What's so special about seeing fresh flowers in public restroom?
What's so special about seeing fresh flowers in public restroom?
(This article was originally served in November of 2013. New links have since been added to revise and refresh your reader experience! Enjoy!)
It drives me crazy when a front-line employee can solve a problem, but can't.
They can because they see the problem, they see the cause, and directly observe the customer's frustration, as it happens. They can't, because they're not given the authority to fix it, nor incented to step outside of their area responsibilities to take action.
Here's a recent example, to illustrate what I'm talking about:
I was at an airport seated at the departure gate of a flight to Orlando, FL. The lighted sign above gate showed a different flight number, and a different city (Tampa). It was still about 40 minutes before my scheduled departure, when passengers began boarding.
Because it was still relatively early, and because the monitor still showed "Tampa" with the other flight number, I assumed that it was not my flight that was boarding. I was wrong, and so were several other passengers that were more focused on the sign at the gate, than the PA announcements telling us that the sign was incorrect.
The gate agent told me that the sign was "stuck" on Tampa; that the sign had not changed over the past two days. An easy solution, I thought, would have been for the gate agents to post hand-written signs with the correct information, next to or over the electronic sign. For whatever reason (lack of authority, lack of will or desire, etc.), nothing was done to address the root cause of the problem.
Instead, the problem persisted, because the gate agents didn't take the intiative to correct it. The result was two days of frustration for the airlines' customers, and the airlines' employees - the gate agents.
Here's the point:
Front-line employees ought to be given the authority and mindset to think and act outside their normal responsibilities to take action, particualry when that action will prevent a negative customer experience, or, create a more positive one.
There're some legendary examples of this in the business literature, like the FedEx driver in January in Minneapolis, on finding a FedEx drop box frozen shut, opted to back over the box to uproot it from the concrete so its contents would not be delivered late. Uprooting a drop box was beyond the scope of his employment, but doing it enabled his employer to live up to its promise.
There's the story of the Zappo's CSR having a pizza delivered to a "customer" at a hotel. Zappo's normally doesn't sell pizza, but this customer really wanted pizza, and the CSR got creative to make it happen.
There's the Ritz Carlton story of the employee that built a ramp so a wheelchair-bound guest could go down to the beach during his stay.
Yes, these are extreme examples because the employees were all trained to "do what it takes" to help the customer achieve the results they purchased.
These legendary customer service examples occuured, because their organizations nurture a culture of "doing whatever it takes" to correct problems, and create improvements to make for a more positive customer experience. And because the employees are encouraged, and given the latitude to take more drastic-than-normal steps to make it all happen.
Do your employees feel empowered to take steps outside their normal responsibilities, to deliver a better experience?
"One machine can do the work of fifty ordinary men. No machine can do the work of one extraordinary man." -- Elbert Hubbard
We're living in an era where automation is becoming the norm. Business processes that were once performed by humans are more often performed solely by technology. If not already, human interactions will soon become the exception.
Within a ten-minute period this afternoon, I ordered a prescription refill from my pharmacy, got cash from my bank, and bought and paid for groceries at a neighborhood supermarket. That's three transactions at three different businesses without a single human interaction.
By automating those transactions, the pharmacy, bank and grocery store reduced their costs, but they also reduced my customer experience to its lowest common denominator. By removing the human touch, they eliminated an opportunity to trigger my emotions; they eliminated a chance to show me a competitive advantage.
Each time a business automates a customer touch point for efficiency sake, it should look balance the automation with a human touch for experience sake.
Think about a company like Zappo's. They sell a lot of shoes, and they do it very efficiently. But if you ask Zappo's what they sell, they won't say "shoes." They'll tell you they sell "happiness." And that happiness is created by the fun, engaging customer service reps that love to make a customer's day. In fact, these human interactions are the essence of the Zappos brand. Sure, the company runs a very efficient e-commerce business, but they don't forsake the human touch for more efficiency.
Here's the point: Before automating a customer touch point, think about how the automation will impact the customer experience. Will it remove an important point of emotional contact, and a competitive advantage?
If it does, then look to either enrich an existing human touch point, or create a new human touch point that adds value and emotion to the customer journey. A good example here is the Trunk Club...
The Trunk Club is a men's clothing service where a personal stylist handpicks a trunk of high-end clothes and ships it to you, so you don't have to shop or worry about selecting the right styles. It begins as an on-line experience that could certainly remain 100% on-line, but the Trunk Club adds a human element: After providing some After providing some information about yourself and your preferences, you're assigned a "personal stylist" who serves as your concierge. The stylist then calls you directly, to begin a human-to-human customer relationship.
Is this human conversation required to complete the transaction? Of course not. Many on- line retailers avoid this costly step for efficiency sake. But the Trunk Club uses these additional human interactions to create the emotional bond with their customers clicks can't do.
In his 1981 best seller, "Megatrends," John Naisbitt presciently advised us to balance high-tech with "high-touch" to preserve our humanness. This advice is more applicable today than it was 34 years ago, because technology is more prevalent, and more challenging to our humanness on a daily basis.
What are your competitive human touch points?
Where can you add more?
"It's a competitive world. Everything counts in large amounts." - Depeche Mode, 1983
When it comes to the customer experience, everything counts.
Everything you say and do makes the experience better or worse. There are no neutral touch points.
There's a neighborhood bakery that I love to go to; the smell of the fresh-baked breads, the display of all those warm bagels in baskets, and soothing classical music constrasted by the cocophany from the kitchen: It's all part of th experience. Yes, buying bagels can be a pretty cool experience.
A week earlier, a different cashier had said, "Enjoy your day, and especially those bagels!"
One cashier kept the experience sharp, while another dulled it. One was memorable, while the other was as forgettable as the toll collector on the highway.
The point is this: the words you use matter. They're like the script in a play. The right words, well-chosen, can enrich the customer's overall experience.
Eliminate all trite, cliche phrases from customer-facing dialogue, and replace them with something more creative and relevant to the product or service.
The words you use in delivering the product are every bit a part of the experience as the product or service itself. Use words with a purpose.
If you want your words to improve the customer experience, then "No problem" is a big problem.
What do you say to your customers?
"I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion." -Jack Kerouac
Have you ever asked a sales person a question, and their answer left you more confused? Why does this happen? The answer lies in the way people "package" their answer.
Some people will deliver a brain dump to answer a question; they respond with a pile of information that may indeed contain the information needed to answer the question, but the information is presented as a large pile of raw data; too much information to comprehend in a single answer. As a result, the customer feels more confused than confident. What causes this?
Markman takes this a step further, by saying we should "respect the Role of 3" when designing a presentation, by organizing the information you'll be presenting into 3 Key Ideas.
Here's the point: Every time we engage with our customer, we're presenting. It may not be a formal presentation with a slide deck and a projector, but we're still providing information. The key is to provide that information in a way that will make it easy for the customer to understand while you're sharing it, recall it later, and to accurately pass on to someone else after that. The most effective way to do that is to organize the information using The Role of 3.
Let's look at an example:
Say you're trying sell a friend on the idea of exercising regularly, and he asks you why he should bother . You could do what many sales people do, and launch into a data dump by reciting the top 25 benefits of regular exercise.
Or, you could apply The Role of 3 by organizing many of those reasons into 3 clear, compelling (and memorable) topics:
1. Controls Weight
Exercising can help with weight gain or loss depending on your individual needs; the more intense the activity, the more calories you will burn.
2. Prevents Certain Health Conditions
Regular physical activity can help prevent or manage many health conditions including high blood pressure, depression, diabetes, and obesity.
3. Improves Mood and Energy Level
Physical activity stimulates your brain to help you relax, while your heart and lungs work harder during a workout to give you more energy and endurance!
Communication is a big part of the customer experience. And communication often involves sharing a lot of information at once. By organizing that information in a way that makes it easy for the customer to ingest, digest and remember, we're delivering a better experience. Respecting the Role of 3 will help us get there.
Where can you apply the Role of 3 in your sales process?
As customers, we're used to being asked to rate the companies we buy from.
But now, companies are beginning to rate the customers they sell to. Sure, lots of CRM-savvy companies have rated customers for loyalty-tracking, but they kept that information to themselves. What's different now is that companies like Uber, Airbnb, OpenTable are rating customers, and sharing those ratings with other service providers. And the service providers then use ratings to decide if they want to sell to those customers, or NOT.
According to a December 1 article in the New York Times, "The rating systems are allowing businesses to formalize a longstanding practice: focusing on their best customers.
"The worst customers “demand too much, complain too much and cost too much,” said Christopher Muller, professor of hospitality management at Boston University.
"Beyond that, he said, bad clients make employees unhappy. Companies, he said, do better by spending time on their best and most profitable patrons. “It sounds draconian, but not all customers are created equal,” he said."
In the past, if a restaurant received too many (legitimate) negative reviews about its menu, it would likely respond by making changes to the menu to delight more customers. Similarly, if a customer finds that he or she is being denied service, because they've been rude to other service providers, the customer is more likely clean up his act, and become a better customer. The result of these 2-way reviews is a greater population of good customers.
Here's where this can be a good thing for everyone:
So there we have it - while the 2-way review may seem unconventional, in the end it can create a virtuous cycle that improves the service environment for everyone!
What other benefits do you see, from 2-way reviews?
Customers like it when it's easy to business with a company. That's a core part of the customer experience.
And companies that are serious about delivering a great customer experience do things to make buying easier. Amazon created one-click ordering to simplify the purchase experience. Apple and others have eliminated the entire process of waiting-in-line-to-pay by equipping sales people with the ability to take payments directly from customers on the sales floor.
In other words, companies intent on improving the customer experience are taking big, innovative steps forward to make it happen.
Last week, CVS did just the opposite. CVS took a step backward by shutting down the technology that allows customers to pay using their iPhone6 or Android phone. The system was working just fine, but CVS took the option away from its customers.
This was a bad move, for 3 BIG REASONS:
First, it disrupts the customer experience.
Companies are supposed to move forward this stuff; giving customers options that will make the customers' lives better, and experiences easier. CVS did the opposite - they took it away.
Second, it disrupts employee experience.
CVS directed its employees to tell any customer wanting to pay by phone, that they'd have to use another form of payment instead. And to apologize to the customer. Anytime a company puts an additional (negative) burden on its employees, it degrades the employee experience. And the employee experience is inextricably linked to the customer experience.
Third, it hurts employee morale.
Delivering bad news is never fun, nor does it lift the spirits of the messenger. Being asked to deliver bad news to customers, and to apologize to the customer hurts the morale of employees. And employees with lower morale are less engaged and less productive.
To some sports fans, the big news in sports this summer isn't world-cup soccer, and it isn't the Tour de France. It's the new Self-service beer stations at the Twin's Target Field in Minneapolis. To some, this is little more than a vending machine. But to others, it's the epitome of customer focus.
You can pour as much or as little as you want. That's right... If you want 48 ounces, you can pour yourself 48 ounces of Goose Island 312, or any of the other three selections. But if you only want 6 ounces before cutting yourself off for the night, you can pour and only pay for 6 ounces, since the machine charges you by the ounce, not the cup, can or bottle.
At some point in history, someone decided that a serving of beer would be mostly 12 ounces, and consumers all over the world have had to adopt to that. In other words, up until now, beer consumption has been "container-centric." With the pay-and-pour-by-the-ounce approach, it's all about the preferences of the beer drinker, not the beer packager.
Now, if only the Twins could give their fans some wins to cheer about...