There is an ‘Experience Factor’ in every relationship, in every transaction, and in every interaction. Understanding what goes into the factor is essential to gauge the effect the factor had on the relationship, transaction or goal. Only as the effect is realized is improvement possible.
The foundation of the ‘Experience Factor’ is the ‘Experience Journey’. Here’s another snapshot of the ‘Experience Journey’ that I introduced yesterday:
The relationship, transaction or interaction begins in the 12 o’clock position. Expectations have been established based upon what had been done to bring the parties together or had been done to attract them to each other. Let’s use a customer experience at an automotive shop to better understand the journey.
A person gets into his car to drive to work and hears a noise he or she has never heard before. It seems to get worse the longer the car is driven. The car needs to be looked at and the problem diagnosed. Anxious because of the busy day ahead and knowing the car is needed, not only for work but for other things that evening, and for a trip in a few days, the car is dropped off at dealership because it is conveniently located close to the customer’s office.
The dealership is clean. The service writers all look very professional. The service department is quite busy, which the customer feels is a good sign as it can be assumed that all these people here most likely have some level of trust in this establishment. A service writer promptly greets the customer, and they immediately discuss the problem at-hand. The customer emphasizes the car is needed back as quickly as possible.
The service writer assures the customer the problem will be diagnosed, and the necessary service along with cost of repairs will be provided before any additional work will be started. Arrangements are made to drive the customer to his office with the understanding the service writer will follow up within the next two hours.
The customer journey is in the 12 o’clock position and as long as everything meets or exceeds the customer’s expectations, the customer journey remains in this positive position. But what happens when things don’t go as planned? Shit happens, right?
I don’t want to bore you with this step-by-step scenario, but please humor me and read on as we take a look at what could happen next and how things could easily and quickly spin out of control.
Two hours go by and there’s no call from the service writer. An additional hour creeps by and still no call. Surprised, the customer calls the dealership and is put on hold while the service writer is on a call with another customer. After 15 minutes waiting on hold, the customer hangs up and calls back only to be told the service writer just left for lunch.
Disappointed, the customer leaves a message for the service writer to call him back ASAP, reiterating the need for the car later that day or to at least be able to make arrangements for alternate transportation. An hour and a half later, the customer calls back the dealership and is again put on hold. Now doubting the decision to have this dealership take care of his car, the customer anxiously waits for the service writer to get on the line.
You’ll note in the image above, the experience is in the blue third of the circle. It’s blue for a reason as emotions are still somewhat cool. Interestingly, surprise, disappointment and doubt can be squashed by bringing the experience back to the 12 o’clock position. Something positive must be done, and quickly.
“Mr. Jones, I’m sorry I missed your call and as we’re super busy, when I had a short break, I decided to grab lunch. However, I did make sure to have your car checked and as I know you need it back ASAP, and as it appeared the problem was minor, I had my mechanic make the necessary repairs and the car will definitely be ready by 5 o’clock. The cost of repairs is $237. Can I arrange to have our customer courtesy driver pick you up at 5 o’clock?”
Even though the customer wasn’t given the opportunity to authorize the repairs, the service writer appears to have the customer’s best interests at heart. BAM we’re back to the 12 o’clock position. That is, until the car is not ready at 5 o’clock. Although, the customer has been picked up and is back at the dealership.
Again surprised, and sliding quickly to feeling disappointed again, the customer accepts the situation as it is and asks for a loaner car. “Sorry, we don’t have any left.” The customer then asks about a car rental. “Sorry, it’s now 6 o’clock and they’re closed.” The customer requests a drive home. “Sorry, my driver is dropping off our last customer and heading home from there.” With emotions starting to spin out of control, the customer requests he take his car with the promise to return tomorrow. “Sorry, various things had been taken apart and my mechanic just left for the night.”
Sure, this may be an extreme scenario, but similar situations do occur every day at businesses everywhere. Whether at an automotive shop or a restaurant or even with in-home repairs, surprise, disappointment and doubt happen when expectations are not met, when communications break down, and when a customer is left with no options and a feeling of having lost control in the matter. So, what happens next?
The journey continues into the pink zone. Emotions start to run high. Frustration and anger set in. Before you know it, the situation slides into the red zone. Tempers flare and buyer’s remorse sets in.
Let’s update. The car is fixed. The repairs ended up costing $687 and the customer was able to pick up the car in time for the scheduled trip.
Does it matter at this point? Is the customer satisfied? Will the customer return for service in the future? Will the customer refer others to this establishment? The resounding answer is, NO!
Is it possible, if not likely the customer will badmouth this business to others and maybe post a negative review online? The resounding answer is, YES!
OK, shit happens but let’s assume there was nothing intentional here on the part of the service writer and/or mechanic. It happened but how can improvements be made to avoid a similar experience in the future? Why is it important to know? After all, the situation is behind us. It’s over! BUT it was a bad customer experience AND it was a terrible employee experience. AND if others heard the commotion, it was a bad experience for them, too?
AND if nothing is done to evaluate and to make improvements to ensure situations like this don’t happen again, how does that affect the culture within that business. You see, there are multiple experience factors that stem from each situation. Each one can be used to evaluate and improve processes and procedures.
In today’s era of economic uncertainty, it’s critical that processes and procedures be in a constant state of evaluation and improvement. The experience factor should be treated like a line item much like anything else that costs and can cost the business money AND can cost the business its customers and employees. Only by treating it like a line item will it be front and center and treated accordingly no different than costs that may be spinning out of control.
As the ‘Preparing for War: You vs. Recession’ series continues tomorrow, we’ll address how to best evaluate the experience factor and use the information to improve business AND its culture. We’re in the home stretch and will wrap up the series early next week as we address mental health awareness for both business owners and their employees. Upon completion, the series will be turned into a white paper to be shared with all who requests a copy.
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