Cut off at the pass: Solve customer experience problems, don't create them.

My before lunch meeting ended early today.

A quick look at my watch confirmed the happy reality: I had more than an hour before my next appointment. I was free to grab a sneaky lunch in the city. I headed with alacrity to my favourite whole foods cafe and joined the queue.

When I got to the register, all ready to order my favourite acai bowl, I saw a note sticky-taped to the register, "EFTPOS down. Cash only!"* Given I'd recently raided the centre console of my car, so this wasn't a problem for me: I had loose change weighing me down.

Others weren't so lucky.

Many were getting to the register, doing their best impersonation of an airport security pat down on themselves before realising they had no cash on them. As I waited for my lunch, I heard three or four unhappy punters say, 'Well, where's the nearest ATM?'

The sales assistant didn't know.

Instead, she helpfully said, 'Um, there might be one up on the next corner or at the Night Owl?' If I hadn't been so greedily obsessed with devouring my lunch, I'd have ventured out onto the street to see how many of those frustrated customers - if any - came back.

Solve problems, don't create them.

It's no-one's fault when something goes wrong. You can't help it when your EFTPOS machine crashes. But when things do go wrong, you need to act swiftly to limit the impact on customer experience.

Step into their shoes.

As Shep Hyken points out, understanding 'what to do' in situations like this is simple: just pretend you're a customer. In this instance, sending a staff member out to find out where the nearest ATMs were located would have been a great start. Having a staff member stand at the door and alert customers to the cash situation (before they sunk 15 minutes of their lunch break into a going-nowhere queue) would also have been great.

All great experience starts with insights into emotions.

* You might say, serves you right for being a tosser who believes something with the sugar content of a McDonalds thick shake is good for you. I say, 'Dream stealer!'

Emily Verstege