Today, products and services are no longer the differentiation between companies, no matter how good they are. When a company comes out with a innovative or new product, or service, it is not long before their competitors bring out their own, sometimes even better versions. So how do we differentiate? The customer experience is the current competitive battlefield. Not just customer service, and not just the service carried out by the customer service department, but the whole customer experience, through all departments and all mediums, both online and offline. This includes people, processes, products or services and environment. Recently I visited my GP for a complaint called “Trigger finger’, a condition where the finger frequently locks. It’s not serious, but was irritating. The GP gave me a referral for a hospital appointment. Now here’s the thing. I was given a choice of three hospitals, two of which were private. I could select and book either online, which allowed me to pick the hospital of my choice, the date and time of my choice, or I could telephone. I chose a local private one, selecting the time and date online. So far, excellent. I arrived for my appointment. The staff at reception were friendly and courteous, and explained the forms I had to verify and sign. They also gave me a token for a free cup of coffee from the restaurant, and advised me where to wait to be called. The building was modern, bright and airy and the restaurant was in the open waiting area, with comfortable chairs and tables. The restaurant staff were also friendly and the choices of menu, should you want food, had plenty of healthy options. The coffee was good too. Ten minutes later, the consultant called me. After a brief discussion he suggested I have an injection only, to see if this would cure the problem. He suggested this often cleared the problem, and if it didn’t to return in a few weeks. This was all completed within five minutes of seeing him. All four elements, (people, processes, products and environment) were excellent. As I left the building in a happy frame of mind, something was nagging me. I remembered my many years in customer service, when no matter what we did, it was rare to receive thanks. I turned round, went inside and personally thanked and praised the three people on the reception desk for their professionalism, helpfulness and courtesy. The smile on their faces as I did so was something to see and they thanked me for doing so. How often do we take the trouble to give praise and thanks? I remember years ago being advised to look for three people each day to genuinely compliment. It costs us nothing, yet brings so much pleasure. How about thanking, praising or complimenting someone today, especially when they have provided that wonderful experience?