Remember how our parents and teachers drilled us with the 12 times tables when we were kids? A great exercise in rote learning, but what it didn’t teach us was the concept of the word of mouth multiplier effect. Satisfied customers multiply. If one satisfied customer can tell 12 people what a great experience they had with your organisation, imagine the growth when you get 12 people telling 12 people about your organisation. What started out as one customer can grow organically to 144.
Consider for a moment, the connected world we live in, where conversations that used to take place around a BBQ with a few mates now take place with hundreds through facebook. The speed at which trends form and ideas get exchanged has grown rapidly. From a researcher’s perspective, in the old world, research showed that an unhappy customer would tell 10 other people about their negative experience. In the new world, one unhappy customer can tell 12 million! Take the example of Dave Carroll, a humble musician who penned
“United Breaks guitars” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YGc4zOqozo
Carroll flew with United Airlines in the USA and they broke his guitar through rough handling, he even witnessed baggage handlers throwing his guitar case. After eight months of back and forth trying to get compensation through the normal channels, Carroll wrote a song about the incident, put it on youtube and saw the multiplier effect take place as the video went viral.
Yes, this is an extreme example of a customer complaint video going viral, but it goes to show how everyday conversations have moved from intimate backyard BBQs to the masses of social media. Whilst it is important to monitor your social media presence for customer complaints, if you only respond quickly when it goes viral, that doesn’t reflect particularly well on you as an organisation. The key is having a system to have satisfied customers in the first place.
I want to share with you a great customer experience I had recently at a Malaysian restaurant in downtown Sydney called Mamak that has a great system in place. Over the last four years, every time I have gone past on a Saturday night Mamak has had queues 20 to 100 deep around the corner. I thought I would check out what all the fuss was about. The queue moved and they kept communicating with us to let us know how much longer it would be. The experience was entertaining watching them cook through the window while we waited. For such a popular restaurant I expected to be hurried out, but they were polite, let us take our time and were friendly.
All the key ingredients were there; theatre, atmosphere, service, value and importantly quality food. If one of those key elements was missing there might have been a disappointed customer, who would never return. Instead they have a customer who is happy, told five friends
about it the next day and has now just told another few thousand through a magazine!
Plan each phase of your customers ’ experience
So how do you create a great customer experience that you can have confidence will be replicated across each and every location? From the moment a potential customer thinks about buying in your category to the instant they click the submit button on your website or walk out the door with their receipt in hand you can understand what they want at each point and deliver what they are looking for.
Start by mapping out the customer experience, brainstorm and workshop the experience of a customer. The next step is to research the journey real customers and potential customers take in deciding to buy from you and what is important in the purchase and post purchase phase. Take the time to ask the right questions through quantifiable surveys, focus groups, from accompanied shops and website walk throughs. If you can understand what your customers’ expectations are and how your competitors are matching up, then you can design a customer experience that matches and selectively exceeds their expectations.
Once you know the leading indicators to success, the chances are 80 per cent of the potential variation in customer experience will be down to what your people do in either preparing the customer experience or delivering the experience directly. Get your Human Resources team involved in writing key items of the customer experience into job descriptions, key performance indicators and guidelines. Then it is a case of continually training your team to excel in these areas, and importantly let your people know how important they are in the process and what rewards are available personally for achieving success in the key leading indicators.
Remember the delivery of a great customer experience is not about setting and forgetting. In a typical day, week or month a team member will perform multiple tasks and will be told multiple messages from their Senior Executive team about what they need to do in various parts of their job.
Just as you would with a marketing message to customers, you need to reinforce key messages regularly to ensure team members have the key touch points in the customer experience at the top of their mind. An interesting example of putting customer experience into the human resources fabric of your organisation comes from the USA, where the Salon John Robert’s Spa used white capes for new customers and black capes for existing customers so that every hair stylist would have a visual cue to know to give new customers a great first experience and existing customers a warm welcome back.
Think ahead with your Human Resources and Operations team on the pressure points in your operational capacity. One of the biggest keys is ensuring you can deliver on a great customer experience whilst experiencing a greater demand. That may involve having casual staff who are well trained that you can call on for busier times, controlling as best you can your marketing funnel and having a plan for when you get large queues or wait lists for your service.
For example a classic mistake many food based franchisors have made is having a massive launch event with ongoing launch activities for the first month attracting thousands of customers. At the same time new franchisees and new staff members who are not fully efficient haven’t been able to cope with the large volume of demand. As a result the customer experience can suffer. Sales start really strongly before dropping off immediately after a month, as customers who came a first time don’t return and then sales can take 18 months to recover, fighting through the wave of negative customer satisfaction and negative word of mouth.
Work with your Public Relations team to determine how to manage a crisis in delivery. A great example in executing this was from the team at DealsDirect.com.au. One afternoon when I was shopping for some furniture the site crashed. DealsDirect made the best of a bad
situation. They explained that their techies were on to the issue and that customers should check back on the hour as they would be giving a five per cent discount off the purchase if the site went back live before 5pm, if it was between 5 and 6pm six per cent and so on. They kept updating the site, so at 7:30pm with an eight per cent discount on offer they had a message saying their techies were working hard and that they had ordered red bulls and pizza to keep them going. When the site came back on they were able to capture the traffic they had not been able to service, showcase their friendly brand personality and keep customers happy with a discount as a way of saying sorry.
Measure and Manage
Once you have the key performance indicators in place and with staff trained on customer experience it is time to measure their delivery and reward excellence. The best way to realistically measure customer experience and get staff to buy in to the results is customer satisfaction surveying. By getting a large sample of real customers giving feedback on a location by location basis or staff member by staff member basis you can reward success and coach improved performance in areas that are critical to customer experience. By encouraging feedback from customers you can also get word for word feedback from disgruntled customers and then act on the feedback on a case to case basis to keep those customers happy and spreading positive messages about your organisation. If the Malaysian restaurant Mamak, was an example of a customer experience system executed well, a recent trip to a major supermarket chain shows even the best can get it wrong. I was travelling through regional NSW and stopped into the supermarket and made my way to the deli counter. After asking the service attendant for 100grams of turkey I was informed that the service attendant didn’t have the skills to slice the Turkey and he would get his manager. The manager arrived and rather than talking to me, talked to the attendant and she said we have just cleaned the slicer and it would take 20 minutes to clean again, and given there was only 30 minutes till closing she didn’t want to do it. This conversation took place in front of me, but not involving me and the end result was no Turkey, a shrug from the attendant and an unhappy customer who accepted the situation. I don’t have a problem with closing the deli counter early, but maybe a sign informing customers of this would have been wise, or even just a simple explanation directed to me by the manager, apologising for the inconvenience and suggesting something that was already sliced. I have been a customer of this supermarket chain for years and it has enough cache with good service to hold me as a customer, but I recently had another poor experience at one of their stores and my
advocacy is slipping fast. Now if the supermarket was able to give me the opportunity to give feedback they could contact me, apologise and offer me a voucher to use the deli and they would then have me singing their praises. Instead I have just told a couple of thousand people through this magazine about a bad experience at the supermarket. Consider this, I may be in a position to comment in a magazine which has an audience in the thousands, but it is not just the few writers for magazines who can access an audience of this size, with the advent of social media every day customers now can also have influence on this scale and greater. Whilst it would be unprofessional of me to mention the name of the supermarket chain, everyday customers will not hold back.
When team members excel, awards and rewards are a great way to encourage great customer experience. It can be as simple as certificates and cash rewards or can involve awards nights, team member of the month or year and a whole gift shop of rewards to choose from. One of the other great ways to celebrate success is with league tables which creates healthy competition among team members wanting to be at the top.
Don’t rest on your laurels
Competitors eyes are often drawn to the bright shining success and what was cutting edge a year or two ago can become ho-hum as it becomes the norm. In addition with a rapidly changing world sparked by the speed of advances in fields such as the internet and mobile technology what was a great customer experience 10 years ago has changed. Continually ask your customers what is important to them, pilot new innovative ideas to wow your customers and test the results. Act on wha t you know If as a franchisor the “United Breaks Guitars” video wasn’t enough to swing you into action and convince you of the importance of your customers’ experience, I’ll leave you with one concluding thought. In recent research we conducted for our 10 THOUSAND FEET Intelligence Club Members we saw that Word
of Mouth was the second biggest source of new franchisees, and that one in four Word of Mouth leads came from customers of existing franchisees. If customers have an amazing experience they will want to be a part of it and become a franchisee.
Best of luck in making customer experience a key part of your organisations growth plans! If you have any questions or would like assistance with a customer experience program feel free to get in touch.
Ian Krawitz is the founder and Head of Intelligence at market research house 10 THOUSAND FEET and the franchise satisfaction rankings website topfranchise.com.au.
For the last ten years, 10 THOUSAND FEET have been assisting organisations across Australia to connect and influence their stakeholders through in-depth research. Their services include Industry studies, customer and franchisee satisfaction, ad hoc in-depth motivational research, segmentation and pricing analysis, brand tracking and message development. The 10 THOUSAND FEET client base includes organisations involved in retail, food, finance, FMCG, sports, media, services and channel management.
Ian can be contacted at: