As humans, we often lie to ourselves. At best, it’s a way to show ourselves a little mercy (“It’s OK to skip workouts on vacation!”) and at worst, it’s a way to maintain excuses (“I’m too exhausted to exercise”).
As business leaders, however, fooling ourselves can be the worst kind of risky. When you try to look at your own project, business, or even employees with a more objective and less critical eye, you inevitably find yourself in a viewpoint that provides some data. BUT, it may not be the kind of data you really need.
Evaluating other organizations’ experiences is something I do every day. My third-party perspective is maintained carefully because I know what can happen when you’re on the inside looking further in.
- You draw your own conclusions, based on scenarios from the past.
- You see the completion of a project as success, whether it’s working or not.
- You hear what you want to hear regardless of what employees and customers are really trying to tell you.
But I’m also realistic. We start our own businesses because we want to be independent. We don’t need to hire an outside firm every time we hit a snag. We are often our own worst critics, right? (If you’re thinking, “that’s an excuse!” then you’re getting the idea.)
Then how can you truly gain an outside perspective on your company?
Here are six ways you can begin to assess and improve customer experience right now:
1. The Googlefest
It’s no secret to search yourself to see how others might see you. But what about your customers? Your competition? Your employees? Do a few different searches on a few different search engines to see how a prospect, a job seeker, or a blog reader might first gain an impression about you and your organization. Click through the links presented and ask yourself, “Is this putting our best foot forward?”
2. Playing a Role
Mystery shop your own selection and sales processes as a prospect. But you need to seriously think of it as Acting with a capital A! Dive into your persona and think about your motivation as that person before you call. Then listen carefully and take notes. If you were actually that person, would you complete the sales process? What would make or break the deal?
3. The 30-Day Communications Round-Up
Review your blog posts, your newsletter, your invoices and anything else you’ve sent to customers in the past month. Looking at it all together with a critical eye can raise some very compelling questions. Do they each represent your brand in the same way? Would you pay any attention to it if you had not written it yourself?
4. The 14-Day Internal Communications Review
Within the last two weeks, have you made your employees attend more than two or three meetings? Have you sent communications you now realize were vague, abrasive, or unappreciative? How are they paid? Is it cold? Have you made contradicting statements about your policies, your goals, or your projects? Your employees need a clear path to proceed with confidence and efficiency. Be sure there’s no confusion standing in their way.
5. The Check-up on the Paid-Ups
Call a few customers from the past and the present. Make the best of a short call and only ask questions that evoke actionable answers. Questions like “What could we have done to make the experience better?” are way too open-ended and most of the time, customers don’t really have a ready answer. Why not ask, “What did the competition offer that made it more attractive for you to leave?” *Be careful- this is not a sales call! Make these calls all about listening. It’s difficult NOT to hear what you want to hear and most customers don’t feel comfortable telling you what they REALLY think, especially if they know you. You will get the partial truth, at best.
6. Getting Some Outside Help
I know I said hiring a third party is often the last thing we want to do, but nothing can give you the gift of perspective faster. Even after completing 1 through 5, we’re still likely to make excuses like, “Oh that email was poorly written because that was the day when nothing went right and I was in a horrible mood!” Or, seeing no problem with the invoices we send because they were accurate and paid without question. That’s completely different from reviewing your experience from the customers’ perspective.
Humans can be very tricky! We love to make excuses for ourselves, and our businesses. So do yourself a solid and ask another person to be your eyes and ears when it matters most.
This post was written for, and a version originally appeared on Arment Dietrich‘s blog, Spin Sucks.