3 simple rules to follow when improving The Customer Experience.

Call it superficial, but even though a customer may have been a lifetime patron to your business, they will remember their last interaction with you more than any other. In today's diverse market, a customer encountering a bad experience might mean it's the last time you see them.

One restaurant I visited for over 10 years handed me a take-out-order recently with food smeared all over the box. On any other day, this mistake might not have triggered anything in me - but perhaps coupled with some frustrated exchange of words between two employees coming from the kitchen, it completely changed my perspective on who this company was.

In an instant I lost my trust that the food was safe to eat, that the muck on the side of the box was a prelude of some other more disgusting unprofessionalism.....were they even washing their hands? What about following proper food-safety guidelines? All of a sudden I was asking questions I shouldn't even remotely be thinking as a customer - these things are a given and are expected from any food establishment. I should have been pondering which soup sounded the tastiest, not which was least likely to kill me. After 10 years of continued service, my entire vision of that restaurant was turning negative - all from one single bad experience. Their brand just broke.

So what does this mean? As a business, we can't screw up - ever? Maybe ... but probably what's more realistic is that when we do screw up, we do something about it. Quickly. The challenge is, in most cases we don't get the opportunity, or have the resources to ask every single customer if they had as good an experience as we think they did.

This is where a bit of analysis and creative thinking comes in. You really have to step back and look at your current business, at what scale you operate, and see how you can integrate some customer feedback. For example, as a 'Ma and Pa' restaurant, it could be as simple as including a 'feedback box' near the door that lets consumers anonymously leave their comments. But there is more to it than that! You should randomly remind visitors this box exists, make it clearly marked for those who weren't informed, and perhaps most important and obvious - read them! Use this critical information to improve your processes, and ultimately - the customer experience.

In case you're wondering, the soup place had no opportunity for feedback at all - and as a customer, it's not my responsibility to go out of my way to let them know. As I said, in today's diverse market I can easily find another soup place. It's not worth the stress or energy to incur personal embarrassment to publicly point out their mistakes. Had they invited me to do so, in a tactful way, I probably could have given them very productive information. As a business, should you be so lucky to get proactive feedback from your customers, do whatever you can to express empathy. Fix the problem, and follow-up with your customer.

For us, as a web development company, we often provide a solution to the feedback issue directly on a company's website. This might mean including a feedback button, a survey or a poll. Social online networking is another great way to generate feedback or monitor customer experience. I'm not suggesting that adding a feedback button on your website will completely solve the challenge of customer satisfaction, or that any standalone tactic will work for you. But as a general guide, consider the following 3 tactics to improve their customer-feedback process:

  1. Provide never-ending, clear and obvious ways for your customers to leave feedback and comments. Encourage them regularly to provide their feedback: be it while on-site, via phone or email, or through your social media tools. In some cases, you may even need to provide an incentive or sweepstakes to increase the likelihood of receiving this valuable information;
  2. Have a routine process for checking and reviewing feedback from these sources. Identify which comments and feedback merit an improvement or change in how you do business. Implement these changes.
  3. Inform your customers that these changes/improvements have been made, and in some cases single out and show appreciation to those who took the time to share their feedback.

We'd love to chat about how we can implement some of these models on your website. If you have any questions or feedback about this post please don't hesitate to share (wink, wink) using the 'Post your comment' button below.

How do you manage feedback at your business? When is the last time you randomly asked a customer about the quality of your product/service? Did you have a system to follow-up?