Rules of Customer Experience

Providing good customer service isn't hard; however, companies that do it well are few and far between.

Providing good customer service is not hard; however, the companies that do it well are few and far between. Here are six rules to help your organization create a positive customer experience:

1. Focus on journeys, not interactions.  Understand the big picture of what your customer is trying to accomplish and help them accomplish it. For example, when a USAA member calls to change their address, reps are trained to understand why and deal with bigger issues. If the call is from a soldier about to be deployed, the rep might inquire about power of attorney and life insurance, as well as the opportunity to put a hold on the member’s car insurance to save the soldier some money. Do what’s in the customer’s best interest in the long run to earn their trust and their long-term business.

2. Treat employees as assets.  Engaged employees are more than twice as likely to work late if something needs to get done, help someone at work, even if they’re not asked and do something for the company even if it’s not expected of them. They are nearly three times as likely to make recommendations about improvement and more than six times as likely to recommend a friend or relative to apply for a job. I like using a Net Promoter Score survey with employees, just as we do with customers, to understand their level of engagement and satisfaction with the company.

3. Build your brand from the inside out. Do your C-level executives know your vision, mission, values, and strategic positioning? How about mid-level managers? If your management team is not in alignment and telling a consistent brand story, your employees will not be in alignment. Each department is working on what their manager deems to be most important rather than what’s most important for the company. This lack of alignment is obvious to prospects and customers and results in confusion, a lack of trust and lost business.

4. Make every ending count. Let customers vent. Thank them for sharing their concerns so you can address them. If a customer doesn’t complain, you don’t know about the problem that needs to be addressed. Also, people who complain, and whose complaints are resolved, are significantly more likely to remain loyal customers than customers who never complain. Leaving people with a positive ending is important because people’s memories tend to be heavily influenced by the most severe, good and bad, parts of the experience — in particular, the way it ends.

5. Focus on “why” versus “what” and “how.” Leaders need to elicit buy-in by starting communications with “why.” Explain the reason something is important to the company and why we’re asking you to do what you do. Employees are empowered when they know how their job contributes to the vision, mission, values and strategic positioning of the firm. It reminds me of the janitor at NASA who told President Kennedy, his job was to “help put a man on the moon.” Do your employees know what their job is? Ask them.

6. Only ask if you will act. Don’t ask survey questions that don’t have specific action items associated with the answers. Likewise, don’t field a survey if you’re not prepared to address client concerns. Fielding a survey and not acting on the results creates false expectations of customers which will ultimately erode your trust and credibility. If you are sincerely interested in what your customers have to say, end the survey with an open-ended question that gives the respondent an opportunity to share their thoughts on the subject of the survey, or any other topic about your brand, that you may have missed.