Once upon a time in a land far, far away, there lived a king who we shall call King Mydas. He had a special ability – he was able to take any customer experience, and with a touch of his finger, he turned it to gold.
Regardless of how broken, miserable, annoyed, and disappointed a customer felt after interacting with a business, King Mydas was always able to replace those feelings with a gold star experience.
This is how fictional stories begin.
Fiction, not just because we have a king, in a far-off land, and not just because this happened ‘once upon a time’. But fiction simply because an experience once delivered cannot be replaced by a gold star experience.
Not in reality.
Why the employee experience matters so much
Businesses that use NPS (net promoter scores) usually have demarcated strategies for promoters, detractors, and passives:
- Promoters – Customers that are promoters typically value the brand in question, and their association with it. Here the brand values resonate with the promoter, and the promoter has a higher than average tolerance for experiential variance over the term of their relationship with the brand. Knowing this, the brand attempts to grant these customers special privilege, in their acknowledgement of the promoter’s loyalty and advocacy of the brand.
- Passives – Customers that are passives are those that are not completely sold on the brand in question. Typically, they shop around, and are not brand loyal – they will switch loyalty when offered a compelling promotion, or a lower price. For such customers, the brand’s strategy is to try to pull them over to the promoter category, by continually offering them programmatic benefits or promotions.
- Detractors – Customers that are detractors usually have made up their mind about the brand, in the negative direction. Typically, this is because there is history of negative experience that is unsatisfactorily resolved, or even unresolved. Detractors can often be most damaging on social media and can distract from good work being done by a brand. Detractors often wish they could leave the brand behind entirely but are unable to do so because of the brand’s leading market position. It is also often true that a detractor stays with a brand simply because they see the potential for the brand to deliver a better experience and are waiting for their day of deliverance. For such customers, the brand’s strategy is to minimize further damage by ensuring each interaction delivers to a standard of excellence.
Regardless of strategy, brands realize that this high-stake game has a huge dependency on their front line employees.
How employees can transform the customer experience
Recently, I had a disagreeable experience at the Dublin airport, where an immigration officer singled me out for some top-quality harassment at 2 a.m.. When my complaint email resulted in a singularly un-empathetic response, I went online to search for similar experiences – and yes, Google returns a veritable tome of responses on unfair treatment at Dublin airport immigration.
Contrast this to another recent experience at a large hotel in San Diego. The experience started off as a zero-star experience, because of a reception clerk who seemed to think that a four hour wait for a room was justified despite a prior reservation. Thankfully in this case, the experience was transformed by another clerk named Brandon, who listened to my problem, understood that all I needed was a place to work in quiet, and acted upon the request by finding me such a place.
Businesses know that it takes an average of three new customers to make up for one lost customer. In other words, losing customers is an expensive proposition.
Given that delivering a consistent, values-driven brand experience to customers is critical to customer retention, what can businesses do to ensure their front-line employees are performing at their best?
Three ways to improve the employee experience
- Training – Training programs are the most important means of ensuring front-line employees understand process and develop the soft skills (known as bedside manners in the medical domain, for good reason!) needed to demonstrate empathy. Delivered at quarterly cadence, training programs should ensure that such employees understand the brand values of their organization, and the penalties of falling below expectation.
- KPIs and Rewards – Customer facing staff should have clear KPIs based on satisfaction scores measured through customer feedback. Since such roles have a high fatigue factor associated with them (and high attrition), there should be a rewards program built in for motivating them toward better performance. Simple gamification (for instance, through performance leader boards), or allowing personalization of workspaces, or special privileges (like club memberships) can all contribute to motivating and energizing front-line staff.
- Job rotation – To ensure that customers do not face the impact of a bored or disgruntled front-line employee, businesses can employ job rotation programs. Such programs allow employees to develop additional skills, while maintaining freshness where it matters most.
Ultimately, the experience you feel is the experience you deliver. An unhappy employee delivers an unhappy customer experience – this is human nature.
Every business has much to lose, so it’s imperative to use the listen-understand-act framework to build experience management into business models.
The highest customer impact can only be delivered when businesses start working toward a culture of experience, starting with employees. And then, sit back and watch as King Mydas’ touch keeps turning those experiences to pure gold.