In a previous article we shared the importance of reliability and consistency of customer experience, and how progressive business leaders need to care about operational activities that influence customers to stay, leave, buy more, and recommend their organization to others.
Progressive organizations understand that great service begins with great people, systems, and processes. Creating a work environment with the infrastructure and tools that empower employees to deliver the moments of truth is critical for delivering memorable customer experiences.
Unfortunately, this is not always as easy as it seems, and one of the main reasons is that customers are difficult to manage.
Customers can increase the cost and reduce the quality of whatever service you are providing, often without warning and with very little regret.
Unlike your employees that are contractually bound to work on behalf of your firm, customers work under no such constraints. Because customers are rightfully looking out for number one, they tend to be erratic, unskilled, and entitled, with interests that regularly diverge from the interests of your organization.
Until recently, many organizations saw a clear distinction between themselves and their customers.
Customers were often seen beyond an organization’s direct control. As a result, organizations wasted considerable amounts of time and money on market research without directly involving their customers.
This lead to costly unmet expectations for both the organization and their customers, and ultimately lead to the erosion of customer confidence and the demise of the organization’s performance.
There’s a lot to be gained by empowering customers to play a greater role in meeting their own service needs, and success begins with understanding your customers’ differences.
Variability is a fact of life with customers, and their experiences can take many different forms, including:
Timing – not all customers want your services at the same time or at times that are convenient for your organization;
Requests – not every customer orders the same thing. Organizations must be nimble and able to adjust to different customer needs;
Capability – customers have different knowledge, skill, abilities, and resources. This means that some customers perform tasks easily while others need hand-holding;
Effort – customers decide for themselves how much effort to invest in your organization. It is important to make your services as effortless as possible to meet their needs and expectations;
Preference – customers have different definitions of quality. A good practice is to always seek to provide greater value to avoid buyers’ remorse.
Managing customers’ expectations is critical to achieving customer experience excellence. Understanding the chaos of your customers’ subjectivity helps you manage the variability more effectively without having to force you into a stark trade-off between cost and quality.
Reducing customer effort increases efficiency while improving the consistency of your organization’s offering, and this can be achieved without wreaking havoc on operations.
Optimal customer experiences strike a delicate balance between the needs of the organization and the needs of the customer. Operational performance can’t be sustained by placing customers on a pedestal and indulging their every desire.
To create a system in which excellence is the norm, you need to manage your customers every bit as much as you manage your employees.
To achieve optimal customer experience balance, organizations can benefit by carefully selecting the right customers to ensure fit from an operational perspective, training their customers on how to interact with the organization in ways that feel good for customers and suit their needs, and designing experiences that reduce the burden on customers so that they can achieve their objectives in ways that align with the organization’s value proposition.
Customers play a defining role in your organization’s ability to deliver great service at a sustainable cost. The greater your expectations of your customers, the more time is needed to devote to choosing the right customers and providing them with great experiences that are consistent, reliable and worthy of referral.
Previous articles from The Experience Economy Series: