A day or two ago, I was making a quick errand and, in a rush, stopped for a burger at a local fast food restaurant. The process was great as my order was taken, money handed over, and food handed back.

Once I got back to the office, I started going through the order when I realized – they had not provided any napkins. Eh, easy mistake, I thought. Normally, food to go when ordered from the inside doesn’t include napkins and you have to go get your own, anyway. But, I had gone through the drive through…

This caused a little more reflection than fast food probably warrants.

eating a burger

Back In The Day

Remember when restaurants would hand out plenty of napkins with orders? I do. In fact, if I remember correctly, the amount that they included with orders-to-go could have probably stockpiled small countries.

Over the course of several years the food industry has seen a small, but significant, change in fast food services and we see them providing fewer napkins, or none at all depending on the situation. This is all for the sake of cost savings, and, ironically, it carries enough weight to consistently irk customers who have to load up napkins on their own – or find their own, sometimes novel, resource while out on the road. In short,

“They Have Been Satisfied With Customer Dissatisfaction”

We’ve seen an intentional sacrifice of an aspect of their customer service experience in favor of extra savings. Sure, overall it’s a dissatisfaction that doesn’t shade the entire customer experience.

But, it does shade part of it – and slants the rest of the experience towards a greater potential for overall dissatisfaction.

This is important. Why? Because delivering on even the smaller key aspects of the customer service experience helps promote better overall satisfaction – which increases the number of delighted customers, right?

This made me think of the services we were performing for our clients and, again, ask this question:

Were there any points in our service cycle that caused a consistent issue with dissatisfaction?”

If so, was it intentional, an issue of negligence, or a lack of knowledge?

Introspection And Change

Back when we first started Fannit, Keith and I had a system for our client experience that involved as much automation as possible – especially when it came to emailing reports.

We found that customers kept calling throughout their marketing campaign wanting to know how things were going. We knew that they were getting the reports. Based on client feedback, though, we found that they weren’t connecting with the metrics and data they received.

After some thought, we decided to take a different approach – custom reports. Our account managers would still incorporate automated portions of the report, but they would go through it and give a custom, easy to read (and understand) report on how things went that month, projections, changes, and thoughts moving forward.

From that point on, the campaign inquiries slowed to a stop.

Calls weren’t an issue in and of themselves. We enjoy connecting with our clients. But, it was a sign of an issue with our service cycle and our clients were basically “informing” us that our services, in regard to communication, had some issues. We were glad they did.

Shortly after moving to the custom system, the feedback we were receiving changed. Now, clients began telling us that they really appreciated the reports and felt that they were kept in tune with the pulse of their marking campaigns. That was a win!

This process of refinement continues in our company today – and not only on the communication side. We enjoy looking at how to make things work better from a production and client communication perspective. So, how do we keep these issues out of our client service cycle in the long run? Here are the things I’ve found that help our company consistently change for the better.

How To Refine And Change Within Our Businesses

1. Pursue Continuing Education – Industries change, customer buying habits change, products change. Change, changes… and for a business to be successful, we have to make a habit of continuing education within our industry.

2. Maintain Active Reading And Listening – What are other industry leaders presenting from their own continuing education? We don’t have to invent the wheel every time. Instead, we learn to stand on the shoulders of those who already have, and take the education process further to everyone’s benefit. Others will appreciate being able to stand on your shoulders as well and keep the circle of innovation moving forward.

3. Maintain Active Relationships – Develop relationships with other people in your industry and take advantage of opportunities to sharpen your skills through that relationship.

4. Get Client Feedback – Keep access to streams of client engagement (email and so on) so you can keep a finger on what’s going on with client and company interaction. This will allow you to get a feel for how things are going by monitoring conversations.

Assess your customers’ experiences with surveys. This is a great way to get a feel for your overall service system. Allow customers to provide feedback. Sometimes you’ll see production issues show up, other times it may be just a communication problem. Either way, it provides an opportunity to close gaps or issues within the service or production cycle.

5. Target The Right Client – Not all consumers are the same. Sometimes, good service is just a matter of targeting the right type of client – as a different persona may be a better fit for services.

If you don’t want to provide a specific service for your audience, you may need to narrow down who you’re going to allow on board. For instance, if you want to provide food, but no napkins, you might be better off marketing as a grocery store. Analyze whether or not your services would serve a different type of consumer better and then move your marketing target over to them.

6. Constantly Refine Your Product To Greater Success – Incorporate Active Testing. Can your services be refined to bring about better results or a better product?

7. Make sure that your service deliverables fit the needs of the client and their industry – This is where thinking through your service cycle comes into play. Is there something that can be added to make the package more complete – or a better fit. Should you raise your prices to make that change, or, perhaps, cut deliverables and keep your services very tight?

8. For Marketers, provide accountability to your client’s marketing spend by reporting on metrics that make the most sense. This includes things like: cost per lead, cost per acquisition, rankings, overall traffic growth etc. There may be a price adjustment needed here – a point where you decide, “I’m not providing everything I know I need to provide at my introductory marketing package.”

If so, I would recommend considering a price change or making sure that expectations are clearly set. For us, our experience is that clients will expect all their marketing issues to be resolved – no matter the price point – unless expectations are clearly laid out. Even then, there can still be some disconnect unless you maintain good communication.

Conclusion

So, whether you’re a product or service based company, the moral of the story is this… want happy customers? Have a service or product cycle that leaves the client consistently pleased – market with enough napkins.

Hamburger picture source – http://www.flickr.com/photos/cxoxs/1293212510/