Where Does the Customer Experience Begin?

The customer experience begins when a customer decides he or she needs a specific service or item you provideラand thatメs just the start of numerous potential モtouch points.ヤ

By Norma Jarman, Training Account Manager, Signature Worldwide

Many business operators may believe the customer experience begins when the customer arrives at your place of business. However, in reality, the customer experience begins when a customer decides he or she needs a specific service or item you provide.

The customer begins researching your place of business in many different ways: a telephone call placed to your associates; a “tour” through your social media outlets (Facebook, Twitter, TripAdvisor, Yelp, YouTube, etc.); or referrals from friends and/or co-workers. It is through these experiences, or touch points, that a customer begins forming an opinion of how you do business, what kind of value you can create, and whether he or she wants to rent or buy from you.

Hitting All the Touch Points

As a frequent traveler and an American Airlines Executive Platinum member, my experience begins as soon as I visit the AA Website to reserve my flight. Am I going to find the flight times I need and want? Will “my” seat be open for me to snag? By the way, I prefer 4A on the American Eagle jets, and, of course, any First Class seat on the “big” jets—if I can get the upgrade! There is another touch point—will my First Class upgrade request be fulfilled?

When it is time for me to fly, my experience continues at my local airport: Will “my” parking space be open? Will the TSA agents chat with me about this week’s travel? Will the American Airlines gate agent call me by name? Will the flight attendant recognize my status, call me by name, and offer me my free snack? Will they show a movie on the plane? When I arrive, will my luggage make it intact and without my zipper-pulls being “lost”? Whew! So many experiences/touch points, and I haven’t even picked up my rental car!

While my travel may allow me to experience several more touch points than the typical customer, rest assured your customer has many touch points and experiences when doing business with you. So how do you know if your team and touch points are creating the right experiences for your customers? Think about it this way: Each touch point is a link in a chain, and if we have any “weak links,” then the chain—and the experience—can be broken and take a negative turn.

The next time you and your team come together to discuss customer service and sales, have your team brainstorm all the touch points your customer can experience. List these on small strips of paper and create a paper chain. Next, review your customer service surveys and identify the “strong” and “weak” links in the chain. End the activity with an action planning session on how to strengthen the weak links, and how to reinforce and maintain the strong links. The customer experience does not end until the customer decides whether or not he or she wants to do business with you again. To ensure you are always delivering positive experiences and touch points, revisit this activity on a regular basis.

In case you were wondering, my last week of work and travel in 2012 was the week of December 10. I did get “my” parking space at the airport, TSA did chat me up (so did the American Eagle agent!); I got “my” seats on the planes (Yeah! First class and they showed a movie!); and my brand new luggage made it all in one piece—all zipper-pulls accounted for! I ended my 2012 travel year with nothing but positive experiences. Here’s hoping the trend continues in 2013!

Norma Jarman is a training account manager for Signature Worldwide, a Dublin, OH-based company offering sales and customer service training, marketing, and mystery shopping services for a variety of service-based industries. For more information, call 800.398.0518 or visit www.signatureworldwide.com. You also can connect with Signature on Twitter @SignatureWorld and on Facebook.

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