5 Questions You Need to Be Asking About Your Customer Experience

So, this morning I made Rosemary infused olive oil. It’s a very simple process. You put 5 or 6 sprigs of fresh Rosemary into 2 cups of warmed olive oil and then let it sit in a cool dark place for a week. When the week is up, you strain the olive oil to ensure you have no particles of Rosemary left in the oil. After I made the Rosemary infused olive oil, I thought, “How will I get the Rosemary out of this bottle?” And that thought inspired this blog post! This blog post is about “How do we eliminate “bottleneck steps?” and 4 other great questions to help you improve your customer experience. (I suppose I’ll just have to strain my oil through cheesecloth, remove the Rosemary and then pour my Rosemary oil back into this pretty bottle.)

Enjoy my Rosemary olive oil inspired post. 🙂

Here are 5 questions that will get you thinking critically about your current customer experience and the answers will inspire you to fiercely focus on continuous customer experience improvement.

1. What are our bottleneck steps and how to do we get rid of them?

Rosemary infused olive oil

A bottleneck step is a step that slows down or impedes a part of the customer’s process. When I headed up Consumer Affairs at the corporate office for an international car rental company, a bottleneck for us was having to disconnect with a customer to call a franchisee to get the franchisee’s “side of the story” for simple problems. A simple problem could take literally days to resolve with this system. We removed the bottleneck by implementing a policy that said issues that could be resolved for $50 or less would be handled by the Representative and charged back to corporate and not to the franchisee. This allowed us to resolve more than 80% of issues on the first call. Bottlenecks cause delays and result in frustrated customers. Identify your bottlenecks and find ways to eliminate them.

2. Why aren’t we picking our low hanging fruit?

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Last year I wrote a blog post about my ridiculous experience at a tag agency. The agency had a 5-step process for simple vehicle tag renewals. The multi-step process caused long lines and frustrated, if not upset, customers. As I stood in the tag agency for more than 45 minutes, I literally created a service map of how I’d improve their processes for a better customer experience. (See it here.) Interestingly, all the agency needed to do was pick some low hanging fruit.

Low hanging fruit is simply something that can be obtained with very little effort. The tag agency could easily and smartly combine their 5-step process into one step to decrease wait time by at least 60%. Low hanging fruit simply requires that we stand back and observe our customer experience from the customer’s perspective. Then, we immediately go out and pick that low hanging fruit for a much sweeter customer experience.

3. How can we make the service experience easier, smoother, faster, or better?

That was easy

I’m working right now with a client who is trying to create the best possible customer experience for her clients. During a conference call with my client one morning, I thought about the “That Was Easy” campaign from Staples. I told my client that we need to step back and ask ourselves, what do we need to do differently, better, faster, smoother or more refreshingly, so that your customers hang up thinking, “that was easy!” What do you need to do differently, better, faster, smoother or more refreshingly, so that your customers hang up thinking, “that was easy!”?

4. How might we use QR codes to improve the customer experience?

QR Codes for Customer Experience

During a business trip, I saw this sign in a restroom in the Phoenix Airport.  The Phoenix airport is using QR Codes to get customers to let them know if restrooms are in need of service. It’s not uncommon to see a sign in a public restroom that asks customers to let a member of the staff know if restrooms need attention, but how many customers really do that? Not many.

The Phoenix airport makes it easy for customers to give feedback. All a customer would have to do is hold up their phone and scan the QR Code to let the staff know attention is needed.

How might you use QR Codes to make your customer experience easier for customers? Could a QR Code be used to pull up FAQ? Perhaps to let an employee know a customer needs assistance on aisle 33? QR Codes aren’t just for ads or promotions. Think out of the box to find ways you might use QR Codes to surprise and delight your customers.

5. What can we learn about the customer experience from other companies?

Apple store field trip

A few months ago I took a team from one of my client’s branches on a field trip to the Apple store and Barnes and Noble. Before the fieldtrip, I gave the team a list of questions and observation points so that we’d make the most productive use of our time.

At the Apple store, my team observed greeting upon store entrance, analyzed employee interactions and even got to see an Apple employee eloquently handle a not so happy customer. After the fieldtrip, we met in a circle in the mall and discussed our observations and explored ways they can take back some great ideas and adopt and apply them in their organization.

We left Apple and headed across the street to Barnes and Noble for part 2 of our field trip. My team really walked away with a lot of customer service insights from both Apple and Barnes and Noble.

Consider taking a field trip to an organization that is known for delivering an amazing customer experience. The company doesn’t need to be in your industry. I’ve taken clients on field trips to Starbucks, local shops famous for service, and to restaurants.

The bottom line: Sit down with your team and ask these 5 questions. Taking action on even one of these questions can have a dramatic impact on your customer experience.

Related:

What I’d Tell the Tag Agency Owner If He Asked Me for Advice on His Customer Service

If you’re interested, here’s where I got the recipe for my Rosemary infused olive oil.

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I took my client on a field trip to the Apple store today – Customer Experience Design Strategy

Barnes and Noble Field Trip 2

This morning I took a team from one of my client’s branches on a field trip. We’re working to create the best possible customer experience in my client’s organization and I believe one way to achieve this goal is to learn from the best. So, I got everyone out of the office and we went to the Apple store and Barnes and Noble.

Before the fieldtrip, I gave the team a list of questions and observation points so that we’d make the most productive use of our time. At the Apple store, my team observed greeting upon store entrance, analyzed employee interactions and even got to see an Apple employee eloquently handle a not so happy customer. After the fieldtrip, we met in a circle in the mall and discussed our observations and explored ways they can take back some great ideas and adopt and apply them in their organization.

Apple store field trip

We left Apple and headed across the street to Barnes and Noble. The people at Barnes and Noble were so gracious and allowed us to explore, take up a lot of space, meet to discuss our observations and they even let us take photos. My team really walked away with a lot of customer service insights from Barnes and Noble.

Barnes and Noble Field trip

I love what I do! It’s great to make customer experience training and consulting hands-on, relevant and even fun.

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Making Self-Service Options Appealing to Generation Y

Generation Y is highly tech driven and because they spend so much of their time communicating through text and social media, human interaction isn’t always their preferred method for getting customer service. When designing your customer experience, look for ways to meet the unique needs of generation Y by having appealing self-service options available. By appealing, I mean tech savvy options like QR codes, fast and efficient apps and pretty much any option that involves smartphones.

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Apple lets customers scan products and pay right from their phones.

Apple does a great job of offering self-service options that are aimed squarely at Generation Y (and X).  If you’ve ever been in an Apple store, you know that their stores are always jam-packed. As much as I love browsing in the Apple store, there are times when I want to get in and out. Like the day I just stopped in to pick up a case for my MacBook Air. Because Apple has given careful thought to self-service options that appeal to tech-savvy shoppers like me, I was able to pull out my iPhone and scan my product right from the display. The product pulled up on my phone via the Apple store app and I was able to pay right from my phone and walk out, bypassing all of the crowds.

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While in the Apple store, customers can not only purchase and pay for products right from their phones, but they can also see how may customers are ahead of them for live help or they can see how many minutes before the next Genius support appointment opens up. 

How might you rethink your customer experience to deliver a faster, more enjoyable experience that requires less human interaction? Don’t think tech-savvy self service options are limited to retail. If you are a contact center, library, bank, insurance company – any company that serves customers, I want you to think out of the box and consider how you might create an easier, faster, more enjoyable experience for your customers using QR codes, apps, smart phones or social media. Get creative.

Myra Golden has spent 15 years benchmarking, interviewing and mystery shopping the best service companies in the world and in her keynotes she shares her insights to help her clients improve their own customer experiences. In her inspiring and riveting keynotes, Myra shares specific customer experience design details from the best service companies of our time: Apple, Zappos.com, Starbucks and Disney. Your audience will walk away with 4 powerful deliverables to help them create the best possible customer experience in their own companies. Explore Myra’s keynotes here.

In Rehearsal for my “Apple Experience” webinar that broadcasts 4/24 @1pm ET. Are you enrolled yet?

Putting the finishing touches on my “Apple Experience” webinar that will broadcast 4/24 at 1pm ET. Are you enrolled yet? http://wp.me/Pv6Ha-IG

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Apple Employee Training Manual Provides 5 Insights for Contact Centers

Webinar  April 24, 2013 1:00 – 2:00pm ET $199 per company Register Recently, Apple’s super secret employee training manual was leaked. The manual spells out specific words Apple employees cannot say to customers (to avoid a negative feeling/response from customers), makes it clear that employees are to fiercely focus on “deepening and restoring relationships” (and shows them how) and has great insights on how to (really) convey empathy to customers. When Myra reviewed the Apple training manual, she was stoked about the relevancy to her clients in the contact center sector and she cannot wait to share these insights with you in a very special web event. Join Myra Golden for this 60-minute webinar! Get the full story here: http://wp.me/Pv6Ha-IG

myra golden webinar

Me doing a complete run-through of this webinar in front of my team. Lol!

Apple’s 5 Steps of Customer Service Brilliantly Executed

Apple Store China

Something was wrong with my iPhone 4s. It would randomly shut off and reboot itself several times a day.  After 3 or so days of this glitch, I made an appointment with the Apple store Genius Bar.  I actually looked forward to going into the Apple store for this little problem because I wanted to test out how Apple employees actually executed the recently leaked “A P P L E 5 Steps of Service” model from the super secret Apple Customer Service Training.

A P P L E stands for:

 Approach Customers with a Personalized Warm Welcome

 Probe Politely to Understand All the Customer’s Needs

 Present a Solution for the Customer to Take Home Today

 Listen for and Resolve Any Issues or Concerns

 End with a Fond Farewell

So, here’s how Apple employees fared against the A P P L E 5 Steps of Service during my visit…

Approach Customers with a Personalized  Warm Welcome. 

Literally, before I stepped foot into the Apple store, I was greeted by a warm and enthusiastic Apple employee in khakis and a bright blue shirt. The employee, a confident, upbeat young woman, checked me in for my appointment on her iPad, discretely took my picture with the iPad and then told me an Apple Genius would come and get me when my appointment slot was ready.  Clearly, the photo was to help the Genius locate me in the crazy busy store without having to yell my name from the back.

Apple retail employees are trained to approach all customers within 10 seconds or 10 feet of the store entrance with a personalized warm welcome. Being greeted so quickly and warmly, completely removed the risk of me feeling overwhelmed, frustrated or confused as I checked in for my appointment. It also made me feel welcome and in general, good about my visit to the Apple store.

Probe Politely to Understand All the Customer’s Needs

As I played with a 27” iMac, my back to all employees, a Genius walked up and said, “Hi Myra!” How refreshing to be greeted with a warm “Hi Myra!” and not have my name yelled out. Using Apple’s own devices to take pictures and make customer identification is brilliant. The Genius started out by asking simply, “What’s going on with your iPhone?” While I explained the problem, she listened, facing me squarely and maintaining eye contact, all while smiling. She then asked for permission to take a look at my phone and then held the phone where I could see it as she ran some diagnostics, carefully explaining to me every step she was taking. The employee asked me questions about when the problem first occurred, and what I was doing immediately before it occurred each time. I noticed how she spent a lot of time asking me questions and not simply telling me what was wrong or suggesting that I had caused the problem.

Probing makes the customer a part of the conversation and it gives the customer a feeling of control and ease.  Apple employees are highly trained to gently probe and give customers a feeling of control during the probing.

Present a Solution for the Customer to Take Home Today. 

Apple fiercely focuses on presenting a solution for the customer to take home that day. In my case, I got a replacement iPhone 4s at no charge. On another visit to the Apple store when my son’s iPod Touch no longer worked because of water damage, the solution was the offer to purchase a refurbished iPod Touch for $79. His iPod Touch wasn’t under warranty, so we couldn’t simply get a replacement. It was up to me to buy the refurbished model or not, but the employee certainly offered a solution that I could take home that day.

Listen for and Resolve Any Issues or Concerns.

Apple employees are trained to acknowledge customers’ questions, resolve their concerns, and help them understand all the benefits that come with the solution.  When I made the decision to purchase a refurbished iPod Touch for my son, I had some concerns. Would the refurbished model work as good as a new model? Was there any sort of warranty? Would I be better off getting a new iPod Touch? The Genius during this visit did a great job of picking up on my concerns and completely addressing each concern in a gentle and warm manner.

 

End with a Fond Farewell and an Invitation to Return. 

My Genius unboxed my replacement iPhone right in front of me, powered it up to show me it was functioning and then carefully wiped away her fingerprints before handing it to me. When we were done, she stood and walked me to the front of the store and told me it would be her pleasure to see me again. That was most definitely a fond farewell.

The Bottom Line

As you can see, each Apple employee I encountered brilliantly used the  A.P.P.L.E. service model. Apple stores are so very profitable and enjoyable because employees approach customers with a warm welcome, they gently ask questions, there’s a fierce focus on solutions the customer can take home that day, concerns are addressed head on and customers leave with a fond farewell. Study Apple’s 5 Steps of Service and look for ways you can adopt, adapt and apply the steps in your business, be that a retail business, call center or an online customer experience.

Myra Golden has spent 15 years benchmarking, interviewing and mystery shopping the best service companies in the world and in her keynotes and consulting she shares her insights to help her clients improve their own customer experiences. For an inspiring and content-rich keynote for your conference, convention or company, contact Myra. Myra also has a full-day customer service training based on the Apple 5 Steps of customer service. This training is very well-suited for contact center, retail and hospitality employees. Check it out here.

Related posts:

How Apple Got the Customer Experience Right

Apple’s Customer Experience Secret: Constantly Improve What Is Already Extraordinary

How Apple Got the Customer Experience Right

iPhone 5 by Myra Golden
iPhone 5, a photo by Myra Golden on Flickr.

I bought my daughter the iPhone 5, but I’m still rocking my iPhone 4s. Her iPhone 5 is faster, taller and far lighter than my iPhone 4s. But because I updated my iPhone with Apple’s latest iPhone software, I have tons of cool new features that make my iPhone 4s almost as cool as my daughter’s iPhone 5.

One of the many ways Apple creates air-tight customer loyalty is by consistently increasing the value customers get out of their devices.

Shortly after iPhone 5 was released, Apple announced iOS 6. The iOS 6 upgrade gave me over 200 new features for my iPhone 4s. All I had to do was download the software upgrade to turn my camera into a panoramic camera, get Siri to now make restaurant reservations for me or give me scores for my favorite teams and I now have a GPS on my iPhone. These are just a few of the more than 200 new features that increase the value and enhance the experience of my older model iPhone.

Increase the value of your service experience without increasing price and you’ll increase customer loyalty.

Apple keeps customers happy with consistent and valuable upgrades; FREE upgrades that enhance the customer experience in relevant ways. I can think of 2 other companies that enhance the customer experience with free valuable upgrades. Southwest Airlines and Zappos.com.

Southwest Airlines Enhances the Flying Experience with Drink Coupons. When you fly 10 or more one-way flight segments in a calendar year, Southwest will send you four complimentary drink coupons if you are over 21 years old. Merlot in a plastic cup after a keynote and long travel day sure can feel really nice.

Zappos Offers Free VIP Status, Which Means You Get Lifetime Overnight Shipping for Free. I’m not sure what it takes to qualify for it, but I am lucky enough to have Free Zappos VIP Status. This means I get lifetime free overnight shipping on anything from Zappos.com.

How might you increase the value of your customer experience without passing on cost to your customers?

Take the next step. Sit down with your team and explore how you might enhance the value your customers receive. How might you give customers more without charging more? What updates/improvements/upgrades can you offer to help customers maximize the potential of your product or service? Enhancing customer value inspires customer loyalty. Customer loyalty inspires bigger profits.

Related post:

Apple’s 5 Steps of Customer Service Brilliantly Executed

Apple’s Customer Experience Secret: Constantly Improve What Is Already Extraordinary