Do your staff understand the customer experience?

Are your staff putting themselves in your customers’ shoes, thinking through the customer experience? Does your staff help your customers save time, money and aggravation, rather than causing more of these?

Twice recently, with two different reps at my travel agency, I found they didn’t really understand the customer experience, so I ended up spending more time, money and hassle than necessary.

Both were when I was traveling internationally from LAX. The first rep told me I could not fly out of my local airport, San Jose, which is a 10-15 minute, $20 cab ride. Instead she said I had to go out of San Francisco, an hour’s drive and $125 cab ride. I told her I thought it odd that I couldn’t catch the flight to LAX from SJC, but she said no, I had to go out of SFO.

Planning a second trip, I called when the rep was out of the office and the agency owner took my call. I asked if he knew why I couldn’t fly out of SJC. He said I could. Tap, tap, tap — a few keystrokes later the flight was booked — saving me 1.5 hours and $210.

The rep also booked me on a SJC/LAX flight which would have me arrive 5 hours early. When I pushed back that I didn’t want to sit in LAX that long, she gave me another option arriving 2 hours before my international departure. If I hadn’t said anything, I would be cooling my heels at LAX for an extra 3 hours.

The next rep booked me from LAX to SJC on Southwest. While I normally don’t mind flying Southwest domestically, after an 24-hour travel day, the last thing I wanted was to claim my luggage and schlep it half-way the length of the airport to stand in line at Southwest to check it again. Other domestic carriers transfer baggage inner-line, but Southwest won’t. The rep didn’t understand how exhausting it is to fly for nearly 24 hours, then have to go through this unnecessary hassle. There are multiple flights hourly on the SJC/LAX route that she could have chosen. But she didn’t ask me, nor inform me of the SW baggage issue, she just booked it.

Your customer contact staff need to have familiarity with your product or service from the customer’s perspective. They need to either use the product regularly or visit a customer site and watch the customer use it, as well as talk to those who use it, not just Purchasing. If they can’t put themselves in the end-user’s position, it is harder for them to suggest solutions that will best serve the customer. And we know customers who feel their needs are understood are very likely to keep buying from you.

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