Why consistency, ownership and being human matter most in customer experience

My time as a consultant highlights that whether you’re working in a large or a small business, the fundamental challenges are the same.  Stiff competition, tight budgets, demanding customers and a need to evolve.  Small business can be nimble but cash poor, large businesses have budget but are constrained by bureaucracy. I reflected over this week on the many different companies I’ve worked for & with over the years, in different industries, sizes, countries and levels of maturity.  It struck me that as customer experience champions, three simple mantras need to be at our core.  In this article, I’ll highlight where you can gain traction to achieve results – both for management and the front line team members.

  1. Create Consistency:

Most customers aren’t looking for a mind-blowing every time they interact with you or your product, they just want a reliable, predictable experience.  There’s no need to roll out the red carpet out on every occasion, your customer purchased your product or service with a need and an expectation, so focus on the “brilliant basics” of right first time as expected.  I repeatedly state that loyal customers have established a habit to use your product or service and are satisfied and comfortable with the result.  Your job is to make it consistent, address the barriers to reliability and challenge the mindset when things get stale.

Tip for the team: The frontline teams need continuous coaching to avoid falling into the trap of focusing on delivering a task, rather than helping a customer through your customer journey.

Tip for managers:  Your management colleagues need help to understand why investing in automation and tools to drive consistency is money well spent.

  1. Take Ownership:

Some organisations have functions making land-grabs for control, some dither over decisions, whilst others behave like frightened rabbits in the headlights at the prospect of continual change and evolution of the customer experience.  All three poor management behaviours have a similar impact on the frontline (and indeed the business in general.) It creates a culture of LACK of ownership.  Even mundane and routine decisions are pushed up the chain, and people assume a position of disempowerment, and without being explicitly told, decide that they are not allowed to challenge the status quo.  The rot sets in, moral plummets and customers as well as employees suffer.  Acknowledging that change is never easy, taking control, agreeing responsibilities avoids this slippery slope.  If we want each team in the business, especially the customer facing folks to take ownership of their part in delivering the customer experience, it starts top down.

Tip for the team: Don’t’ shirk your responsibilities, take ownership of each interaction with a customer, and raise a flag when you know it needs improving.

Tip for managers:  Management need to set the example of taking ownership, making decisions and communicating effectively, so park the politics and reach common agreement on who owns what.

  1. Be Human:

We all know that sinking feeling that we get when we call a company and get the never-ending IVR options or the overly-scripted offshore call centre voice.  We’re all human beings, and yet despite this, businesses often treat us as if we were a step in a process.  That is not to say that self service, online automation and outsourced service can’t be a brilliant experience, but one of the biggest loyalty turn-offs is delivering an overly-prescribed robotic experience.  Customers, like us, have hearts, minds, thoughts, emotions, so excessively rigid processes, and too many barriers to getting customer desired outcomes will cost your business in terms of complaints and churn.  The simple question, “would you be happy to be treated this way?” is a quick way to verify if your experience needs humanising.  Most people dealing with customers do the job through choice – they actually like dealing with people, so let’s not impede their ability to do what they love and do so well!

Tip for the team: It’s not just WHAT you do, it’s HOW you do it.  Your goal is to help a customer progress through your customer journey, not just deliver a task.

Tip for managers:  What you measure will drive what your people focus on, so make sure your SLAs & KPIs include customer sentiment, not just task completion

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