Article originally published in the Philadelphia Business Journal on February 22, 2016
How often does our experience as a customer, guest or spectator at an event fall short of our expectations? The first rule of any provider of a product, service, or experience is to think like a customer, guest or spectator and ask, “What would be my expectations, and how would I like to see my expectations met, and then exceeded? How would I like to be personally treated?”
As a provider, how do you ensure that you will exceed your customers’, clients’ or guests’ expectations? You should “operationalize” their experience. You should think through every encounter and interaction in detail and determine whether they would have a great experience dealing with your organization. Is it easy for a customer or client to speak with the right person to have their problem resolved? Are they treated in a courteous manner? Does your company always meet its commitments?
In an Aug. 25, 2011, blog published in Unitiv, Meredith Estepon, a writer on how to deliver a great customer experience, states the following reasons why businesses lose customers: “[Businesses] … ignore customers, undervalue customers, don’t solve [customer] problems, stand by unreasonable business practices, and don’t keep their word.” These are common sense things businesses should not do. As business leaders, we should keep these five reasons for losing customers in mind when training our employees. Focus on these areas, and you will gain competitive advantage over those companies that do not.
Many professional sports teams do a great job hosting their fans at games, treating them as welcomed guests. As a former Philadelphia Flyers season ticket holder at the Wells Fargo Center, and now as an occasional attendee at games, my expectations are always met and often exceeded. Entrances to the Wells Fargo Center are easily navigated due to well-trained and friendly security screening personnel. Concession staff members, ushers and other employees are courteous and helpful. The fan experience has been operationalized and well thought out by Wells Fargo Center and Flyers management.
As I wrote last fall, the expectations of many guests with tickets to the papal mass were not met during Pope Francis’ September visit to Philadelphia. Many were not able to enter the Parkway security zone to see Pope Francis and participate in the mass due to an insufficient number of security check points. Some check points were prematurely closed for no apparent reason before the crowds could be cleared to enter the security zone, and they were shuffled to other check points that were overcrowded. It should be noted that the TSA and not the City of Philadelphia was responsible for managing the security check points. The TSA should have operationalized the security screening process and ensured there were a sufficient number of check points. They did not view the security screening process through the eyes of the papal mass attendees.
The TSA had much less at stake in providing a great visitor experience than the city’s administration, whose goal is for visitors to feel like welcomed guests and have a great Philadelphia experience. Visitors should depart with the belief that Philadelphia ranks with the preeminent cities of the world, which over the long term attracts more visitors, businesses and residents to the city.
Leaders, operationalize interactions with your clients, customers or guests. Make adjustments to how you execute to ensure they have a great experience interacting with your organization. Treat your clients, customers and guests as you would like to be treated. Meet and then exceed their expectations. Build competitive advantage.
Stanley W. Silverman is the founder and CEO of Silverman Leadership. He is a writer and speaker, advising C-suite executives about issues and on cultivating a leadership culture within their organizations. Stan is Vice Chairman of the Board of Drexel University and a director of Friends Select School and Faith in the Future. He is the former President and CEO of PQ Corporation. Follow: @StanSilverman. Connect: Stan@SilvermanLeadership.com. Website: www.SilvermanLeadership.com