My career has predominantly been within the leisure industry; directly delivering a service to the customer.

Looking back, I have naturally wanted to deliver the best experience to each and every one of my customers.  However, have I done this? Honestly; no. The reason for this is because in the early days of my career, it was just about customer service.

It was about ensuring that the operation was clean and tidy, that enough team members were serving at all times, merchandising was to expectation, a manager was overseeing the ‘shop floor’ to efficiently manage the flow of customers. I could go on and on with all the tangible tasks….. The result of this meant customers recognised the business as a strong, operationally efficient one.

Not exactly the ‘wow’ factor! Don’t get me wrong, these are important factors that need to be in place for an operation to be effective but it’s not necessarily going to create an emotional connection with your customers. More importantly it is not necessarily going to meet the needs of different sectors of your customer base.

I have been lucky enough to be involved in a number of projects. In particular I have enjoyed those which were about enhancing the customer experience within a business. It has been a breath of fresh air stepping back from the operation, listening to the customers’ views and team members’ ideas. Challenging the norm and implementing subtle changes to enhance the delivery of the operation, but more importantly the experience.

What is apparent is that the customer experience is more than their physical visit to your business. It starts as soon as the customer makes the decision to interact with your business. Suddenly, you recognise that the experience needs to encompass areas such as a strong brand, effective website and accurate communication with the customer. …..The customer journey has begun!

Identifying and resolving the potential stress points of your customer’s journey throughout their entire interaction with your business is where big gains can be made. Think about it, step back and ask yourself what gives you stress when interacting with a business.  I know I get frustrated if I can’t get the information I need quickly.

On arrival at a business, the customer journey continues. More stress points and the customer still may not have stepped foot through your front doors. Ask yourself again – can we have alleviated them?  Maybe yes, maybe no….. But now is your time to make sure you ‘wow’!

I am sure you will have ticked off the requirements to be ‘operational efficient’, so I guess we don’t need to revisit that.

Thinking about what each of your customers is looking to experience is the key. Can you tailor the operation to cater for your customers who need subtle differences to their experience? Yes you can!!! This is where you make the difference; emotionally connecting with the customer.  These don’t have to be huge, financial or structural changes. Instead they are small changes to how you operate (for maybe a short period of time) to cater for a specific customer. The personal touch goes a long way.

It doesn’t end either; once the customer has made their purchase and an interaction is complete. Thanking a customer for their business; a farewell; a subsequent follow up communication can all ensure that the business demonstrates that it values their customers’ loyalty.

As like most things, to deliver a customer first ethos you need to ensure your team are engaged and empowered to contribute to how you enhance customer experience. What I pride myself on though is looking for people with charisma, a can do attitude and a passion for people. With people like this around me the ‘wow’ factor can be delivered.