I heard recently about a barber shop that had different little treats for customers that varied all the time. I thought this sounded delightful, but the person who told me the story thought they should have been more consistent, offering exactly the same experience every time. They wanted consistency in all things, whereas I like sprinkles on top of my consistency.
Sometimes when I first start speaking with a client, I can detect an implicit assumption that I already know the answer to their troubles. I wish I did have the Big Book of Answers on this topic, but it's rarely that simple.
Some things are obvious and universal
Some things are obvious, and pretty universal. You need to return calls, avoid making errors, fix them promptly, and so forth. Your signage needs to be useful. Your statements need to communicate well. These things are basic hurdles of any service experience. If you are highly consistent about doing these operational basics well, sadly, that will set you apart. It sets you apart because so much of this is done badly. But it can't really be said to be a branded experience, distinct or unique in any way.
Even though segmentation is pretty well established in marketing circles, especially for direct marketing, experience design is assumed to be more generic. It isn't. Not, not, not true.
That saying, 'what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander' makes sense when you are eating the geese. If the geese are getting car repairs or hair cuts, they may very well want different things. This is the essence of segmentation, and it's crucial to thinking about customer experience.
Here's another example. A colleague of mine told me he prefers to deal with smaller companies as suppliers, even for things like telecomm service -- he's on VOIP -- so that he knows his business is important to the supplier. He wants to get to know the managers of the business. He wants a high touch experience. I prefer to deal with big enterprises that have high operating standards because they have big clients. I just want things to work, and hope to never have to call anyone.
Unless you are starting your business from scratch, you have existing customers/users/stakeholders who chose you. [Or who had to choose you, because you are the only game in town. That complicates things a bit. We call those customers hostages.]
If you want to change your experience, change the service, be more customer friendly, or whatever, your first step has to be to gain some insight into what these people are experiencing today. What they might wish to be different. What is annoying or irritating to them. What hacks they are using as they interact with you. Then you have a starting point.
It helps to find out what staff are experiencing too, since they are the ones delivering the service.
But you still need to figure out, based on these insights, what you want your experience to do or be. You need some kind of vision.
Consultants like me can help you get to both these things, but we don't know what they are before we start. Nor should we. Anyone who tells you otherwise is trying to turn you into a cheap copy of something else. But to be successful, you have to be more uniquely your own animal, to discover and express your own DNA as much as possible.
One size fits all doesn't apply to customer experience any more than it does to shoes. To change your culture to be more customer focused, you have to have some notion of what customer focus means in your organization. Some vision of what the customer experience should be. And to get that, you need some insight into why your current customers chose you.