Edinburgh skyline, Scotland.
Editorial

Customer Experience Meets Community Experience: Lessons From Overseas

8 minute read
Nichole Devolites avatar
Even in the worst of global economic times, there are ways to approach customer experience in a more communal manner.

It’s amazing how traveling to other parts of the world can shift a single thought, a perspective, a mindset and even a culture. It oftentimes opens our eyes to what we wish was different in our own lives and/or what comforts we are grateful to have that others do not. It motivates us to find ways to make a positive impact in our communities, whether that’s our neighborhoods, cities, countries, or even in our own organizations which we own or are employed by. 

I recently returned from three weeks in Europe and the United Kingdom with a fresh lens on customer experience — one that made me take pause on just how different it’s approached there. While certainly every business needs to make money, the sense of community appears to supersede that by way of ensuring humans are cared for like family or close friends, no matter who they are. This kind of “community experience” has led me to realize that even in the worst of global economic times, there are ways to approach customer experience in a more communal manner that will undoubtedly leave you with a higher ARR and a larger customer base.

Below are three of my most impactful experiences with a key takeaway from each. I hope even one of them inspires you to think differently.

1. Taking Great Care of Humans, as a Human, Leads to Increased ARR

My other half, Mike, and I sat down to breakfast at a café in Edinburgh, Scotland. It was our first full day there and we knew we needed to fuel up before our 10 miles of sightseeing (it sounds daunting to most, but super fun to us).

However, with me having Celiac, it’s sometimes difficult to find places that can or will accommodate me, as I have to ask for removal of ingredients, and/or the swapping out sides for something else, etc. In the United States, they are fairly accommodating on removal, but if I swap anything out, it’s always an additional charge (on top of the additional charges for requesting gluten-free dishes on the menu). That morning, I ordered as I usually would asking to remove a side I was allergic to. The waitress asked me what I wanted in place of it because “people should get their money’s worth.”

While I certainly didn’t need all that food, the fact that she, as well as the café, cared more about me getting everything I paid for than using it as an opportunity to upcharge me, was impactful. We went there the following morning as well because of that level of service and care. It proves that genuinely caring about people’s needs, as well as their experience, leads to an increased customer base, a large group of advocates and additional revenue.

Related Article: A Forgotten Customer Experience Art: Decency

2. When Employees Are Treated Well, It Leads to an Increase in Customers, Less Churn

That same evening, we went to a Michelin-star restaurant in a 16th century home (also a bed and breakfast). While I could go on and on about the impeccable service, food and the fact that we ate in a tower in the oldest part of the home; it’s something minor the host mentioned that stood out. As we were walking with him for a brief tour (I love history and architecture), we learned the restaurant owner owns two more Michelin-rated restaurants in Edinburgh, and the host worked at one of them for a few years. He said he took the position at the other one until one opened up at the restaurant we were dining at. He said that the staff loves the owner and the rest of the staff so much that many of them stay on for the majority of their career.

You could feel the sense of pride they all felt in working for him and that feeling is what prompted us to book one of their other restaurants for lunch the following day. It’s also because of this genuine pride that as we said goodbye to him, as well as the rest of the staff, we vowed we’d come back and stay as guests of the bed and breakfast.

It’s a lesson for us all that when we establish and foster a culture of care and respect within our organizations, others naturally gravitate toward it, wanting to be a part of it as much as possible. That sense of camaraderie, or community, leads to less churn, a growing customer base, and, certainly, growing revenue!

Related Article: Scenes From an Italian Restaurant: Great Customer Experience, Personalized Touch

Learning Opportunities

3. Genuine Kindness Can Shift Even the Crankiest of Customers’ Perceptions, Leading to Unexpected Outcomes

No, we were not the crankiest customers! But with my “customer experience ears” on 99% of the time, I tend to pick up on conversations with staff and customers on the regular.

In this case, we were in Dublin where the undercurrent of that city seems to run a little bit more rushed and tense. We were at a pub (I promise we do more than eat and drink) and a man a few tables over increasingly got more and more upset that everything was taking so long. He finally reached his tipping point, yelling at the waitress that it’s ridiculous the service would be this slow. She was the only waitress, and the cooks kept leaving to take breaks. She kindly apologized, noting that they are understaffed and were actively hiring for more people. She said she would personally see what she could do about getting his order done immediately, which she did just a few minutes later, also handing him the bill as well. No "thank you," merely looks came her way when she gave him his order with a smile. She then left to tend to the rest of us.

He left shortly after he finished his meal without so much as a wave or nod. When she went to clear the table, I could see she paused for a second and then walked quickly to the back of the pub.

We later found out, as we paid our bill, that the man not only left her a large tip (which is not customary), but also a note apologizing for his anger, that not many people would treat him with kindness after something like that, and that she is outstanding at what she does. She said that as difficult as this job is for her sometimes, she wanted to make sure this pub could remain open and continue to serve the patrons that had been coming here for decades, and that if she could make even the crankiest of customers’ day just a little bit better, then the hard work was worth it. 

As someone who has “lived in the trenches” of customer experience a long time, I know first-hand what it’s like to have that one (or many) customer(s) that threaten to leave or have that momentary “outward burst” of frustration, which can only be met with a level of genuine kindness that not only deescalates the situation but turns it around. We must remember that we are all humans operating in different ways each and every day, with good moments and bad moments we sometimes can’t control. It’s in how we support the latter in humans that creates the most significant impact in customer churn.

Conclusion: Customer Experience Not a One-Size-Fits-All

I left our travels far more inspired than I have been in some time, proving to myself that there is no one-size-fits-all model for how we approach customer experience. Regardless of process/journey design, customer programs development, or the best enablement documentation available (which is all needed), it goes to show that humans continue to crave genuine connections that lead to favorable outcomes for not just themselves, but those around them.

I challenge each of us to put more “human” thought into how the aforementioned customer experience responsibilities we take on are designed, developed and deployed. We need to ask ourselves, “How do we want our customers to feel as a result of this?” “How do we want to feel as employees and an organization as a whole as a result of this?” “How do we ensure that, that feeling reverberates beyond our customer base to our industry, our community and beyond?” If you can capture that and successfully achieve it, you will have a thriving, continually growing customer base.

About the author

Nichole Devolites

Nichole Devolites is an award-winning speaker, mentor and practitioner of customer experience and operations. Having been in the tech industry for over 20 years, Nichole has had the honor and privilege of working with some of the most notable tech leaders in the world to solve challenges in the areas of sales, marketing, customer experience & operations.

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