Why You’re Not Ready For The Next Customer Experience Wave
In this article I explore an emerging customer service model and the ways an organization can adapt their culture to live up to these new customer service expectations.
Customer experience has been deemed for several years as “next competitive battleground” and that can’t be debated.
Customers are the fuel to your business.
Without customers your business stops. Have you ever run out of gas on a busy street? I have, it wasn’t fun. Hundreds of cars flying by. Meanwhile, you sit on the side of the road to figure what to do next.
The cars whizzing by are your competition.
When I ran out of gas, I walked two blocks to the gas station. I purchased a gas can and some gas then walked back to the car. It was easy. I was lucky. There was a gas station close by.
Achieving customer service success isn’t simple. Your organization may have won awards in the past, but your environment changes daily. Expectations from customers, employees and shareholders continue to go up. Connected Service is here and you’re not ready to compete.
Connected Service: The personal assistance and support a person provides when selling or renting their personal (house, car, unique goods, etc.) products or services to another person.
Connected Service creates relationships between buyers and sellers. Platforms are used to facilitate the relationship. Consider these platforms as conduits. Connected service is the deepest and most human type of service. With the help of peer to peer platforms (Etsy, Uber, Airbnb) these relationships can now be built fast. Customer Service is provided by large groups of employees to large groups of customers. The relationship is one-to-many. Connected Services is one-to-one.
Your employees are the largest asset in competing with connected service and are continually overlooked.
There is no way around it connected service is here. There is no new innovation, technology or product that will get launched successfully without a strong team. I’ve learned this important lesson the hard way, by trial and error. I’ve only learned this after spending thirteen years focused on enterprise customer experience, being part of organizations who have won countless awards and consulting with various sized organizations.
If customers are the fuel to your business, the car is your team. Without a strong team, you’re not getting anywhere.
We often believe that we’re in the drivers seat to our business. Doing the hard work, navigating , accelerating and avoiding traffic. That’s just not the case. You’re in the drivers seat, but it’s your employees that ensure you get to your destination. The engagement level of your employees whether front line or not, directly impacts your customer experience.
The American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) organization issues an overall U.S. customer satisfaction quarterly score. This score measures satisfaction across multiple industries. It’s at a nine-year low.
Gallup issues an employee engagement survey every year. The survey measures the engagement level of employees. It’s at a nine-year low.
Customer satisfaction and employee engagement are directly connected.
Whatever technology that’s needed in your business, it’s available. It can be purchased. If you need employees that have a higher skill level, you can hire them. But throwing money at employees won’t create engagement. When employees were asked the one thing that would improve the company they work for ONLY one in ten said increased pay and benefits*. From the same group ONLY 17% of employees said increased pay would improve productivity.
Money won’t buy you engaged employees.
Company Culture Isn't "Fluff"
The connection between employee engagement and customer satisfaction is there. For example in a study done by Lindsay McGregor with data from ACSI and the University of Michigan organizations with a stronger culture had higher customer satisfaction results (Figure x – image).
The impact of company culture on customer satisfaction is measurable.
The culture of your company is like the tires on your car. When tires aren’t maintained they go flat. You can’t drive a car with four flat tires. You can’t run a successful business with a deflated company culture. Even with one flat tire, your maneuverability, reaction time, alignment, fuel economy are all off.
Running a business with a poor culture is like driving a car with a flat tire.
When I managed my first team I failed. I missed the connection between culture and success. I was fair and respectful but I chose to run a team that was productivity focused. The objective was to get work done, beat our goals, achieve results. This type of culture is called a “Market” culture. I realized the impact culture had on success too late. My employee turnover went through the roof.
Don’t let it be too late to realize the connection between team culture and business success.
It was too late for me in this scenario. Going forward I put effort into team culture. This effort was rewarded threefold with productivity that exceeded expectations. Team engagement that generated innovation and success deploying customer service experiences.
Employee turnover dropped by 90%.
I transitioned to building a “Clan” team culture. This is a family style of culture. One that’s supportive and works together towards common goals. I realized that culture (wheels) had one purpose, to support the team (car) in their effort to retain/obtain/help customers (get more gas) (tweetable). I was merely a passenger that was responsible to ensure everyone received the care and maintenance they needed.
A Common Purpose Is a Good Start But Isn't Enough
A common goal connects a team. It ensures that everyone is on the same track. In Win-Win I talk about building goals that are one sided that are made on a whim and are reactionary. Goals like, “improve sales” or “decrease expenses” these single sided goals are dangerous they can break your team culture. They can result in unanticipated consequences. A one-sided goal is like a broken ball joint in your car. A ball joint connects your wheel to the car. If it’s broken your car is going nowhere fast.
A one-sided goal stops your organization in it’s tracks.
In The Beautiful Constraint by Adam Morgan and Mark Barden a propelling question is defined as, “one that has both a bold ambition and significant constraint linked together”. A propelling question is the root of win-win goals.
With a new wave of customer service standards coming the previous compromises we were willing to take are no longer acceptable.
If you needed an oil filter in your car you would never say “change the oil filter but leave the old oil in”. That would be the same as saying decrease your expenses but don’t pay attention to the impact to customers.
Organizations should be asking, how do we decrease expenses while improving the customer experience.
The point is that if we don’t look for win-wins within our organizations we put the importance of our customers last. This Znet article by George Lawton gives three ways you can achieve win-win goals. These examples are surprisingly from 2001 yet many organizations are still struggling.
Research shows that a purpose has the second highest positive influence on employee motivation.
Purpose is when the specific result of effort fits an employees worldview of themselves. For example a financial advisor identifies with the objective of empowering people to make smart and strong financial decisions.
Your Car Can't Run On Inertia Alone And Neither Should Your Employees
Edward Deci and Richard Ryan from the University of Rochester distinguished six main reasons why people work. Of those, three help motivation and three hurt motivation. Inertia hurts motivation, in turn impacts culture and impacts customer experience. (Domino Picture). They define inertia as the motivator that is so far removed from the work and an employees’ identity. For example, when you ask someone “why it’s done that way”, and they respond with, “I don’t know, this is how we’ve always done it”. That’s inertia.
If you’re car is driving on inertia alone it won’t get far. If that’s the case you either ran out of gas, your battery died or possibly your engine seized up due to lack of oil. That happened to me in my first car. I could have blamed the car which would be logical. It wasn’t the car’s fault that I didn’t do the proper oil maintenance routine. When it happened I was 1200 miles (1990 kms) away from home, I wanted to blame anyone but myself. It was my fault.
When you hear from a team “this is how we’ve always done it”, you’re sure to find a poor leader.
In the blog “Why building a good team isn’t enough for customer experience success“, I talk about trusting your team. Trust goes beyond believing they will do the right thing, it comes down too trusting your team more than trusting your instinct.
Trusting your team to make decisions can slow down inertia. However, enabling your team to make decisions can stop it all together. Trusting your team to make a big decision is the act of saying “I trust you to make that decision”. Enabling your team to make decisions is the act of delegating a decision you wouldn’t normally delegate.
Several years ago I was leading a new technology implementation. This new technology would change how customers view the organization. The idea came directly from the top executive. The problem was customers weren’t interested in the technology. Other initiatives had stopped because of resource constraints. Their were bigger customer irritants that needed the resources. Because the original concept came from the top executive no one on the team wanted to stop the project to redeploy the resources. I went to the executive team and explained the situation. I was told, “it’s your decision”. You could take this as “passing the buck”. But it wasn’t, the executive team enabled me to make the decision. They allowed me to stop the inertia. This is an example of enabling decision making that builds trust and kills inertia.
Empower your team members to stop the inertia.
What are you ignoring?
If you are deliberately trying to create a future that feels safe, you will willfully ignore the future that is likely.
In “Innovation Is Yelling, Why Can’t You Hear It?” I talk about hearing your customers and team members. Beyond listening to them but hearing what they are trying to tell you. When you listen to employees, customers and shareholders without the intent to hear and understand you miss out on innovations. With the next proposal from a team member or the next complaint from a customer, hear what they are saying. Read between the lines.
Ignoring your employees and customers is like ignoring the sounds that the engine of your car is making.
If the engine in your car begins to sound differently, you don’t ignore it. You research the noise, you investigate with an expert. There is a business tsunami coming. The world was rocked by digital and social technologies. It was shaken by Millennials in the workforce. The business tsunami that follows will take out organizations with poor cultures. It will wipe out managers who aren’t leaders. It will repress employees that don’t demonstrate their leadership capabilities. Organizations have not yet adapted to the new digital economy. You can’t ignore anymore.
When presented with ideas listening is only the first step. Don’t overlook the potential, read between the lines.
There it is, the next evolution of customer service is already here. Connected Service is a personal connection on a one to one basis. Now, you need to build a culture that helps get your organization moving in the right direction. Without a strong culture, you can’t achieve customer experience success. If you believe that team culture isn’t “fluff”, that building win-win goals with propelling questions and stopping employee inertia will help your business then check out our ebook, Five Strategies To Meet Customer Expectations And Build A Connected Culture. It’s free and it provides X strategies to prepare you and your team for connected service. It’s a guidebook to help you lead a culture of service.