You Can Learn About Customer Service From the Eclipse

Eclipse – Service design is about setting customer expectations — your promise to customers in accordance with your strategy — and then executing in such a way that you can reliably, repeatably, scaleably, and profitably meet those expectations.(Photo credit: Getty Images)

Yet no matter how much you plan, how carefully you design your client or customer experience, there are two things you can’t control: the actions of other partners and members in your service ecosystem, and your customers’ emotions.

The best you can do is manage around ecosystem members, and manage for customer emotions.

Ecosystem members are those on whom you rely — but don’t control — to perform critical processes or to step up at key steps in the customer journey.

Those processes may be backstage, meaning the customer doesn’t see them, only experiences the results of those actions. They may be onstage — meaning they interact with the customer directly.

You may co-exist in the same space — think an airline and an airport; an airport and TSA — or cooperate. Cooperation involves partnership and planning; think Uber Eats, or the choreographed dance between Amazon and package delivery companies.

Disconnects

Whether your relationship is about coexistence or cooperation, the customer feels it when disconnects occur.

They probably aren’t parsing out who deserves blame. Conventional wisdom holds that failure is an orphan, but in a customer’s eyes, it’s the child of an extended family.

This was recently driven home as I embarked with great excitement on a journey of some 2500 miles to experience the solar eclipse in the path of totality, to a small town in coastal Oregon.

It’s fair to say there is no more unpredictable ecosystem member than Mother Nature, and that my emotions were pretty strong for seeing the “eclipse of the century.”

The disconnect among ecosystem co-habitants was clear at the airport.

I had booked my ticket without my middle initial, so my pre-check status wasn’t reflected on my ticket.

The airline personnel worked diligently to sort it out as I dropped off my luggage.

All their good efforts seem pointless when there was no TSA pre-check line open at the airport.

An unmet expectation courtesy of TSA; an emotion — annoyance — that put extra, unknown, and frankly unfair pressure on the airline to make my flight a great experience.

The flight was uneventful, with on-time takeoff and landing. Sitting in first class — an indulgence I had justified because of my excitement about the event — helped ameliorate my annoyance about TSA.

Out of Control

In the town of Newport, where I arrived Sunday morning, merchants, service providers, and tourists fretted about whether Mother Nature would cooperate by providing a fog-free, cloudless day for morning to turn to night.

The town was transfixed and transformed by the prospect of the eclipse, with every shop window and interior offering some sort of homage to the event.

The pressure to deliver a great experience — whether at a bar, a hotel, a restaurant, or an ice cream shop — was greatly increased by visitors’ high expectations and excitement.

It was also ratcheted up by the notion that the biggest variable in the equation — the weather — was something they couldn’t control.

The good news: Mother Nature cooperated, offering strong visibility, meaning all the service providers didn’t have to contend with hordes of disappointed, deflated tourists.

But what if the clouds persisted or it had rained? What could businesses have done to compensate? The whole town participated to give the vibe of a low-key carnival, hedging by planning special meals, drinks, games, and events.

Would ordering an eclipse-themed meal (eggs sunny-side down, moon-pies, and cappuccinos with foam coronas, for example) make up for flying 2,500 miles to see the clouds obscure the daylight moon?

No, but it was an attempt to manage for people’s potential disappointment.

Your Ecosystem

Think about: Who is in your service ecosystem? Can you exert influence over them? If so, how can you better work together?

If not, how can you work around the possibility that their screw-ups will affect your customers’ experience? Can you distance yourself from them?

What emotions are your customers bringing into their experience? Do you want to amplify their emotions or tamp them down?

How can you hedge against ecosystem failures or flaws?

It’s not fair that you have to compensate for others’ missteps, but the truth is, everything going 100 percent right along your customer’s journey about as often as an eclipse that’s visible across the entire United States.

By Patricia O’Connell – http://on.inc.com/2v5NkzS