I first heard of this great ideology at a conference a few years back — we aren’t in the business-to-business world or the business-to-consumer world — rather, we are in the human-to-human world. This was popularized by Bryan Kramer, CEO of Purematter and frequent TED Talk speaker on the topic of H2H.
“Businesses do not have emotion,” says Bryan Kramer. “People do. People want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. People want to feel something. People want to be included. People want to understand. But people are also humans, and with that comes mistakes. Missteps. Failures.”
We as a society get so caught up in the business of each day — all our activity, in short, is prioritized by how much revenue it drives or what kind of impact it has on the bottom-line.
We forget that we do business not with other companies, but with other people.
Experiences are a Make or Break Factor
I’ve been writing a lot about CX here at Alchemer recently. We are even hosting an hour-long webinar October 3 on this topic. In research and in talking with experts, it got me thinking a lot about what I look for when it comes to experience. I sat down and made a list of what I love, what I let slide, and what are total deal breakers for me. So it was not surprising to me that this list was top-of-mind when I went on vacation last week.
I booked a condo in the mountains for two nights. I did all the due diligence before booking — read the reviews, cross-checked the hosts credentials on AirBnB, and asked all the necessary questions before booking. After the reservation was confirmed, I felt confident that the experience was going to ease the cost of the trip. Because after all, we all unload our wallets for a good experience.
Ok, I know that writing about CX is kind of my job, and so it’s way more prevalent in my mind when doing businesses with another, but the experience we received was almost vacation-ruining. Here was my list of the deal breakers that tallied up over only two short days:
- No on-site parking (not mentioned in the advertisement)
- The room was next to a busy loading zone and a frequent thoroughfare for cars driving by (likely looking for a parking space…)
- The staff was negative and provided no solution to any issue that was raised
- The communication we did receive from the front desk was quickly negated when the staff told us one thing and a few hours later told us the total opposite
The location was beautiful, I was surrounded by my family, and the activities we had planned went off without a hitch. However, the experience at the condo makes me look back at the vacation with a sour taste in my mouth and regret in the pit my stomach. And then it hit me: experience really is a make-or-break aspect of continued business. I was so agitated, I felt the only way to express my concerns was to go straight to Yelp, the business’s Facebook page, their Twitter — anywhere that would hear me. Then, I took a step back and breathed deeply, refrained from airing my grievances on the social networks and attempted to speak face-to-face with a staff member, which was a spectacular failure as well.
I didn’t feel like a human, I felt like a number and a contributor to the management company’s bottom-line — nothing more.
My point in sharing this story is that at the end of the day, I could be in the most beautiful place in the world with my favorite people, and if the experiences that we are offered are not consistently rich or aligned with what you’d expect in terms of ROI, it’s a show-stopper.
This excerpt from my personal life isn’t far from why customer experience and customer service experts are approaching experience strategies across industries at a more aggressive pace. It’s no longer groundbreaking nor is it rocket science that the better the experience your customers have with you from the very first interaction, the more money the company will make, and the stronger the relationship you and your customers will have.
Building and Sustaining Meaningful Relationships
“Thinking of your client as somebody who is beyond just a number, whether it’s the NPS score or the beyond the total contract value, and actually seeing and having compassion and empathy and understanding,” Theresa Delgado, director of customer experience at OpenWater told us.
Should the condo staff have shown even a slight sliver of compassion or empathy towards me and the line of parking-less other guests, the experience could have been repaired. Yet, to Delgado’s point, thinking of your client as somebody who is beyond just a number makes a world of a difference toward building a meaningful relationship.
“Having a meaningful relationship that you can have with that customer will inevitably turn that customer into an advocate for you within their organization to other departments and making sure they’re always returning,” says Delgado.
At the end of the day, things happen. Experiences that were planned to go one way, tend to go in the opposite direction. When companies admit these flaws and show that they’re human, the customer will likely positively respond.
A Lost Art: Listening
“Being someone in customer success and customer support and customer experience, you have to have the skill to listen, to actually listen to what people are saying, and having the ability to then pick up at what they’re not saying as well as having the ability to ask questions to get to the root of the problem,” says Delgado.
I didn’t feel heard by the management. Neither did the line of other customers who were experiencing similar hurdles in their vacation. Collectively, we felt like a booking statistic rather than tired travelers looking forward resting. And I think what bothered us the most was that we didn’t feel heard, nor did we feel like what we were experiencing mattered to management.
“There’s always going to be a positive and negative feedback — that’s a reality,” says Delgado. “The negative feedback is actually something that you want to get because that’s the only way that you can grow and it’s the only way that you can actually prevent something from becoming a larger problem and losing customers as a result of it.”
For managers across industries that deal with frustrated customers (like I was…) take it as a learning opportunity, at the least. We learn from our mistakes. For me, I will be for sure asking about parking in future vacation plans. For companies from hospitality and transportation to retail, technology, entertainment and beyond — the lesson here is simple: listen and be human. Those two aspects go extremely far for the customer and do wonders for working out the kinks of improving your overall CX strategy.