We've all had the experience. The sales assistant asks "Did You find everything OK" but their body language shows total disinterest. As a customer, it feels insincere and doesn't make us feel valued.
For the brand, the sum total of our interactions with it (and the sharing of them) defines the brand far more than advertising. It needs employees to deliver the customer experience in an engaging and genuine way.
But it's hard to do. On the one hand, an approach that uses a multitude of rules and scripts to control the experience can make any interaction feel inflexible and insincere. But on the other hand, simple exhortations to be "engaging" or "friendly" can leave employees wondering what that really means in their day job.
The most effective approach I've found so far to achieve this is to describe what a delighted customer would say about the experience, and then give the employees the freedom to deliver it within certain boundaries - the freedom within a framework approach.
For example, when I was at Tesco, employees knew that they were expected to come down on the side of the customer. But they weren't clear what that really meant in their day-to-day job. So we described what satisfied customers would say about the Tesco's shopping trip in five phrases, including "the aisles are clear", "I don't have to queue", and "the prices are good", and then every store and department ran workshops on what they could do to achieve it. This unleashed a wave of energy across the business and significantly improved the customer experience.
There's three main reasons why this approach seems to work:
- It gives employees accountability. They are now responsible for driving the outcome, rather than just implementing a rules-driven process.
- It provides clarity. Employees work out what they have to do in their day job to drive the outcome.
- It allows employees to be themselves. By not handing out rules or scripts to follow, individual employees can now engage in ways that feel natural to them.
Of course, there's more to this approach than just the words and workshops. It needs to be backed up with training that defines boundaries of acceptability. Metrics need to be put in place around what customers actually say, to enable progress to be measured. And job descriptions need to be built around the desired customer outcomes, rather than around tasks.
And it's a vital precondition that the business is already centered on the customer from the top down.
But by describing what a delighted customer would say, it gets you on the road to delivering a more consistent and engaging experience.