Over the Christmas/New Year period, I’ve had the opportunity to see first hand the customer experience strategy from many different businesses. There’s been the good, the bad & fortunately, not too much of the ugly. One experience highlighted the benefit of businesses being flexible in their policies and systems in order to create a memorable customer experience (in the right way).
I bought my husband a razor for Father’s Day, earlier this year. To add some background, I should mention that while that experience was quite efficient I was left underwhelmed. The retail assistant had obviously spent time learning the features of the products, but she could have been reciting Volume III of the Funk & Wagnells for all the interest she showed when explaining them to me. Very rote. Very monotone. Very meh. So we were starting from an experience slightly less than average.
That’s my story (policy) & I’m sticking to it
The razor stopped working properly so my husband tootled off to the store with razor, warranty and receipt in hand. Of course, as these things often pan out, his razor would need to be sent away for repairs under the warranty. He asked if it could be replaced by one in store. No, sorry, that one’s been superseded and we don’t have any in stock. But wait! Husband spied the newer model (apparently the same in every way except the model number). Could he have his faulty razor replaced by the newer model? No, that’s not store policy. What if he paid the $25 price difference? No, that’s not store policy either. So hubs was left with his faulty razor while he waits for a new one (same model!) to be ordered in.
While none of this contravenes any consumer laws, it leaves frustrated customers, particularly when added to the first experience of indifferent service. Frustrated that their purchase broke. Frustrated that they couldn’t get it replaced immediately. Frustrated that they have to make another trip to the store.
It could have been so much better
What if the retail assistant had been authorised to bend the rules and let my husband have the new model for the difference in price? What if she had been trained so that she knew a happy customer has a much greater lifetime value, and they like to tell their friends about their great customer experience?
Know the rules… & then break them
The Dalai Lama said, “Know the rules well, so you can break them effectively”. The same goes for systems and policies. Of course, systems and policies are important to keep your business running smoothly and to meet regulations. But if you and your staff understand your policies and why they’re there, you can effectively decide if and when they can be bent and by how much.
Customers have different requirements, and are becoming more and more expectant of accessing tailored solutions. Global competition often means customisation is a necessity. Sick of competing on price? A 2011 American Express survey showed 73% of customers would pay more for an excellent customer experience.
Continuously improving the customer experience
Keeping a record of what systems and policies are being bent and why gives a great insight into how effective and realistic they are. We’ve all come across a system that no-one likes to use because they’re too difficult, double up on work, or just make no sense!
Use bendy systems as an opportunity to empower staff to create a great customer experience (they really do enjoy doing the right thing by your customers), create happy customers and refine your business.