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Customer Service vs. Customer Experience

The monthly blog from Martyn Freeman, Mitie’s Facilities Management MD

At the end of last year, we brought together a group of senior executives from the transport sector to discuss the unique issues of delivering excellent customer service within such a dynamic and challenging environment.  

As usual, with this kind of roundtable event, it proved to be a fascinating debate and unsurprisingly the one point we all agreed on is that FM has a huge role to play. “Surprise, surprise!” I hear you say – we’re always talking about the importance of providing clients with exceptional customer service in FM. But that evening, the conversation moved on from traditional customer service to the significance of ‘customer experience’ – a far less tangible but more important factor if you want your brand to be at the forefront of customers’ minds when they need the kinds of services you offer. 

The distinction between customer service and customer experience was made, in my opinion, crystal clear by one of our guests. “Customer service is transactional,” he explained, “whereas ‘customer experience’ is when you build a relationship with the customer – not only do they get the service they pay for and expect, but they also feel really good about the organisation supplying it.”

I’m sure we all have at least one brand that fits the description. The companies that we’ll go out of our way to do business with – drive a bit further, queue a bit longer or even pay a bit more – because the quality of the customer experience they provide is second to none. But can FM really achieve the same? I absolutely believe that it can, but the question we then have to answer is, “How?”

The FM industry is all about people, so it’s crucial that we really appreciate the impact we have on each and every one of our customers. If we understand the entire customer journey from start to finish, we’ll be in a better position to define and deliver an experience that works every day and across every touchpoint. At that point, we’ll be sure that we’re making the right impact for our clients’ customers.

At Mitie, we’ve been doing exciting work with some of our clients to improve customer experience. We begin by mapping out the customer experience ‘journey’, measuring our ‘pain’ and ‘pleasure’ points of each customer interaction and then focussing our improvement efforts as necessary. It starts from the moment our customers drive into the car park – did they find a car parking space easily, were the spaces the right size, was the main reception adequately signposted from the car park for any visitors? And that’s before you even reach the main entrance.

When you begin to consider every interaction between FM and its customers, the list begins to grow – and grow, and grow…! But while this definitely presents us with a challenge, it’s also a massive opportunity to make every interaction personal and memorable, making sure that what we do truly delivers the ‘wow’ effect that our clients need to differentiate their businesses and keep them competitive.

If we get this right, FM has the opportunity to improve customer engagement scores as well as employee satisfaction, retention, wellbeing and productivity, all of which are serious boardroom agenda items. The group of senior FM and property executives at our event also agreed, and I believe it’s only a matter of time before Customer Experience roles become more common across FM contracts – something we’ve already begun to embrace at Mitie.

On a final note, remember that, above all, people will forget what you say or what you do, but never how you made them feel. For me, that’s what being in this business is all about.


About Sarah OBeirne

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