A hotel I stayed at recently did a great job here. On arrival not only was my reservation dealt with swiftly and courteously, but the receptionist also gave me lots of useful local information and offered to check me in to my flight the next day to save time at the airport/faffing around with airline apps in an area with poor mobile signal. “Great experience,” I thought to myself, “I’ll stay here again for sure.”
As it turned out, the airline’s website was down that evening so it wasn’t possible to check in, but the receptionist suggested I ask the morning duty staff to have a go as hopefully the website would be back up again. The next morning I did just that, only to be greeted rather sullenly and given the response that it wouldn’t be possible as the member of staff didn’t know how to do it. And no, I couldn’t have a go myself or explain how to do it.
Suddenly what had felt like a great place to stay fell miles in my estimation. The variability in service was quite a shock after what had been such a good start. Had I arrived to the morning receptionist’s welcome the hotel would immediately have gone down as a one-off stopover rather than a place to revisit.
In today’s experience economy companies are more and more differentiated by the experience they provide rather than their goods or services - or even their customer service. Variation in experience ends up costing companies. Take for example the time taken to restock supermarket shelves, or how long it takes to get through to a call centre. Variation away from the ideal ends up costing the provider via customer dissatisfaction plus the inevitable waste and lost opportunity incurred. Now the world of customer experience can learn from the world of manufacturing here: while an approach such as Six Sigma has traditionally been used in manufacturing contexts it is equally applicable to service industries. Tightening up processes and reducing variation not only results in cutting waste but also in improving customer experience. But when it comes to customer experience, here's the thing: an approach that works well for one customer may not for another. So understanding specific customer drivers and motivators is very important here in working out how to flex approach to optimise customer experience for different types of customer.
· Choose a process which currently has too much variation
· Ask customers what their expectations are. What would make the process outstanding for them?
· Measure the consistency of your current delivery. Is it the same level of experience each time round or more like the hotel above?
· Get a team to identify the root causes of the variation and then come up with some creative solutions to fix the causes forever
· Monitor improvements using longitudinal sampling of customer experience (contact us if you'd like ideas on how to do this)
· Celebrate the improvements you make…and find the next process to improve