The Customers' Role in the Customer Experience

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Customer Engagement
Customer Experience
Customers today expect great experiences. And that's OK, as long as they also do their part. If you want courteous service, you need to be courteous. If you want relevant messages, you need to provide some details on your preferences.

Ever get a bad haircut? It's likely that you have. But the real question isn't whether you have; it's, how much of it was your fault.

Customers today expect great experiences. And that's OK, as long as they also do their part. If you want courteous service, you need to be courteous. If you want relevant messages, you need to provide some details on your preferences.Consider the bad haircut: Years ago I had thought it was a good idea to cut my hair short. It wasn't. After months on end of the torturous "growing your hair back" process, I went for a trim. My curl was coming back and I wanted to get a cut that would enhance it as much as possible.

I went to a new salon and stylist. I could see my hair taking shape as the stylist worked her initial magic. When she was done--or so I thought, because my hair was exactly how I wanted it--she started snipping here and trimming there. I wondered what she was doing, but because she was the expert, I didn't ask. What a mistake! When she finished, most of my curl was gone.

That's when I asked what it was she did at the end of the haircut. "Oh, I cut the curl out of your hair. It was too curly."

Unbelievable! I was aghast. She gave me the perfect haircut, and then killed it by giving me the haircut she thought was best--without asking me. As a professional she absolutely should have asked before she went snip-crazy. But as a customer it was just as much my responsibility to get what I expected. When she started snipping I should have asked what she was doing. Instead, by keeping quiet, I ensured a horrific customer experience (and sent my hair-regrowth efforts back about six months).

I never went back to that salon--even though a big part of why I had a bad customer experience was my own fault.

I'm sure I'm not alone in switching providers because of a poor customer experience I helped create. If that's the case, what can organizations do to ensure they retain customers when experiences go awry because customers don't speak up? Here are a few musts that should be part of the foundation of your customer experience management efforts:

  • Set clear expectations at the outset of the relationship, and in some cases, at the start of each interaction.
  • Have ongoing processes in place to learn what customers want from their experiences with your organization. "Ongoing" is the key word here. Expectations change.
  • Train employees to continually communicate with customers to ensure that their expectations are being met, and that they're getting the experience that they want--not the experience you think they want.
  • Politely reset any unrealistic expectations.

These elements are as much for B2B companies as for B2C firms. Some B2B customers may have unrealistic expectations of payment terms or delivery options, for example, that will mar their customer experience.

As for me, I found a new stylist, a curly hair specialist, who I've been going to for 11 years. Prior to every haircut, even after all this time, he asks me what I want--to make sure he can give me the haircut I would like. He sets my expectations, and our two-way dialog ensures that I get the customer experience (and haircut) I want.

What are some steps your company takes to ensure that customers are doing their part to ensure a first-rate customer experience?

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