The term “customer experience” entered the business vocabulary a few years ago, replacing “customer service” as the standard by which service is measured. “Customer experience” refers to the sum of a person’s interactions involving a particular organization. Every exposure to an organization – every transaction, every phone call, every mail piece, even the stories told by a friend – has an impact on the customer experience.
But what about the non-customer experience? Have you ever stopped to think about what non-customers think about you? A lot of us carefully craft the image we want prospects to see. We spend tons of money working to craft an image for the prospective customers we’ve targeted, hoping to influence their buying decision. But sometimes, it’s the little things that make the biggest impact.
Last night, my training partner and I went out to dinner after finishing up a coaching workshop. We’re in Dallas and located an Outback Steakhouse fairly close to our hotel. The parking lot was pretty full, so Eddie parked the rental car in the lot next door. The business, Espresso RMI, was closed; lights out and lot empty. A sticker in the door indicated they closed at five o’clock each day. It was around seven when we arrived, so any employees and customers were long gone.
We enjoyed a nice dinner at Outback and watched some of the NIT first round games on TV. Exiting the restaurant, we walked toward the lot where we’d parked only to find our car had been towed. Upon closer inspection, we found a sign notifying potential visitors that non-patrons were not allowed to park in the Espresso RMI lot. The sign had obviously been run over and was bent close to the ground, very hard to see in the dark by a couple of guys from out of town looking for dinner. Towing, the sign indicated, was enforced 24/7 – even though the business closed at 5:00.
We called for a taxi and made our way to the tow yard to reclaim the car. The experience cost us $27 for the cab ride and another $164 to get the car back.
I’d never heard of Espresso RMI before. I’m sure the stance they’ve taken on parking in their lot stems from a desire to provide the best possible service to their customers. However, I’m not a customer. I’ve never used one of their products or known someone who has. I didn’t even interact with one of their employees last night. But my non-customer experience with them is a negative one. As a result, I’m unlikely to ever do business with them. furthermore, I’ll be sharing this story with my clients for years to come, influencing their perception of the company as well.
For years, I’ve advised clients to look at their organization through the eyes of the customer. Going forward, I’ll also address the eyes of the non-customer. What they see and experience is just as important.