When I was growing up, my father would take the family camping for our summer vacations. As soon as we arrived at our designated campsite, we'd set up the tent trailer for Mom, Dad and my Sisters, and the pup tent for my brother and me. After a weekend or week's worth of camping activity within the area of ground that comprised our campsite, we'd pack up all of our camping gear, and get ready for the long drive home.
The last thing we did before getting into the family station wagon was to clean up the campsite for the next group of campers. This meant raking the site clean of leaves and pine needles, smoothing out any uneven areas of ground, and neatly staking any remaining firewood by the side of the fire pit. We called this activity "The Campsite Rule." Its purpose was to always leave the site a little bit neater than it was when we arrived. "Always leave it in better condition than you found it. If everyone did this," my father explained," everyone would have a better camping experience."
Recently, an appliance repairman came to our house to replace a part in the back of our refrigerator. In the process, he had to pull the fridge away from the wall, and with it, lot of the dust, crumbs and detritus that accumulated beneath and behind a refrigerator. When he finished the work, he pushed the refrigerator back into place, but left the mess in full view on the floor. The repairman had already left when I noticed this. My first reaction was, "This guy violated the Campsite Rule."
This is in contrast to the place where I have my car's oil changed. There, they always vacuum the floor mats as part of the process. Now, vacuuming the floor mats is completely removed from the mechanical process of changing the oil, but they do it anyway for one simple reason - it makes the vehicle neater than it was before I brought it in of the oil change. In a word, they apply the "Campsite Rule."
Just as failing to clean up after yourself is an easy way to disappoint a customer, purposefully cleaning up beyond the scope of your work is an easy way to impress a customer.
The point is this: Find ways to apply the Campsite Rule in your business, to delight your customers.
What small thing can you do - something the customer will notice, that's also outside the core scope of your service - that the customer will appreciate?
If every vendor did this, every customer would have a better experience.
I was in the lobby of the Marriott City Center in Minneapolis this afternoon, and I was thirsty; desperately in search of drinking water. And there were two other people on the same mission. Over by the wall stood a four-foot high all-black object. I walked past it twice while looking for water. The third time, I noticed a small tap on the front. Yeah, it was the damned water cooler, without a sign, and without any visible indication of water. I was frustrated that I had walked past it twice. And so were those other two people.
The manufacturer of the water cooler was intent on enhancing the customer experience through creative design. But in our case, it didn't work. This was a water cooler in a public place, where "customers" were more concerned about simply finding drinking water, than they were about having their lives enriched by innovative design.
When designing a product, think about who's going to use the product, and under what circumstances.
A famous expression in journalism is "Don't bury the lead." That simply means that the headline shouldn't hide the story. Instead, the headline should make it clear what the story is about, without the reader having to go several paragraphs deep to figure it out. The same can be said about water coolers in public places: the design shouldn't hide the water.
Do your product designs and packaging add to the customer experience, or detract from it?
When customer-facing employees are paid more, do customers receive a better experience?
According to McDonald's CEO, the answer is "Yes."
“We know that a motivated work force leads to better customer service, so we believe this initial step not only benefits our employees, it will improve McDonald’s restaurant experience,” said Steve Esterbrook, CEO of McDonald's, according to an article in the New York Times.
When employees are paid more, they're more likely invest more discretionary effort into their work; they're willing to go the extra mile. A 2013 study by human resources thought leader Aon reveals that pay is a key driver for employee engagement. For a customer-facing employee, this may mean working a little harder; trying a second time to satisfy a customer. The added discretionary effort can turn the corner for the customer from merely satisfied to delighted. And delight drives loyalty.
When employees are paid more, their attitudes improve. They're more positive, and this comes across in their demeanor with the customer. Higher pay reduces financial stress. While research indicates that a more positive attitude can reduce stress, the inverse is also true - reduced stress allows a better attitude to happen. A customer can smell a bad attitude from a mile away and a positive attitude from two miles. People tend to be drawn toward positive people, and away from negative ones. Positive employees attract more customers.
When employees are paid more, they stick around longer; they're less likely to move to another employer for incrementally higher pay. As a result, the work for as a whole becomes more experienced. And greater experience brings greater knowledge, more confidence in doing the work, and a reduction in training and hiring costs. As HBR points out, there are indeed high costs associated with low wages, and frequent turnover is just one of them.
There are plenty of systemically good reasons to invest more in front-line employees - those who most directly interface with the paying customer - but perhaps the most strategically sound reason of all is to improve the customer experience. Greater customer experiences lead to greater customer loyalty, an higher revenue and profits.