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Lunching in a pub recently, one of our colleagues encountered a level of customer service which completely transformed the dining experience. The person taking the order was obviously new and had to ask several times for help as she attempted to master the consol. Being so clearly a learner my colleague was patient and thought nothing more of it.
Then came the transformational experience. Although the pub was very busy, the trainee’s mentor took the time to step out from behind the bar, approached our colleague and apologised for the somewhat stumbling service. In an instant, a fairly standard pub was transformed into a welcoming place which cared about its customers and about the customer experience. The food was average, the prices OK but our colleague has marked the pub as a place to visit again simply because of the desire for customer care.
But don’t all pubs care about customers? No, not really. The standard “is everything all right” question which seems to be parroted by the server within a few minutes of delivering the food has become as ubiquitous and meaningless as “have a nice day.” Query the standard of food in many pubs and the response will be at best cold. At another pub recently when a comment was made about the amount of pepper in a soup the answer was “how else do we make such plain vegetables taste of anything.”
But customer service good or bad is not confined to eating houses. The same colleague recently encountered another example of exceptional customer service when an elderly relative left their wallet in a shop. The manageress went out of her way to trace the owner and make sure that he was reunited with his possessions before he became worried.
We see examples of good and bad service every day but the sad truth is that so much of the service we receive is on the mundane level, leaving only the very best or worst examples to stick in our minds. And yet, in an increasingly homogenised world it is how we do things rather than the products we offer which differentiates us from our competitors. This is why the focus for many CEOs is increasingly turning towards instilling a culture of innovation and using that innovation to create an outstanding customer experience.
And let’s be clear; innovation isn’t about nominating a person or group within the organisation and telling them to come up with ideas; nor is it simply finding a way to invent a new product or packaging. Creating an innovation culture within an organisation means moving the entire organisation into one in which innovation sits at the core of product, brand, opportunity and service. In effect the entire ecosystem has to be aligned to think, breathe and act innovation.
With innovation driving the business the focus changes from the what to the how. The innovation culture drives and defines the way in which we are differentiated from our competitors and the effect is seen across the board from reputation to brand value to customer experience. And with the entire organisation marching to the same tune there is no longer any excuse for one department to be fantastic whilst another treats customers as necessary evils.
So across the board we look to innovate, to make the product better and more robust, to focus the sales and marketing drive, to provide outstanding customer care and follow-up service. The focus changes from the “quick buck now” towards “long term customer relationships and value.” And with innovation driving the customer experience, the customers notice; they recommend and return, they praise and they become loyal; and as they do so the brand image soars as do the long term gains.
If you would like to learn more about how innovation leads to exceptional customer experience, you may want to attend the presentation which Cris Beswick and I are giving at the European Customer Experience World conference in May. http://www.ecew.co.uk/ecew/programme.html