Where the rubber meets the road for customer experience

 

It seems to me there is no better opportunity to think about customer experience than while traveling. You’re out of your normal element, juggling demands on your time, in unfamiliar locations and contexts. There are so many opportunities for amazing customer experiences to help you and poor customer experiences to let you down.

 

Recently I went to New York to meet with a creative agency and customers, and four experiences stood out in unexpected ways.

 

Experience #1

 

The day before I departed, I checked into my hotel through the app, and chose a room on a midlevel floor. I’ve stayed in that hotel before and knew the higher floors had a great view of the Empire State Building, so I was disappointed that I couldn’t select a higher floor.

 

However, within an hour of checking in, the front office manager emailed to offer any assistance I might need. I figured it couldn’t hurt to ask, so I replied and asked if I could get the upgrade in advance since I was arriving late. Within twenty-four minutes of receiving the original email, she wrote back and let me know she’d blocked me a room on a top floor.

 

What a great multichannel customer experience – combining my app check-in, an email customer service conversation with a real person, and a pleasantly surprising result! Kudos Hilton!

 

Experience #2

 

A colleague and I visited the Rebecca Minkoff store in SOHO based on a tip from a friend who works there to see how they integrate technology into their customer experience. It’s like walking into a future all digital experience professionals dream of, where technology enhances every aspect of the customer’s experience without distracting from it or feeling forced.

 

When you enter the store, there’s a giant screen that is also a mirror. You can flip through the catalog, request pieces to be taken to a fitting room, and even order a beverage. Once you’re in the fitting room, you can see product details on the clothes on a second mirror that doubles as a screen, change the lighting conditions to see how your outfit looks in the morning, at sunset, or out on the town after dark. If something doesn’t fit, you can ask to have a different size brought over or you can ask to see more coordinating pieces, all without having to leave the dressing room. The stylists can also see your purchase history and can recommend other pieces to try or avoid based on that.

 

Throughout the experience, there are natural points of interaction where you can provide your phone number so the brand can provide more assistance – text you when the dressing room is ready, send you a list of what you’ve tried on, or bring over that latte you ordered. It’s all perfectly targeted to the millennial woman that’s Minkoff’s customer.  If you love customer experience and are in NYC, SF, or LA, stop by – it’s definitely worth your time!

 

Experience #3

 

When folks grasp for examples of customer experience done right, they usually look to digital native brands like Amazon and Uber that have built experiences in the new paradigm from the start. Usually this is a good impulse. But the experience is far from perfect.

 

When I started the trip, the Lyft car that picked me up went to the wrong parking lot in my complex (this is the third time this has happened). Admittedly the two lots are a similar distance from my front door, but if Lyft knows I’m standing in one lot, why not redirect the driver there in real time? And when I was leaving New York, Uber tried to drop me off in the wrong place at the airport. Luckily I was paying attention!

 

Experience #4

 

Airlines get dinged for customer experience all the time, and justifiably so.  There are so many ways for it to go sour. Here’s a time when it didn’t.

 

On my early morning flight back from New York, I boarded the plane. Nance, the flight attendant near my row, immediately struck up a conversation and within 30 seconds I knew I was talking to probably the nicest, most genuine flight attendant I can remember, ever. She made my day. People justifiably rave about the hospitality on Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific. Nance ran circles around them.

 

Here’s best way I can think to describe it: Have you experienced situations where you have frequent flier or hotel status, or you’re staying at a luxury hotel or eating at a fancy restaurant and you get treated really well, but you aren't sure if it's contrived? She had that level of service, but it was real. I saw the way she treated customers in business class all the way to the back row of coach.  The same smile, the same kind words, the same elbow squeeze. Nance’s manner was as genuine and gracious as a grandma spoiling her grandkids. It was something to behold. I left that flight beaming, and I bet people are getting off flights on all her routes beaming every day! Thanks American Airlines!

 

This week I’m heading overseas for work, so the locations, context, and culture will be even more unfamiliar.  It will be another great laboratory for testing customer experiences!

 

Are you most attuned to customer experience when you travel, or at other times? Have you had experiences that have stood out to you, good or bad? Let me know in the comments below.

 

Rebecca Minkoff image courtesy of Design Boom

 

Read more from the HP Optimost team:
E.ON and Choice Hotels deliver customer experience success with HP Software by Lindsay Sterrett
Are you in control of your web optimization program? by Uri Kogan
HP Optimost helps National Rail Enquiries boost conversions by Lindsay Sterrett
Your competition has all read this blogpost – Don’t be left behind! (Does scarcity messaging work?) by Robert Brennan

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