The Power of Experiencing What Your Customers Are Experiencing

Do you know what your customers are experiencing when they use your product or service? If you had the same experience they were having, you could be knowledgeable, empathetic, and encouraging – you could be really helpful!

Photo Credit: via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: via Compfight cc

Our kitchen faucet was about seven years old and the bracket under the counter had rusted out so the faucet was loose. When I called Moen last week to get a replacement part, they told me they no longer made the part but would instead send me a brand new faucet of the same kind for the cost of shipping. The original cost of the faucet was about $200 so they were apparently serious about the lifetime warranty.

So I said, “that’s fine with me,” but once the new faucet was installed, the flow rate out of the faucet was considerably less than my original faucet. When I called Moen again, the customer support rep explained that as a water conservation measure, they ship new faucets with a check valve that restricts the flow. (Note she didn’t even blame this on “government regulation.”) I had heard about this change for shower heads and toilets, but not kitchen faucets. Then she said, “However, we have an alternative check valve which lets some more water through and I can send it to you for free.” What she said next really persuaded me that Moen has committed to high quality customer service.

She said, “I have the same faucet in my house and I installed the higher flow rate check valve. The original low-rate valve meant it took forever for me to fill a pot with water for making pasta. I figured the main waste of water for me would be letting the water run while washing dishes, but since I use the drain plug while I am washing, I don’t think I am using more water.”  She packed all of the following additional messages into those sentences (or at least I inferred them):

  1. She is using her company’s product herself.
  2. She actually understands how it works in the real world.
  3. She shares my frustration with the flow rate.
  4. I can probably install the part myself, too.
  5. She is aware I might be concerned about conservation but has a solution she thinks is a fair balance with convenience.

The quality of this customer interaction all started with the customer service rep actually using the product she supports. The inelegant business school term for this is “eating your own dog food.” I prefer the phrase “eating your own cooking,” but you get the idea. The question is how to make that happen in your company or organization. In good restaurants, the chef makes sure the wait staff have tasted the food so they can convincingly describe what they recommend on the menu and why. It might be more difficult to do something comparable in your company, but be creative. It will be worth it to make sure you are experiencing what your customers experience.

I am thinking that a great way for some companies to experience what their customers are experiencing would be to route all their company’s internal phone calls through their 800 number automated answering system. This way everyone in the company including the CEO would experience regularly what it is like to go through the hell that is their company’s telephone answering maze – press 1 if you want to listen to the same music over and over, press 2 if you want someone to ask again for all the information you just spent 10 minutes entering with your phone keypad, press 3 if you want to hear your options again or just stay on the line and we will ignore you until you hang up.