Customer's Experience versus Company's Experience

Scott Anderson, VP, Operations & CIO, PharmaCentra
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Scott Anderson, VP, Operations & CIO, PharmaCentra

It is always interesting to hear companies either lament or extoll their Customer Experience. The  interesting thing that comes out is that seldom do the differing parties agree on what constitutes  a “good” customer experience. The opportunity to speak with your clients regarding their  expectations is critical to determining what is most important to them—that is if you care.

I was present for a calibration call between a service provider and the contracting company and a customer called the center to ask questions about their account. The information provided by the agent was completely inaccurate and since the caller had no way of knowing the information  was incorrect, scored the agent a 5 of 5 in customer service. It was only because they utilized  quality monitoring that the issue was identified. The company had to utilize quality monitoring  and inspect what they expected to get the product they expected.

Customer perception and expectation is a very tricky thing. If the saying “Certainly, my pleasure”  is used, a large percentage of the Southern States will recognize the company being referenced.  Their customer service and experience is a very large part of the culture they not only espouse,  but expect. They utilize secret shoppers, focus groups and a quality assurance program that are all designed to “feed” that culture. They utilize the tools available to reinforce the message they are expecting.

  ​The Customer Experience will always be driven by the expectation of the customer and not on what you or the board of directors may desire to measure 

The key to maintaining the customer experience you desire comes down to one of the key attributes I teach my leaders from their first entry level role, “Inspect what you expect.” I have found that the simple task of inspecting what you expect pays dividends for all parties involved. The same responsibilities fall on you as the owner of the customer experience; inspect what you expect.

The utilization of the Secret Shopper, Quality Assurance Programs and Customer Focus Groups are in and by themselves the barometer to your expectations. Secret Shoppers are the main method in most retail oriented industries, but can be utilized in most organizations. The best example, that has become more prevalent, is the healthcare Industry utilizing secret shoppers like many retail organizations have done since the 40’s.

Secret Shoppers in the healthcare field have become more important because they truly didn’t know what they didn’t know. Can you image an industry where your overall goal was to not have a repeat customer? Let that sink in so you understand the challenge that industry was facing. The core mission in a hospital is to heal you and send you away, which is how they gauged their Customer Experience. The interesting phenomenon is that the original Customer Experience was created by the Health Care Industry. “Bedside Manner” is a term that most people associate with how you were treated and how well the provider took care of you. This was also the main industry that historically had some of the lowest Customer Satisfaction. 

The Convenience Store industry is one area that must utilize several methods of determin­ing the Customer Ex­perience. In discussing Customer Experience with some individuals in the industry, they described utilizing both a Secret Shopper program and a Customer Satisfaction Call Center to ensure their employ­ees were providing the service they expected. The interesting anomaly comes when the methods you are employing differ in their results.

A few of the stores were scoring very high in the customer satisfaction online and call-in surveys. Customers for these stores went online and called in frequently and provided a very glowing reference for the service provided by the employees and leadership of the locations. The Secret Shopper Programs, on the other hand, continued to score the store poorly in customer experience, cleanliness and overall satisfaction. When the company did further research they determined that the individuals that completed the online survey were closely associated with the employees of the store. This is a clear indication that no methodology can be taken at face value without using calibrations to ensure they are accurate.

The use of Customer Focus Groups are also a great way to determine whether your Customer Experience is what you are looking to provide. The identification of the cross section of clientele is one of the key ingredients to getting successful and appropriate information. I am sure many of you have been stopped in the mall and asked to take a blind survey. These surveys are a great way to get unfiltered feedback if the individuals are familiar with your products and services. The ideal focus group would be a mix of first time and repeat clients. Using a method to determine why one came in the first place and why another returned. There are things to consider here that make the data more relevant.

There is a fast food chain that my children force me to use, but where I find myself and others I know checking the order prior to pulling out of the drive through for accuracy. The only reason I check and many other check their order before leaving is that the organization has tempered me to expect to be disappointed. But who is wrong here? My contention is that the service provided is what I have come to expect and accept. If I voted with my wallet and not just with my inspection, the company would no doubt make changes. But since I expect and accept the customer experience I receive then there is no reason for the company to make adjustments.

The Customer Experience will always be driven by the expectation of the customer and not on what you or the board of directors may desire to measure. Ask your customers what is important to them and measure, monitor and inspect what you expect to ensure they are in line.

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