Explore three new frontiers to stellar customer experience: Part 1

‘It’s all well and good training us to give our customers a great experience but what are you going to do to train them?’ 
What a good question.  At one time I would have moved on with platitudes like “we should keep our focus on what we can influence”.  However, if we want to achieve stellar levels of customer differentiation and loyalty perhaps we need to push the frontiers of customer experience towards those things we can’t influence. 
Customer Experience training assumes we take all the responsibility for ensuring our customer has a great experience but what responsibility do customers have for their own experience? How come some people often get what they want as a customer and others seem to always be in conflict and continually dissatisfied. Let’s explore these frontiers by considering how we might influence that which we cannot, on first inspection, influence?
Frontier 1: Influence the uninfluencable
The very best organisations are beginning to recognise that a customer’s experience with their organisation can be ruined by factors outside their control.  Whilst analysing the complaints received from the customers of a leading manufacturer I was interested to note that they had labelled nearly 25% of them as ‘unjustified’.  When asked what an ‘unjustified’ complaint was they pointed out that it was where the cause of the complaint was due to another organisation or supplier and not their fault.  What was interesting was that the customer perceived that the problem was down to them, simply telling them that it was someone else to blame did nothing to change this perception. The first frontier is to take responsibility for all aspects of the customer’s experience even those for which we have no responsibility.
We are all familiar with this, when visiting a restaurant recently we had a dreadful time. The traffic was appalling, the weather was wet, windy and thoroughly miserable and our taxi driver drove at the speed of Jenson Button but with a fraction of his talent.  Once inside the restaurant our experience was fabulous, beautifully presented and flavoursome food with attentive waiting staff and convivial company.   Unfortunately, at the end of the evening we had to wait for 20 minutes for ‘Jenson’ to collect us and paid the equivalent of 25% of the price of our meal for the privilege of the white knuckle ride home.  Our dining experience was ruined by causes that were not the fault of the restaurant.  
Compare this with a rival restaurant which had discovered that customers who used the highly unreliable local taxi firm had a poor overall experience.  As a result they took a different approach and created their Diners Club.  One of the benefits of the free membership was their chauffeur service with collection from your doorstep and return transportation home after your visit, for no charge.  When I asked if this was cost effective the manager informed me they made £14 per person extra profit from each diner that used the chauffeur service (usually on wine).  An added benefit was the brilliant customer feedback mechanism; their customers told the driver everything about their experience, what they liked and what they didn’t, a focus group on wheels! They had taken responsibility for the whole customer experience, increased profitability and you can imagine the benefit to their reputation in the local community.