Customers – we all have them and we all are one…

shopping-mall-509536_1280Many times in your life you are going to purchase things – cars, books, watches, apples, etc. – and each time your experience in purchasing will range somewhere on the continuum from indescribably horrible to incredible. Quite often you will find yourself somewhere in the realm of indifferent and not memorable. And if you are in business, any kind of business, there is an element of customer experience that happens regardless of whether you think you have customers or not. And that customer will land somewhere on the continuum based on the experience he or she has with your organization.

Slide1A business can’t always get things right, sometime mistakes happen, and that is alright – provided the mistake is dealt with in a timely manner. Take for instance my recent interaction with Apple. I placed an order online. Because I have been an Apple customer for many years when I placed my order it pre-filled my address, and I didn’t notice there was difference between what was listed as billing and shipping address. In all honesty, I don’t remember there being anything regarding address selection at all in the order, but that may have more to do with the late hour and glass of wine that preceded the purchase. A few days later I received notification my item had been delivered – funny, since I didn’t have it. Of course it had been delivered to an old address in a different city. I am the type of person that recognizes that somewhere here I must have erred, although I can’t remember it happening (who ever does?)

I called Apple, and they were quick to take charge, get a replacement ordered at their cost, shipped, and my address updated – or so they thought… A few days later I get an email indicating my item has been shipped and it has been sent to – you guessed it – my old address. Once more I call Apple, they righted the address, got my order replaced – again at their cost – and had the replacement expedited, plus they sent me a gift certificate for the trouble. At the end of the day I would be receiving the item in time, and I was happy.

This story is important for a number of reasons:

  1. I made the first error – I still don’t know where it ever asked for my address, but they could have easily held me accountable for the error and charged me for the replacement.
  2. There was no delay or hesitation. Both employees I spoke to were empowered to make a quick decision ensuring my concern didn’t escalate.
  3. Apple is a big company – and many believe that big companies can’t pull off good customer service, this is not the only large entity that I’ve dealt with who has proven this belief wrong. On the flip side, smaller stores might say they can’t afford to take the hit by replacing my items, twice, without cost to the consumer. I would argue any company, regardless of size, can’t afford not to.

Let’s talk stats for a second. In 2011 a Customer Experience Impact report commissioned by RightNow was completed. What were the results?

People want to have a better customer experience, and they are willing to pay more to find one.

The report indicated that 86% of consumers will pay more for a better customer experience, and 89% of consumers began doing business with a competitor following a poor customer experience.

In this digital age people have more options and are better informed. If you are not lightening quick to address complaints customers will go somewhere else, and chances are, they will tell others about it. So what do you do?

  1. It starts with leadership – always, if you aren’t modelling the way, how can you expect your team to? If you aren’t showing your team you care, how can you expect them to? Start here!
  2. Aim for incredible – why would you want anything less? If you aren’t passionate about your products or services, don’t expect your customers to be. It’s not hard to be friendly.
  3. Be responsive – in all areas. Be responsive when a customer asks a question about your products or services and be responsive when they make a complaint. And most importantly – be responsive everywhere they make a complaint. This means having an online presence and being prepared for and welcome all feedback. You can’t fix something you don’t know is broken, so welcome the opportunity to make it right.
  4. Ask – for the business, for feedback, for questions. Customers have a lot of choice, if you don’t ask for their business, someone else will. If you don’t ask for feedback you won’t know what you are great at and what would make it even better. Ask for questions so you can engage with your customers and understand what their needs are so you can continually evolve your offering.
  5. Empower your people – don’t make them ask a manager for approval on something that is going to cost under $100, or maybe even more depending on what your products are. Nothing is more frustrating to a customer than knowing the company messed up and they need to get approval to make it right – JUST MAKE IT RIGHT!

There are three ways my interaction with Apple could have gone. Everything could have been fine and I would have been satisfied, but I probably wouldn’t have blogged about it. Things could have gone downhill at either of my interactions when I discovered the address issue, and I may have blogged about it in a different manner. Things could have gone exactly as they did, and I feel great as a loyal Apple customer, and am excited to receive my products. You have a choice as a business owner or leader, make the choice that results in further business and happy customers.

In the meantime, there is a family in Edmonton enjoying my personalized Apple products – who knows, maybe they’ll appreciate the quality and become loyal Apple customers as well – certainly wouldn’t hurt Apple’s feelings.

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