The Human Experience


The Human Experience

By Erik Linask, Group Editorial Director  |  January 15, 2014

We, as an industry, spend a significant amount of time discussing the customer experience, and debating the merits of various technologies that help businesses measure, evaluate, and enhance the customer experience. And for good reason – advances in communications technology, the growth of cloud computing, and increases in processing power and efficiency have all made it much easier to collect experience data and sift through it to understand customers.

But, a pair of recent experiences reminded me that, regardless of the technology, at the heart of nearly every experience is a human element, in some capacity on both sides of the equation.

You can create gorgeous, modern websites, optimized for your users. You can create generate demand for your product through complex marketing agendas. You can deliver a product that meets or exceeds expectation. You can collect volumes of customer feedback to ensure you constantly improve your operations. But, it’s all for naught if your team doesn’t buy into it and it fails to deliver a quality interpersonal experience, regardless of the product. In other words, a sub-par representation of your company can ruin your reputation with a customer in just a few seconds, rendering all the effort you have put into building your reputation.

The first of the two experiences was on my flight to CES (News - Alert). I was on American Airlines and was entertained by one of the flight crew keeping me updated throughout the flight on the antics of one of her passengers who felt much more entitled than the rest of us, requesting everything short of a deep tissue massage. The attendant’s response to barrage of unreasonable demands? “Kill him with kindness,” she explained. “They usually don’t know how to deal with that and tone down their attitudes.”

Importantly, it also likely ensures these same passengers, who otherwise may well feel underserved, leave with a positive experience.

The second experience was back at JFK where, passing the transportation counter, I overheard a couple ask one of the attendants what she would suggest as the best way to get to Manhattan. Now, I happened to have sat in front of the couple on the plane, and knew they were from Venezuela, but the very strong accent was a telltale sign they could be visitors and unfamiliar with not only the airport and city, but with conventions in the U.S. altogether.

The response was sharp and short: You have to make a reservation if you want to use this, referring to the particular transportation service in question. The agent then turned and quickly went behind the kiosk to discuss what must have been critical evening plans with her colleagues, considering the way she immediately disregarded the potential customer.

The couple turned to one another with confused looks on their faces. I could tell they were frustrated and highly unsure of what to do. Recognizing the situation, I stopped to help the two passengers from my flight, pointing them in the direction of a few options for getting to their destination. They seemed pleased, but that’s inconsequential for the sake of this conversation.

It doesn’t take much consideration to realize the actions of the agent were clearly those of one who has little incentive to perform at high levels, and certainly none to ensure increased business for the services she represents. In this case, it likely matters little, but the point is relevant nonetheless – every interpersonal experience is a chance to enhance or destroy an experience.

As much as technology is important, it can only work with what has already been created. I thought back to my conversation with a 3D audio processing vendor at CES, who had explained its software as working with any quality of audio equipment – it takes great sound and makes it better, and it takes poor sound and makes it better.

The same holds for customer service technology. It can enhance the experience, but the starting point is what matters. Every one of a business’ team members that has even the slightest chance of interacting with customers must be properly equipped with the tools and attitude to make the most of every scenario, good or bad. Only then can you feel comfort knowing your technology investments are helping maximize your customer relationships. If you’re starting behind the proverbial 8-ball, your technology may be helping create a better experience, but not the best. Make sure you have the best people and you’ll ensure you have the most satisfied customers.

Edited by Blaise McNamee
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