Yesterday, I went to a unisex salon for a grooming session. I was attended by a young stylist. I started to engage him in a conversation. I asked his name (Sohail) and the place from where he came from (Chandigarh). I asked him about how long he was in Bangalore, how did he end up here in Bangalore. He said how his uncle had come to Bangalore in search of work and he got him a job at this salon (owned by someone in Delhi). Apart from the salary he was drawing, he also had a paid accommodation provided by the salon.
Then he asked me about how I ended up here in Bangalore, how long have I been here and where do I stay. We shared a few laughs about how almost everyone we meet in Bangalore is not from here but is from somewhere else.
We then spoke about his dreams (he wants to save enough money to own a salon in his home town and travel the country). We then spoke about dreams in general. He offered me some tea, which I graciously accepted and enjoyed. While we were having this side conversation, he had finished my grooming session and it was time to part ways.
He asked me when would I be back and requested that I book an appointment beforehand and specifically ask for him by name to do my grooming. He also thanked me for taking interest in him and talking to him. He said that not many people take interest in people like him.
I came back home and did not think much of the conversation.
Of late, I have been thinking and reading a lot about customer experience. One thing that stood apart for me in my reading, especially after my experience at the salon was how one sided our conversations regarding customer experiences are.
We are only thinking about what can brands do to improve their customers experience with the brand. In doing this, we forget that in any given situation, there are two sets of people involved – the customer and the brand.
While all brands should definitely work towards improving the experience they provide to their customers, it is not the be all and end off customer experience. It is in their best interest to do so.
The question is what role do we play as customers or consumers in how we experience the engagement with the brands. Do we want to be passive and demanding that the brands go all out to improve our experience or can we do something that can improve our experience irrespective of what the brands are doing on this.
We as consumers can take it upon ourselves to have a great experience in every interaction we have with any given brand. We just need to understand that every experience is powered by humans (at least till now) and if we take a little bit of interest in them, they will take a lot more interest in us.
Some things that we all can do as customers to ensure that we have great experiences in our interactions with our favourite brands could be:
- Give respect: Treating people with respect (whether it is the stylist at a salon, a retail assistant in a mall or a customer service assistant in a call centre) has a direct impact on the interaction we have with them.
- Take Interest: Being genuinely interested in the people who are serving or interacting with us enables us to have a much richer interaction. All it takes is for us to ask some questions so we get to know them a little bit. For example, do we know the name of the person we are interacting with, where are they from, what are they doing here, what are their aspirations, etc.
- Smile: We will be surprised when we look at ourselves in any given interaction with brands. Most of us never smile when we are interacting with people (or brands). Just smiling increases our chance of having a good interaction.
When I sit down and think about all the time that I’ve had good experiences in the past, I can always trace it back to having had a good conversation with the people engaged with me. I remember having interesting conversations with air hostesses, cab drivers, retail assistants and clerks, bank tellers, call center employees, customer service representatives at service centers, receptionists and auto-mechanics.
Every single time I’ve had these conversations, I remember going back with a good experience.
Given that this the case, the question then is the following:
- Why are w(m)e not doing this more often?
- Why aren’t more of us doing this more often?
- Why aren’t brands encouraging this behaviour?”
I think it is time that we as consumers also take charge of our experiences.