Need to have your employees better understand and improve the customer experience?
Here are three simple approaches designed to do just that. Each one can be applied to engage employees in sharing their experiences and building on their ideas to take care of customers.
1. Consider the customer perspective
“Smart people walk in the shoes of their customers. But wise people remove their own shoes first.”
Because empathy is critical to improving the customer experience, it’s valuable for employees to consider and discuss their own experience as consumers. You can engage them in discussing one or more of the following questions, such as:
- Thinking about a recent experience you had as a customer, how would you describe the quality of that experience? What stood out for you that made it that way? … Based on that experience, would you recommend that company to a friend? Why or why not?
- As a consumer, how can you tell whether a company is customer-centric?
- How do you see who you are and what you offer through the customer’s eyes?
- [Based on the responses to these questions:] What does this say about how we serve our customers? … How can we do better?
2. Consider employee impact
Use notable quotes from the business press that will work well as discussion-starters to elicit employee reactions and ideas. Here are a few of my favorites:
- “The easiest way to turn a service into an experience is to provide poor service – thus creating an memorable encounter of the unpleasant kind.” B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore, The Experience Economy
- “Customers care about the degree to which you respect and value their business … If you provide customers with clues that you don’t value their business, then all the customer satisfaction in the world won’t help you.” David C. Lineweber
- “If you respect the customer as a human being, and truly honor their right to be treated fairly and honestly, everything else is much easier.” Doug Smith
- “Brands are built from within … [they] have very little to do with promises made through advertising. They’re all about promises met by employees.” Ian Buckingham
3. Consider combining both of the above approaches
Depending on how much time you have for discussion, you can start with the empathetic perspective and close with an applicable quote that supports delivering a positive customer experience. Or you can start with a quote and segue to discussing the customer’s perspective. As for selecting quotes, you can even invite employees to share a favorite or create their own.
When you engage employees in these special discussions — whether as part of orientation, customer service training, staff meetings or retreats — you can elicit their understanding and ideas to better serve customers as well as co-workers who are “internal customers.”
Regardless of which of setting or approach(es) you use, it’s essential to conduct such discussions in a positive, non-threatening, and respectful setting. Your objective is twofold:
- to encourage employees to comfortably share stories and actionable ideas that enable them to better serve customers, and
- avoid getting mired in a spiraling critique of complaints.
The key is to not dwell on negative barriers but focus on ways to overcome them.
And don’t forget the food (e.g., appropriate amounts of caffeine, water, sugar, healthy snacks, etc.) that can fuel the thinking and ideation process.