Category Archives: Customer journey

Falling at the final fence

last impressions

What’s your last impression…?

You’ve had a fantastic time. You’ve been well cared for, attended to with fantastic hospitality. Your meal, stay or day out was wonderful, the atmosphere was relaxed and all your friends and family have had a good time.

But then they fall at the final fence…

It’s time to go home and suddenly no one is interested. You want to pay, but nobody wants to take your money! You take a visit to the loos and wish you hadn’t. You’ve lost your gloves and want to report it to lost property, but can’t find anyone. You were told about membership to get your entrance fee refunded but there’s no one to be found, so you think “forget it!”.

Has this ever happened to you?

More importantly has it ever happened to any of your customers?

One of the most important determining factors in prompting a positive lasting memory, a potential repeat visit or a glowing recommendation is what happens in the very last few minutes of the customers’ experience. It’s this last impression that influences their biding memory.

What’s the very last thing your customers see, hear, smell, taste or feel as they leave.

If your customers only ever get to speak to you by phone what’s the last thing they hear?

What’s the very last touch at the point of purchase; for example a confirmation or thank you message, a farewell, a follow-up invitation, invitation for feedback, etc.

Do your customers feel appreciated and that you’re sorry to see them go?  Or are your team members unintentionally making signs that they’ve other more important things to be getting on with? The equivalent of impatiently looking at their watch or getting the Hoover out! It may not be obvious, but letting customers know you’re running late, that you’re relieved it’s home time or closing time, showing signs of rushing them out of the door or off the premises.

What process do you use to get personal feedback from customers? If this is done before customers leave it means you have an opportunity to reinforce positives. It’s an opportunity to resolve any problems or concerns before customers leave, so they still leave with positive last impressions. It also shows customers you are interested in their feedback; all adding to the feeling of being appreciated.

How sensitive is your team at picking up when a customer is in a hurry and they need to speed up? When customers are in a hurry or ready to leave, and we keep them waiting to pay their bill or check out; that’s not the best impression to leave with a customer when they have to wait to part with their money! But it might be the one thing that puts a damper on an otherwise great experience.

What’s going on behind the scenes that’s not quite what you’d like your customers to experience? Are your toilets as pristine at the end of a busy day as they are at the beginning? (Just reflect on how many of your customers make the ladies or gents their last port of call before setting out on their journey home.)

What’s the last conversation they hear as they leave? Is it all genuine smiles and sincere thank yous, or do they get to hear the back-stage gossiping and gripes? Or the complaints about how busy they’ve been and how tired they are, or about the slow internet connection which is why they’ve been kept waiting.

What’s the last thing they see on their way to the car park? Particularly if there’s a sneaky short cut via a rear exit.  Is it the chaos of a back office, the cluttered cleaning cupboard or the over flowing bins, or even your team having a crafty cigarette by the back door? Not good last impressions.

What do they see or feel in the car park? How secure do they feel if it’s dark? Is the level of service consistent with everything else, or is the last person they see a grumpy car park attendant or off duty team members fooling around and letting the side down?

Even if you’re dependent on a third-party provider and you have no direct control over it, your customers won’t differentiate. So if your security or cleaning is outsourced, if you have products which are delivered by couriers, or if your offers or feedback surveys are managed by a marketing company, this is one of the most critical touch points of your customers’ journey; do you really want to leave it to chance with your suppliers?

Everything your customer experiences during their visit up to this point might be seamless and perfect.

But it’s those last few moments which influence the end result – how they feel, what they say, and what they do as a result of their visit.

So don’t let it all fall down at the final fence.

Take action

If you only do one thing – conduct an audit of the final phases of your customer journey. What’s the last impression your customers leave with, and what one thing could you and your team do differently to make it even better.

There are some more auditing tools for hospitality and tourism businesses here


Customer Journey Improvements

Customer Journey

Why not do something about it (i.e. the customer journey) then!

I’m just back from a walking holiday in Spain. A good hotel with great food. But so many niggling things that let it down.

Whilst out walking it might be OK to take the scenic route, but as a customer you want things to be as straight forward as possible.

For example…

The breakfast buffet was a good spread, but everything was awkward to get to. One particularly annoying thing was to open the table top fridge to get to the milk and fruit juice you had to move other items from in front of the fridge door. And there was nowhere to put anything down as you did so.

I mentioned this to one of the restaurant staff, who responded “Yes, I’ve always thought that too!

That left me thinking “So, why not do something about it, then?

Because he probably didn’t see it as his job. No one had ever asked for his view, so he just assumed it wasn’t important.

Such a waste!

So often your team members hear first-hand from customers of your short-falls and their frustrations.

Although customers might tell you where you can improve the customer journey from their perspective, failing to ask your team members first is a massive lost opportunity in three ways:

  1. You miss out on a fresh pair of eyes (and ears) on what the customer sees, hears or experiences. Encourage constructive criticism; it’s amazing what team members will spot as opportunities to enhance or modify a customer touch point to give a smoother or enhanced customer experience.
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  2. It helps your team members to engage more readily with your customers. When they’ve experienced everything first-hand for themselves they are able to appreciate what’s important to the customer at that touch point, and can relate easily to them when discussing or describing any aspect of your service or products.
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  3. When your team members spot for themselves how to make improvements, any changes aren’t seen as a criticism; rather it gives them a sense of ownership over the changes. That way it’s easier to get buy-in and a commitment to making the changes happen, and keep your team engaged.

Put your team into your customers’ shoes to experience as much as possible of the customer journey, to see everything from a customer’s point of view. This helps them put the whole customer experience into perspective.

Of course, there’s more to the customer journey than just what they experience whilst with you, such as everything that happens leading up to the point of purchase (awareness, decision to buy, etc.) as well as what happens afterwards (e.g. staying in touch, recognition of loyalty).

Customer Journey mapping means reviewing the experience your customers get at each stage on that journey.

What do you want them to feel at each point, and how well do you achieve that? Help your team understand the emotions you want to create for your customers at key touch points on the customer journey.

Although you might think the most obvious people to ask about the customer journey from a customer’s perspective are your customers, involving your team (including back of house staff) can be just as enlightening.

And, because it’s easy to become oblivious to what we’re involved in every day (and sometimes quite protective) it helps to mix up departments to review other areas of your business they might not directly work in every day.  Even your newest team members can give you a fresh perspective, and even your most experienced team members can learn something new by experiencing another department.

Often, it’s seemingly simple things. The layout of counters forcing customers to backtrack or double up – wasting time and effort; poor directions or signage – meaning customers get lost or miss things altogether (often impacting your sales too);

Of course, it may not always be possible or practical for team members to experience everything, but even if you sell high end products or exclusive services there will still be plenty of opportunity to get a sense of what your customers experience, particularly the various touch points your customer experiences before or after doing business with you, which can so often get forgotten.

But even if you offer a luxury service or product, this can also provide a perfect opportunity as a treat for deserving members of your team, whilst still providing a learning opportunity.

Take Action

If you only do one thing: Ask your team if they were a customer what one thing would they want to change?

p.s. If you’re a hospitality of tourism business here are some tools to help with your customer journey improvements, and tap into those all important opportunities for great reviews and repeat business.


Mapping the Journey

improve customer service

Earlier this week I attended a customer experience seminar. We had some excellent presentations on how to improve customer service, including one on what went on behind-the-scenes for the London Olympics in creating such a memorable visitor experience through the Games’ Makers (in which – I am proud to say – I played a small part).

One of the sessions was on customer experience journey-mapping. As the name suggests this is looking at everything on the customer’s journey from the customer’s perspective, and should include everything that happens leading up to the point of purchase (awareness, decision to buy, etc) as well as what happens afterwards (e.g. staying in touch, recognition of loyalty), as the before and after is still very relevant if you want to improve customer service

Mapping the journey is one thing, but then review the experience your customers get at each stage on that journey. What do you want them to feel at each point, and how well do you achieve that?

Of course, the most obvious people to ask about the customer journey from a customer’s perspective are your customers.

But failing to start by asking your team members how to improve customer service is a massive lost opportunity on three counts:

  1. Firstly, you get a fresh pair of eyes (and ears) on what the customer sees, hears or experiences. It’s amazing what team members will spot as opportunities to improve customer service or modify the customer touch points to give a smoother or enhanced customer experience.
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    Your customer facing team members will invariably hear first-hand from customers of your short-falls and their frustrations.
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  2. Secondly, when team members spot ways to improve customer service it gives them a sense of ownership over any changes, rather than being seen as a criticism.
    .
    So you’ll get employees engaged and get buy-in and commitment to making the changes happen.
    .
  3. Lastly it helps your team members to engage more readily with your customers.
    .
    Because they’ve experienced everything first hand for themselves they are able to appreciate what’s important to the customer at that point, and can relate easily to them when discussing or describing any aspect of your service or products.
    .
    This is just as relevant for back of house staff too.

Because we can become oblivious to what we’re involved in every day (and sometimes quite protective) it helps to mix teams up a bit. Even old hands can give you another perspective by experiencing another department.

Often it’s seemingly simple things that can improve customer service. The layout of counters forcing customers to backtrack or double up wasting time and effort; poor directions or signage, meaning customers get lost or miss things altogether (often impacting your sales too);

Build it into your induction process as new team members will be experiencing things for the first time, giving you a fresh perspective.

Of course, it may not always be possible or practical for team members to experience everything but even if you sell exotic holidays or exclusive wedding dresses there will still be plenty of opportunity to get a sense of what your customers experience, particularly the various touch points your customer experiences before or after doing business with you, which so often get forgotten.

But you might be in a position to use the exercise as rewarding activity. If, for example, you run a hotel, having your team members stay at the hotel (and have access to everything your guests do) might be a treat for them, but gives you the opportunity for feedback too, so it’s a win-win.

How often do you put any of your team members in your customers’ shoes and ask for their ideas on how to improve customer service?



Your customers’ journey

Customer Journey Photo by mantas-hesthaven-135478Day 11 in my 12 days of Christmas mini blog series

11. Your customers’ journey

There will always be little tweaks you can make to improve your service.

If January is a quiet month for you, now’s a perfect time to for you and your team to review your customer journey and all the various touch points your customers experience.

What feedback have you had from customers recently, either directly or via social media? What patterns or trends are there?

How well do each of your team members (both customer facing and back of house) appreciate all the customer touch points.

They will frequently pick up on opportunities to improve the customer’s overall experience, or where you can add value or make recommendations to customers.

Action point: Give each of your team a section of the customer journey to review from a customer’s perspective. What would they change if they could?



You’re only as good as your weakest link

You are only as good as your weakest link. That means if you have just one person failing to deliver good customer service or giving a poor customer experience this will impact your customers perception of your business as a whole.

And that person might not even be one of your own team. Any one of your suppliers or third party providers who can impact your customer experience could be leaving your customers wanting to go elsewhere.

 

So who are the weak links in your business?



When you stop noticing the cracks

25 years!cracks

It’s 25 years this week since we moved into our house. There aren’t many things we haven’t changed; the whole layout of the rooms, we’ve added an extension and we’ve extended into the roof space.

But it’s taken this long to put up a sign outside with the house name (this was something we said we would do before we even moved in, and yes, it has taken us 25 years!). And three years to fix a broken tile in our kitchen doorway.

You see, the thing is, the longer you live with something the more you become accustomed to it being that way. We simply stop noticing the cracks. And in the case of the kitchen tile we just automatically stepped over it.

And this can happen in a business too. There can be a gradual decline: the fabric of your building, the morale of your team, the speed of response for a customer. When it’s gradual we don’t notice it.

And once it’s been a certain way for any length of time unless it causes us a major inconvenience we simply get used to things that way.

So what are the cracks in your business which could be impacting your teams well-being or productivity, or your customers experience?

Even when you stop noticing these things if they have an impact on your team or your customers you can be sure that they won’t have stopped noticing.

So ask the question

Ask your team where there are ‘cracks’ in your business: in your systems, with your equipment, in your customers’ journey. Listen to their views to flush out anything that’s standing in the way of them doing a great job or impacts the customer in some way.

This often highlights frustrations they have in the system or with current resources, levels of authority, existing skills or conflicting priorities.

Ask them to suggest better ways of doing things. Not only can this flag up things you may have been unaware of, if anything needs to change or it needs some effort on their part to make improvements they’ll be far more bought in to doing something well if they have initiated it.

The customer experience

Listen to what your team tell you about shortfalls in the customer journey; they’ll invariably spot where improvements can be made.

Many of your team are much closer to your customers than you are and will see opportunities to enhance the customer experience. So ask for their ideas and be prepared to act on them.

Ask your team to make an honest assessment and reflect on how they think customers currently feel at each of these key touch points.

If they aren’t sure ask them to reflect back on some of the conversations they’ve had with customers.

Arrange for each team member to take the customer journey themselves and see how it feels being on the receiving end.

If you’ve done this exercise with your team before, this time allocate team members to different departments to get a different perspective.  When it’s your own department it’s easy to become protective, oblivious to some of the challenges or frustrations customers may encounter. Reviewing another department can help flush out potential ‘blind spots’.

Ask your team to make a note of everything that isn’t quite perfect yet. It doesn’t mean to say you have to fix everything, but you can make a conscious decision as to which aspects you might put to one side for now and which need to be addressed as a priority.

It can be quite revealing what your team pick up; they’ll often spot things you don’t.

Keeping on top of maintenance

Have a system in place for maintenance, whether this is done in house or with a contractor. Encourage team members to report problems promptly when the equipment doesn’t appear to be functioning on all four cylinders, or gets damaged, rather than apportioning blame on them for causing the problem.

Have a process which makes this quick and easy. Failure to report and deal with problems promptly not only leads to frustrations, and later accusations of whose fault it is, but could cost you dearly in the long run if it causes long-term damage.

Listen to what they have to say

Unless followed though promptly they won’t bother telling you next time.

The longer problems are left unresolved, the less emphasis it places on the importance of their welfare or the customer experience in their eyes and the less importance they will place on their contribution to your business.

Old habits die hard

If my kitchen floor is anything to judge by, the longer it’s taken to fix the problem the long it take for people to adjust to the new way.

I’m still stepping over the broken tile, even though it’s no longer there!

 


Systems and resources to support your customer service

Here’s part 8 in my 12 blog series onsystems

how to engage and motivate your team on their return from their Christmas break

8. Systems and resources

How often have we heard the phrase “I’m sorry, the system won’t allow me to do that.”?

Do you have systems in place which make it cumbersome for your customers? Or which mean people having to reinvent the wheel every time they carry out similar tasks; putting extra pressure on them, particularly those which have a direct impact on the customer, so the customer doesn’t get a consistent level of service?

Or is there so much red tape and to-ing and fro-ing that slows everything down?

Do you have all the right equipment, tools, or even products?

It’s easy for us to become oblivious of how ineffective a system works or poor the equipment when we’re not using it every day. So test it frequently, and ask your team for their observations and any feedback they’ve had from customers. Very often the simplest of modifications is all that’s needed to make all the difference.

 

If you’d like more ideas here are 28 Activities to Engage, Energise and Excite your Team in Customer Service



Your customers’ journey

Here’s part 6 in my 12 blog series onCustomer Journey

how to engage and motivate your team on their return from their Christmas break

6. Your customers’ journey

Now’s a perfect time to review your entire customer journey and all the various touch points your customers experience.

I’m often amazed how frequently I come across employees who only know their tiny little bit of the customer journey, having never experienced anything else the customer gets to see or hear.

I strongly encourage any business to have every single employee experience every one of their customer touch points. It’s amazing what they pick up and the opportunities they see to improve the whole customer experience. Not forgetting the potential it opens up for spotting opportunities to add value or make recommendations to customers.

So if January is a quiet month for you, what better time to review this.

 

Delivering great customer service is more than just a sheep dip exercise. Find out more here

 



A first-hand experience

Shoes. Single flat color icon. Vector illustration.

How often do you or any of your team put yourselves in your customers’ shoes? Is it built into your customer service training?

I’m often amazed how frequently I come across employees who only know their tiny little bit of the customer journey, having never experienced anything else the customer gets to see or hear.

I strongly encourage all businesses to have every single employee experience every one of their customer touch points.

This has two spin offs.

Firstly you get a fresh pair of eyes (and ears) on what the customer sees, hears or experiences. Of course this is no substitute for your customers’ feedback, but it’s amazing what team members will spot as opportunities to enhance or modify the customer touch points to give a smoother or enhanced customer experience. Not forgetting the potential it opens up for spotting opportunities to add value or make recommendations to customers.

Secondly it helps your team members to engage more readily with your customers.

Because they’ve experienced everything first hand for themselves they are able to appreciate what’s important to the customer at that point, and can relate easily to them when discussing or describing any aspect of your service or products.

Of course it may not always be possible for team members to experience everything (let’s say you are a midwife or undertaker!) but even if you sell exotic holidays or exclusive wedding dresses there will still be plenty of opportunity to get a sense of what your customers experience particularly the various touch points your customer experiences before or after doing business with you, which so often get forgotten.

Because we can become oblivious to what we’re involved in every day (and sometimes quite protective) aim to mix things up a bit. Even old hands can give you another perspective by experiencing another department. And build it into your induction process as new team members will be experiencing things for the first time, giving you a fresh perspective.


When was the last time you slept in one of your own hotel beds?

How practical are your hotel rooms? Unless you experience a night’s stay for yourself you wont be able to see what works and what doesn’t. I recently stayed in a very snazzy hotel, and it looked great, but when I met with my colleagues at breakfast we were all complaining that none of it was practical. Definitely a case of form over function on that occasion.

Here’s my top 20 bugbears you may want to check:

  1. Can I find the light switch easily while the door to the corridor is still open?
  2. Do I have to strip the desk or dressing table of marketing bumf before I can put anything down?
  3. Is there anywhere to hang the hand towel?
  4. Is there anywhere to put down my toiletries in the bathroom?
  5. Can I put my makeup down where I can reach it and still see in the mirror?
  6. Does the kettle lead reach the socket without having to put the kettle on the floor?
  7. Are the power sockets accessible if I need to plug in my laptop or phone charger?
  8. Does the showerhead and water pressure give a decent shower?
  9. Is there anywhere to hang the bath towel so it can be reused?
  10. Is there anywhere to hang my dressing gown – either in the bathroom or bedroom?
  11. Can I see myself in the mirror whilst holding the hairdryer?
  12. Can I sit comfortably at the desk without banging my knees?
  13. Is there a light above the desk?
  14. Can I open a window without using brute force?
  15. Is the air conditioning or heating system clear to adjust without having to call reception?
  16. Can I comfortably watch TV from the chair?
  17. Do the curtains meet and cut out outside light?
  18. Do I have to strip off half a dozen unnecessary pillows before I can get into bed (and make extra laundry into the bargain)?
  19. Is the bed comfortable enough for a good night’s sleep?
  20. Do you have to get out of bed to switch out the light?

Practicalities is just one of the things that will be covered in my interview with former Chief Hotel Inspector Peter Birnie in the interview series ‘How to Give Your Hotel a Competitive Edge‘.

Caroline Cooper