It should go without saying that you and those under your employ should strive to create the best consumer experience possible for every person who chooses to invest time and money into you. Whether you’re a restaurant, provide goods or services, or offer something that solves a customer’s problem, your goal should always be to make sure you’re on top of your game – delivering an experience that not only satiates the customer’s desires, but leaves them with an overall feeling of satisfaction that brings them back your way time and time again.
Unfortunately, this is not the norm. Standards for creating the ultimate customer experience have declined over the years and it can be frustrating to see. Case and point: when I was a teenager, I worked in a grocery store. We were expected to converse with customers, look to some degree like we actually wanted to be there, and not carry on with other co-workers about how ‘off the hook’ last night’s party was in front of guests. Maybe it’s because I’m pushing 40, but I catch more behavior like this all the time and, yes, I stood witness to this exact type of conversation taking place while my groceries were being rung up.
Another example: my girlfriend and I visited a destination we frequent often, probably 20 minutes before the kitchen closed and well before last call, hoping to score something quick to eat (nachos if I recall). After grabbing a table, our waitress stood at another table in our section talking with other guests – for over 10 consecutive minutes. By time she came to us and we told her what we’d like to order, her response was “Sorry, the kitchen is closed.” We missed the cutoff because she didn’t come to see us until it was too late.
I’m pretty laid back. I try not to let little things like that bother me. Sure, I wanted nachos. But it wasn’t the end of the world. In hindsight, she did my belly a favor, right?
But many people are not laid back and forgiving in situations such as the aforementioned. In today’s social media-driven world, many people are quick to jump on networks like Facebook and Yelp and light up businesses for the horrible experience they just encountered. In some cases, it’s warranted. In other cases, it’s exaggerated. But either way, the social image your business exudes goes a long way towards the overall health of your enterprise. Therefore, creating the most authentic, genuine, exceptional customer experiences each and every time should be your standard.
Let’s discuss some rules of thumb. First off, as a consumer, do not let reviews dictate what you choose to do. The experience you have with a product, service, business, or representative of that business may be 100% the opposite of someone else’s. Or, it may be exactly the same. But don’t rob yourself of something you may potentially enjoy based on the feedback of others. Experience things for yourself, then make an educated decision as to whether you want to do business with this company again.
Second – if you have a bad experience as a customer, TALK TO SOMEONE ABOUT IT IN PERSON. Do not be one of those people who hides behind their keyboard and complains after the fact when your server, a manager, or someone who represents the company can help you in person. Most businesses seek this feedback because it will help them improve and do better going forward. Plus, most are eager to earn your loyalty and will do everything within reason to make you a happy consumer. Help them get better. Don’t bash them behind a computer screen in an effort to make them look horrible.
Next, if you own or manage a company where someone drops a bad review on you, embrace it as an opportunity to connect with this individual. Respond publicly in the same thread and address their concerns. This action will show others and, hopefully, the person lodging the complaint, you genuinely have listened to their feedback and seek to find a resolution. Do not delete negative comments. I repeat – DO NOT DELETE NEGATIVE COMMENTS. Major gains and learning experiences can come from a bad review. Take the good with the bad, don’t miss an opportunity to improve your practices, and don’t be afraid to show those perusing these networks for consumer feedback that you’re taking steps to make things right.
Finally, act as if. Act as if every person who comes through your door is a critic of some sort. Think about it: if a restaurant knows a well-known critic with a captivated audience is coming to review their destination, management makes sure everyone brings their A-game. If you take strides to do this every day with every customer, the experiences you create will be extremely positive and buzz will spread about the TLC you put into running your ship. Plus, no one will have to do anything different. They’ll just live up to the standards you’ve set as just that: the standard.
Look at each customer as someone with a voice and a platform. They can use those two powerful items to praise you or to condemn you. Don’t give them the ammunition to do the latter.
At one of my old jobs, our President would make random visits to offices to ensure things were on the up and up. If he was in your area, you’d most likely get a call from a neighboring office with a warning he was headed your way. I never sweated that call, nor sweated if he hit my office first. I trained my staff to act as if he was coming every day. Maintain cleanliness standards at all times, look your best, and greet customers immediately. My crew and I treated everyone like we wanted to be treated if we were on the other side of the desk and that reflected in our customer service scores. And if the head honcho walked in, we didn’t have to change up a thing. It was business as usual.
Treat everyone who connects with your business as a critic. Because, in essence, they absolutely are.