One of the most essential principles of the customer experience is so stupidly simple that it’s almost invisible. It’s that there are three basic steps of service/three basic segments of the customer experience, and each of them matters. As soon as I tell you what the three steps are, you’ll go into full snark mode and say, “Oh boy, I didn’t need a self-styled customer experience expert to tell me that.” But that’s the price I’ll have to pay.
1. The warm welcome
2. The performance of the service (or provision of the product)
3. The fond farewell
Or, if you want to name them even more succinctly,
1. The beginning
2. The middle
3. The end
The point of breaking the three steps of the customer experience (CX) out this way is to deter you from making the mistake of only considering the central step—the performance of the service/the provision of the product–to be what you “do.” This is such a natural default for us all, that it’s hard to escape. We think of a doctor as someone who diagnoses and treat patients. A bank teller counts and dispenses money. A waiter carries food to and from the table. A funeral director cares for the body. And so forth.
But the start and end points of the overall interaction—the bread in the sandwich, I suppose–are exceptionally important as well: important to the customer and important to your success as a business.
Beginnings and endings tend to linger in a customer’s memory at a level that’s disproportionate to the rest of the encounter, all things being equal; psychologists call this “the primacy effect” and “the recency effect.” (The “all things being equal” is an important caveat, however. If the bank teller gave you the wrong change at any point in the interaction, or the waiter dropped a tray of beers on the customer’s lap, that is going to be, unfortunately, what the customer is going to remember, even though it didn’t occur at the beginning or the terminus.)
Mister Rogers understood. In a 30 minute show, a solid fifth–maybe even a quarter–of that time is devoted to greeting the viewer and saying goodbye, complete with two songs and two outerwear exchanges, always delivered with a fresh-as-day-one attitude, with nary a hint of, “oy, I’ve taken off this cardigan now 4,329 times.” While this may seem so excessive that it was ripe for parody (by Eddie Murphy, most infamously), generations of viewers felt he got the proportion just right.
Fred Rogers, of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, donates his famous red cardigan sweater to the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution.
The second essential customer experience principle that Mister Rogers got right, and that I’d say his 30+ years’ tenure of television success depended on, was that unexpressed wishes of customers are sometimes the most important, and that one of the most important unexpressed wishes is for recognition.
As one mom told me, “Mister Rogers makes my daughter feel like the only person in the room.” And isn’t that how you want to feel as a customer? I know I do. Yet I would never, nor would any other customer, nor any TV viewer of any age, say out loud, “I want to frequent your business (or watch your half-hour television show) so that I can feel important/seen/heard.” Yet this is a lot of what customers want from the businesses they frequent. And because customers aren’t going to come right out and ask us for it (how mortifying would that be for everyone involved?) it’s up to us, proactively and unbidden, to deliver that recognition.
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