I have been struck recently by the large effect that little things have on me, and how these little things, both good and bad, can have the effect of turning a great customer experience sour, or vice versa. And it is the vice versa part that interests me here. I’m finding that not only do little bad and annoying things drive me crazy, and lead me to make large changes, but those little good changes have just as radical an effect on me.
I recently wrote at length about my disastrous customer service experience at CVS, and there’s no need to dwell on it further, except to comment on my realisation that two dumb mistakes made by lower-level folks at a giant chain had the effect of both enraging me for days and turning me against a store where I had shopped religiously for many years.
The Only Way to Fly
But just yesterday, this experience was counterbalanced by an experience I had with, of all companies, American Airlines. I do a lot of flying in my work, and consider American to be a perfectly adequate airline – neither the beloved jetblue nor the despised (and soon to be departed) Northwest. I was in Dallas, where I had been asked to give a presentation at a conference, and I was due to get on the 7 a.m. flight back to New York the next morning. I was hoping for an uneventful trip, and at 5:30 a.m., I used my cell phone to call the American information line to find out if the plane was on time and what gate it was leaving from (a critical piece of data when flying from DFW).
Much to my surprise, the automated attendant recognised my cell number, greeted me by name, commented that I was flying that day, and offered to provide me with exactly the information I needed. I said, “Yes,” and immediately found out that the plane was on time and that it was leaving from Gate C25. In addition, I was asked if I would like that info texted to my phone. I said, “Yes” again and, seconds later, I had the gate number on my cell phone screen, so I could tell the cab driver where to take me. In short, it was a fast, easy and great experience – and one driven totally by technology. I was ready to ask the automated voice out to dinner.
What does this mean for retailers? First, and most importantly, it means that little things mean a lot. We need to pay attention to all of the things that we do, all of the changes we make, and the unintended consequences of both. CVS didn’t mean to train its people to call customers liars, but by focusing training processes on the importance of adherence to policy, that’s just what it did.
Second, stay true to yourself. CVS is a pharmacy helping ailing consumers. American is trying to get consumers from place to place as quickly and easily as possible. And when the focus is on that core mission, the chances of making small changes that create a lot of good will overwhelm the chances of making small changes that undermine the nature of the business.
Third, in our modern world, both people and technology are important. Technology can make things better, but it can also make things worse. And people can solve almost any problem, but they can also create huge problems. So, we need to harness technology in the pursuit of making the store experience better, but we also need to be focused on helping our people make the experience better.
If you follow these simple rules, hopefully you can implement a variety of “little things” that build your business rather than undermine its core.