Two memorable multi-channel customer experiences


I’ve been making note of recent interactions and observations with different companies that I’ve done business with lately. My goal is to share with you real ways in which excellent customer experiences are shaped.

Observation #1: Witty conversations rule

As I write this, I’m sitting at a Panera Bread restaurant with my headphones on and was able to eavesdrop on a funny conversation between another customer and his server. Let me replay what I just overheard.

  • Panera server (energetically delivering a plate with a bagel and cream cheese): “Whole wheat bagel?”
  • Customer (typing on his laptop while greeting his newfound friend): “Yesssss? Is it golden?”
  • Server: “You want it toasted a little more?”
  • Customer: (quickly reviews the color of the bagel) “Oh yeah - that would be great. Put some brown into that bagel.”
  • (no more than 30 seconds later)
  • Server (spryly walking back to his table): “One GOLDEN bagel.”
    Customer: “That was fast.”
  • Server: “The toaster sends its apologies. It’ll do better next time. Enjoy!”

Here’s what stood out to me:

  1. The server was disarming and charming. I liked her interpersonal skills. I especially appreciated the instant rapport these two had – it was like watching two family members in the kitchen while making breakfast on a weekend morning.
  2. The Panera Bread server was fast to recover. And the transaction ended with a humorous apology (even though she didn’t really need to apologize to this good-natured customer).

Customer Intelligence Question:

  1. Panera has a customer rewards program. Did they make note of this on his account? (“Mark likes golden brown bagels – be sure to toast for 30 seconds longer unless directed otherwise.”)

Observation #2: Solve a problem easily

Last week while traveling in the Los Angeles area I lost the portable battery I use to re-charge my smart phone. As I flew back to Detroit, I had a suspicion where I lost it but wasn’t sure. Mentally, I wrote the unit off believing this business asset was GONE. Not a good feeling.

When I landed in Detroit, my colleague forwarded me an email from the car rental company we'd used, National Car Rental. Since the car was in his name, they sent him a notice stating “Your MOPHIE STORAGE BATTERY Has Been Recovered.” In the forwarding cover note, he asked me if I had left my battery in the car. I thanked him, replied that I had and that I’d handle it from here.

The industry talks about creating frictionless customer experiences. Let me illustrate what that term means by breaking down my experience with the car rental company. Their email contained a simple trio of buttons which I could select for next steps:

  1. Ship It Back!
  2. Schedule Pick Up!
  3. Donate Item.

With a single touch of the screen (“Ship It Back!” of course) I was brought to a landing page to fill in the name and address to have it returned. I did this all on my smart phone. After submitting the form, I was emailed a link to track the package as it makes its way from Los Angeles to my home. What a satisfying experience.

Here’s what stood out to me:

  1. The email that the rental company sent was attention-getting. The subject line contained a description of the lost asset.
  2. They made it easy to execute a decision. I also thought it was honorable that they had a donation option. I was just under 3,000 miles away from Los Angeles and had mentally written off this lost asset. So my expectations were low only to be lifted by this helpful and timely notice.
  3. The notification tells me that their staff check the rental vehicles thoroughly for left-behind items (my battery charger was left in the glove box). Furthermore, how easily would it have been for someone to find this small device and put it in their own pocket? So I now view this company as both thorough and honest.
  4. Something they didn’t do: they did not try to sell to me. They didn’t try to have me go to a landing page to make another reservation. They simply focused on solving the immediate problem (which I created!). Nothing else.

How do customer intelligence and data management apply?

But I had to wonder, since the lost device was initially associated with my colleague (remember, the rental was under his name), will they notice that the returned asset was going to a different name/address so as to not confuse this transaction with his account history? This transaction could easily introduce erroneous data into their CRM system (at this point, I’ll trust my colleague won’t have the “forgetful customer” flag placed on his record if they document this transaction).

I share this because it’s incredibly important for organizations to have sound customer experience management objectives and operations. In my case, I watched an in-store experience with a brand’s staff at Panera while the car rental company example was purely a digital experience. The difference in these settings illustrate the need for multi-channel customer experience strategies. I think we all get this, but the decisioning and action-oriented policies behind these strategies are where successes and failures occur.

What are your most memorable customer experience moments? And how has a company hit or missed the mark with you?


About Author

Lonnie Miller

Sr. Manager, Industry Consulting, Manufacturing

Lonnie Miller leads the U.S. Manufacturing Industry Consulting team with SAS. He focuses on ensuring clients get the most from analytics and emerging technologies in the manufacturing sector. Prior to joining SAS, Lonnie held a variety of senior leadership roles with R. L. Polk & Co. (now IHS Markit). This included leading the company’s Loyalty Management Practice, their Marketing and Industry Analysis unit and the company’s Analytical Solutions team. Lonnie holds a B.B.A. in Marketing from The University of Michigan-Flint and a M.A. in Advertising from Michigan State University. You can find him on LinkedIn at

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