The journey from customer service to customer experience

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My first job after getting my business degree was to manage a customer service team of 12 as a management trainee. I was in my early 20s and the role was meant to prepare me to join the management team. Friday to Sunday were our busiest days of the week and I’d come at 11 a.m. every day and finish by one in the morning each of that day. It was definitely one job I will never forget.

Looking back, I’d say that the company was among the early adopters of customer experience, even though the term itself was very much foreign at that time. It was the largest hyper-mart in the nation, and was one of the rare few who offered after-purchase full refund/return within 30 days at that time.

To emphasize our commitment to customer experience, my department was not called the customer service department—rather we were called the “Service Quality” team. Our main mission was simple: to deliver a great experience to all our shoppers.

The operations called for about 10 department heads, each was responsible for the products under that department, from ensuring good stock count to identifying faulty item to approving my request for each refund.

I recall the most bizarre case I encountered during my service time—a customer requested a refund for a pack of orange juice he purchased just five minutes before. The problem was the pack was opened and he had drunk half of the juice! When I checked the expiry date, it was still a week due, so I asked him the issue he had with the juice. He shrugged his shoulder and replied, “It’s not fresh.”

As much as I had the right to reason out with him, the whole time I was remembering our department’s mission, and, thanks to the support from my department head for that section, I was able to honor the refund and live up to that promise. The important lesson from that incident is the fact that we were empowered to absorb loses and prioritize great customer experience as much as possible. Ritz-Carlton understands this—each employee has $2,000 they can use per guest, not per year, to rescue a great experience.

At the end of the day, performing a great service is one thing, but ensuring that the service translated into a great experience is another thing. That’s why we put so much emphasis on the customer experience today. But did you know that the buzzwords “customer experience” we’re so attuned today is very much what customer service of the past always was? What triggered that evolution and what else has evolved in the area of CX?

We caught up with Shep Hyken and discussed this, watch our #simpletalk video to find out.


Rita Marini
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October 14, 2015
Rita Marini

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