The shift towards an authentic customer-centred orientation is a huge shift for just about every large organisation. That means organisational change. At the heart of all effective organisational change lies effective communication. Effective communication is radically different, I say distinct, from what passes for communication in the workplace.
If you are going to make the kind of organisational shifts that are necessary to cultivate customer relationships, call forth the best from your employees, and excel at the customer experience game, then I advise you to listen to the wise words of Danny Meyer, in his book Setting The Table:
Communication is at the root of all business strengths and weaknesses. When things go wrong and employees become upset ….. nine times out of ten the justifiable complaint is, “We need to communicate more effectively.” I admit that for many years, I didn’t really know what this meant……… I thought I was a pretty good communicator, but then it dawned on me: communicating has as much to do with the context as it does content. ……. Understanding who need to know what, when people need to know it, and why, and then presenting that information in an entirely comprehensible way is a sine qua non of great leadership…..
People who aren’t alerted in advance about a decision that will affect them may become angry and hurt. They’re confused, out of the loop; they feel as though they’ve been knocked off their lily pads. When team members complain about poor communication, they’re essentially saying, “You did not give me advance warning or input about that decision you made. By the time I learned about it, the decision had already happened to me, and I was unprepared.” Team members will generally go with the flow and be willing to hop over ripples, as long as they know in advance that you are going to toss the rock, when you’ll be tossing it, how big it is, and – mostly – why you are choosing to toss it in the first place. The key is to anticipate the ripple effects of any decision before you implement it, gauging whom it will affect, and to what degree. Poor communication is generally not a matter of miscommunication. More often, it involves taking away people’s feelings of control. Change works only when people believe it is happening for them, not to them. And there’s not much in between…..
Are you present to the big difference between a satisfied customer and a happy-grateful one?
There is a satisfied customer. There is a happy customer. And there is a happy-grateful customer. Too often we are not present to these distinctions. You and I can create satisfied customers simply by taking care of the functional aspects of the customer experience. To create a happy and grateful customer requires the human touch that evokes positive, life affirming emotions. And, I say that the human touch makes all the difference when it comes to repeat business and customer advocacy in a services centred business. Allow me to share a story with you.
“I like Hussein. He’s friendly, kind and genuine.” That is what my daughter said to me, with a big smile on her face, as we were leaving The Daruchini, our local Bangladeshi restaurant in Binfield. I found myself feeling the same way. What had turned a usually satisfactory experience, at this restaurant, into a happy memorable experience this time?
How do you create a memorable customer experience?
On a cold windy rainy day, my daughter and I had turned up at The Daruchini, a Bangladeshi restaurant, to pick up the takeaway meals that my wife had ordered. Walking up to the bar, a young man greeted us with a smile. We did not know him, yet he seemed to know us. He confirmed the order and the price with me. Whilst he was doing this his colleague spoke to him in a language that I did not understand.
To my surprise, this young man turned to me and apologised for speaking his native language. So I asked him what language they were speaking. “Bangladeshi” he told me. Then he asked me where I came from, originally. I told him that I came from Pakistani administered Kashmir. At this point, he turned to my 12 year old daughter and asked her, in a friendly way, if she had ever been there. My daughter shook her head. I said that I had not been willing to take her there as I considered it too risky. The young man agreed with me and told me that I had made a wise choice. Right there I felt accepted, acknowledged, validated, understood. I noticed a connection and found myself asking for his name. He told me his name (Hussein) and I shared my name with him.
Then our takeaway food order arrived. Hussein opened the refrigerator where the drinks are kept. And he asked my daughter if she drank Fanta (fizzy drink). She smiled and said “Yes.” Hussein hand her a can of Fanta. I noticed that I was surprised. I noticed that I was feeling happy. And I noticed that I felt gratitude toward Hussein for his kindness towards my daughter. I thanked Hussein and we left the restaurant.
We got into our car and were about to drive off when Hussein caught up with us. He told us that it was likely that our food order had been mixed up with another food order. So he asked to take the food order away so it could be checked. He apologised for the mix up. And told us that he would be back in a couple of minutes with the correct order.
Shortly, afterwards Hussein was back, walking across the car park in the rain. He apologised for the mix-up and for keeping us waiting. Then he told us that he had given us an extra dish, free of charge, to make up for keeping us waiting. Once again, I found myself surprised and feeling happy. This is when my daughter said ”I like Hussein. He’s friendly, kind and genuine.”
What is the lesson here?
It occurs to me that how Hussein showed up, his attitude and his little acts of kindness, cannot be scripted. They cannot be turned into process . It occurs to me that your organisation will either create space for these qualities to show up or will suppress them. With that in mind I have three questions for you:
1. Does your organisation recruit and retain people like Hussein?
2. Does your organisation create a space for your people to be genuinely friendly, responsive, and kind with your customers – to respond to the unique customer situation?
3. Does your organisation call forth the best of your people – their humanity, their ability to connect with your customers? Or does your organisation suppress the best of your people through rules, scripts, process and fear of breaking the standard rules?
If you are regular reader of this blog you may remember that I set-up a business bank account with Barclays Bank and shared my experience:
- Barclays Bank: what are the customer experience folks up to?
- Barclays Bank: what are the customer experience folks up to? (part II)
If you read those posts and come away thinking that my experience was one of disappointment then you’d be correct. So where do I stand today with regards to Barclays Bank?
Barclays Bank: a customer experience that leaves me delighted and grateful
Recently, I changed the name of my consulting company to Bold Intent. Given this change I was expecting to have to get together various documents, make an appointment with a Barclays Bank branch, and then take in the paperwork to get the account name, cheque book, and credit cards etc changed. Being human, I thought about doing it when the official name change document came through the post. And I put off doing it as it just showed up as too much hassle.
A few days later I got a letter from Barclays Bank. Upon opening it I found myself surprised and delighted. Why? Barclays Bank had worked out that I had changed the name of the company and issued me with a new cheque book and a new paying-in book – both reflecting the new company name. What did I say to myself? “Wow, this is great!” A few days later I received another couple of letters. These letters contained the updated credit cards. How was I left feeling? Actually, a better question is how do I feel towards Barclays Bank, right now? I feel grateful. Why? Because Barclays Bank helped me out – saved me time, effort, concern – without me even asking them to help me out. They anticipated a need and met it.
So if you want to delight your customers then do the unexpected. Anticipate and meet customer needs in way that simplifies-enriches your customers lives. Take actions that generate gratitude and invite reciprocity. Like Virgin Atlantic did when they upgraded me from Economy to Business Class many years ago. Like Halfords did when they made it easy for me to return a product to the local store when I had bought it online. Like my local garage did by not charging me the quoted amount when the found the fault was simply a loose wire – which they fixed at no charge…..
Sky TV: how to use marketing to interrupt and disappoint a customer
I used to buy a landline, broadband, and TV services from Sky. Some time ago, I stopped subscribing to the Sky TV ‘product’. Why? Because Sky TV insisted on doubling the price. And this gave me a great excuse for not buying Sky TV. Thus, helping me obtain two objectives. First, giving me greater access to the lounge. Second, helping me ensure that my children watched less television (in the lounge).
Is Sky celebrating with me? No. Sky continue to send me direct mail with a view to enticing me back as a customer. At the start I used to open this mail just to see what the offer was. Now, I don’t even do that, the direct mail arrives and I put it in the waste paper basket. Whilst, I can live with this as it is not that intrusive, it is a different matter when it comes to the regular calls. What calls?
Clearly Sky has an outbound tele-marketing team and members of this team ring me regularly. Each time they have a special offer for me. Each time I tell them that I am not interested. I even spell out why I am not interested: I don’t watch television and when I did have Sky TV my children did nothing but watch Sky TV! Does this stop the outbound tele-marketing team from calling me? No. I continue to get calls. I continue to be made aware of a product that I do not want. I continue to be told about offers that I don’t care about.
What broke this camel’s back and prompted this post? This Monday it was Early May Bank Holiday here in England. I was outside doing some gardening in the glorious sunshine. Who calls? Sky! What does the young lady want to talk about? A great offer about Sky TV. I say, “Do you know that it is a Bank Holiday? How is it that you are calling me on a Bank Holiday?” I was expecting an apology for being interrupted once more about a product that I do not want, on a Bank Holiday. Did I get the apology? No!
The young lady clearly had a mission and a script. She ploughed on with the pitch/script. So I told her what I had already told her colleagues: I don’t want Sky TV, it is a blessing that it is gone, I cannot be tempted to buy it even if you offer it to me for free. Finally, she got the message. She ended up by wishing me a great holiday. That would have been a great way to end the conversation if she had come across as sincere. She didn’t. She came across as inauthentic: what was clear from her tone was her disappointment that I had not taken up her offer…..
So that is how you disappoint a customer and rupture the bonds of any relationship: ignore what matters to your customer; ignore what your customer has told you; continue sending direct mail even though you have had no response to many mailings; and back up that with intrusive tele-marketing calls that create no value for the customer!