Customer Experience, don’t underestimate it!

I believe there are three ways a company can compete: price, product/service quality and customer experience. You could make more groups, but I think in the end it comes down to those three very important categories.

Competing on price can be tough on the bottom line especially for small businesses, but for companies that do it well (WalMart), it can lead to great financial success. Competing on the quality of our product is necessary, but it can be difficult for us to educate the marketplace on why ours is superior and why that means they should pay more for it. The customer experience, however, is something that we can make uniquely ours. The first two points we are trying to convince the customer why they should pay more for the product or service, but when it comes to the customer experience all we have to do is our job.  Think about how often you chose to do business – or not do business – with a vendor because of your experience with that company.  For example I love going to our local grocery store because I know all the cashiers, I can request the store stocks an item I would buy frequently, and they always answer my questions.  It is the service I get that keeps me going back because I can buy chips anywhere, I just can’t get that extra service with it.

How does a company deliver excellent, sustainable customer experience? I read about a great example recently, the companies name is MarcParcValet. MarcParcValet was recently named by the Washingtonian as a “2011 Best Wedding Vendor” for Valet and Transportation services. Like all the companies founded by Marc Slavin, MarcParcValet embraces the concept of not leaving the customer experience to chance.

Mike Jasser, the vice president of business development, shared a few of the actions and investments the company takes to create excellent, sustained customer experience:

1) Heavy Supervision. A dedicated supervisor and an event manager oversee the success of each event.

2) Recruiting. Applicants are initially processed by an online service called FastRecruiting. If they pass this initial screening, they are given an on-site interview and a driving test (including a manual transmission). After the interview and test, a background check is conducted (criminal record, driving record, references, etc.). If everything checks out, the candidate is sent an offer letter and is scheduled to attend MarcParc University.

3) Training. MarcParcValet has made a significant investment into the development of MarcParc University. An employee’s first day is spent going through four hours of training with a heavy focus on customer service. At the end of the training, the new employee must complete a written exam before he/she can be a concierge valet. Training doesn’t stop there; employees are trained continuously on MarcParcValet’s “people-first” philosophy and are encouraged to achieve “Silver” valet status.

How has it worked for MarcParcValet so far? Besides winning the Washingtonian award, the company provides service to over 1000 events a year, including such prestigious events as the National Gallery of Art’s 2010 Holiday Party. The Gallery praised MarcParcValet for providing their guests with “perfect” service.

What’s the take away? It’s not enough to just talk about how important the customer experience is for your company. You must invest in it.

Have any great examples of excellent, sustained customer service? How about sharing them as a comment below?

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