What Experiences Will Your Customers Remember?

NEW YORK—It's sometimes difficult for companies to realize that when it comes to providing customer service, it's not always about contact center mantras, such as reducing average handle time, improving Net Promoter scores, or upselling and cross-selling opportunities. Whether they know it or not, everyday companies are providing memorable, personal moments to the customers they serve without even thinking about it.

This is good news for those businesses that Jeanne Bliss, keynote speaker at the 2013 Customer Service Expereince conference (which is colocated with the CRM Evolution and SpeechTEK conferences), termed "beloved companies." It's not such good news for the not-so-great companies that can inspire disgruntled customers to take to social media and voice their complaints to a potential audience of millions.

"It's about improving a customer's life...a memory creation is customer [service] currency," Bliss said. "[Customers'] perception is their reality, whether it's true or not. Would you want your customers' experiences and attitudes out in the media?"

Echoing those sentiments, Michael Starr, a customer experience expert for Strativity Group, led a Customer Service Experience discussion about using the voice of the customer to transform experiences. Starr spoke about having such a memorable customer experience that was so negative he can still recall it 17 years later, and asked the audience if they, too, could remember such impactful experiences.

"Think back to when you were a customer and had a powerful memory," Starr said. "You still remember good and bad experiences. All of your customers remember stories."

"Customers are telling your story, but are they telling stories you want people to hear?" Bliss asked.

Starr noted that while producing a quality product is vital, it's equally important to provide the best service available, which should include treating the customer with empathy.

"Customer experiences are emotional, and making a connection in customer care is first and foremost," Starr said.

While hearing customers is critical, the voice of the employee is also important, according to Starr, as employees play a vital role in the customer journey.

"Go one step further and ask employees what they think is important to the customer and do [they] understand what matters to customers?" Starr said. "What are your employees' attitudes? Are there gaps in the customer experience?"

For employees, it's not always about the salary, Starr said. A good customer service employee will want a mentor to help them succeed, want to belong, and want to make a difference.

As Bliss put it, "Create a place where people can bring the best version of themselves to work. Trust that employees can and will do the right thing. Yes, it's about products but it's also about employees. You can blend humanity with commerce. Hire memory makers, not just functional employees."