We are rapidly moving towards a world where buying something needs to be an experience rather than just a simple transaction. Why? Because that's what we as consumers are demanding. We work hard for our money, we want far more than a hollow transaction that leaves us feeling nothing.

This means that now, more than ever, we need to know how our business makes our customers feel and we had better make them feel respected, valued and important. If we don't, they will find a business that will.

I fly a lot for work and in my world, there are two airlines that generally suit where I'm flying. I've been flying with both companies for many years. Lately I've really started to notice and think about how each one makes me feel and I've begun to notice just how different they are.

"Airline One" make me feel valued, the smiles when I board are genuine, the service is noticeably personal and most parts of the experience are very good, to the point that when I leave the plane, I leave in a good mood, happy, contented and ready to do what I need to do. Most importantly, I feel valued and respected as a customer.

"Airline Two" makes me feel like an inconvenience. The staff look through me, give hollow welcomes, have robotic attention to service and generally seem to try their hardest to get everything done as fast as possible, so they can meet up and spend the flight chatting with each other at the back of the plane. I leave these flights feeling grumpy, tired, used and not that ready to do business.I feel undervalued and disrespected as a customer.
Now it's pretty easy to work out that I will fly with "Airline One" a lot more. "Airline Two" is really only my carrier for a specific reason, such as flight availability or destination.

When it comes to working out how a business makes us feel, or perhaps more specifically, how our business makes our customers feel, we have to be brave enough to really look long and hard at what we do and most importantly, we need to find those customers who are prepared to give us really honest feedback.

At times like this it's easy to seek out those affable customers who only ever say nice things, but they really aren't that helpful in this process. Likewise, we don't want hyper critical customers, they will just depress us and we won't really get helpful feedback. We need to connect, engage and communicate with those customers who we know a little better, who are intelligent, articulate and prepared to help us make our business better. If we ask this kind of customer for their help through honest feedback, the information we get will be invaluable.

Now that we've found our feedback people, lets get them to do a survey right? Let's not. I think now is the time to have a conversation with them. Don't ask a pile of questions to enable you to measure some inane aspects of your business. Simply talk through the various stages of the transaction process and ask them for their feedback, experiences and feelings - specifically about how they feel with every stage of the process. Do this and you might be surprised by the feedback you get.

I've done this exercise many times with clients of mine who are having issues with their customer service, and their overall customer experience, and I constantly have to break them out of the mold of asking questions like "so from 1-10, with 1 being great and 10 being terrible, how would you rate our service?". To me this question has little to no real value for anyone. If we want better results we need to ask better questions, simple as that. And if we can ask questions as part of a bigger conversation, a more meaningful discussion, imagine what we might find out?

The last part of this process is using the information we get in a smart way. If we follow this process, engage with the right people, resist the urge to "survey" them, have a conversation and be open to what they share, we will have some incredible information about what we do well and what we need to do better. How can our business do anything but get better if we are mature enough to take this on board?

If you can't answer the question, "how does your business make your customers feel?", it might just be time to think about what are you going to do about it, especially if deep down you suspect that you are all about transactions instead of experiences.