The 6 Areas of Customer Experience
To create brand loyalty and customer evangelists, you must 1) operate at a high level in six distinct areas of business, and 2) constantly evaluate your company’s customer service across each category, separately and as categories overlap.
Physical. The actual brick-and-mortar component of your operation; the physical elements that are more permanent or long term that cannot be changed daily.
Atmosphere. The controllable setting you create daily. Everything speaks in your business: your cleanliness, tone of your voice, the positivity (or lack of) in your signage. The setting communicates a message about what you can provide your customers. This isn’t always visual. It may be the music your customers hear when they call and are placed on hold, or the mood your website creates. The setting reveals the characteristics of your business as they appeal to all five senses of your customer.
Functional. The ease of doing business with you: return policies, hours of operation, and other factors. Functionality has nothing to do with human interactions such as being pleasant or saying please or thank-you.
Technical. Your staff’s level of expertise in their particular skills and in the company’s systems and equipment, such as product and job knowledge. Again, this has nothing to do with whether they are nice.
Operational. The actions team members must execute behind the scenes before, during, and after a customer’s experience. These actions assist in the day-to-day transactions with customers, tasks, compliances, and job duties.
Engagement. The actions team members execute to build rapport, personalize the customer’s experience, show empathy, and make a brilliant comeback when they drop the ball.
Let’s take a look at some real-life examples of these components:
- Your server is the most incompetent waiter you have ever met (technical).
- The place needs a good paint job (physical).
- The store is always out of what you want (operational).
- Your favorite store is difficult to get to and barely has any parking (physical).
- This salon has high energy and always smells great (atmosphere).
- The quality of the food is unfit for human consumption (technical).
- An associate overheard that you wanted a specific diet drink and ran across the street to buy it for you (engagement).
- At the diner, everything is themed 1950s-style (atmosphere).
- It is impossible to get a human being on the phone no matter what you try and you can’t get out of the company’s voicemail jail (functionality).
- The company has a 24-hour answering service and guarantees a callback within 60 minutes (functionality).
- My sales rep always screws up my order (technical).
Are any of the components more important than another? No. All are critical and all must be reviewed and tweaked on a regular basis. The components differ significantly in terms of required people skills training. The physical, atmosphere, and functional components have little to do with training or people skills; the other three absolutely do.
There is a difference, however, in the training required for each component. It is much easier to train employees on technical and operational skills; they are job-specific, and they include easy-to-train subjects such as product knowledge and checklists. Also, technical and operational skills tend to be present because of previous education, degrees, licensing, certifications, and trade schools. The vast majority of companies are weakest in the experiential category.
John R. DiJulius III, author of The Customer Service Revolution, is president of The DiJulius Group, a customer service consulting firm that works with companies including Starbucks, Chick-fil-A, Ritz-Carlton, Nestle, PwC, Lexus, and many more. Contact him at 216-839-1430 or email@example.com.
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