Monday February 17, 2014

Customer Experience No Longer Requires Entry-Level People

Great customer experience (CX) is a human event.

Great CX is rehearsed by people placing themselves in the same process or event and asking the question, "What do I feel, want, need, appreciate when I'm on the other side of the desk/phone? 

How do I create something special that I would appreciate?

Most companies though, settle for a more scripted, manageable approach.

The justifying self-talk that runs through the manager mind: "We have entry-level roles. It's too much to expect everyone to think on that level."

So, companies set aside the human-ness of their employees (and customers) and instead mandate traditional customer service behaviors with policy and pay. And this is what customer service becomes: 

Cheerful, positive greeting, eye contact, smile, appropriate, accurate, empathy (kind of), and procedure. 

These traditional attributes of customer service are generally great and accurate, but on their own, don't create great customer experience. Here's one example of how it breaks down: 

 I'm at my local credit union yesterday. Standing in line waiting to get a couple checks printed for taxes. It's Friday, the lobby is full of people, the line is long. 

About 7 people in front of me, I overhear a transaction between a middle-age woman who's making a withdrawal, the teller she's working with, and a supervisor (I'm assuming) that's hovering behind the teller pointing at the screen and giving some assistance. The teller and her helper aren't talking loud per se, but I quickly discover via my eavesdropping that this women is trying to withdraw $1500 cash. 

"So that was $1500, right?" must have been said 3 times during the exchange. 

"So you want to take that out of your money market account?"

The exchange ended as all of us would expect- "Was there anything else I could help you with today?" and "Thank you for coming in today." I heard it all very clearly.

The whole thing felt very awkward to me. It reminded me of all those times I've been at the counter in a bank, and happened to have another customer in the next "window" over from me, working with another teller. You know what I'm talking about- you can hear bits and pieces of their transaction, and then you realize they can hear yours. 

I'm not even a private guy, but I am uncomfortable with the fact that I know this lady is withdrawing $1500 from her account. It feels like it's none of my business. 

A few minutes later, I get to the front of the line, and another gal helps me. I hand her my card so she can look up my account. She asked how she could help me, and in a slightly hushed tone, I tell her I need to get a couple checks printed to send off for my taxes. 

Without skipping a beat, her voice lowered and she quietly asked me which account I'd like it to come out of. She then softened her voice a bit more and asked what amounts they needed to be for. 

The exchange was both uneventful and magical at the same time. Whether she realized it or not, she was taking my pulse throughout the entire transaction, and matching my behavior. Eye contact happened, smiles were exchanged, she asked about Valentines plans, shared hers, etc. But the magic really happened in the volume and pace of the whole thing. 

She was focused on me and the moment, not on certain behaviors, a prescribed attitude, or a specific greeting/response. 

Contrast that with the earlier transaction I witnessed. All the right components, but lacking the human awareness, the caution, the sensitivity, the acknowledgement. 

Not everyone is suitable for customer-engaging work. It requires tremendous self-awareness, adaptivity, emotional intelligience, and mastery of your tools. Is that a lot to ask of entry-level staff? Yep.

With researchers like Forrester, and major enterprises like Oracle publishing data on the ROI of finely-tuned CX, business leaders have to start asking- Why are my frontline customer service people among the lowest paid in my organization?

When customer experience is the only thing differentiating you from your competition, what are your frontline people worth? And do I have the right people in those roles?


Chris Nordyke is an integrated marketer and strategy consultant. He works with owners and senior business leaders to transform and grow service companies via a unique holistic approach that drives referral business and client retention. Click here to schedule a complimentary consult with Chris.

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