Just Meet Customers Low Expectations


I arrived in Orlando for the 9th Lean Accounting Summit and it is impossible for a lean thinker to be in this town without being reminded by the folks at Disney World of the enormous power of Customer Experience Mapping. I contrast it with a company President who recently told me of the painful experience of calling his own company. Seems he forgot someone’s direct dial number so he called the receptionist who failed to recognize his voice. He decided to see how it played out and it didn’t play out well. On hold for too long, no particularly helpful greeting, a voice mail greeting that sounded like the employee leaving it would rather be doing just about anything other than working.

What Disney does so well is to look, listen and even smell the customer experience from every angle for every minute. There are no views of the back doors where the dumpsters usually sit; no harsh sounds of any machine at work other than the ones they want you to hear; no delivery trucks or employees sitting out back taking a smoke break. They assure that every aspect of every minute of the customer visit is optimized.

The surest sign things are screwed up is the existence of companies to do nothing but clean up your mess. A company like Birddog, for instance, will be happy to do nothing other than audit your UPS bills and take a commission from all of the foul-ups they find. Not much different from entire cottage industries that grow up around many machine builders to do nothing more than sell spare parts and fix the lousy machines customers bought. How bad is it when a company’s business model is based on your significant and inevitable mistakes?

Too many companies take a completely internal approach to their definition of goodness. Their lean effort is driven entirely by internal metrics and internal objectives - usually cost reductions with little thought given to how the customers might feel about things.

There are lots of tools and techniques available for customer experience mapping. How formal – or not – you are doesn’t really matter much. The important thing is that you do it. See just how big a pain in the backside it is to have to deal with your company. How long does it take to reach a real person who can actually help? How long does it take to get an answer to an online inquiry? For that matter, how easy or hard is it to find stuff on your web site? Are the customer service people knowledgeable and empowered enough to actually do anything other than follow a script? Or were they hired primarily for their cheerful disposition, pleasant phone voice and willingness to work cheap?

Disney sets the gold standard, of course, but don’t worry about it if you can’t come close to their level. For all our talk about customer value and being customer driven the fact is most customers have pretty low expectations. For the most part they will be thrilled to just have a real human being answer the phone, and they will be ecstatic to have that person actually know something about the product. They will be over-joyed if you just ship when you say you will and answer their email in a halfway timely manner. Simply avoiding insulting them and wasting their time is a huge step in the right direction for many companies.

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