ICMI is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.


Are You Creating Customer Experience or Just Waiting for it to Happen?

This post originally appeared on Melissa Kovacevic's blog in October, 2012.

We’ve all had this experience. The service employee is pleasant, smiling, not rude…just not offering anything extra beyond what you request.

You ask a question…they answer it.  You make a comment…sometimes they acknowledge with a head nod or a smile.

You haven’t received bad service.  You’ve received “blah” service.  Nothing memorable to make the experience stand out in your mind when you think about doing business there.

I used to make purchases at a large pet supply chain retail store. They carried the brand I needed for my cat with allergies, and so I returned there often.  It wasn’t the service that brought me back, but rather the brand of food seemed difficult to find anywhere else.  The store always had lots of cans available too.

During one of my visits, I was disappointed to find that only 8 cans of the special food were on display….much less than I usually purchased. I stopped one of the store associates walking by and asked if there was any more in the back. She said she’d check and in a few minutes she returned and said there were no more in the back storage area. She added that more were due to be delivered in a couple of days and suggested I call them to check on the delivery.  I took the cans they had and left.

As I was driving home, I thought how nice it would’ve been if she’d offered to take my name and number and call ME when they came in.  Instead, she had passively suggesting that I check back.  As the cans rolled around in a bag on the floor of a car, I wished that she had offered a small box for those loose cans.

Two days later, I called the store before making the 20 minute drive there.  I wanted to make sure that the food had been delivered to them.  I reached the same clerk who had told me to call back while at the store.  She told me that the shipment had come in yesterday (a day earlier than she had told me at the store), and all they had left were a few cans instead of the full case I wanted.

As I expressed my disappointment, she made no response other than a few “uhuh” and “sure”.  She offered no empathy or apology.

I finally asked, “Is it possible to order a case or two in advance with my name on it…prepaid if needed?”   She offered to check with the Manager and placed me on hold. When she came back on the phone, she told me that the Manager could order for me but it would be 10-14 days until the case of food would come in.  I reluctantly agreed.

On the way home, I passed a small locally owned pet supply store (All Is Well).   I hadn’t checked for the food there so I stopped and spoke with a personable young woman named Christie, and explained what I was looking for.  She said that they didn’t stock it but she would be happy to order a case for me.

I asked her how long it would take and the price, assuming the worst since it was a small business and not able to order huge discounted amounts from a supplier.  She replied that she could definitely order tomorrow and I could have the following day but she would have to check the price and call me back. I agreed and provided her with my information wondering if that call would actually happen.

Thirty minutes later, she called and said that the case would be $___ (only $2 more than the big chain store) and she could definitely have for me in 48 hours as promised.  She told me that she would call me when the product arrived.

I was thrilled with the prompt delivery and even more so with her proactive approach to meeting my needs.

I’m still doing business with them and when I call, I just say my name and they respond, “Hi!  How are you?…Do you need 2 or 3 cases this time?” and thank me for my business when I’m done.

I’m treated as a valued customer who is recognized.  Personal treatment rather than transaction number 2038.

So how can we be proactive about creating a great customer experience?

  1. Offer simple inexpensive extras when you can (like a box for all the loose cans).  It’s called a “lagniappe”….an extra for a customer like 13 donuts for the price of 12.
  2. Don’t wait for the Customer to request a service.  Anticipate and offer with a smile.
  3. Callback when you say you will even if you are still checking on something for the customer
  4. Ask the right questions so you can offer a good solution that works for them personally. Don’t offer them the “policy carved in stone” response.
  5. When the customer says, “Thank You”, respond with “You’re welcome (customer name), and thank you for allowing us to help you today” or some other words of appreciation for their business.

Start making great customer experiences happen by proactively making every customer feel important and valued.