What’s Your Membership Experience?

I’ve blogged in the past about Vistage, the CEO membership organization that I’ve been a member of for five years. I was talking with a Vistage VP a few weeks ago and he summed up the Vistage experience quite succinctly: strong peer advisory group with well-run meetings, effective coaching and world-class speakers. In other words, the entire Vistage organization is focused on creating a membership experience that includes these 3 elements.

I got to thinking. How many organizations have eloquently and succinctly described their ideal member or customer experience? Indeed, how many of us have architected how our customers interact with us and experience our services in an intentional way?  Alex Pineda, the Matrix Group Creative Director, talks often about how every interaction with a company IS the user experience, from the way the phones are answered, to how emails are responded to, how products are delivered, how invoices are sent, how conference calls are run, and how disputes are handled. As CEO, part of my job is to make sure that for every type of potential customer interaction, we’ve defined how we will respond.

Here’s an example of a situation where the staff expectations were not well defined, so we kept falling down on the job. A couple of clients complained that after approving a proposal, we weren’t responding fast enough to kick off the project. Turns out that we hadn’t defined the turnaround time for creating the project in our system and kicking off the work. Depending on how busy a project manager was in any given week, it took between 1 – 7 days just to get a project entered into the system. So the project managers sat down and crafted a better process. Today, when a proposal is approved by a client, an email goes out the same day from the new business team to announce the project to the project manager and assigned team members. The admin team creates the project in the intranet within 24 hours of the approval, sends the link to the client and schedules the kickoff call. Doesn’t this sounds like a much better, more user-friendly, and more intentional customer experience?

I think about how pleasant it is to call American Express. I’m never on hold for very long, I’m always referred to by name, I’m always thanked for being a cardmember for over 20 years, and if I’ve called the wrong number, I’m transferred directly and the person I’m speaking with stays on the phone until the next person come on. I have to believe that every little part of this whole experience has been carefully architected and tweaked over time.

Turns out that architecting an amazing customer experience is really hard and requires paying attention to the big picture as well as the littlest of details. For me, the most important thing is realizing that every client interaction is part of the customer experience and we can, and should be, intentional about every single one of these interactions.