What Makes a Great Customer Experience?

Alex Kraft
Aug 9, 2022

I recently had an awful customer experience with a large retailer. I’ll spare the long-winded details because we’ve all been there. From the 30,000 ft. level, what’s incredible is how everything falls on the customer to make things right. All I did was purchase something and now I’m the one who has to exert a ton of effort to get the refund or a resolution? How is it my problem? The experience made me appreciate what makes a great customer experience and/or great customer service. I’ve started to pay more attention to this in everyday life.

Two major components that we all appreciate as consumers are competence and a ‘give a damn’ factor. Competence is something that you can recognize very quickly and puts a customer at ease. I think of a restaurant. We’ve all had a server that within 60 seconds you know will be attentive, knows the menu, and has a great demeanor. It makes your entire experience better knowing that the person waiting on you is competent. It doesn’t have to be a five-star restaurant either, this can be your local chain or even a coffee shop. We’ve all had the opposite as well: where the server is overwhelmed, isn’t able to answer questions concerning the menu, blames the kitchen, and has a poor attitude. Many times, we wonder, ‘why is that person a server if they don’t like interacting with people?’

I’ve had ongoing shoulder pain for a few months. Upon returning from vacation, I decided that I had to do something, so I booked a massage. When I arrived, I told the therapist about my shoulder. Just by looking at me, the therapist says, “your hips are out of alignment, your right shoulder is higher than your left, and it looks like your right leg is a tad shorter than your left. All of these things contribute to your shoulder pain”. Before the massage began, I knew that I came to the right place. Afterwards, I’ve made a couple adjustments to my daily routine, and voila! My shoulder feels a lot better. Apply that to your teams. You don’t necessarily need a customer survey to have an idea of how your people represent your company. Does your sales team exude competence when dealing with customers? When you speak with your sales team, do they speak in generalities or do they have a command of your products and their customers? Do your parts and service representatives embody competence when customers need help?

My personal favorite is the ‘give a damn’ factor. I don’t know of any formal ‘give a damn’ training classes, but maybe Ron will add one to his curriculum. What I’ve seen happening at more companies than I can ever remember, are employees that are quick to tell you that they can’t help you. This manifests itself as ‘I’m sorry, that’s not my job’, or ‘sorry, I can’t help with that’, or “you’ll need to speak to ______”. While I was waiting at this large box retailer, the person in customer service answered the phone with ‘How may I direct your call?’ They couldn’t pass the customer off fast enough. Yet every single company touts their “customer service”. What customers want is to feel like their issue is YOUR issue as a company. They want someone to take ownership of their problem and see it through to resolution.

You don’t have to be an expert to give a damn. Those employees that understand this concept personally see to it that the customer ends up with the appropriate person who can solve their problem. They don’t make the customer start all over from the beginning, try to find someone else, and retell their story. Companies that are great customer service companies make sure to drill these points home to everyone. This isn’t ‘going the extra mile’, it should be what’s expected on a daily basis.

We find reminders every day of great customer experiences. I encourage you when you’re at lunch, at the doctor, Whole Foods/Publix, wherever you visit, compare those visits with how you believe customers feel when dealing with your company. Like I mentioned above, we don’t need surveys to tell us certain things. If you’ve been at your company for a while and know your people, I’m sure you have a good idea. Trust your instincts, maybe it’s time for some refreshers.