Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Managing Customer Experience

Managing customer experience
Contact points will dictate your customer experiences. How many do you need to ensure your company does what it says on your tin?
Do you know how many contact points are necessary for the success of your business what measures do you undertake to ensure these are managed to maximise your customers experience? Traditional hospitality and leisure businesses are being squeezed by “home experience cuisine” offered by supermarkets and “stripped down service models” where customer contact is kept to  a minimum. Price points are dictating levels of service customers want, are you one of those operators who has confused levels of service with quality?
If you are reducing the “human” contact by definition you are also reducing the opportunities to react to customer needs and provide a personalised service. A key consequence of this is the utmost necessity to get every contact “spot on”. Only well trained, informed and motivated employees can provide consistent quality experiences.
It might sound complicated but without some form of brand filter to evaluate everything you do you are exposing your customers to inconsistent service and products. Careful and diligent use of a brand filter will ensure your personal values can be fully represented by all who engage with your business; suppliers will get their products to you having been quality checked, employees will maximise each contact point upholding your values and your community will drive recommendations.
Ten top things to help ensure your actions to match what you say on your tin:
1.       Decide on your brand values
2.       Research highest price points
3.       Imagine being a customer, love them, attract them
4.       Recruit suppliers, employees, agents etc with a ruthless adherance to your brand values
5.       Be bold, make clear promises and try to exceed them through quality training
6.       Ensure every contact point is needed and adds value
7.       Be personally linked to your company and be part of the community
8.       Don’t expect your customers to pay for your inefficiencies
9.       Make it look, feel and be fun
10.   Have an exit strategy right at the beginning

Friday, 4 March 2011

Too Lazy or clever to train??

Too clever or too lazy to train?
Does it make any sense to commit hundreds, thousands or even millions of pounds to your businesses and then fail to equip staff with basic hospitality skills? If I had received £1 for every time someone has said to me “well I’ve told them time and time again” when trying to explain service failure I could be giving Bill Gates a good run for his money! And this is where the crux lies; training is not telling… Someone is not trained until they can carry out the required task to the set standard again and again without supervision.
Do you drive customers away from your business, town, region or country by failing to train, pandering to the lowest common denominator or are you collaborating in programmes designed to drive up standards and working to deliver continuous improvement? Do you teach your colleagues and employees how to use knowledge gained to underpin and project your ethos, are you experienced enough to, recognise, reward and encourage them?  
In my late teens I experienced the two extremes of induction; in one leading hotel whilst being trained in the fine dinning restaurant it was a full six weeks before I was let loose on the unsuspecting paying customer and for the following six weeks I was closely monitored, praised, admonished and motivated by experienced restaurateurs passionate about excellent service, passing on their knowledge and of course tips. Core skills and intimate product knowledge were but key components of providing the ambience expected in first class dinning areas what took time to learn was the application of these skills in interacting with colleagues and customers. I can still recall the sense of pride and achievement when I was assessed as being competent enough to work unsupervised. The second experience still has the ability to make me cringe and feel helpless, stupid and embarrassed for the customer; my first shift as night porter commenced with me being provided with an ill-fitting uniform which it was insisted I wore. On taking a room service order I was deliberately given a pen that did not work so my “trainer” wrote down the room number took me to the kitchen area and showed me how to make the sandwich present the tray with side orders etc after which he sent me on my way to deliver the ham sandwich with English mustard and glass of milk. I did not know that he had written down a non existent room number which meant when taking the room service tray I searched in vain for this fictitious room the along the whole of each corridor, up and down fire escapes before being forced to return with the undelivered tray and failed mission to the waiting highly amused colleagues, “where have you been” boomed the Head Night Porter, Mr Peterson (yes I can still remember his name) has been complaining. It was a great laugh to everyone, deliberately putting me in my place for being so keen.
Times have definitely changed since those days with most enterprises unable to afford 12 weeks of non productive employment and to be fair the bullying culture of the 70’s and 80’s has receded resulting that most peoples first experience of work experience, part time or fulltime employment in our sector lies somewhere in-between.  However as customers become more knowledgeable and discerning it is incumbent on businesses of all sizes to take control of training to ensure their customer experience at least matches expectations. Owners and managers need to take full responsibility for ensuring employees are fully equipped to enjoy and be successful at their work. No business is too small to adopt these principals. It is quite possible that no business can afford not too!
Time spent devising and then implementing induction as a tool to underpin your ethos will pay dividends especially if your recruitment is such that you have selected the person most suited for you. With unprecedented pressures on all organisations after the financial meltdown it must be tempting to decide not to pay for training and when you consider the amount of “free” courses being offered by FE and HE providers it is understandable you may be paralysed into inaction but please, please, please evaluate your organisation needs, measure customer expectations against you and your teams ability to exceed and implement training after assessing who is best to provide the quality you require.
·         If you are too clever or lazy to train; delegate!
·         Use induction to demonstrate a clear commitment at the beginning of each employee’s time with you to outline what training, environment and conditions you will provide and what you expect back.  
·         Stretch your skills and encourage those around you to stretch you.
·         Allow periods of time for trainees to absorb the necessary skills, culture and manner in which these skills should be utilised.
·         Do not forget employees mirror you best when you are not present.
·         When customers don’t miss you your team is performing.
·         Measure and reward productivity.
·         When you are praising and not admonishing your employees you will probably be a benchmark enterprise driving up quality and leading the way.  
Come-on owners and managers commit your standards to paper and devise ways in which you will monitor performance in order that you will attract and retain quality employees and loyal customers.