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CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE: The Roller Coaster Ride

                                                               

Our experiences as customers can often resemble a roller coaster ride—taking us up and down hills, twists and turns, and sometimes facing sideways. Read any number of customer experience blogs or articles, and you'll see a popular theme. It's this notion that, in order to earn customer loyalty and referrals, you must consistently exceed their expectations—give them the ride of their life—every time!  Is this realistic? Does the ride (experience) become exhausting at some point? Does it break down?  While I certainly appreciate setting high expectations, the reality is there are the occasional hard falls. I am sure you have been there. You set the expectations too high (the customer or the service provider) and sometimes you end up with the “Gee, I wasn’t expecting that!” moment—it’s not always pleasant. Then just as you are about to throw up your hands, the ride takes a quick turn and the thrill begins once again.  

Every day residents are riding the apartment community roller coaster. I believe a great resident experience is  built around a series of “moments of truth” during their interaction with your employees. Those on the front line, the resident’s primary contact, are expected to help them and deliver a pleasant experience—but it doesn’t always work out that way. Every person on your team, even those you may not think of as customer service personnel, has the ability to make a positive impact on the experience, improve resident retention, and in some cases even turn a bad experience around.

This is our story...

1.
   
UP HILL

Tired, but excited to continue our vacation, my family left Oklahoma City at 6 p.m. last Saturday and headed for Kansas. Our destination was the Kansas State Fair. Are we from Kansas? No. Do we have relatives that live in Kansas? No. This year marks the 100 Year Anniversary of the Kansas State Fair and we wanted to be a part of this historical experience. We spent the night in a hotel and arrived at the State Fair gates the next morning anticipating a great family experience full of wonderful memories.  

As we approached the ticket area and saw a very long line I turned to my husband, smiled, and said, “Aren’t you glad I purchased our tickets in advance AND saved us time and money?”  

  2. DOWN HILL

My smile soon became a frown when I realized that the short line was the general admission area and the long line was the advance purchase line. Worried? Sure we were. But our expectations were high enough to carry us through this temporary set back. It turns out that the cause of this long line was due to the fact that the ticket envelopes were thrown in boxes in random order—they were NOT alphabetized. No, I am not kidding. State Fair employees were digging through many boxes trying to locate tickets for hundreds of people. It was a customer service disaster and people were VERY angry. I was extremely disappointed and so were our children.    



The line hardly budged and soon we were all sent to the administration office about a half-mile into the fair grounds. We were told that they would “take care of us.” My low expectations started to climb once again. Lucky for us we were the first to arrive there—but we were far from lucky. They proudly wore their “customer service” badges yet showed no sense of urgency and provided no apology. In fact, it was as if they wanted us to feel sorry for them. It took them 45 minutes to put a basic ticket package together for us—no thank you for waiting—no concession—nothing!  

 3. UP HILL

 Exhausted and frustrated with no expectations for anything resembling satisfactory service, we began to walk down the midway. A carny called us over to play a game that required you to throw a baseball and break a record. “Only two breaks and the huge stuffed animal is yours,” he said. Instead of running in the other direction we let Owen, our oldest son, try his chance at it. He hit the record on his first throw—we were all shocked! My husband broke the second one and Owen walked away with the biggest stuffed chili pepper I have ever seen. Owen was beaming with pride and excitement. The carny immediately used Owen’s win to market his game, “Look what this little kid just won! You can do it too!” Almost instantly he had a line of people trying their chance at a win. It was like something out of a movie!

As we continued down the midway another carny called us over to play his game. This time we knew that we were over our head. To my surprise he encouraged Owen not to play the game, knowing that it would just leave him disappointed. He kindly pointed us to a section of games that would be more suitable for him. We were shocked!

The service and attention that we received from these two gentlemen and even the lady at the lemonade stand far exceeded the service that we received from those wearing a “customer service” nametag. Did that make it all better? No. But they certainly succeeded in diffusing much of our disappointment and putting a smile back on our children’s faces—for that I am grateful.   

Get To the Core: Johnny the Bagger (video)

Will we visit the Kansas State Fair again? Will we recommend it to our family and friends? Not sure that we will. But then again, I’m not sure that we won’t. If I receive a customer survey in the mail tomorrow they will certainly know where I stand—and those gentleman WILL be mentioned.  

Your turn! Do ALL of your employees understand the role they play in the customer experience? I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject.

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I really liked the story and the underlying points! When I still managed I think I had to constantly reinforce the role the on-site team played in the totality of our resident's experience. Thanks for sharing!

  Rommel Anacan

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