In my previous post, I went through the steps to make your organisation stand out and leave positive memories with your customers. However, within your organisation there are countless opportunities that exist to be able to surprise your customers with a service that is completely unexpected and will leave them with a lasting, positive memory to take away and remember forever. This is achieved firstly by analysing the customer’s experience with your organisation. A lot has been written about customer experience; however, for the purpose of this post I wanted to acknowledge the work of American chef Patrick O’Connell, the owner of The Inn at Little Washington, who has defined five stages of a dining experience. These are used as headlines below that I will apply to customer service. Under each stage, I have written about ways that you, as leaders in organisations, can look for moments to change what you do, that will leave positive memories with your customers.
1. Anticipation phase
The customer’s relationship with your organisation may begin months or even years before they arrive to do business with you. Do you know what it is that makes the buying decision so difficult? For some industries, particularly with high-value and low-frequency purchases, customers will do a lot of planning. You have to remove yourself from the organisation now as you know it well enough. Imagine you are looking at your business for the first time as a customer. Think about what you are anticipating. Wouldn’t it be great if we could guess what our customers were anticipating and provide it to them without them needing to ask? We could then treat their enquiry with knowledge of their anticipation and provide customer service that demonstrated respect and understanding of their situation.
2. Trepidation phase
This is where fantasy collides with reality. Have you ever gone and bought a new car? It’s such an exciting time; it doesn’t happen too frequently. You drive out to the street lined with all the dealerships, you get excited when you park your car, but the moment you walk inside things change. All of a sudden you begin to worry. Is there such thing as dealership etiquette? Which car do I start at? Oh, here comes the salesman; is he going to try to get me to upgrade? This might be because you have had previous bad experiences at car dealerships before and therefore bring it with you on this day. Think about things that you could introduce to your organisation for new customers that would remove the fear or anxiety when doing business with you. Even if it is something to take their mind off waiting in line.
3. Inspection phase
It’s amazing how quickly a customer can change their emotional state. As soon as they are comfortable enough they will begin to judge your organisation. It is at this stage that most people think the customer starts their journey. You are now live on show and need to make sure that the service offering is consistent with or better than their experience in the previous two phases. Often this is where they will compare your organisation to the predetermined stereotypes that I referred to in a previous post. Something must stand out at this point that exceeds their expectations. You will constantly hear talk about ‘going the extra mile’, which should be set as a minimum standard in your organisation. These occasions present themselves in the form of opportunities, so your staff need to be well prepared for this to occur.
4. Fulfilment phase
Have you ever been asked: “How was everything?” to which you respond “Great!” but then slowly change your mind later? Fulfilment is something that has a limited lifespan. Products that don’t last long, food poisoning 24 hours later, realising a week later that you were double charged are all examples of things that change a customer’s mind, even if you have given exceptional customer service. As you end your (face-to-face) interaction with your customer, ask yourself whether you have given them everything that they need, and think ahead to some of their needs that might arise immediately following their interaction with you. Showing that you are thinking ahead and giving something that they can take away with them, both physically or emotionally, will leave them a lasting memory.
5. Evaluation phase
This phase is open-ended. There is no time limit on how long it will take a customer to evaluate their experience. Firstly, the service may be exceptional, but they may not think about you or your product until the next time they need to do business with you. Or they might be reminded of you if a friend or a relative asks for a recommendation. It is these moments when you want to ensure that the memory you leave stands out in their mind and is the first thing they associate when they think of you. It is a good time to review your after-sales/follow-up processes. How are you keeping in contact with your customers after they finish with you? Just remember, if they leave with a positive memory you don’t need to stay in formal contact!
Chris Smoje is a customer service speaker, trainer, facilitator and founder of the DIME™ Customer Service approach. Chris works with organisations and their people to develop a common interest and excitement about delivering exceptional customer service results: www.dimecustomerservice.com