Why isn’t customer experience part of the “day job”?

We have been writing about and studying customer experience behaviours for some time and currently working on some research using our 7P’s approach. From what we have found it seems that “Customer Experience” doesn’t usually form part of the day job for most employees.

Apart from the research why else do we think this? Well we should ask ourselves the question about our experiences when in a store or online, how often have we thought that the company we were dealing with was putting the customer, us, first?

When we are at work we have a million and one other things to think about driven by a combination of things, targets, family, bills, lunch, internal bureaucracy and so on, so where does the customer fit in? If we are in customer facing roles there are still factors getting in the way such as meeting targets and whether these targets are for pre or post sales they will be a distraction.

In a recent visit to a large technology outlet I wanted to purchase an MP3 player, the sales assistant was unsure about what stock was left so went to check and assured me they had one and brought the box, when I got home and opened it up the box didn’t have the MP3 player in it, it had everything else, cables, documents etc. but no device. Upon return it appeared he had sold me the box the demo unit had been in but was under pressure to make hiss numbers. I ended up buying the demo unit and a discounted price.

As a customer, when we do get an exceptionally positive experience it is often because a member of staff has gone “out of their way” to make something happen; “I shouldn’t really do this but …” and not necessarily because it’s part of the culture of the organisation. In other words they are making an exception to make it better.

There appears at times to be a disconnect between doing the right thing and doing things right. In other words what the employee feels they should be doing and what their management, through policies and procedures, wants them to do. Even some managers, when asked, think that their policies and procedures may need adjusting but it’s someone else’s responsibility or there isn’t time at the moment. This can only put stress and tension onto the employees and onto the customer.

This tension and stress can be manifested in many ways apart from a stressed workforce, such as long check out queues building irritated purchasers and frustrated staff. Indifferent employees, manifested by staff and management walking around and not acting to shorten the queues. Queues again at help desks either instore, on the phone or online with untrained or overstretched staff trying to resolve problems and not knowing where to start. Receiving collections and getting the wrong or damaged items or even the item hasn’t physically arrived and there are many others examples.

All of these build stress for the staff, lowers the reputation of the organisation and damages the relationship with the customers. Why do some instore chemists not have a pharmacist available over lunch times? And why is it some opticians make you wait 2 weeks for an eyesight test when others can do it within a couple of hours?

Most of this comes down to operational efficiency and investment in getting the right people in the right place with the right knowledge properly educated and empowered.

So what needs to happen to put customer experience into the day job?

It’s 3 things and it starts at the top, this has to be tops down effort because if the board don’t get it and buy into it then they can’t expect the staff to engage. It’s called leadership.

The 3 things needed to make the improvements are

Engagement, Education and Empowerment, simple maybe but remember this is about people.

  • Engagement … is everyone in the organisation on board and buying into making the customer happy? Have they been invited to add their views, comments, concerns and ideas into the mix?
  • Education … no this isn’t a mornings training class or a new directive published on the notice board. This is a proper ongoing education and development program for all employees top to bottom and front to back. Helping all to understand the impact of what they do has on the customer.
  • Empowerment … probably the toughest item as this is where management let go and let the employees deliver. A real test on how well their employees have been engaged and educated.

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