Experience Counts

Our family just returned from a summer vacation where we spent over a week together. My kids are at the busy teenage stage in their lives, so they are rarely home during the school year. Summer vacation is about the only way we can effectively close off reality and spend good, quality time being together.

This recent vacation involved staying at a few different hotels, which invariably caused me to reflect on the overall experience they offered our family. In one small bed and breakfast, my individual touch points with them were overwhelmingly negative. I made the reservation on the phone, which was positive. The woman was cheerful and accommodating. However, we had trouble locating the inn due to bad signage, and when I entered to check in, one woman was on the phone and never acknowledged me and the other woman explained that the woman on the phone would be with me in a few minutes and to have a seat. I must have had a startled look on my face, because the woman explained that she was “technically not there.” My excitement about staying at the inn was quickly diluted.

Once we checked into the room, there was no air conditioner, the paint was chipped, and we could hear the people in the room next to ours—not really the stellar room experience I was sold. We decided not to let our disappointment impact our trip, so we quickly changed and headed out. Upon our return to the inn, the front desk told us that the wine and cheese had closed ten minutes prior. When I asked whether they could pull out a little snack for my kids, the woman at the front desk told me she didn’t have access to the kitchen. She advised me to try to locate the kitchen staff. Really?

When we left the inn two days later, we all agreed that our individual interactions with their people, product, and process were overall pretty negative. So guess what? Not only will we not return, but I posted our experience on TripAdvisor.com for all to see. This negative perception of the inn impacted our behavior.

In a world where competition is fierce, organizations cannot afford for customers to hold negative perceptions. Shaping and molding a defined customer experience (CX) is more critical than ever. The question is how. Bruce Temkin of the Temkin Group is a leading expert in how large organizations build differentiation with customer experience. He bases his work on four core beliefs, which are:

  1. CX drives loyalty. Interactions with customers influence both how much business they’ll do with a company in the future and how often they recommend them to others.
  2. CX is a journey, not a project. Building the capabilities to consistently delight customers doesn’t happen overnight. Companies need to plan for a multi-year change program.
  3. Improvement requires systemic change. Companies can improve isolated customer interactions, but they can’t gain a competitive advantage until customer experience is embedded into their operational processes and culture.
  4. Transformation isn’t easy, but becoming more customer-centric is worth the effort. Oftentimes, organizations need help to accelerate their results and avoid many of the stumbling blocks along the way.

To fully engage people in this transformation, they require training: training to build awareness of what customer experience is and the impact it has on success, training to educate people on the strategy and tools required to shape the customer experience, and finally, training to build skills that align with the strategy. Employees need this training so they can be successful, not only at recognizing opportunities to raise customer commitment, but at how to actually leverage those situations.

Maybe I should send a copy of this blog to that inn. What do you think?

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