your customers know, do you?

I was recently reminded (yet again) of the importance of experiencing our systems and processes from the customer’s perspective. Of really understanding the customer experience.

We think we know what our customer goes through, we design our processes and systems to serve them. After all, we use the process all the time. The challenge is that we know how it is supposed to work, we know all its subtleties and nuances, AND we know the shortcuts. In many cases, we never experience the systems and processes we require our customers to use.

A quick example from my own life. A minor part of my job is overseeing a small company library. Employees can find a book on our computer system, check it out, and it will be sent to them via interoffice mail.

So here’s my embarrassing confession. For all my harping on the world about the need for great customer service, I have apparently never actually used the system to check out a book. As the library is 20 feet from my office it almost seems silly to go through the whole process. Instead of going through the whole process, I’d just go grab a book and mark it checked out in the system..

Then, while fixing a minor glitch, I decided to see the whole process from the customer’s point of view. I discovered that the automated emails they received when checking out a book made absolutely no sense. The emails were based on templates used to sign up for classes so they had statements like: Your supervisor has approved you to attend The Strategy Book. Ugh! Their supervisor had nothing to do with it and they weren’t going to attend a book. Fail.

It has been corrected, but it really bothers me because I know better. I know to routinely test processes. But I didn’t. It’s an important reminder that the little things really, really matter.

Think about it:

  • When was the last time you applied at your company, set up benefits, tried to change important personal information? Not using your administrator rights, but the way an actual applicant or employee would?
  • When was the last time you experienced the sales process from start to finish? Not just your part, but right up to when the customer has it in hand. Have you ever tried dealing with your own customer service or returns departments?
  • When was the last time you tried to become a customer of your company? What barriers made it more difficult than it should be?

The only way to find the roadblocks, weirdness, and hassles is to go experience it ourselves. My own situation was minor, but served as a reminder that the only way you’re really going to discover the little things is to experience the process, not as the customer is supposed to, but how the customer actually does.


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