Customers today are more interested in the experience they have with you, your products and services than ever before. Making the customer experience your value proposition should be our goal according to Lewis (Lou) Carbone, founder and CEO of Experience Engineering and author of ‘Clued In, How to Keep Customers Coming Back Again and Again.‘ Carbone reminds us of a quote from Peter Drucker that brings light to this concept, ‘The purpose of a business is to create value for its customers and the reward for that is profit.’
Two companies, Disney and Howard Johnsons, have influenced his thinking about the customer experience. In working with Disney, he found that their management was concerned more about the customer experience, i.e., concerns over the melting rate of ice cream in their different theme parks, the scent of chocolate chip cookies to enhance the experience, down to the design of Main Street in a way that visitors perceived a long entrance that went on forever and perceived a quick exit after a long day at the park. Compare this to Howard Johnson’s model which lost its customer focus over the years.
According to Carbone, the economy has affected how we look at customer service today. One way a business can differentiate itself is through the service experience. Companies must move from a ‘make and sell’ product-based mentality to a ‘sense and respond’ experience-based mentality. The ‘sense and respond’ mentality focuses on what our customers really want from the service experience and examines the impact of cultural influences and psychological needs. When we factor these into the service experience, we can significantly improve customer loyalty and retention.
An experience audit can help us compare a current customer service experience with a desired customer experience. We can audit our current customer experience with a variety of tools including, language analysis, clue scanning, one-on-one customer interviews, etc. Clue scanning, for example, allows us to look for clues in a service experience that can be improved to better meet the needs and desires of the customer. By using these tools we can close the gap between the current and desired customer experience.
Carbone believes that improving the customer service experience involves both art and science in today’s world. ‘It is not enough to say ‘let’s treat them well,” says Carbone. We must look beyond that and decide what we want our customers to feel about themselves when they do business with us. Managing customer clues will become extremely important as time goes on. He foresees a day when every customer is treated as an individual unit as we perfect our ‘clue-consciousness.’ Until then, we must continue to keep our eyes focused on improving the service experience to remain competitive and successful.