As a member of The Freelance Exchange of Kansas City, I was privileged last week to attend a very interesting meeting at which our special guest was Derek Donovan. Donovan is the Public Editor for The Kansas City Star newspaper. As our special speaker, he shared numerous insights about the fascinating ride taken by The Kansas City Star as it has navigated various transitions in adapting to the Internet age.

Throughout Donovan’s presentation, I was impressed to learn more about the newspaper’s focus on achieving a positive customer experience. Here are just a few items that Donovan and his colleagues handle with that goal in mind:

  • With listening ears, Donovan as the Public Editor, is to be the voice of the reader to the newspaper. Any concerns about the fairness and accuracy of the news are one of his top priorities. He spends untold hours of time engaging with readers on these matters.
  • With so many publications and news sources today being completely online, the loyal print-edition readers are a bit of a dying breed—but they’re not dead yet. Therefore, the newspaper gives constant attention to exactly what is needed to satisfy them. The print-edition readership is often very intelligent, highly engaged, and creatures of habit. These defining characteristics invoke constant attention by the staff.
  • Although one would like to think that letters to the editor arrive in pristine linguistic and grammatical condition to make an English major proud, Donovan shared more than one anecdote—some quite humorous—about the editorial challenges that he occasionally faces. Nevertheless, he has spent significant time unpacking these “letter kits” as he calls them to reassemble a letter that interpolates the writer’s intentions (at least most of the time!).

All the above speaks to me about the significance of the customer experience. Regardless of your business, your market niche, or the nature of your organization, you should always be serving the customer. To do this effectively, several commitments must be made:

  • You must create avenues to receive customer feedback. Those avenues can include phone calls, emails, online forms, or in-person meetings. If you do not create the avenues, then you rob your organization of valuable feedback.
  • You must listen to your customers’ feedback. You may not always agree with or enjoy that feedback, but nonetheless it is your customers’ feedback. You would be foolish to ignore it.
  • You must monitor how your customers are using (or not using) your products and services. That knowledge can give you valuable insights about what is working, what is not working, and perhaps even what items you need to do a better job advertising to your customers.

Every single time that I deal with a business or an organization, I walk away with my own personal “customer experience.” Sometimes it is very good, sometimes it is very bad, and sometimes it is somewhere in the vast middle. Regardless, it is mine. It will affect me commensurately and it has implications for that business or that organization.

What do you want your customers to experience today?

About James Meadows

Currently I serve as a training team manager for Johnson Controls at a customer-care center in Kansas City. Additionally, I am a business consultant, a freelance corporate writer, an Assembly of God ordained minister, a Civil Air Patrol chaplain, and a blogger. I believe we are living in the most fascinating times of human history. To maximize the opportunities these times present, I have a passionate interest in leadership development and organizational success, both of which I view as inextricably linked.

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