In simplistic terms the customer experience and consequential satisfaction or otherwise of a customer delivered by any organisation can be divided into three key areas:
- The competitiveness/desirability/relevance of the product or services the organisation is providing.
- The effectiveness of the systems or processes to deliver that product or service to a customer, in other words - how easy are you to do business with?
- The way the staff in the organisation interact with its customers, ideally leaving them feeling they have been treated as an individual rather than being part of a process and, when appropriate, genuinely cared for.
If you were starting your own business tomorrow, it would probably be because you felt you had an idea for a product, proposition or service that nobody else, or nobody else in your area, offered. Possibly this might be offering better quality or price than any existing potential competitors too. If the product or services you are offering doesn't represent an attractive proposition for your target customers, the organisation is destined for failure.
There's no point having a great product or service if it is easier for your customers to do business with your competitors. Your systems and processes must be clear, simple and help to avoid errors. The knowledge and advice you impart about your product or service are also very important as you will be perceived as an expert in what you do and customers will trust your advice.
Finally, you must look after your customers and care about them individually if you want the business to grow. Consequently, your customers will come back and bring their friends because they have enjoyed dealing with you.
So, all pretty obvious stuff, and even more obvious if you are still thinking of a small business where the owner is the person the customers interact with. Of course you are going to be easy to do business with and you are going to care about your customers because you have a vested interest in making the business succeed.
What happens when the organisation grows to 100 employees? Well, the product or service will remain the same and the owner is still likely to be driving the development. The systems and processes may have become more complex as the organisation has grown but, to a large extent, the logistical challenges of the growth will have ensured the processes have developed in tandem.
So what about the people and customer experience they deliver?
Intentionally or accidentally, the organisation will have developed its own culture and that will have a significant effect on how its customers are treated. That will affect how customers perceive the business when they interact with it. However, because the culture of a business is less tangible than its products, services or processes it is often the case that there is less overt awareness of how the evolving internal culture can affect customer service. This can often be to the detriment of the business as a whole, which is why I believe we have such a reputation for poor service in the UK.
Andrew spent most of his career at John Lewis, starting as a management trainee, and subsequently held a number of operational trading roles across several branches, culminating in running the furniture floor at Oxford Street.