tell most of the people you know (and some you don’t). Everyone will hear your remarkable tale. The customers in this category are Advocates. For the business owner and employees, this customer loves you and how you make them feel! They love your products and your service, and they want you to succeed so you can continue delighting them! They will not only come back again and again, but they will sing your praises from the rooftops in hopes that everyone they know can share in their euphoria. Sound amazing? It is. Want some? You bet you do.
MEET SOME of Park’s
Now the other side of that coin. Imagine one more time that you’re the customer. This time, the product and/or interaction is definitionally the opposite of amazing. Everything that could go wrong has. Not only does the product fail to meet even basic expectations, but, somehow, in the course of your argument with this dreadful employee, they managed to insult your mother! Okay, maybe not directly, but the inferences were unmistakable!
Unfortunately, too many of us have had this experience. And, that being the case, you might know how this customer behaves in response. They do many of the same things that the Advocates do, but they are cursing the offending business as they do it. For the business owners and employees, this customer wants to see you fail for all the reasons YOU have given them. You are the enemy. Their response is swift and visceral, and they will actively work to bring about your demise. These are the Assassins. And while the trusted adage, time heals all wounds, seems like it would have a place here, it doesn’t. Assassins have long memories, and nothing you can do can steer them off their course. Trust me, these dudes are bad.
Upping Your Game
With that context as a backdrop, consider how this might influence your next customer interaction. What options do you have at your disposal to surprise and delight your customer? What improvements might you make to your product or process? How might you make your next customer interaction more memorable? And how can you make sure your employees don’t insult anyone’s mom (major misstep by the way)? All of that and more in next month’s blogs.
A Note About Park Industries & Customer Experience.
At Park Industries, we strive to create exceptional customer experiences. It is through this continuous effort that we have learned a great deal. We are pleased to be able to share some of these learnings with you in the hopes that you will find the information valuable and are able to use it to enhance your own customer experiences.