customer experience

Seeing Through the Eyes of Your Customers

What better way to become acquainted with your processes than to experience them firsthand?  Most executives and upper management engage at this level, yet neglect to bring other employees into the experience.  In larger organizations especially, employees may not have visited your website or called your 1-800 number.  They have not arrived and looked at each touch point as though they were a customer.  Interestingly, there is also a lot of research and opinion that support the fact that some of the best, most effective, and most innovative ideas come from your front-line employees; inviting their participation seems both useful and smart.

Making this type of training part of the on-boarding process has many benefits.  In addition to helping employees understand what customers hear, see, and experience, it helps encourage teamwork, pride, and engagement at all levels.  Understanding why an organization operates the way it does can be tremendously enlightening to staff.  It helps them balance the things they can control with the things they cannot with the customer experience in mind.

Here are a few ideas to consider.  Each of these can be a great education to your staff.  Instead of viewing their position as isolated, they can begin to see how they affect the entire organization and can better understand their duties and tasks.

  • Call Centers.  Have your call center employees ever called into your 1-800 number?  Do they know how many options are available to the customer and how they are chosen?  Do they know how many steps it takes before being placed on hold or connected to a person?
  • Retail Operations.  Have you ever removed an employee or group of employees from their station on a busy day and asked them to walk through the front door as a customer?  What would they change?  Where would they focus their efforts?  What does the customer see?  Are there employees available to help them?  Do they look frazzled or friendly?  How long are the lines?  Are your products organized or unsightly due to a busy day – do you have any left?
  • Office Environments.  What do your job applicants/candidates see and hear?  Is your receptionist knowledgeable and able to transfer calls to the correct people?  Is the call screening process considerate?  Are people greeted efficiently?

These are just a few ideas to put the idea in motion for your organization.  Whether it is your sales team, an installations team, receptionist, reservationist, manager, or any front-line employee, I would suggest making this an integral part of your new-hire and ongoing training efforts.  Having your people understand what every step is like can only benefit your organization, and having them do it with your direction is very empowering.  The only resource this utilizes is time, and it’s time that you’ll later agree was well spent!  Does your organization do this?  I would like to know more!

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The Power of Empathy

We often confuse sympathy and empathy, especially in customer service settings.  Sympathy is merely an acknowledgement of a concern whereas empathy means understanding the concern as though it were your own.  The ability of employees to display genuine empathy when customers are distraught is the sign of a truly customer-centric organization, and one that likely has excellent customer retention and loyalty.

 

“I do not ask the wounded person how he feels, I myself become the wounded person.”
― Walt WhitmanSong of Myself

 

 

For example, let’s say that you sit down to dinner at a very busy restaurant.  You wait too long to be acknowledged, someone who sat down after you gets helped before you, your order takes forever, and then it comes out cold.  Now the manager is making his way around the restaurant asking about each table’s experience.  When he gets to you, you are probably ready to explode.  Which would you rather hear post explosion?

  • I’m really sorry!  We have been super busy today, and we are short a couple of people.  Can I offer you a free desert for next time?
  • Oh my goodness, hearing about your experience makes me cringe!  I have had similar experiences when out to eat – and they definitely prevented me from ever going back.  A great customer experience is really important to me and I’d like to personally invite you back with the promise that I have heard your concerns and will take them to heart.  In addition, I’ve comped half (or all) of your meal tonight.  Here is my business card – please give us another chance to show you that this was not normal.  When you do come back, please ask for me personally.

Several things happen when empathetic behavior is employed: First, the customer will probably give you a second chance.  Second, when the customer shares her experience, it will have a positive twist that brings more business your way.  Third, you’ve contained the situation so that it doesn’t end up Tweeted, Yelped, BBB’d, or otherwise put on display for more customers to be lost.  I am not a mathematician, but I can promise that the comp provided is a fraction of the cost of the potential fallout from not handling the situation well.

 

“No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care”― Theodore Roosevelt

 

 

Obviously avoiding issues like these is the goal, but realistically they will happen despite our best efforts.  The question is whether the organization is prepared.  Having both managers and front line staff that understand empathy in customer service and who are empowered to resolve situations with customers are signs of a customer centric and therefore, prepared organization.

Does your staff understand the value of empathy?  What are you doing to build a customer-centric organization?