By AIRHIHEN EKELEM
Customer experience is about empathy. It is about being in the shoes of the customer. Since the inception of the pandemic, customers have gone through several emotional challenges. So too have employees. Working from home has its own challenges. Health concerns and pressures as a result of possible job losses or even having to work longer due to reduced staff strength are issues that put employees in a position that can compromise the customer experience.
Man is unpredictable and emotional, but amazing results are achieved when we get to know them. Today the emotion has expanded to feeling safe. Customers want a touchless experience. They shop online so they do not have to interact with people and shop online so they do not go into a shop for health and safety reasons.
Economist ( February, 2021: Back for good, or bad) states that employees are getting increasingly restless with the sheer length of lockdown and long for the office, at least for part of the time, from a Gartner report, a research and advisory firm. It also refers to a study of 1500 workers in 46 countries by the Harvard Business Review stating that 85% said their well being had declined and 55% felt they had not been able to balance their work and home lives. Added to these is the finding that employees have become less loyal as the pandemic has progressed.
In her work, ‘Five Ways Leaders Accidentally Sabotage Customer Experience’, Jeannie Walters, CEO/Founder of Experience Investigators, a global customer experience consulting firm, suggests as follows:
First, never dealing with the customers and relying on technology and analytics can sabotage the customer experience. Promotions may take one up the ladder but that is no excuse for being distant from the customer. She suggests being present at some randomly selected customer relationship team meetings with clients, visit contact centres to listen in as well as talk directly to contact centre agents and where it is challenging to visit, request a few recordings each week.
Secondly, she suggests that customer experience suffers when leaders become obsessed with being better than a chosen competitor as the driver of innovation. “Don’t worry about the big fish. Worry about your pond.” She opines. Remember that human beings like different things and will like to align with brands that reflect their values, ideals and the experiences they want. So focus on what you can control and deliver for the customers you have.
Thirdly, bad behaviour should not be encouraged. Where employees are encouraged to do the wrong thing for short-term gains or report half truths to avoid the wrath of a boss will definitely lead to bad behaviour toward customers. Performance metrics when used often to punish bad behaviour can be counter-productive. They encourage use of short cuts to meet these goals.
A way out is communicating often and positively about the behaviour wanted as important. Let employees understand the performance metrics and combine them with the feedback on their customer experience. In an hospital in India, after complaining about the meal served, the guest service agent not seeming to be very fluent in English rushed to get me a customer feedback form to fill while taking away the cutlery.
Fourthly, do not keep customer praise to yourself. Seek out the teams and individuals who truly earned the praise and share it generously. Some other suggested methods to achieve these are; highlight customer quotes so staff can read and connect with what customers appreciate, let customers know what you will be doing to reward the employees they praised for their excellent customer experience and do not limit praise to the customer facing groups only. Those who design products should share in the praise to know what customers like which will also help build cross functional awareness of the customer’s journey.
Fifthly, defining what an organisation is not more than what it is can sabotage the customer experience. Indeed, defining who the organisation is and what it wants to offer is just as important as knowing what the organisation is not. Knowing who you are especially around one’s core values is very important. These values are a guide to employees to be able to create a unified and consistent customer experience. Let your brand promise be well articulated and internalized so customers can trust the customer experience.
Managers planning a return to normal must keep abreast of the challenges employees and customers will face. They need to recreate camaraderie within their teams and make sure their best employees do not head out the door, advises the Economist.
• Ekelem Airhihen is a chartered accountant and airport customer experience specialist. He can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org