2 simple customer experience principles to live by

Tommy Smothers of the Smothers Brothers – if you don’t remember them, look them up on YouTube – used to have a short comedy routine about golf with a title something like, “The 37 most important things to remember during your downswing.”

While the routine was especially hilarious to anyone who has ever taken a golf lesson, it also drove (pun?) home an important truth: We can’t process and act on a laundry list of rules; we need general guiding principles.

Heck, God got all the directions on the way people should live down to a list of 10. (If only the IRS or IKEA could do as well!) So with that sentiment in mind, let me give you two principles you should instill in your team that will take your customer experience to a higher level.

  1. Teach the “spirit” of your procedures and systems in a way that is equal to or greater than teaching the nitty-gritty “how-to” of your procedures and systems.
  2. Provide your customers or clients with a memorable experience.

Meet the spirit of your systems

In the legal world, we have the letter of the law and the spirit of the law. Sometimes, these can seem to be at odds with one another. The same relationship is true with the systems and procedures we put in place to work with our customers in the business world.

We establish systems to standardize certain efficiencies that we believe will benefit everyone. However, while we spend meeting after meeting teaching team members how to fill out the forms and which step follows which step, we don’t stress how the system is intended to benefit customers; we don’t teach the spirit of the system or procedure.

When customers and employees go through your system – whether it be while processing a return, placing an order, or getting a question answered, for example – if they aren’t left with an overall impression that matches the intended spirit of your system, something is wrong.

Your employees need to be able to take some liberties with your systems so they don’t destroy the spirit in which they were created. Further, if this happens often, they need to be able to go back to management and tell how the spirit of the system is not being met and make suggestions for improvement. As poet Robert Burns wrote in To a Mouse:

The best laid plans of mice and men can go awry.

Remember the experience

To address my second guiding principle – Provide your customers or clients with a memorable experience – I suggest you ask yourself the question:

What makes engaging my company’s product or service memorable?

If you can’t quickly answer that question, you have some work to do. If you think you know the answer, then investigate the situation and see if things are happening the way you envision them. You could use secret shoppers, surveys, or some similar strategy to accomplish this.

This point also gets into the idea of what differentiates your company from your competitors. Let me give you an example. A friend of mine recently needed an emergency roof repair on a Sunday. He went to Home Advisor to get the names of roofers who could do the work. He was calling on Saturday evening. He called four names recommended by Home Advisor. Only one of those answered the phone. He got call backs Monday from the others. Of course, the one who answered his phone got the job and his five-star rating on Home Advisor.

Simply being responsive in an industry that is notorious for being unresponsive can be the attribute that makes your customer experience memorable.

In any case, if you can’t list the things that make your customer experience memorable, there’s a good chance you don’t have any!

So, how do you stack up? Has your team internalized the spirit underlying your procedures? Do customers come away from your business with one or more distinctly positive impressions of their experience?

Do well with these principles and you’ll be well on your way to leading your industry in your locality.