It’s in the sub-title: Prescription for Excellence: Leadership Lessons for Creating a World-Class Customer Experience from UCLA Health System by Joseph Michelli. Ponder the phrase, mull over the concept: “customer experience.” I am increasingly convinced that this phrase, “customer experience” is the best phrase to use to talk about customer service.
Think about the depth behind this statement: “It’s been my experience…” When a person utters those words, it communicates a whole lot. Each person passes judgment on a company within each and every experience.
In discussing this concept, Michelli refers to the book The Experience Economy: Work is Theatre and Every Business a Stage, published back in 1999 (this is a book I presented at the First Friday Book Synopsis over 11 years ago; Spring, 2000):
– from Gilmore and Pine, 1999, The Experience Economy:
• Even in difficult times, 50 percent of consumers will pay more for a better service experience.
• A full 68 percent will sever a customer relationship because they were treated poorly by a staff member.
• Companies that are successful in creating both functional and emotional bonding with customers have higher retention rates (84 percent vs. 30 percent) and greater cross-selling ratios (82 percent vs. 16 percent) compared to companies that are not.
And UCLA has developed a true customer-centric/customer-experience approach to their core business – taking care of patients. Principle 1 of their 5 core principles is this: Commit To Care — Care Takes Vision, Clarity, And Consistency. And the UCLA Health System requires each and every employee to sign the CICARE promise:
• “CICARE” – (pronounced “See-I-Care”) — the “short version”:
Connect with the patient or family member using Mr./Ms., or their preferred name.
Introduce yourself and your role.
Communicate what you are going to do, how it will affect the patient, and other needed information.
Ask for and anticipate patient and or family needs, questions, or concerns.
Respond to patient and/or family questions and requests with immediacy.
Exit, courteously explaining what will come next or when you will return.
(the longer version, teaches… elements of Courtesy; Professionalism; Respect)
I thought of all this as I had three different customer service experiences this week. I use these three “services” each and every month. They include Constant Contact, and two others. Here’s what I have experienced: whenever I call Constant Contact, the person I reach is easily understandable; is fully knowledgeable; is always polite – almost pleasant. And I always get what I need, with no hassle, and no feelings of frustration.
The second company (notice I am not naming the other two) is hit-and-miss. One time, I have a terrific customer experience. The next, maybe not. Every person I have ever called at Constant Contact seems fully ready to meet my need. This second company, I either get lucky, or I end up slightly to more-than-slightly frustrated.
The third company, well… don’t even get me started. With practically every call, the person is not all that pleasant – it’s as though I am interrupting his or her day with my question/need. They are not knowledgeable. They do not have answers. And though they are not rude, they are nowhere near pleasant.
Let’s think of these as three different spots on the customer experience spectrum. One, I would gladly recommend to you. (That’s Constant Contact). The second, I would recommend, because the service is really, really good. But don’t expect the same level of experience. The third, I’m about to drop – even though I like their “service,” and dropping it will mean more work for me. I’m simply tired of dealing with them, and I’m looking for an alternative.
Or, to put it another way — I don’t mind it when I have to call Constant Contact. I sort of mind it when I have to call the second compnay. I practically dread calling the third company.
Think about your customers, your clients. Do they walk away from every encounter with you having experienced a genuinely, hassle-free, fully liked, experience? Or — not?
By the way, there are no short cuts to providing such a true good experience culture. It takes constant attention, over the long haul. You can never let it slide!
Every customer encounter is taken personally by that customer. Every experience is judged. Every time. And each bad experience can lead to the loss of that customer (A full 68 percent will sever a customer relationship because they were treated poorly by a staff member). You don’t want that, do you?
You’ve got two challenges. Keep you current customers very, very happy. And, find your next customer.
But customers are not like they used to be. They get to choose – everything! And most of all, they get to choose whether or not to be your customer.
The experience economy… signifies the final blow to the notion of mass marketing. Today, the experience of the product or service – the experience of the exchange itself – defines delight and ultimately spells success or failure for the business and the brand. Experience is not objective. And it is your customer’s perception of the experience that you must strive to improve… The increased intimacy of that experience is what allows customers to ascribe a deeper connection and more value to products and services. The structuring of that intimacy is the goal of Persuasion Architecture.
At the heart of the experience economy is this. Was the customer’s experience memorable (in a good way)? Here is a quote from The Experience Economy: Work is Theatre and Every Business a Stage by B. Joseph Pine and James Gilmore:
Companies stage an experience when they engage customers in a memorable way.
Customers remember two kinds of experiences. The really good ones. And the bad ones. You don’t want the bad, and you don’t want the “neutral.” You want your customers to have good, memorable experiences. Those are the only kind that will keep them coming back, and spreading the word, in this era. Why? Because they simply have too many choices…
(By the way, they will also spread the word re. the bad experiences – whether you want them to or not).)
So, ask this – over and over again:
are my customers experiencing good positive experiences when they come to my event or buy my product or service?
If not, you’ve got some better experiences to create.
(By the way, the one guarantee of a bad experience is an experience filled with “hassles.” Aim for hassle free experiences!)
Before we post foreclosure signs outside of book retailers such as Barnes & Noble, Borders, Half-Price Books, and others, because everyone purchases books and downloads them on devices such as Kindle, let’s talk about what these retailers really are.
Yes, they sell books. But, any cursory glance at a visit to these stores will tell you that customers are there for many reasons. They are there for an experience. Last night, at a prominent store of this type, I walked in and found it packed. Patrons filled cafe tables, drinking, eating and chatting. People were on sofas chatting. As I kept walking, I found people listening to CD’s in the music section, conducting business near the magazine section, browsing through gift items near the cash registers, listening to stories in the children’s section, and of course, perusing book aisles.
Any trip to these stores will confirm the notion that these are places that offer experiences, not sell books. Predictions were wrong that Amazon.com would put these stores out of business. It didn’t happen. Predictions will be wrong that devices such as Kindle will do the same.
The reason is very simple. These stores have amply diversified beyond any one product type or line. There is much more to them than books. In fact, they are much less of “bookstores” than Starbucks is a “coffee shop.” As Joseph Pine and James Gilmore argued in The Experience Economy, they have evolved into places where people can go for a fulfilling experience.
While sales have slipped, a CNN Money report indicates that they have done so less than expected, and in fact, no more so than other types of retailers who have felt the brunt of a shaky economy.
Don’t think for a minute that people do not like to get out and relish in experiences. If that is the case, then we would have lost every retail mall once online shopping became available. There are plenty of people who will download books to devices such as Kindle, and among them, many who will curl up in their recliner and read their books that way. But, there are also many of them who will do that and also find their way into retail outlets that stock and sell books.
Perhaps if a retailer only sells books, it will be in trouble. But, not in any more trouble than any other kind of retailer who puts total emphasis upon one product type. That is not what these retailers are doing. They sell books, but offer experiences. And that is why an electronic device will not shut them down.
Do you disagree? Let’s talk about it.