We know that when customers have awesome experiences, they become loyal, raving fans. We also know that a loyal customer base leads to exponential company growth.
So now comes the question we all want the answer to:
How do we improve customer experience? How do we orchestrate those interactions that leave customers buzzing and coming back for more?
The last 9 months I (Susanne, Frontline Community Evangelist and Author of the Frontline Magic Handbook) have had the pleasure of interviewing some of the world’s most successful experience brands, to get the scoop on things you can start doing today to improve customer experience.
I asked brands like Starbucks, Mariott Hotels, Les Mills New Zealand and others “If a company wants to create a better experience for their customers, what is one simple thing they could start from today that will create a difference long term?”
Here’s what the experts had to say…
“Figure out what matters most to your customers. Don’t assume if you haven’t already asked” — Christine MchHugh, Vice President of Customer Service and Operation Service for Starbucks.
With revenues of over $10 billion per year and over 16,000 stores in over 40 countries, it goes without saying that Starbucks is the coffee retailer of the world. Christine Mchhugh, who worked her way up from a barista to the boardroom believes the most important thing you can do to improve customer experience is to check your assumptions about your customer wants and needs.
“As a company, you might think it's the speed of service, that they want in and out fast, but actually, maybe there's something else that they want. So I would check your assumptions on what matters to the customer and then shape your strategy around that.”
For Starbucks, one of the things that matters most to their customers is the quality of the connection between the employee and the customer, therefore they formulate and measure success against this metric.
“It doesn't mean speed of service is not important to the customer, but where does it rank? Figure out your overall messaging, your strategy, your priorities, as it relates to what the customer wants, because if you can make the customer happy and deliver on what they want more than anything, you're going to get that repeat business.”
Be a customer & experience your competitors — Wadim Schriener, Head of Customer Insights at Countdown.
Wadim Schriener, head of customer insights at one of the largest supermarket chains in New Zealand and Australia recommends becoming a customer, to analyse how other frontline teams are delivering experiences. When you understand how others are delivering experiences, you know how to differentiate your own experience. You can analyse what works, what doesn’t and how the experience applies to your own customers. If you have a business in the coffee, spa or wellness industry, this can be quite enjoyable market research.
“When the CEO of the Hilton Hotel Group travels, he stays at competing hotels. When it comes to supermarkets, I shop everywhere”.
Connect your boardroom to your frontline — Ish Cheyne, Senior Fitness Instructor and Senior Leadership member at Les Mills International.
When it comes to improving your customer experience, Ish Cheyne from Les Mills, one of the most widely recognized fitness centres, recommends connecting your frontline team to the bigger picture and to the decisions that are happening at a wider organizational level.
“When the frontline and bottom line are aligned everything else will just start to fall into place because everybody will understand what the game plan is, what the picture is and what they're supposed to deliver. We spent quite a bit of time building collaboration between our national office and our clubs.”
Ish stresses that when you engage the frontline, the very people responsible for delivering awesome experiences, you can solve complex customer problems and start to set yourself apart as a service brand.
“The voice of the frontline has been represented back up the chain. So decisions are made with context and decisions are being robustly challenged by the frontline until we’re all agreed. I think that will be the answer for your customer experience.”
Listen to your customers — Francesca Caliari-Pearce, Acting CEO at Caci Clinic.
Known for its luxurious spa treatments and beautiful customer experiences, the Caci Clinic is certainly a brand to learn from when it comes to building a loyal customer base. When asked about one simple thing business owners could do to improve their customer experience, Acting CEO Francesca Caliari-Pearce simply said, listen.
Francesca explains that when you understand exactly what it is your customers want, you can mould your business model, frontline coaching and services around that.
“When you listen and get the first part right, the rest of the customer journey is made easier.”
In the beauty industry, it’s often those on the frontline that can have intimate conversations with customers, and understand what matters the most to them.
Implement a service pledge, and coach the frontline on this promise — Charles Ryan Minton, General Manager, Marriott Hotel.
Ryan is an advocate for setting clear service standards, and coaching the frontline to deliver on these promises, which happens to be one of our 7 Habits of Empowered Frontline Teams.
Your service promise tells customers what they can expect but, more importantly, it tells your frontline workers precisely what an awesome experience should look like. An experience so good that people will come back for more, and tell others about it.
“I would say implement a service pledge or service basics. If you can get your employees on board and your organization with practice, you'll see a lift quickly in your customer service.”
To recap, here’s what you can start doing today to improve your customer experience —
- Check your assumptions about your customers. Get the data to support your claims.
- Try being a customer of your competitors. Do some market research!
- Connect your frontline to your boardrooms. A clear and authentic connection between these two departments will unlock exciting opportunities.
- Listen to your customers. Or listen to your frontline, who talk to your customers the most.
- Implement a service pledge. Coach the frontline on this standard.