Where the Rubber Meets the Road
Posted by Becky Carroll on April 11, 2007
A number of bloggers recently have been creating a great discussion on customer service quality. In particular, Mike Wagner from Own Your Brand! started a conversation in his post Customer Service: Lessons from the Heart. He bravely shares this about a hospital experience he had:
Customers need you to manage their experience. Great customer service anticipates confusion, concerns, and questions.
Great care was taken to manage my expectations – they anticipated my worries. I was told what it would be like when I awoke from my operation and what would hurt – and why. I was told ahead of time about each stage in my recovery.
The key here is managing not just the experience but also the customer’s expectations. Contrast Mike’s experience with a story from David Polinchock of Experience Manifesto about a recent experience at the movies that fell short because expectations weren’t properly managed when the theater lost power.
But, during this entire time, not a single person from the theatre came in to tell us what was going on. There wasn’t even someone in the lobby until about 10 minutes into the problem. It’s annoying to have to stand in the dark without anyone telling you what’s happening.
When customer expectations are well-managed, the customer experience is usually a positive one. The rubber meets the road, however, when things go wrong as they did for David and his family at the movies. Lack of communication is often a hallmark of poor planning on the part of the organization. When customers don’t know what is happening, they begin to imagine the worst. Even a quick, short report of what might be going on will help to calm customers. Setting expectations of what might happen next helps them figure out how they will view this experience.
My family had a similar movie experience when the sound stopped working at the theater. Within a minute or so, the theater manager came out and told us they would need to repair the projector, which would take 15-20 minutes. In the meantime, they invited us to come out to the lobby for free popcorn and drinks!
Communication took place right away. Expectations were set about how long we would have to wait. Compensation was offered (the popcorn and drinks didn’t cost the theater much money at all!). We were able to achieve our end-goal (watch the movie). What could have turned into a major inconvenience and frustration became a positive experience. We continued to frequent that theater for some time after that, telling friends about the great way we were treated.
What is your strategy for managing your customers and their experiences? Giving great customer service when all goes well is not simple. Giving great customer service when things go poorly is critical not only to recovering from the problem but also to getting a customer to return.
This is where the rubber truly meets the road.
(Photo credit: valerika)