Human-2-Human: A Personal Reflection on Service, Experience and CRM

Reflecting On Some Of My Recent Experiences

Be a human, bring out each other’s humanity.

Abdul Sattar Edhi

Recently, I went to a new hairdressers and a young lady ‘worked’ on me.  Whilst she worked on me I noticed a difference.  What did I notice?  It occurred to me that here is person who cares: cares about me and cares about the work that she is doing. When she finished her work, I looked her in the face, smiled and said something like this “You care! You care don’t you?  I can tell that this is not just a job for you. I can tell that you care about hairdressing and that you care for people like me – your customers. Thank you.”

What showed up, how did she respond?  Despite being English, she was not embarrassed at this acknowledgement.  Instead, I noticed a light go on inside of her: she beamed a smile, her eyes lit up and it occurs to me that, at least for a moment, she had wings.  She told me that I had made her day and thanked me.  The experience, this experience of the human to human connection, left me at least two feet of the ground.

I saw my Chiropractor and she worked on my neck. In order to work on my neck I had to lie down on the ‘couch’ and rest my head in her hands. Whilst she supported my head and worked on my neck I felt the manifestation of love: she was totally present in the moment, totally with the work that she was doing, she was patient (not in a hurry to get it over with), she was gentle.  I found myself to be deeply touched by this. It occurred to me that I had just been given a gift, one that I have rarely experienced. At the end of our session, I told her exactly that and thanked her.  Once she got over her initial surprise, a smile came over her face and she thanked me.  I left with joy being present in my being.

I did some consulting work for a client.  And I put all that there was to put into the work. One could even argue that I went ‘above and beyond’ that which was stipulated in the statement of work.  The work was well received by the senior managers who received it. At the end of the final presentation, the Sponsor left the conference room without any acknowledgment of my existence.  No thank you. No shake of hands. No meeting of eyes and all that can be conveyed through the eyes and the face – without any words.

Why Am I Sharing These Experiences With You?

It occurs to me that there is so much talk of Customer Service and so little understanding of what service really is.  It occurs to me that I hear so much about Customer Experience and there is so little understanding what it is and what it takes to generate a great customer experience. It occurs to me that business folks are so addicted to ‘data-technology-process’ in CRM that they are not present to that which creates-consitutes customer relationships, and keeps them in existence: the genuine caring, respect and affinity that occurs between two or more human beings.

I notice that the Customer conversation – whether Service, Customer Experience or CRM – ignores the voice of those who actually serve the customer: the sales rep on the ground, the account manager, the call-centre agent taking the calls, the store clerks ….  What would show up if these people were the one’s writing on ‘all things Customer’?  Being one of them and knowing some of them, it occurs to me that we would say that it really takes something to render great service when those who we are serving (‘Customers’) treat us as mere objects.  It also occurs to me that we would say that whilst the job, itself, is hard and can suck (from time to time), human kindness makes all the difference: the kindness of our colleagues, the kindness of managers, and the kindness of customers.

Does kindness require a lot from us? I say “No!”.  It simply requires a return of a value that is commonly neglected. Which value?  The value that I grew up with and which became a part of me:

courtesy

ˈkəːtɪsi/
noun
the showing of politeness in one’s attitude and behaviour towards others.
“he treated the players with courtesy and good humour

I Invite You To Think On This

Everyone wants to know why customer service has gone to hell in a handbasket. I want to know why customer behaviour has gone to hell ..

— I do know how it feels to be an invisible member of the service industry. It can suck.  When the customers were kind and respectful, it was ok, but one “waiter as object”moment could tear me apart. Unfortunately, I now see those moments happening all of the time. I see adults who don’t even look at their waiters when they are speaking to them. I see parents who let their children talk down to the store clerks. I see people rage and scream at receptionists …….

When we treat people as objects we dehumanise them. We do something really terrible to their souls and to our own. Martin Buber ….. wrote about the differences between an I-it relationship and an I-you relationship. An I-it relationship is basically what we create when we are in transactions with people whom we treat as objects – people who are simply there to serve us or complete a task. I-you relationships are characterised by human connection and empathy. 

Buber wrote “When two people relate to each other authentically and humanly, God is the electricity that surges between them.” 

…. I can say for certain that we are hardwired for connection – emotionally, physically and spiritually. I am not suggesting that we engage in a deep, meaningful relationship with the man who works at the cleaners or the woman that works at the drive through, but I am suggesting that we stop dehumanising people and start looking them in the eye when we speak to them. 

Brene Brown, Daring Greatly

Where Do I Stand? 

It occurs to me that I care little about customer strategy. Little about relationship marketing. Little about customer service. Little about Customer Experience. And little about CRM.  It occurs to me that I care little about B2B or B2C.  It occurs to me that I care little about Process, Data, Technology or Metrics.  So what do I care about?

It occurs to me that I care about being a decent human being: customer strategy, relationship marketing, customer service, Customer Experience and CRM are simply vehicles for me to ‘be a decent human being and calling forth the best of our (you and me) humanity’.

Want to improve the Customer Experience?  Start with yourself in your role of Customer.  Listen to Brene Brown’s advice and stop dehumanising the people that serve you: the sales person, the store clerk, the call-centre agent, the field service guy that shows up at your home/office.  Treat these fellow human beings with respect, start by looking them in the eye when you speak with them.

If you up for being bold, then step up and genuinely thank the person that makes your coffee. And if that person is confused with your request for “milk” don’t assume that s/he is stupid, lazy, difficult, incompetent: this says more about you as a human being than it does about the person standing behind the bar serving coffee.  When Brene Brown was waiting tables she was doing so to pay for her bachelors degree.  I leave you with the words with which I started this conversation:

Be a human, bring out each other’s humanity.

Abdul Sattar Edhi

Halfords Autocentres Co-create a Great Customer Experience

The Situation: An Unexpected Problem Shows Up

I got a phone call to tell me that it had not been possible to get the road tax renewed. Why? Because the MOT had run out. Given that I had asked (and paid for) the car to be ‘road taxed’ over two weeks ago, I was not happy to get this news when the road tax had run out. So I set myself the task of getting the car through its MOT on the next day – the day where I would be working from home.

The Customer Experience

1) Research Phase: Finding A Suitable Local MOT Centre

About 7-8 am I turned up at Google and searched for MOT centres in my part of the world. Halfords Autocentres caught my eye. Why? I know where the local centre is and it is only five minutes drive from my home. And because of the offer.

MOT Only £27.42 – 50% Off

Book Now To Take Advantage Of Our Exclusive Online Deal. Save Today!

The offer – MOT for only £27 and ability to book online – was too good to resist.  So I clicked on the link and ended up on a well designed-helpful web page. Here is screenshot of the middle section of this page:

HalfordsMOTBookingScreen

This one page, answered my key questions-concerns:

1. Can I book online? Yes

2. Can I make an MOT booking for today? Yes, provided there is an open slot at your chosen centre.

3. How long does it take? 45 minutes if no repairs needed, up to 60 minutes if minor repairs needed.

4. What happens if the car fails the MOT?  Most repairs can be carried out at the autocentre on the day of the MOT.

2. Purchase Phase: Booking and Paying Online

Within five minutes I had selected my local Halfords autocentre, entered the details of my wife’s car, selected the ‘MOT’ product, accessed the MOT calendar, found an empty slot for that day, booked that slot, entered my contact details, paid, got a confirmation, and printed off my the relevant documents.  Easy!

3. MOT Phase: Arrival At Local Autocentre

Five minutes before my appointed slot, I turned up at the local Halford Autocentre. Alex was on reception, he recognised me, he smiled, he welcomed me.  I did not have anything to explain as Alex had a copy of my booking.

Exactly on time, one of the mechanics showed up, took the keys and got on with testing my wife’s car; I could see exactly what was happening because the office and service bays are separated by glass.  Whilst the mechanic was conducting the test, Alex and I were catching up when he was not taking calls (from customers) or serving customers who popped in.

4. MOT Phase: Results and Departure from Local Autocentre

The forty-five minutes flew by. Alex went to talk with the mechanics. Coming back he told me that the car had ‘failed’ its MOT and there was nothing to worry about. Noticing my confusion, Alex explained that the regulations had changed and so the ‘state of wiring’ in-around the engine did not meet regulations. And there was nothing to worry about because the mechanics were tidying up the wiring – the job would be done in the next five to ten minutes.

True to his promise, within 10 minutes Alex had my MOT certificate ready. He went through it including pointing out that two tyres would need to be replaced soon. At the end of this review I was expecting to be charged for the ‘tidying up’ of the wiring. Surprise! No charge.

I thanked Alex. I thanked the mechanic who came into the office at the moment. And I wished them both a great Christmas and the very best for 2014.  What did I get in return?  An early Christmas gift. Both Alex and the mechanic said, with a certain genuineness (conveyed by the tone of their voices) “And the same to you, mate!”

What Made This Such a Great Experience?

It occurs to me that the following factors worked together to make my experience a great one:

  1. Compelling offer (price competitive MOT, online booking) that grabbed my attention

  2. Well designed MOT page that is informative, useful and usable

  3. Easy to find local Halfords autocentre, easy to search for MOT slots by day, one click booking of an empty time slot, easy payment-checkout process, online confirmation of booking, ease of printing out the paperwork.

  4. The right hand knows what the left hand is doing – in this case the local Halfords autocentre knew of my booking, had printed off the paperwork, and were expecting me.

  5. Keeping the promise – the MOT was completed within 45 minutes. And the minor repairs ‘tidying up the wiring’ in-around the engine was completed in the 5 – 10 minutes, and in any case less than the 60 minutes quoted on the website at the time of booking.

  6. A friendly face that I knew, who knew me, and who welcomed me.

  7. Generosity – the chaps at Halfords could have charged me for ‘tidying up’ the wiring. And I would have paid. They didn’t. Most importantly, they made no big deal of it. In a world where I expect to pay for everything, this generosity of spirit was and is welcome.

  8. The humanity right at the end – between myself, Alex and the mechanic. I can still hear the genuine warmth-melody of “And the same to you mate!”

And Finally

It occurs to me that:

whilst there is truth in the saying that customers don’t want relationships with companies, this truth turns out to be falsehood when it comes to the human to human level: between the customer and the employees (flesh and blood human beings) who deal with, serve, and help the customer.

great experience designers craft experiences where hi-touch integrates with and complement hi-tech; hi-tech is great for making it easy to get jobs done; hi-touch is essential for calling forth the kind of emotions that cultivate emotional bonds.

Halfords Autocentres have got it right when it comes to the MOT experience – at least in my case, for this specific experience.