Everyone in service businesses talk about it. Amazon.com lists more than 100,000 titles on the topic. Sometimes it seems like it’s a quest that challenges every business owner in America. I’m talking about the concept of “exceptional customer service.” If I had a nickel for every business owner who ever said that they wanted to emulate how Apple engages customers or how Disney treats its guests or how Ritz-Carlton does anything and everything, then I would be able to spend the rest of my days fishing in the Gulf of Mexico with the singular care of bagging a bonefish. We all talk about improving the customer experience, but it remains incredibly elusive as many businesses continue to struggle with maintaining consistent service. Oftentimes, acquisition and retention efforts trump the ability to even consider such a nebulous concept as “customer delight.”
I recently attended a presentation by author Brian Solis, skeptically wondering what mysticism I might get on this topic. According to Solis, not only are most businesses failing at the customer experience, but they are failing by design. As an analyst and anthropologist, he has researched the problem and offers an interesting and credible perspective. His book, X: The Experience When Business Meets Design, not only details why Apple and Disney kick ass in the experience department but also explains how the key to their success is understanding their customers on multiple levels. Thankfully, Solis isn’t a consultant trying to push a particular system on customer engagement and whatnot. Instead, he outlines how customer experience is the new differentiator and how every business can make meaningful changes. To date, Apple, Disney and the Ritz are ahead because they have designed their products around the customer experience. But fear not. The rest of us are not yet out of the race; we can all catch up.