Wednesday 11 September 2013

Managing the Customer Experience

I recently embarked on a series of University open days with my son and, from a customer's point of view, found it to be a real eye opener. This was not just a chance for each University to showcase the courses it offered, but to create a customer experience that would make it stand apart from the rest. I found it was often the ‘little things’ that made the biggest difference.

Fifth Gear Infographic on Customer Experience

We've found a great infographic that gives 15 Tips to create Customer Engagement. You might want to take a look. 

  1. Find out what your customers need to know

    Knowing what matters to students and parents is essential to providing information before a University visit.  My son had already done his research and narrowed down the choice of courses and which Universities offered them, so the information we needed was practical stuff relevant to the booked visit. Practical information such as directions, parking facilities and recommended overnight accommodation was essential. A schedule of presentations, which enabled me to plan a time-efficient itinerary with my son, was useful. Other details, such as a welcome letter confirming attendance and reservations at subject-specific presentations, was appreciated but not essential.
  2. Make it easy for customers to find information
    By and large, we were encouraged to seek further information from each University’s website. Great in theory, but I soon discovered that there was a huge disparity in the ease of website navigation and access to information. What became clear very quickly was that the focus of the websites was almost exclusively on students already studying at the University. I expected to find a section on University selection and open days for prospective students and parents, who are significant influencers in the decision-making process, but was sadly disappointed. Some information I sought was buried so deep that I failed to find it. Even a customer who is a raving fan will give up if he or she has to persistently browse through a website to no avail.
  3. Give your customer clear and concise instructions at the point of sign-up

    This may sound an obvious one, but it’s very easy to miscommunicate what you want or need your customers to do at the next stage. Using my University visits as an example, we were asked at the point of online registration to bring a particular document that listed details of our visit. This created an expectation that there would be a specific registration area on arrival, which turned out not to be the case. I was not the only parent to be confused as I came across many frustrated parents hunting down a non-existent registration desk. Not a good start to the visit!
  4. Manage the consistency and accuracy of your marketing and brand message

    In general people will normally believe what they are told, until proved otherwise. Finding out the information you have been given is inaccurate, or discovering someone else has been offered a better deal, can often ruin a customer/supplier relationship. This applies to those who work in your organisation. The Student Ambassadors at each University could not be faulted for their helpfulness but it was frustrating to receive conflicting information, as each gave their own interpretation of what they had been told as they attempted to answer our questions.
  5. Make sure your product, brand, service or event experience lives up to your customers’ expectations

    The first-time customer experience is crucial to gaining on-going loyalty, trust and confidence and taking some simple precautions to give customers reassurance in the initial stages can help to cement the on-going relationship. Take parking at an inner city University campus. Having been reassured that a park and ride facility would be the best option, we arrived to find the car park site was full and no further signs or directions were available. Left to our own devices we found ourselves queuing for what we thought was a car park but turned out to be road works. Our stress levels could have been reduced significantly simply by providing some strategically-placed signs

    Some times we are just too close to something to see it from that 'first-time' point of view, but it's never too late to step into the shoes of your customers to find what will make the biggest difference to creating a great customer experience.