The Real Experience

The Case of the Elusive Experience

“Watson, what do you believe to be the ‘Customer Experience’,” asked The Effective Detective, beginning another of our business discussions.

“Well sir, I would have to say that it is related to the service that customers receive. How they are greeted, what happens after the sale, handling of problems, etc.,” I answered.

“Excellent Watson! I believe you have defined almost perfectly what most people believe is the ‘Customer Experience’,” exclaimed The Detective.

“I sense a but… sir,” I cautiously responded.

“How observant of you Watson,” The Detective said, giving me a slight smile that indicated something else was coming. “You are quite right. You see, whilst that definition is 100% completely correct, it is also incomplete.”

“Incomplete, sir? Perhaps I left out a few additional things that can be done in customer service,” I replied, feeling a little bit of confusion.

“Perhaps Watson, but that is not what I was referring to. What is incomplete is that you refer to the experience only as it relates to customer service. In fact, the customer experience encompasses not only the service the customer received in purchasing, but also what they purchase, how they feel about themselves, and most importantly the emotional response they have to the overall process. When those factors are brought in as well you start to see something about this experience that most people miss.

“When there are discussions regarding customer experience they are almost always rated good or bad based on specific service metrics – ‘was the customer properly greeted in the appropriate amount of time’, ‘were all of their questions handled properly’, and low marks in any of those metrics downgrade the rating. I will admit, there is something to be said for such scientific analysis, other than those metrics tend to be one-size-fits-all, which as you know Watson, I absolutely loath.

“The fact of the matter though is that the customer experience is an overall emotional experience. It is an expectation that the business itself can define, and the customer can choose to engage or not.”

“I am not sure what you are saying sir, an example perhaps?” I quickly interjected, taking advantage of a slight pause.

“Certainly Watson, let me select one that most everyone could identify with: shopping at Walmart. I don’t think I would be stretching things if I said most people do not shop at Walmart for the excellent service they receive. Yet, there is an experience there. It is really quite simple: People go to Walmart to have a wide selection of cheap stuff that they can buy at rock bottom prices. They leave pleased that they have saved money. They do not walk into Walmart expecting a shopping concierge to guide them around the store to help them choose their packages. They do not expect the clerks to enthusiastically greet them or better yet to recognize them, and inquire as to the success of their shopping excursion. No. They expect to find low prices on most likely cheap stuff. That is exactly what Walmart provides, and not much more, and they have been amazingly successful.

“This is why some, albeit not all, existing small businesses around a new Walmart tend to fail. They try to duplicate an experience that their buying power with vendors will not allow. They do not try to design an experience that would attract some aspect of their market. If the market is there for a different experience and it is marketed correctly, one could survive in the shadow of a Walmart, but I can guarantee you Watson, offering ‘better customer service’ will rarely be the deciding factor, there must be an emotional trigger that is more important than price, or whatever it is one is competing against, ” The Detective finished.

“It is never easy is it sir?” I sighed.

“Quite Watson. Simple in its way, but business is never easy.”

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