Nonnegotiable experiential standards

What if your company
applied an experience
tax to everything you sold to your customers?

If you did, you would begin to
analyze and quantify each stage
of your customer experience
cycle (points of contact) to
understand how important it is
to be consistent in delivering
your nonnegotiable standards.

The truth is, unless you are
the cheapest in your industry,
you are probably already charging an experience tax — you
just don’t realize it nor break it
out. If you weren’t, then your
prices — and everyone in your
industry’s prices — would be
exactly the same. The reason
for the difference — some companies promise to provide more
of an experience than others.

What’s important about this is
that every employee in your
organization must realize that
you need to actually deliver
whatever it is that you’re
promising. Otherwise, your
customers will move on to a
competitor who neither promises nor charges for those things.

The six components of a
customer’s experience

To create brand loyalty
and customer evangelists,
you must operate at a high
level in six distinct areas of
business and evaluate your
company’s customer service across each category.

Physical — The actual
brick-and-mortar component of your operation.
These are the physical elements that are more permanent or long term and
cannot be changed daily.

Setting — The controllable setting you create daily.
The setting communicates a message about what you can
provide to your customers. This
isn’t always visual; it may be the
music your customers hear
when they call and are placed on
hold or the mood your Web site
creates. The setting reveals the
characteristics of your business
as they appeal to the five senses.

Functional — The ease of
doing business with you, such
as return policies and hours of
operations. Functionality has
nothing to do with human interactions, such as being pleasant
or saying please or thank you.

Technical — Your staff’s
expertise in their particular
skills and the company’s systems and equipment.

Operational — The actions
that team members must execute behind the scenes before,
during and after a customer’s
experience. These actions assist
in the day-to-day transactions
with customers, the tasks, compliances and duties of our jobs.

Experiential — The actions
that team members execute
while interacting with the customer. Experiential actions are
the reason why customers
return, refer others and become
brand evangelists. These
include personalization and
anticipating customers’ needs.

Task-focused vs. customer-focused

Secret service focuses on the
experiential, but it is important
that a company be technically
and operationally excellent
before they can be experientially excellent.

While your emphasis on experiential skills should not come at
the cost of technical or operational, being only technically
and operationally focused
results in employees losing sight
of the customer.

But here’s the rub: Experiential
training is the least provided and
hardest to teach of the components. Conversely, it is also the
most rewarding because it provides the largest return on
investment. Experiential training
is about making the customer’s
day. It is about creating value
over and above the product you
are selling. It is about empowering your front-line employees to
have a sense of ownership in
their jobs, and it sets you apart
from the competition.

Action plan

Get started by examining the
standards on which you train
your employees. It’s a safe bet
that the majority, if not all, the
standards fall under operational
and technical. But a memorable
customer experience requires
memorable encounters that
extend well beyond your
employees dotting their I’s and
crossing their T’s.

Employees need to be trained
on how to deliver personal service. When getting customer
information over the phone, it is
imperative that we confirm
their address and the accuracy
of their order (all operational),
but it doesn’t take any longer to
ask them about the weather in
Minneapolis or thank them for
being a customer of your company since 2004. You’ll be
amazed how those simple
details change your customers’
experiential paradigm.

JOHN R. DIJULIUS III is the author of “Secret Service: Hidden Systems That Deliver Unforgettable
Customer Service” and “What’s The Secret.” He is also president of The DiJulius Group, a firm specializing in giving companies a superior competitive advantage by helping them differentiate on delivering an experience and making price irrelevant. Reach him at [email protected].