RECENTLY, I WENT to breakfast at a smaller café in my city. It seated about 40.
When I arrived, there was only one waitress on duty. She was trying her hardest but couldn’t keep up with the flow of customers. Orders took 15 – 20 minutes to take, tables were not cleared for new customers, and the payment line up was five deep. She was trying to perform all the functions of the restaurant, but was unable to do any of them well by herself.
This is an example where the restaurant’s customer service system was not able to create a positive customer experience. Putting a second waitress on earlier in the day and adding a bus person would have alleviated the pressure, and three of the customers that wandered in after us who left due to the wait, could have been saved.
In this case, the business owner had failed to recognize that every time the door opens, phone rings, or a customer visits your website, what they encounter adds to the Customer Experience.
This is a common challenge. Small business owners spend thousands of dollars every year attracting customers to their business. They advertise, attend events, give to community and work to build their brand. However, many miss out on the most important aspect of business growth: the Customer Experience.
Customer Experience is a blend of product attributes (product quality, pricing, availability) combined with customer service elements (service, atmosphere, approach-ability, warranty or guarantee) all bench-marked on a strong cultural identity of the WHY the company exists.
It’s imperative you spend time sharing your WHY with your team. When they understand why you are doing (or trying to do) what you do, they can get onside. Simply stated; A leader without vision is on a nice walk, a leader with vision has purpose and focus. Once your vision is firmly entrenched, your team can align their actions to it, creating a sense of purpose in themselves as well.
The second factor in a positive Customer Experience is a system where roles are clearly defined, responsibilities are monitored and your team knows how to perform when things get difficult. Systems that are based on predictable process can be scaled up or down depending on the situation.
In the café for example, when more than 50 % of the restaurant was full, a call could have been made to bring in more staff. Or, if the rush was anticipated (looking at prior year sales) then staff could have been scheduled. Similarly, once the rush slowed, staff could be sent home. Similar systems can be used for stocking, shipping and receiving, customer flow, etc. A good system is one that is scale-able, consistent and manageable.
Finally, the attitude and approach of your team to your customers is what creates the sense of a positive Customer Experience. Training on conflict resolution, communication, skills development, and owners present on the sales floor (smiling and interacting) all create a great sense of importance for the customer.
Staff that understand the importance of why, the value of systems, and the power of relationships will help you create a strong customer experience. And that will outperform any advertising campaign you ever do.
Happy Customer Relationships to you.
Jeremy Heighton is the executive director of the North Shore Business Improvement Association. he can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.