Everyone talks about "walking in your customers' shoes" to see what the experience is we deliver to our customers. This is always a good idea... but there are other ways to see whether your experience measures up.
The key with delivering a remarkable and memorable customer experience is to make it consistent and repeatable by ALL your employees EVERYDAY! Most companies, unfortunately, deliver "random acts of excellence and chaos" throughout the organization. This causes confusion and uncertainty in the eyes of your customer which leads to defection... the customer leaving and choosing to go somewhere else. So how do you prevent this from happening in your organization?
Allow me to share 5 "Creative" and easy ways you can do a quick assessment on what kind of experience your customers may be getting from your organization and how you can use this information to improve your overall customer experience. These are not your traditional methods, such as doing the survey, calling the customer, interviewing your sales teams, or a variety of other more common techniques to get customer feedback. While those all have their place and can provide some valuable insight, I want to stretch your thinking in some different areas... bend your mind just a bit on some other creative ways to see what your CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE is really all about.
CAUTION: These may be a bit unconventional... which is why they work.
1. Mystery Shoppers with a Twist... We all get what a mystery shopper is all about... someone goes into one of your establishments and shops as a normal customer and then writes up notes about their experience. This is a great practice, especially for B2C retail and customer service oriented businesses yet they can also work well for B2B businesses. Here's the twist... identify 10 - 25 friends you trust and feel would give you honest and direct feedback to you if they were your mystery shoppers. If you are in the retail industry, you need more friends to help out than if you were in a B2B business.
Here's why you need friends... you can give them a detailed plan of what you specifically want to test out and they will give you richer information on the back end. They are great because you trust them and they truly want to help you be better. They will execute with much more passion and interest than a traditional mystery shopper. You can give them specific details of what might happen and how to react to a variety of scenarios. This gives you much more specific information in certain areas you might want to test out in more detail inside your organization.
You can also give them deeper questioning beyond the initial questions a mystery shopper would ask. For example, you can help script them to go "deeper" in the discussion to try and see how your employees will handle this as well as offering up certain objections/concerns you want to make sure your employees can handle appropriately. This is an opportunity to get "richer and more specific" information than with the traditional mystery shopper.
2. Call with an unusual request... Another great technique to see how well your employees can handle a situation is to have someone you know (similar to the friend idea above) call them with a very unusual request. The request has to be something you would certainly handle in your business but it should be unusual where the employee has to both think further and seek additional input from others. You don't want your employees to say "NO" you want them to offer to find a solution and then watch the process of how this happens.
This tests more of how they treat your customers throughout the experience when things go off track a bit. It's one thing to have an employee always deliver a great experience when things fall neatly into place but it's entirely different when they are stumped. What you are looking for isn't so much the answer to the problem (this can be a process issue or product or delivery, etc.) but how they handled the customer during this process of trying to figure out the right solution.
This is a test of the true customer experience your customers receive. This alone can tell you more about how prepared your employees are to deliver an awesome experience... above and beyond solving the issue. This is critical to understand and develop your Customer Experience Maps around since it is essentially what the customer is testing you on throughout their Journey.
3. Family member of an executive... I always love this test. This is where you have the family members of some "key executives" interact with your employees in different parts of your business. The key is to make sure your employees know they are family members of executives and leaders. This is what makes this test work really well for you... they have to know they are important people.
The goal of this exercise is to see how they are treated in comparison to the rest of your ideal Customer Personas. What you are looking for is to see if they are treated any differently than you would treat your best customers. You guessed it... they shouldn't be treated any different. If you are delivering an awesome customer experience, everyone should get an awesome experience... regardless of who they are. This is the goal of providing a remarkable and memorable experience and why you create the Customer Journey.
Identifying the areas of the Customer Journey that are "different" can be incredibly insightful to better understanding the areas that could be improved in your overall customer experience. Have your family members write down the key areas of the experience and compare this with what you see and hear from your normal customers. This "gap analysis" will be very helpful in improving your overall customer experience.
4. 4:59 pm... Often times your employees will treat the first customer of the day different than the last customer of the day. One is at the beginning and one is keeping them from doing what they want to do after working hours. The best way to test that the customer experience is consistent throughout every interaction is to see what is being delivered at the very possible last minute... just before closing or at the end of the normal work day.
The goal is to look for consistency. If you have a truly awesome and incredible customer experience, there shouldn't be any difference. Your employees should be as excited and willing to help the customer solve their problem... regardless of the time of day. Asking customers to help you out with this is very positive... and you win in 2 separate ways.
First, the customer sees how much you care about them and their experience by involving them in the process and; Second, they see how important they are individually because they were chosen to help you collect this information. This is an easy way to do an assessment and be involved throughout the process with your customers.
5. Stump the employee... This is a great exercise with both the customer and internally. The core of this exercise is to find some unusual or different situations that "stump the employee" in a way they don't know how to solve the problem. The goal is to help your employees "learn a process" for resolving any question or issue... not that they need to know everything about everything. Knowing where to go for the answers and their thought process is the goal of this activity.
CAUTION: you have to take extra care to not make this a negative for the employee by showcasing that they don't know everything or how to solve the problem. This is a situation where it's critical to encourage employees... giving them different ways to think about a solution rather than having all the answers. This is about process training to help them find the answers while giving the customer an awesome experience. When done in this way, you end up with innovative problem solving employees rather than robots that try to know everything.
Hopefully this has "stretched your thinking" on how you can further test and assess how strong your own Customer Experience is inside your company. When done correctly, these can be fun, team building, and very insightful about what is going on in your business and with your customer. The key is to make this a "positive exercise" that is viewed as learning and improving and not one of reprimanding or pointing out the "negatives." When approached in this way, they can be a staple of your customer experience program well into the future.
And as always, if you need some assistance or clarification with any of these, please don't hesitate to give me a call or shoot me an e-mail with your question. Always happy to help make your company even better than it already is today and improve the customer experience.