The Customer Experience Series: The Customer Experience Is What They Say It Is

Think what you will, but the customer experience is exactly what your customer says it is. Their perception is their reality, and their perception is all that matters. To put it more succinctly: the perceived experience is what matters.

How is the experience with your frontline team perceived by your customers? Would customers say that your team seemed eager? That the employees genuinely cared about providing a great experience? That they genuinely cared about the customer?

Remember what we learned about a great experience in the first post in this series. We know from that article that American Express found two-thirds of Americans will pay an average of 14% more for a great experience.

But what defines a great experience with your company? It’s exactly what the customer says is a great experience; and it’s likely you’re not currently providing one.

Let’s look at two hotel chains; one known for a great customer experience and the other known for providing no-frills, though clean rooms.

Ritz-Carlton v. Fairfield Inn

Both Ritz-Carlton and Fairfield Inn provide a comfortable bed. (I know, I’ve stayed at both.) Interestingly, that’s really about all they have in common.

Fairfield Inn provides free breakfast, free Wi-Fi and free in-room coffee. Ritz-Carlton does not. Yet, Ritz-Carlton commands rates at least two to four times higher than Fairfield Inn. How can that be? Isn’t free breakfast a great experience?

Nope. Not according to the customer.

The customer experience at these two hotel chains is defined not by the amenities, but by the intangibles. Ritz-Carlton doesn’t need to give away breakfast and Wi-Fi; they win hands down on the intangibles. I describe what Ritz-Carlton does as simply this: Every employee greets and assists every customer with a genuine interest in serving.

Nothing magical or mystical; but just as the customer experience at Chick-fil-A is defined by good manners (not a good sandwich); the experience at Ritz-Carlton is defined by attentive service (not their breakfast or coffee).

Ritz-Carlton understands that those closest to the customer create the customer experience; and the same is true for your business. Frontline employees and frontline managers control the experience for your customers. Knowing this, how can you ensure those you put in front of the customer are a good fit for the job?

Three Simple Rules

To ensure your frontline folks will always serve your customers and create the experience the customer desires, there are just three rules they need to follow:

Rule 1: Love your job.

Rule 2: Love our customers.

Rule 3: If you can’t comply with Rules 1 and 2, then you need to get a new job.

In all seriousness, anyone who doesn’t love their job and your customers has no business being on the frontlines; they should not be dealing with your customers. Because true customer service is all about being genuine and authentic, it’s simply not possible for your customers to enjoy a great experience with you if your frontline team is doesn’t absolutely love what they do and for whom they do it.

The customer experience, after all, is what the customer says it is.

Next up in the series: Disney is Not All That Great at Solving Customer Issues.

(If you’re catching this series for the first time, you may want to begin with the first post in the series: Why Does Good Customer Service Matter?)

About TheManager:

Steve Stauning, creator of The Appointment Culture and an expert in The Customer Experience. He is also an extremely popular keynote speaker, writer, and industry consultant. Learn more about Steve at