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4 Ways to Improve your Customer Experience

I stood in the kitchen perplexed.

I was only 10, and I thought I had done really a good job, but now, my mom was asking me where all the pickles were.

It was one of those clean-up Saturdays, so I was helping my mom clean out the refrigerator. My project was to consolidate the pickles. I was 20% sure I knew what the word “consolidate” meant, so I didn’t ask for clarification. WIth my job in mind, I opened up the refrigerator and went for it.

I took the two pickle jars partially filled with sweet gherkins and sat down at the dinner table. I loved those sweet little delights, and now, I would get to eat about 15 of them at once! Happily, I completed the task, even going to the extent of pouring out the excess juice and throwing the glass jars into the recycling bin.

With those two jars emptied out moments later, I was pleased with my work. I had done what was asked of me, and the pickles were officially consolidated. So when my mother came around to ask where all the pickles were, I was naturally surprised. Did she forget what she just asked me to do?

“I ate them,” I told her proudly.

“You ATE the pickles?” The shock in her question was obvious.

“Yes, I did what you asked; I consolidated them.”

At this, my mom burst into laughter.

“I meant for you to consolidate them by putting them from two jars into one jar,” she explained through giggles. “You didn’t consolidate them; you consumed them!”

And there was the rub! To me, consolidating meant the same thing as consuming. When my mom asked me to consolidate the pickles, I thought she was asking me to consume them–to eat every last one to make space in the fridge for something else. And well, that’s exactly what I’d done! To this day when we see a jar of sweet gherkins or someone says the word consolidate, my mom and I can’t control our laughter.

One word defined two different ways created quite a mix-up! And I tell you this story because I don’t want the same thing to happen to us. We need a singular definition for customer experience to ensure we’re on the same page as we go.

What Is The Customer Experience?

When we talk about customer experience, what exactly are we talking about?

Of course, the concept of customer experience could cover all kinds of things.

It’s everything related to a customer’s perception of an organization.

It’s the relationship between a business and a customer.

It’s the feelings a customer has toward a brand.

It’s every interaction, no matter how brief, between a customer and a business.

While the list could go on and on, I think it all culminates in this:

Customer experience is the set of experiences your customer has with your brand.

Maybe you’ve defined customer experience for yourself in one of these ways. Or maybe you have a totally different definition. Maybe the business or brand you work for has a strong, solid definition for the customer experience at their company. Or maybe they need to spend more time actually thinking about and valuing the concept for their people.

Either way, it’s important we get on the same page here. For the sake of our conversation, we want to have the same definition of customer experience to be sure we’re having the same conversation.

For us, the customer experience is the set of experiences your customer has with your brand.

What Makes Up The Customer Experience?

Is this definition broad? Yes! It covers all kinds of details, procedures, and ideas in all kinds of industries and atmospheres. And that’s important because no matter where you work or what you do, you’re part of creating a customer experience. You’re giving customers a chance to interact with and experience your brand, whether in person, online, over the phone, or from a distance. You’re contributing to the elements that make up the customer experience.

What are those exactly? Well, I typically divide the elements of customer experience—the things that impact the experience a customer has with your brand—into four categories: product, process, place, and people.

It all starts with the product—the item or service the customer is buying from you. In order for the customer experience to work, the product they’re looking for has to work. It has to be accurate, it has to be effective, it has to meet or exceed expectations, and it has to somehow make the customer’s life better.

Then, it’s in the process—the steps in the journey the customer makes to purchase that product. No matter how it works, the process has to be seamless, easy, and enjoyable for the customer experience to excel.

We then have to consider the place—the environment where all of this takes place. Whether it’s in person, over the phone, or online, the setting for the experience has to set the stage for a great experience.

And finally, it’s about the people—you and me! The greatest driver for the feelings a customer has toward a brand shows up in their interaction with the people who represent it. So when it comes to customer experience, you, my friend, play a huge role!

Think about the way a customer experiences you and your brand. What parts of the product, process, place, and people make it stand out?

It’s the signature phrase you say to customers,

The way you greet customers when they walk in the door,

The commitment to stay on the line until the problem is solved,

The way you walk them to the door when they leave,

The interactions you have at the register when they check out,

The cleanliness of your space.

Those things the customer sees and recognizes readily make a huge impact in their experience with your brand. But it’s also there in the things they never know you do.

It’s the way you keep things organized in the office,

The specific scent that permeates the store,

The training provided in customer service,

The commitment to wrapping a customer’s purchase in specific tissue paper,

The way employees interact with each other,

The music you choose to play over the speakers.

These things impact the experience a customer has, too. And if you want to create an exceptional customer experience—the kind that leaves a customer eager to return time and again—you’ve got to pay attention to and be intentional about every aspect of what makes the overall experience what it is.

To keep learning, check out the book club resources and grab your copy of The Power of Customer Experience


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