The (Entire) Customer Experience

A lot of customer service people (like me, for example – this blog is described as a blog about customer service and the customer service experience) talk about the customer service experience. However, many of them don’t realize how important the entire customer experience is, not just the customer service experience.

Customer Service Experience:
The customer service experience usually:

  • Starts when a customer has a problem, question, etc.
  • Is handled by customer service representatives or someone with a similar job title or description.
  • Is handled on the phone, over email, etc. or for physical stores, in person.

Customer Experience:
The customer experience usually:

  • Starts as soon as a customer hears about your company and becomes interested enough to look him or herself.
  • Continues when customers are browsing/searching your web site, browsing/searching your store, trying to learn about products, etc.
  • Continues when the customer buys the product or service they are interested in. This includes ease of purchase, simple buying options, installation, configuration, use, etc.
  • Contains the product experience and if applicable (meaning, that the customer has a question, problem, etc.), the customer service experience within it.
  • How companies handle complaints, feedback, suggestions, etc. from customers.
  • How easy it is to return and/or cancel the product or service.

Do you see the difference between the two? The customer experience contains a lot more. However, many companies and people helping them don’t seem to look at the customer experience as a whole and instead concentrate on many small processes.

While in theory this works (if you work on every small process, eventually you will improve the entire customer experience), it is very time consuming and often very expensive. No fear, though, there are ways to work on the customer experience as a whole without feeling overwhelmed.

Secret Shop:
Secret shopping is the method of choice for many customer service consultants, trainers, and other “experts.” A secret shopper is very simple in theory and in practice. The company or “expert” pays someone (or goes themselves) and shops at the company, uses the product, and/or uses the service as a regular customer. 

Secret shoppers don’t say they are the customer service “expert” or the Vice President of Client Happiness or whatever, but pretend they are regular customers. They see how the company does and usually report back to whoever hired them and whoever hired them comes up with a report for whoever hired that person.

You or your designated “expert” should secret shop your company and see how the customer experience is. Here is what you should look for:

  • Parts of the customer experience that are bad or really bad.
  • Parts of the customer experience that are somewhat bad or just inconveient but are easily fixed (kind of like the GTD (Getting Things Done) concept of it takes less than 2 minutes to do it, do it).

Make a list of what you discover. Go through the list with some of your employees, discuss it with customers, and work with your “expert(s)” to see which items should be tackled in which order. Then, get to work! Once you finish that, repeat the process as necessary.