Do you have a baseline for customer experience?

SmartCompany, August 8 2016:

While plenty of time and attention gets dedicated to trying to find ways to delight customers, a lot less time gets spent on understanding and being consistent with the baseline of experience that all customers get – no matter what.

The lack of this basic discipline has been reinforced to me while working on a few recent projects around customer experience.

What do I mean by baseline experience?

It’s going to be different for everyone. Sure, there are a few things that you need to get right that just go with the territory of being in business. Like not being rude to customers who come through your door (or website), making sure that they can buy whatever you’re selling without feeling like they are climbing through a hundred hoops and saying thank you. You know the basics.

Baseline experience is a different thing. This is not about the general niceties of being in business. This is about what it’s like for every customer to do business with you. Every customer. The ones who spend a bunch of money. And the ones who don’t. The ones who never ask for anything. And the ones who always ask for something.

It’s the things you want to do each and every time, across all your direct and indirect interactions with customers. It’s the supporting processes and protocols that make those things happen. It’s knowing who is doing what, when and how. It’s understanding how everything connects together end-to-end, from first contact to walking out the door.

What really stood out for me with the projects I was working on was that there was no deliberate and conscious baseline. It was almost random. Some customers thought things were great and were very happy, others were more neutral or downright grumpy about it.

The products and services they were buying were the same. Where they were getting them from was the same. So what was the difference? The difference in these cases (and in so many others) was who they were dealing with.

I’m not saying that some people who work at the company were deliberately upsetting customers. They weren’t. But what was happening, in absence of a clear understanding of the experience the company wanted to and could deliver, was the staff members were winging it.

Depending on the situation, the staff’s mood, the customer’s attitude, and any number of other moving pieces and parts, the resulting customer experience looked more like a lucky (or unlucky) dip than anything constant or deliberate.

Here are just a few ways that’s bad news all around.

  • An unhappy customer will tell 10 times more people about their experience than a happy one, so making sure you limit the number of unhappy customers is just as, if not more, important than minting delighted ones.
  • Not knowing what you need to do, when you need to do it and most importantly why you need to do it, is exhausting for everyone and especially for the people trying to bring their best to work.
  • Having a framework doesn’t limit people, it frees them up so their energy can be focused on what matters not trying to figure what to do next. Want more productivity and effectiveness for your organisation? Get your baseline experience in place.
  • When the organisation isn’t clear on how and why it is doing things, it’s a pretty good bet that things are falling through the cracks. Nothing is a shorter cut to a broken promise.
  • When all the organisation’s energy is focused on trying to do the basics, things like taking advantage of opportunities and harnessing growth take a back seat. And that’s a downward spiral that’s bad for everyone.

So, what should your baseline experience be?

The temptation will be to try and mimic one of the experience all-stars, which regularly grab headlines for their feats. And while companies like Zappos are great to read about and admire, copying them is unlikely to get you far.

Here are some questions to ask yourself that will get you started. As with nearly everything I write about, it starts back with your organisation’s identity:

  • What is your purpose, what are your values?
  • What kind of business are you in?
  • What things will you have to do to be on par with the competition?
  • What are the areas and processes of your business that every customer interacts with?
  • What do you want their experience to be?
  • What would you want the experience to be if you were them?
  • Can you do that every time consistently?
  • What are the things that are in the way of doing it?

Sometimes taking the time to look at the foundations of your organisation can seem like the least sexy thing in the world. But to delight any of your customers, you’ve got to start with a baseline experience you can consistently and dependably deliver for all of them.

See you next week.

Michel is an Independent Brand Thinker and Adviser dedicated to helping organisations make promises they can keep and keep the promises they make – with a strong, resilient organisation as the result. You can find Michel at or you can follow her on Twitter @michelhogan.