I was driving back from Washington, DC this weekend after spending a couple of days admiring the cherry blossoms and taking my oldest son sightseeing. Wanting to grab something fast for lunch, we stopped at McDonald's a few miles outside the capital. I ordered Chicken McNuggets for my son and a couple of crispy chicken snack wraps for me (it seemed healthier than a Big Mac®). I waited to get back on the interstate before tearing into the bag. Big mistake.
The first bite confused my taste buds. I was expecting the crunchiness of lightly breaded chicken stuffed inside a delicious white flour tortilla. Instead, it was grilled chicken! Granted, it was even healthier than my order, but that wasn’t the point. It wasn’t what I was expecting.
As I dejectedly ate my lunch (after all, a grilled chicken wrap is better than no chicken wrap), I put my marketing hat on. It occurred to me that we sometimes pull this same chicken bait-and-switch on our customers. I’m not talking about offering a great deal on a product, only to have a handful in stock. I’m talking about customer experience.
Customers expect a certain level of service. Exceed it, and they’ll leave with a good impression and come back again. Fail to meet it, and they’ll do more than just not come back – they’ll tell their friends – on social media and at Junior’s soccer game. Perhaps the best example of this is Disney, the masters of the customer experience. They don’t call Disney World the “happiest place on Earth” because patrons enjoy waiting in line for an hour to ride Space Mountain or buying a pricey hamburger for lunch. It’s because everyone working there – from the folks crammed inside an oversized Mickey Mouse costume to the college-aged kids reminding riders to keep their arms and legs inside the log flume – treats park visitors as if they were the most important person there. And they meet or exceed expectations. That’s part of what makes a great customer experience.
On the other hand, if our customers are expecting a proverbial order of crispy chicken, but you give them grilled chicken, it’s not going to end well. Unless they are really, really hungry. Here are some examples:
- A white paper download on your website with a less-than-thorough abstract. A customer registers for it, but it’s not what they were expecting. The result? Loss of faith in what you are saying.
- You promote certain functionality in your latest software, only to have it not work exactly like it’s supposed to. The result? Loss of faith in what you are selling.
- Customer service is supposed to be a strong point of your company. But when a customer contacts you about a billing error, they are given the run around. The result? Loss of faith in you as a service provider.
A poor customer experience can significantly damage your reputation as an industry leader, a trusted advisor or the place to go to get X. The business world is littered with companies that just don’t get the benefits of an incredible customer experience. Airlines that regularly damage luggage, cable companies that are never on time and local government offices that occupy half your day are the butt of late-night talk show jokes and office water cooler talk. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are three things to consider:
- Say what you mean and mean what you say. Customers are really smart. And they will take you at your word – as long as you keep it. This can be hard for marketers who like to “spin” or sell vaporware. But it’s critical to developing and keeping trust.
- Make your customer feel like the most important person in the room. It doesn’t take much to make a customer feel special. Just like my eight year old, they just need a little attention, want to be heard and like to be rewarded. Even if you can’t buy them ice cream, do something so they feel special.
- Fix problems fast. We all make mistakes. And when we do, go out of the way to correct them. Remember when I said customers are smart? They are also very forgiving, especially when you readily admit fault and offer a fair solution.
More than 50 years ago, Disney created a service vision to suggest that no matter what your role was, your job was to make guests happy: “We Create Happiness.” Maybe more companies could capture some of the Disney magic if they adopted that slogan.