Have you ever seen the show “Undercover Boss”? They disguise the CEO of a big company, and send him into the field among staff who don’t recognize him as a ‘new hire’ for training. The CEO gets to see what the operations on the ground are really like, instead of the rosy or distorted picture that is sometimes painted in the board room. What these “undercover” operations really are, besides interesting, are mirrors to the soul of the company.
I specialize in providing detailed and thorough customer experience audits. In fact, I’ve actually created a proprietary Brand and Customer Experience Audit ™ (BCEA) that I designed to identify key differentiators in my client’s businesses, reinforce their messaging strategies and support their sales performance. I don’t start any assignment with my clients before doing one—that’s how important it is to have a handle on your customer experience.
What I’ve learned through performing the BCEA’s is that some business owners have a very skewed view of what the buying interaction actually looks like from the other side of the counter or invoice. What I would recommend to anyone who is considering getting a professional customer experience audit done, or going it alone, is to perform a very quick and simple test to give them some idea of where to begin and how far their expectations fall from the reality.
A good place to start is simply to pose as a customer. Not in a trench coat and sunglasses, of course, but simply role playing the experience that your customer has when they want to buy from you, starting at the very beginning. Log out of the analytics or back-end dashboards if your website has them, and access your site as a brand new user. Look at your site assuming that you don’t already know where the order form is—is it obvious? Can you find it right away, or do you have to dig through several menus? Remember that every click a customer has to make to get to the point of sale has the potential to bleed traffic.
If you offer phone support, try to call the number. Does it connect right away? Are you greeted appropriately? The purpose here is not to play “gotcha”, but to get a realistic outsider’s view of how easy or difficult it is to do business with you.
By the Numbers
One good practice is to get out a sheet of paper and write down the steps, from beginning of the sales process through to final checkout and deduction of funds. How many steps are there? Are there any gaps in service where the customer is left to follow up themselves instead of being guided smoothly to the next place in the funnel?
Of course, sales transactions for some businesses are not quick or simple, nor should they be. If you’re selling major industrial equipment for thousands of dollars each, your customers do not want or expect the sales process to be as simple as buying a replacement cartridge of printer ink on Amazon. If your sales process involves multiple levels of proofs, approvals, specs, proposals, contracts, or checks with multiple parties, I’m not telling you to excise these procedures. But you should always be looking out for ways to make these steps as smooth, transparent, and painless as possible.
These processes won’t replace a full professional customer experience audit. However, they will give you a better idea of what you need to look into more closely and what you need to improve than what you had when you started. A customer experience audit is not a one-and-done procedure, which is why I start with the BCEA and build a strategy from there. A customer audit is a process that should be revisited as your business reaches different growth milestones, to make sure that the clutter and viscera that gathers as you grow isn’t obstructing your customer’s path to doing business with you.