What is the most potent way of creating an unforgettable customer experience? Sandy Carrannante shows the way

PwC has a point of view on how to go about generating customer loyalty

I have been reading an article by PwC  titled “The Key to Customer Loyalty: The Total Shopping Experience” and in this article one particular paragraph caught my attention:

“The most potent way to create an unforgettable customer experience is by investing  in knowledgeable staff and making the most of front-line employees. In fact, PwC found that staff members’ product knowledge and recommendations accounted for almost one third of all good experiences related to service support. Contrastingly, only 1% of the shoppers surveyed ranked rewards programs alone as the top influencer of purchase.

How do you make the most of front line employees?

My experience shows me that my most potent (memorable) customer experiences have ALWAYS involved effective front line staff.  In these encounters I have noticed something that stands out: it really helps if the customer facing staff (that have served me) are knowledgeable and yet that really is a secondary factor.

The primary factor (for me) has been the being of the front line staff: being present, being patient, being considerate, being generous with their time and knowledge, being helpful.  I have noticed that my most delightful customer experiences have occurred in the presence of front line people who LOVE people – they are people people.  And my most disappointing customer experiences have occurred in interacting with front line staff who have occurred as being indifferent, inhuman – treating me as any object and not as a fellow human being.  I have also noticed that there is vast difference in the context from which front line staff operate and therefore how I, the customer, show up in their world and how they treat me.

We are always operating from a specific context and often we are simply not present to the context which gives us being and thus determines what we do and importantly how we do what we do.  Sounds abstract, right?  So allow me to make this concrete by showing you an example – please take a look at the following picture:

Do you notice that the central ‘figure’ in the ‘ABC’ sequence and the ‘121314’ sequence is ambiguous?  The interesting thing to note is that when we are embedded and operating in the context of the alphabet the central, ambiguous, figure automatically shows up for us as B – we do not have to think about, it happens automatically.   What happens when we are embedded in or coming from the numeric context?  Then the central, ambiguous, figure shows up for us as 13 – automatically.   Context is like hidden magic – it determines what we perceive, how what we perceive is interpreted by our minds,  gives us being and shapes/drives our behaviour.

In my experience front line staff that have delivered delightful customer experiences (for me) have been coming from the context of ‘being of service to their fellow human beings‘.  That really should not be a surprise for any of us.  If you are the kind of person who comes across as ‘loving people’ then you are likely to operate from the context of ‘being of service to my fellow human beings’ – they go together like two sides of the coin.  More accurately they are one and the same.

What does that mean for business?  Go to great lengths to make sure that ALL your customer facing staff ‘love people’ and operate from the context of ‘being of service to my fellow human beings’.  AND make sure that you put in place a organisational climate (management style, business policies, HR practices, environment, tools…) that calls your customer facing staff to operate from the context of ‘being of service’ and put into play their love of people – their customers, their fellow employees…

Sandy Carrannante delivers another delightful experience

I drove my son to Edgbarrow Sports Centre this morning, like I do just about every Saturday morning so that he can do Archery and Karate. As it is the first day of the ‘new term’ I needed to pay for his archery lessons for this term and it was my good fortune to be served (again) by Sandy Carrannante – the Deputy Manager.  As soon as I saw Sandy I found myself to be in a great mood why?  Because I remember that about a year ago I turned up around 8:30 was greeted by Sandy and she helped me out.  You might be wondering what is exceptional about that?  allow me to illustrate:

1) Sandy’s eyes sparkle, her face glows and she smiles.  Her whole being says “I am happy to be here doing what I am doing including being right here to help you. How can I help you?”  When I say ‘being’ I am referring to the total condition – physical, cognitive, emotional, spiritual – the whole person is present and all the parts are congruent.

2)  The way that Sandy makes eye contact, asks questions, talks with me and goes about doing her job shows that she cares about people and nothing is too much when it comes to serving / helping her customers out.  She likes her customers.  She likes serving her customers.  Even more – she is open to striking up a conversation with customers (if they are so minded) and if customers enter into the dance of conversation then Sandy is a great partner to dance with.  She keeps the customer informed and apologies if something is not working or taking to long.

3)  Sandy has high standards.  She insists on doing the job at hand right.  When I am with Sandy I can tell that whatever task Sandy takes on it will be done right by Sandy.  There is a certain attitude and commitment about how this work and that they should be done perfectly.

4)  Sandy is knowledgeable.  That is to say that Sandy knows what there is to know.  How do I know?  Because when I ask her questions she provides credible answers first time and without hesitation.  She knows how the sports centre operates, she knows how the IT systems that she needs to use (to serve customers) operate.  Even more delightful she know me – she remembers our previous interactions.

5)  Sandy knows (at an intuitive level) what matters to us customers – that extra that creates the human bond / generates delight.  She is attentive.  And today she blew me away by sharing her point of view on my son.  I left our encounter thinking “Sandy sees and know my son.  And that was great compliment that she made about my son!”

Lesson

People matter especially the people on the front line serving customers.  Make sure that recruit people like Sandy to do the front line role and then do EVERYTHING in your power to let them be great with customers.  And one thing that you should definitely do is to thank them (now and then) for being great (day in, day out) and making a positive contribution to the lives of your customers, their customers.

Question

How many Sandy’s joined your organisation and then wilted due to the management style, business policies, pay and working environment that you have put in place?

Author: Maz Iqbal

Experienced management consultant working at the intersection of strategy, customer, and technology. Combine a tendency to think strategically with a penchant for getting my hands dirty at the coalface of implementation.

2 thoughts on “What is the most potent way of creating an unforgettable customer experience? Sandy Carrannante shows the way”

  1. Hi Maz, As you say, your lesson is two lessons:

    1. Recruit people who care
    2. Do everything in your power to let them be great with customers

    It strikes me that point two is the one we always fail at, organisations get far to focused on costs and compliance and revenue and control and gradually suck the “care” out of everybody.

    Maybe that is what happened in your recent visit to the chemist?

    James

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  2. Front liners have their off days. Sometimes, they leave for greener pastures, regardless of how awesome a boss you are. But if you truly understand your customer, and why they like, love (or simply patronize your business), you don’t need to be at the mercy of your employee of the month.

    Having a concept, a USP, or a cause attached to your brand and the promise it makes on your behalf, and you’ve inspired customers to walk into your store (as well as your front line!!! They have hearts and wallets, too don’t they? 🙂

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