CX Rules: Answering the Customer should always be the priority

CX rules
In this article, I would like to share a personal experience as a customer, and some thoughts about what I believe is a very common mistake in Customer Experience. I will also share some ideas to help prioritize the customer experience over the standardized processes when the situation requires it. The key is to always put the customer at the center.

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The process in the center, a very common mistake in CX

On my recent trip to Mendoza, Argentina, I went out with some friends for dinner to a restaurant that served craft beers, sandwiches, and hamburgers. A fashionable place, with a nice garden, carefully organized in small living-room styled spaces, and polite table service.

We ordered three sandwiches, a lemonade, a craft beer, and a draft beer. The waiter was very gentle and seemed to follow a clearly thought-out script. He immediately brought us the food and the draft beer.

Several minutes later, the lemonade and the other beer had not appeared, so we reiterated the request. Two more times we asked about our missing drinks and we always received the same answer -´ they are coming´. On the third claim, the waiter added ´the ticket is not coming out ´. We asked then if, at least, he could bring us some water.

Fifteen minutes later, neither the lemonade nor the beer nor the water had shown up. Having once again complained, I approached the manager, who explained to me again that the ticket had not come out.

I understood then how the process worked. There were two counters, one that prepared the standard food and drinks and the second one, that served the specials, such as craft beers and drinks. From the standard counter, they sent a ticket to the specials counter to prepare the order. The distance between counters was less than two meters.

I asked the manager, then, if she could send the drinks first and make the ticket afterward, but she was inflexible. When the drinks finally arrived, the sandwiches were already a good memory.

In short, the place was very fashionable, the service very kind, the food really good, but even though they discounted the lemonade and beer and apologized several times for the inconvenience, we left the place highly dissatisfied with the experience.

This situation left us wondering. How can the lack of an internal document -which facilitates the operation but does not add value to the customer- be the cause of a bad customer experience? If they were not going to charge the drinks, why not serve them immediately? If the drinks couldn’t be delivered, why didn’t they send water in the meantime?

Rule #1: Mirror the customer experience with that of the employee

If this little anecdote sounds familiar to you, having lived a similar situation in your own flesh, heard it from a third party, or even received this type of complaint in your organization, you will understand the importance of personalizing the response to the client. But, in order to achieve this, we first need to “personalize” the responsibility and autonomy of the person providing service to the customer.

The standardization of processes and the scripts that are used to better serve the customer are very useful while everything goes according to the plan. But true differentiation -which leads to memorable experiences- requires that those who interact with the client possess judgment, knowledge, and freedom to be able to prioritize the customer experience over the rules.

Of course, if a company fails to comply with the rules, that freedom translates into licentiousness. But just following the process is not enough if we want to create distinctive experiences.

In order to provide a good experience to our clients, we must work so that those who are in contact with them respond in a uniform and assertive way. But, to achieve a differentiating experience, we need to go further. We need to give our employees the autonomy to make decisions and deviate from the path of standardization when the situation calls for it.

The key is to understand not the abstract customer, but that particular customer. How can we develop this ability in our people?

  • Plan and standardize processes, but also establish exceptions and possible responses to deviations,
  • Train staff in competencies, rehearse responses for situations that deviate from the norm, and provide training on an ongoing basis,
  • Measure and study the customer experience, the employee experience, and the results of the search for improvement actions that are carried out,
  • Get people involved with the customer, especially those who seem not to be interested or have no direct relationship with him,
  • Learn very quickly and do not get tied to scripts or behaviors that may look forced.

Rule #2: Customer experience includes everyone, not just those in a direct relationship with the client

Isn’t it surprising that the lack of evidence of communication between two people, within two meters of each other, can be the cause of the loss of money and a bad customer experience?

In the ´80s, a video called Who Killed the Sale became very popular. It showed a customer who ended up making his purchase to the competition of a company after dealing with a careless receptionist.

Many of the companies that address and work on the customer experience suffer from the same problem. Internal processes, procedures, and communication do not walk side by side with the attempt to achieve a good customer experience.

When we talk about customer experience, we need to understand it from the beginning to the end. Starting the moment the client comes into contact with information on how to respond to their needs (even before contacting the company and even after having stopped being so). The experience of him, how he has felt throughout that customer journey, and the sentiment that remains, has to do with much more factors than a script, a smile or our presence in social media.

  • Who are all the people who have an impact on the customer experience, directly or indirectly?
  • How does their work impact the experience?
  • Are they aware of the importance of their work? Are they involved and motivated to provide the care that the client needs?

Conclusiones

Building a good customer experience requires always putting the customer at the center, and providing him/her with a personalized response.

But in order to achieve this, we need to understand all employees -whether they have contact with the customer or not- as fundamental pieces in the construction of the customer experience.

We must define internal objectives, processes and procedures that allow us to provide uniform responses to our clients, but we also need to develop autonomy and decision-making capacity in our employees. 

Only this way will we be able to achieve the flexibility and rapid learning capacity that we need in order to offer a personalized response.

Author: Raúl Molteni

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