First, Do No (Customer Experience) Harm

First, Do No Harm

I learn the most interesting things while writing this blog.  For example, I believed that the phrase “First do no harm” was a part of the Hippocratic oath, the oath historically taken by physicians . Strictly speaking, the phrase does not appear in the oath, although the oath does contain “Also I will, according to my ability and judgment, prescribe a regimen for the health of the sick; but I will utterly reject harm and mischief.” While researching this article, I discovered that I was mistaken.

Well, that’s a heck of a way to start an article.  Look, I was wrong about something!

So let’s agree to graciously ignore my mistake and instead focus on the lesson that I was aiming for before Hippocrates had to go and mess it up:  you can’t deliver an exceptional customer experience if you’re actively harming your customer.

Customer Expectations

When a customer goes shopping for a product or service, she’s looking for a few things.  First, she probably wants a reasonable price.  Second, she wants to spend a reasonable amount of time in the purchase.  Third, she wants the product or service to meet or even exceed her needs and wants.

As vendors, we focus on meeting those goals.  But before we even get to first, second, and third expectations, there’s the zeroth expectation:  you won’t make the customer’s life worse.  You will do no harm.

It’s a simple concept, but one that many companies struggle to grasp.  Consider these very real examples:

First, do no harm. And if you do, go find a better contractor.

“Yeah, we’re going to need a couple of extra days to get the rest of the shingles on.”

Would you choose a company that did damage to you, your loved ones, or your property?  Of course not.

How Does This Happen?

You would think that any company that actively harms a customer or her interests would quickly go out of business.  So how does this even happen?  It happens in industries where demand consistently exceeds quality supply (like home contractors), where there’s little transparency or regulation around how a company operates, or where there’s so little competition that a company can get away with terrible customer service (like cable television.)

Putting aside the unethical companies and those that can get away with it because market demand is so strong, how do otherwise decent companies harm their customers? By focusing on the product or service that they sell rather than the experience.

Where’s Your Focus?

If your focus is on your product or service, you’ll probably create a decent and perhaps even superior product or service.  But if you don’t focus on the customer experience that surrounds your product or service, you’ll struggle.  As soon as your customers have a comparable option with a better experience you’ll be out of business.

Do you train your salespeople to create that great experience?  Do you train the people who deliver your product or service?  Do you gather customer feedback and understand how they feel about the experience that you provide?  Perhaps most importantly, do you have systems and people in place that enable you to move swiftly and comprehensively address issues when they occur?  These are all essential steps to create exceptional customer experiences, but many companies fail to do them.

The Focus is the Result

If you focus only on products and services, you’ll deliver decent products and services but not an exceptional experience.  If you focus on creating exceptional customer experiences, then great things will happen.

Where will you start?



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