Balancing People, Process and Technology for a Great Customer Experience

Sometimes you have a customer experience that feels so good, you want to tell other people about it. So here goes... 

It happened last week as I was renting a car at the Atlanta airport.

Nine people were ahead of me at the rental counter. This put my anxiety sensors on high alert. But with two agents working the counter, the line moved surprisingly fast. After waiting less than five minutes, "Elizabeth" welcomed me, and apologized for the wait. I gave her my drivers license and credit card, and she validated my reservation.


Normally, this is where the agent offers you expensive insurance coverage, an upgrade to a larger vehicle, has you sign the rental agreement in nine places, gives you your own five-page copy, then tells you where your car is parked in the garage, so you can find it on your own.


But not this time. Elizabeth swiped my credit card, thanked me for renting from her and directed me to the escalator, where one of her colleagues would greet me.


"Samantha" met me at the bottom of the escalator. She was holding an iPad, greeted me by name, and displayed the kind of enthusiasm that caused me to like her entire company. She walked me through the garage to a row of cars. "Pick the one you like!"


So, like a kid in the candy store, I made my selection. After I put my bags into the vehicle, Samantha asked me a few questions, and had me initial the screen of her iPad. She wished me luck with my meetings the next day, and pointed me to the garage exit.


As I pulled up to the exit booth, "Bill" also greeted me by name, and scanned the bar code on the windshield. He thanked me for renting from him, and wished me a good stay in the Atlanta area.


As I drove off into the Atlanta sunset, I thought about how this was the best car rental experience I've had, and actually looked forward to the opportunity to do business with them again.


What made this Customer Experience great?

Let's deconstruct the experience so we can identify the components and practices that made it great. Very often, many of those same components and practices can be applied to the customer journey in another industry, to improve it as well. A reliable method of deconstructing a service experience is to break it down into its components of people, process and technology.


Let's start with The People:

Each of the three employees shone with enthusiasm, and seemed to be all about making my day better. They were professional, yet casual. They were easy and fun to be around. And they were focused on getting the job done. This rental company clearly hires the right personalities, and trains them on the right skills.


On to The Process:

Two of the more painful parts of renting a car (for me) are waiting in line, and the doing the paperwork. Both were virtually eliminated during my experience.

By separating the administrative tasks (taking the payment, selling insurance and assigning the vehicle) into different steps for the customer, the process kept moving. There were no paperwork-induced bottleneck at the rental counter, and the wait was shorter.


Inserting a “greeter" (Samantha) into the process removed the data-entry bottleneck from the rental counter, and kept the line moving. The data entry that wasn’t done at the counter was done by Samantha on her iPad, while I was busy getting settled into the vehicle. Hence, I didn’t’ notice.


And finally, The Technology:

Elizabeth, Samantha and Bill all used technology in their roles. What made the technology work, is that each of the three points were integrated. When Elizabeth swiped my credit card at the reservation counter upstairs, it alerted Samantha that I was about to head down the escalator. When I arrived, she could greet me by name, and walk me to the right aisle, based on the type of vehicle I reserved. And when I drove toward the exit, Samantha finalized the transaction on her iPad. This sent an alert to Bill's screen that I was approaching his station at the exit.


The technology wasn't just used to capture the transaction. It was used for a higher purpose - to improve the customer experience.


Oh, and the paperwork? It was automatically sent to my email, of course!


Great people can only take a customer experience so far. But when they're supported by processes that make life easy and enjoyable for the customer, the experience gets better. And when integrated technology supports those processes, the customer experience is elevated to a higher level.


Does your service organization systematically combine people, process and technology into an experience that your customers will rave about?

Customer Experience