Customer Experience : How you deal with the unexpected can have the most impact

The true test of greatness in providing great customer service comes in making the customer feel good when things go wrong. That takes foresight, planning and training and getting information to the right people at the right time, says Naras Eechambadi.*

As companies attempt to become more customer focused, many have realised that CRM technology is only a foundation, not an end in itself. Recently, a great deal has been written on the topic of "managing", hopefully with a view to improving, the customer experience.

The welcome focus on enhancing the customer experience recognises that brand perception and value, particularly in service industries, is determined primarily not by advertising, public relations or other traditional marketing vehicles but by how good your customer feels during and after the time they do business with your company.

A good experience not only makes them come back but research shows that customers will rave about great experiences. That kind of word of mouth influence can be invaluable. It cannot be purchased with any amount of advertising or slick PR.

When thinking about the customer experience most companies focus on the routine processes that customers have to go through when they use a product or service. That is certainly a great place to start.The key to a truly delightful experience, however, can often be how well the company handles a situation when something goes wrong.

Companies sometimes rely on outstanding employees and accompanying heroics to set things right in these situations. However, it is critical that the right processes be in place to support all employees, including training on how to handle tough situations.