Update & Feedback

I'm a bit late on the uptake, sorry! Mark Hurst recently responded to my recent comments in his good experience newsletter. Evidently, Mark's original post triggered a great deal of response and feebdack - scroll to December 12th posting to read. Thanks, Mark. I feel sufficiently heard. :-)

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Also, in response this post, and along with several others, Arturo Munoz offers this feedback:
How can customer experience be anything but subjective? In as much as we try to treat our customers with attentiveness and respect, building an environment of service and appreciation for their patronage, a customer perceives and will experience what the customer alone can experience.

Our power lies in influence, in how we approach a customer or respond to his inquiries. But how the customer experiences our treatment or response is something that can move in any number of directions outside our control. We must acknowledge the limitations of what serving a customer can accomplish.
Arturo, thanks. You make an excellent point. There will always be a degree of subjectivity related to customer experience. However, this doesn't mean that customer experiences can't be made more manageable, measureable, pleasing and synchronized across channels. This is the core focus of Customer Experience Management.

Consider McDonald's; a company that, over many decades, has done an incredible job of creating and fine tuning their experience. McDonald's literally invented the business of fast food, in many respects. The experience innovation deployed by "Micky D's" not only works to preserve consistency and reliability of service, it is also keenly focused on driving operating efficiencies, reducing risk, making the jobs of service workers easier and driving a fat bottom line.

When customers go to McDonald's, they know what to expect from the experience. Most can recite items from menu without even looking. They know how to order, where to find the napkins, drinks and condiments... even intuitively where the bathrooms are. Customers know how the food will taste, how it will be served and packaged. They know if a mistake happens (e.g. no cheese on my cheeseburger), that someone will work to make things right.

Even so, McDonald's understands the experience won't hook and reel in the repeat business of every customer. Take me, for example. I am one of those customers who'd just rather steer clear of McDonald's.

McDonald's knows it's not possible to please all the people all of the time. Within its limitations, the corporation works actively to secure repeat business by providing consistently reliable quality and service. They employ innovation to maximize relationships with the most promising and profitable target audiences ... which is why they've invested in children's play areas and now offer some healthier food alternatives...

We can't use subjectivity as an excuse to ignore our responsiblity to architect excellent customer experiences and service our customers with quality and consistency. While we must recognize and work within real limitations - and around the subjectivity of the individual- most of us haven't scratched the surface of our potential in this arena.

2 comments:

Arturo Munoz said...

I hear your point, Leigh, and follow the thrust of your argument, which is persuasive.

Your illustration using McDonald’s reminds me of something I read in Michael Gerber’s “The E-Myth,” where he explains that McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc sought for a way to create uniformity of operation to provide a consistent experience to the customer.

By establishing cyclical, tested and well documented processes, down to the script that customer-facing workers needed to use to treat their customers, Kroc built a detailed yet uniform system of operation that enables to this day not only a reliable delivery of service day-in, day-out worldwide, but an ability to produce efficient turnkey operations to franchise.

But a business’ ability to manage and measure customer experience as opposed to customer treatment is limited, even for highly structured operations such as McDonald’s. As you said, when customers go to McDonald’s, they know what to expect. That’s because McDonald’s knows how to treat the customer effectively in light of what the customer experiences. This different is significant. It’s beyond semantics, because as a business owner I can control the former but only influence the latter.

Since the knowledge of how to treat a customer is dependent upon the knowledge of what a customer experiences, a good exercise, of course, is to compel members of any company (particularly the leadership) to “buy their own hamburgers,” as it were. This way it could be said that they would experience basically that which their own customers also experience. But short of this I can’t see how any company could really know much more than how to treat a customer.

Customer experiences are the customer’s alone, and even an employee’s experience as a customer of his own company might leave that worker more than satisfied, while leaving customers conversely in the pits. Wouldn’t you say then that it’s all in the treatment policy? Some customers will like the treatment, some won't. (That's why I eat at In-N-Out Burger instead...)

Cheers,

Arturo
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/e/fps/160986/
Blog: http://reach4polaris.blogs.com

LivePath said...

Arturo,

Again feedback much appreciated and I think you make some good points.

I used McDonald’s as an example, not because they are the ideal example of customer experience, but because they’re a time-tested model of experience architecture at work.

The model they’ve used for creating customer experience has evolved over decades and imitated for years - just ask the executives at “In and Out Burger” who have inevitably used many of Kroc’s innovations to build a successful business.

Creating uniformity - or consistency - is just one way of managing customer experience. Companies today must continuously strive to deliver the experience fundamentals (see article on my site) in addition to employing experience innovation that can take the experience to new heights.

Deploying the fundamentals correctly requires the right customer experience framework, the right CEM strategy, the right metrics and measurement framework and consistent, integrated execution. Once this is in place, the only way to fine tune experience is to execute, test, measure and improve the experience over time.

At times, this may indeed mean that executives need to be out buying burgers – or flying planes – but experience measurement is certainly more complicated than this – so we need to be careful not to over simplify.

You mentioned employee/customer interaction. Take a look at companies that regularly provide personal service, like Nordstrom’s. This is a far cry from McDonald’s “cookie cutter” approach. At an interaction level, Nordstrom’s sales staff is trained on products, sales, merchandising, accessorizing and customer service. They learn how to make eye contact, engage in discourse – how to manage returns in a pleasant manner - even how to hand the bag around the counter to the customer. Do they have problems with customers and employees that can take the optimal experience and run it aground? Yes. But that doesn’t change Nordstrom’s commitment to continual refinement and improvement of the experience (or customer treatment) – on the whole – and at the individual level.

It isn't just about the customer treatment policy, really. Iterative experience improvement focuses on the core components of customer experience – improving our knowledge and understanding of the customer; refining the explorative customer environments; improving the interaction layer (human-to-human; human to technology); fine tuning the platform (people, process, policy, technology); and improving the products consumed. This is entirely “doable” work – especially when it is governed by the proper strategy, and the results can be quantifiably measured.

Within the bounds of a consistent customer experience framework, customer experience – and customer treatment can be measured. Establishing customer treatment policies are part of the customer experience framework – but it’s not the whole enchilada – because policies must be executed, measured against, improved upon, etc. Perhaps you are familiar with the many ways customer treatment can be measured beyond having employees run test purchasing… mystery shopping, customer surveys and focus groups are just a few methods that are proven to work. Working to improve customer treatment is an ongoing facet of CEM.

I’m sure you also recognize what many consultants see across industries including health care, consumer goods, high tech, travel, manufacturing, finance (etc.) see. Probe a little and you’ll often find these companies suffering from an incredibly fragmented view of the customer and customer interaction. This is reinforced by a fragmented operational infrastructures and “silo-based” customer management across divisions (marketing, customer service, product development, sales, IT, etc.). The result is a unilaterally sloppy handling of the cross-channel customer experience, a metrics framework which is misleading for the business, and the opportunity for real and tangible improvement.

As it often goes in these companies, the infrastructures for monitoring and managing customer experience are so broken, it’s hard to quantify how many customers are falling through the cracks and what the cost is to the business. Despite the nagging feeling that something isn’t right, many companies continue with the status quo in a “Pollyanna” manner. It’s usually when business gets really bad or other red flags are thrown up that they finally act –often very late in the game.

Sure, there’s individual subjectivity in EVERYTHING – but that doesn’t, in any way negate our responsibility as agents of customer experience. This is why we’ll never get rid of our need for “thinking workers.” Again – we have to conceive, build, deploy, test, measure, improve... (wash rinse repeat) to get it right and it’s an evolution – not a revolution.

Thanks again, Leigh

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LEIGH DURST

LEIGH DURST
I’m Leigh Durst, a 20 year veteran in business, operations, customer strategy, ecommerce, digital & social media and marketing. Simply put, I’m a strategist that helps companies (start-up to blue chip) achieve business shift, create more compelling online and offline experiences. I also write, speak and teach about experience design and next-generation business. I’m a futurist, visionary, strategist, doer and connector with a passion for people and helping others. When I’m not on the road, you’ll find me in the San Francisco bay area, working, beaching it and hanging out with my family and dog.

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