It's all about the love of people.
This week is Valentine's Day and that is a natural time for a conversation around showing your customers and your employees the love.
People must be the touchstone upon which organizations build their cultural foundations or everything falls apart.
That seems like a fundamental belief that everyone can get behind, but you can likely think of experiences you have had when it seemed like people weren't factored into the equation.
I was on a flight from Tampa to Dallas (connecting through Charlotte, of course) when I saw a notification that my flight in Charlotte was delayed. That put me behind the 8 ball when it came to making a meeting I had shortly after landing in Dallas. When I asked the flight attendant about the delay, she checked her handheld but didn't have the same information I did. When I showed her my information on the airline app, she just shook her head and said "That makes us look so silly when you have the information before we do and we look surprised."
She makes a good point. It is a great asset for travelers to be up to date about their flights, but it puts the front line point of contact in a less ideal position if they are not kept abreast of changes at the same pace. It begins to make customers question what else they don't know and that is never good for a business relationship.
Ultimately every decision your business makes will connect people to people, regardless if it is fueled by executive decision making or delivered via technology.
This tees us up nicely to start talking about the team experience.
Never forget that your team's experience will dictate the customer experience.
If you take nothing else away from our time today, please tuck that nugget away and go take a hard look at what it means to work for your organization. Organizations I work with continue to list the struggle for talent as a key reason for service shortfalls. Some of this is just excuse mongering, but there are some areas where the talent pool is shallow. This makes retaining talent the HR equivalent of retaining current customers.
So think about how you are training, enabling, and empowering your team members. Think about any friction in their work or if they are being negatively impacted by changes in the organization. You may be right in thinking that your front line teams often don't fret much about changes in CEOs or stock price, but your mid-level managers who lead them do.
So step one is to ensure that your team feels the love and has a sense of purpose with their work. You can fuel this through recognition and daily leadership engagement. Commit to learn something new about each member of your team and deepen your relationships with them. That connection with you will inspire them to become more connected to their communities and those they serve.
While we are talking about communities, how is your connection?
Challenge yourself to show the love to your community this spring. You may operate a large organization but think about your local branches and how they interact with the areas they serve directly. When we thing about the connection of community to customer experience, it is about giving your customers the sense that they are helping to give back. Not everyone will volunteer, but they may feel better about doing business with a company that positively impacts where they live. Doing business in a town is more than just employing citizens and selling a good product - it is also about being a helpful influence. That could take on many forms - it may be sustainability, volunteerism, or mentoring programs - but the important part is that you show your commitment to something bigger than just profits.
Finally, your service must show the love to your customers.
Customer Experience is about more than just being nice.
I hear so many organizations speak about a "culture of service" without understanding that that really means. The reason I started with team experience is that without the training, engagement, and inspiration there is little chance of delighting the customers you serve. But if you have those things in place, you are off to a good start.
Now you have to understand your customers - not what you think they need or want - but knowing what they need and want. You also can't just know what they need or want now - what will they want next month or next year?
This is where you must widen your lens. You have to listen to your customers to be sure, but you must also look outside your particular industry to the wider CX marketplace to see what is around the corner. Competition has become global and lines of service blurred when it comes to transferable experiences.
Think about self-checkout. Once seen as an impossible ask of grocery store shoppers, it not only stuck in that industry, but has grown into home improvement stores and retail outlets. That success led to ordering and self pay kiosks in restaurants. As self pay stations move to app based checkout, how will that then impact the rest of the service landscape? This is the kind of thinking that will keep you moving ahead.
As you tackle these major strategies, don't lose sight of the daily quality you must deliver. Having great service that deliveries a personalized connection is great, but you have to back that up with a product worth the money. The quality must deliver on its promise and you must do so in a timely manner. You weren't imagining how impatient your customers have become - it's a real thing. Your guests want service delivered with a certain amount of urgency and with respect for their time. They see time as a resource of great value that they want to spend doing something fun, not waiting for you.
But through all of this, remember that you are serving people.
Stay connected to the personalized successes your customers seek and never forget why you exist as a company, the value you bring, and the problems you are solving.
That's how you keep your customers at the center of everything you do.
Tony Johnson, CCXP
Customer Experience (CX) Leader | Author | Speaker | Consultant
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TOGETHER WE SERVE
Tony Johnson is an international speaker and author on the topics of customer service, leadership, and performance. Tony speaks to thousands annually and has also been featured on ABC News. He is available for custom keynotes, leadership workshops, and employee service training.
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