The challenge of a CX culture

President, QuestionPro CX

An extra smile goes a long way

A common expression – especially in Customer Experience (CX) – is to tell people to “Go the extra mile” for our customers. However, fulfilling that request will vary greatly on the tools provided. If I were to take that statement literally, going the extra mile would be easy if I’m driving my car, but a little more challenging if you ask me to sprint that on foot.

It may be obvious that it is all about the tools you provide, but are you aware that not all the tools require extensive investment. I remember the first time I noticed a little slip in a package that I received that simply said, “Hand-packed and checked by Operator 21”. It had a personal touch, but not something that I’d brag about to friends or use it as the topic for a blog post.

When this arrived yesterday, my daughter was moderately excited. Despite having to wait for the delayed delivery, she was happy to be trying on her new dress. Excitement turned into an outright ear-to-ear grin and the proclamation that I had to read the contents included in the package. Why all the accelerated enthusiasm? The standard thank you card got very personal.

The effort behind a smile

My short-term role in the CX space became a long-term career because of one thing: I’m helping to create smiles. My first supervisor in the area said the great part about what we do is that we help businesses become better by assisting them to be better to their customers. However, it takes a team of people to make that all work. My enthusiasm behind measurement and reporting will stop if the Customer Experience lead with my client does not believe in the cause. The chain on that side goes from the CEO all the way down to the person interacting directly with the customer. All of them have to be working towards that goal just to make a customer smile. No product on the shelf, no smile. No employees to complete a transaction, no smile. Long wait times on a support call, no smile. The list of things that can go wrong is quite extensive, and nearly everything has to go just right to make that customer smile, yet it happens every day – even in the most complicated of circumstances.

It shows up in various ways, but it is easy to be happy with the good news and blame bad news on other circumstances. This is even true when it comes to customer experience. When I worked at a retailer in a service role, it was easy to write off an unhappy customer with “they’re having a bad day” and still take credit for every happy customer even if I had little to do with their smile. It is human nature to want to be associated with good and to distance ourselves from the bad. We also feel that pressure when an experience goes wrong, especially when there is a risk of losing that customer. One of the key reasons to understand the voice-of-the-customer is to ensure that you have the means to mitigate those circumstances when a customer experience goes wrong and do our best to recover that customer. It should go far beyond that, however.

It is MY job to make a customer smile

The biggest difference between an organization with great customer experience and all others almost always comes down to the company’s culture of customer experience. It could be very self-serving for me to say that measuring the voice of the customer across all the touchpoints is the key to great customer experience. Reality is; otherwise, I certainly enjoy my role in making a great customer experience, but it is also dependent on others. A great product can bring customers back again and again, but if the experience is negative, customers will churn as soon as a competing offer comes up – and it doesn’t always have to be a better offer. I remember a comment from a car salesman once that asserted his job wasn’t to make the customer happy; it was to sell the customer a car. To be able to keep selling more cars to more customers, even a salesman has to have some concern for the customer experience, but even being on the front end of that interaction, it is not up to him alone to make a customer happy.

I could continue with the list, but ultimately I just gave every reason why it is not anyone person’s responsibility to make a customer happy. Why? Because it is every employee’s (and dare I say partner and vendor) responsibility to make a customer happy. If every individual associated with a company held true to the idea that “It is MY job to make a customer smile,” that culture of customer experience would have already been created, and it goes a long way.

Always easier said than done

Large organizations will claim that small companies are better equipped for this since they can be more nimble. Small organizations can point to the resources large companies have to execute on plans. In both these cases, they are both right, yet still very wrong.

That thank you card that arrived in my daughter’s package is exactly how you make a customer smile – attention to detail and personalization. “My first Hawaii order” feels like a very personal touch, but to who? To the sender, yet the recipient feels like they are part of something special. “It is going to look amazing on you!” give a compliment by only knowing that it is not a gift through the order form, asking if this is a gift or for yourself. I can think of all the questions we ask in a survey as well, only for the data to be used in aggregate, rather than taking an opportunity to leverage that for better customer experience or even use in promoter amplification or customer co-creation.

One could say that Luminosa is a small firm and has the time to spend on personal notes. The same person that is CEO is also packing and shipping orders, yet still makes time to send the personal notes because that is the culture she wants to create. Any company that wants to make that difference can make the time to make it happen. A little hand-drawn smiley face on the pre-printed packing slip, small talk at the check-out lane, or even just a sincere “Thank You” at the conclusion of an interaction. Will that suffice for everyone? Absolutely not. Sometimes the steps are bigger and have to be done by the organization; sometimes the product needs improvement. Ultimately, it has to be a good value for the customer. Making it everyone’s job…and my job.

One key to Customer Experience is employees with a focus on making the customer smile. The CX culture also has to consider the Employee Experience. That is why, regardless of your role in the firm, I’d recommend you join our upcoming webinar (July 16, 2020) with an employee experience and engagement expert. You can register for that webinar here and have the opportunity to be a part of the conversation. I hope you’ll join us.