Empowering Your Employees To Provide Great Customer Experiences

I love observing how businesses resolve issues. Lately I’ve been taking note of how various businesses that I come in contact with handle customer service issues, either for myself or someone in line in front of me. I’m sure I’m not alone – the ease of venting online about a bad experience (or shout-outs for great experiences) – has put customers in the driver’s seat, and it’s important that you and your employees are responsive to your customers’ experiences because you never know who is watching.

Notice I didn’t say “Customer Service”.

I think that while “Service” may be part of it, it is really starting to come down to the Experience. Service implies that there was a problem – and you or your employee address it. Experience focuses on EVERY customer from the moment they walk into your door (physical or virtual).

For example – I get an Earl Grey tea from Starbucks every morning. Over the past year I’ve come to know the baristas, and they know me. From the moment they see me coming they ask if I’m there for “the usual”. This routine was going along just fine until one day the unthinkable happened… yesterday they were OUT OF EARL GREY!! But “no worries”, said my barista, “try the Awake blend, I’m sure you’ll love it. No charge.” Then she proceeded to open up her secret stash of tea bags for a new blend release and gave me a few to try at home. Even though I didn’t leave with “the usual” – I still left feeling that I was a valued customer.

THAT is a customer experience. Not just the resolution of my issue, but the fact that the baristas have developed a “professional relationship” with me – I go out of my way to go to THAT coffee shop. (NOTE: This kind of experience is not always executed in every Starbucks, as I’m sure you know. I was recently in Phoenix for 5 days and each day I went to the same Starbucks there was a new staff, so they might want to work on their turnover.)

One of the keys to providing a great Customer Experience is empowering your employees – whether they’re customer service agents answering your phones or employees in your store. When employees not only believe in your company but they are also given the trust and empowerment to “make it right” for customers, then it’s a win for both your company and your employees. Now I’m not saying that you do this without boundaries, but consider these two real-life scenarios.

Customer Experience #1

My family and I were at a local restaurant that had opened only a few weeks earlier. We waited because we wanted them to “work out the kinks”. Unfortunately it seemed as though we didn’t give them enough time. The restaurant was terribly under-staffed, it took forever to get service, when our food came out it was cold – overall is was a really bad experience. To make matters worse, not a single employee made any attempt to apologize and make it right. Customers can be very understanding – especially for new restaurants – when they feel that their issues are being addressed. If a manager, owner, or heck, even our server, had come over and apologized (and maybe comped dessert or a kid’s meal) then we would have left with at least a more positive feeling. But as it was, we weren’t the only ones – Facebook and Yelp are filled with bad reviews for that restaurant – and it’s going to take some time for them to recover (if they ever do).

Customer Experience #2

I was recently in a well-known retailer, and I noticed that they had a flash sale for boots (40% off!). I bought 2 pairs, but after I purchased them I realized that they hadn’t taken the 40% off the price. Luckily I caught it before I left the store so I went to the Customer Service desk. Apparently I missed the sign that said I had to download an app to get the discount, but the employee did what they needed to do to adjust my purchase so that I got the discount (I didn’t even ask for it). Not only did I leave after a great experience, but I downloaded the app (which turns out to be really helpful).

As a business owner, if you observe how your employees interact with your customers (and each other) you will begin to see ways in which you can empower them to make your customers’ experiences more positive. You may find that if you call an “all hands on deck” meeting and ask your employees to talk about the customer issues they see and then brainstorm with them to come up with a list of solutions that they can choose from based on the circumstances, you will find that your customers and employees begin to have better experiences with your brand.

ProfilePic Sue Laurent, Marketing Consultant specializing in Inbound Marketing, Content Development, Customer and Competitive Analysis, and helping business owners figure this whole marketing thing out.

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