Too often, the ideal customer experience is a myth that exists only in the mind of your customer experience leader or Chief Marketing Officer. The problem is, it’s your employees who need to deliver it. How many of your employees could provide a reasonably articulate description of what you expect of them when it comes to dazzling customers?
Define your ideal customer experience in terms your employees can understand and apply and it becomes an attainable goal. Here are 7 guidelines for clarifying your customer experience expectations so employees can put them into action:
1. Define expectations from the customer’s perspective.
Want your employees to do a better job of empathizing with customers? Start from the customer’s perspective. Instead of describing what you do to or for the customer, try using words that explain how you’re meeting their needs. For example, rather than “We provide customers with a wide variety of products,” try something like, “Our customers have a wide variety of products to choose from to meet their unique needs.” Making customers the subject of your ideal customer experience statements allows you to speak more directly to the “why” behind what you’re doing.
2. Use words that mean something to your customers and employees.
Directing employees with seemingly catchy phrases and sophisticated words could result in unwanted reactions ranging from misunderstanding to ignoring your message. Instead, when describing your ideal customer experience, use simple words that are likely to be used by your employees and your customers. For example, instead of “exuberant,” say “excited.” Instead of “engaging,” say “friendly.” Sure, exuberant might be a notch above excited and engaging might be a notch above friendly. However, the nuance is likely to be lost on employees and might make them may feel like they are guessing at what you really want.
3. Let your employees say things their way.
If you use Hertz on a regular basis like I do, chances are you can recite the script Hertz employees use when you drop off your rental car. When you already know what an employee is going to say (and could recite it along with them if you chose), chances are you don’t find these interactions to be genuine. To help your employees sound sincere when interacting with customers, tell them what their words should accomplish. Let’s say you want your employees to introduce your latest product. Instead of giving them scripted phrases like “Try our new product – it’s great because it…” tell employees the customer wants to hear what they like about the product. But what if the employee doesn’t say exactly what you want? Don’t worry about it. If you can check off all or most of the items in this post, you’ll be safe. Remember, when it comes to the ideal customer experience, consistent is good, but robotic is considerably less than ideal.
4. Describe behaviors you can see and hear.
Your ideal customer experience is more likely to be delivered and is easier to coach when it’s described in terms of behaviors that can easily be observed. This also makes it easier for managers to evaluate how well employees are meeting your expectations. Want your employees to be friendly towards customers? Tell them to face the customer, smile, make eye contact, and ask open-ended questions. While you may think everyone knows what “friendly” means, you’d be surprised by the number of managers and executives who have asked me how they can improve their friendliness scores. Avoid the guesswork and tell your employees what you expect to see and hear in their customer interactions.
5. Teach employees how.
Want your employees to interact with customers in a particular way? Don’t just teach them what you want them to do, teach them how you want them to do it. Written instructions are a place to start. However, to maximize the effectiveness of your training, incorporate pictures, videos and customer comments. Show what the ideal customer experience looks like and also what less than ideal experiences look like. Once you’ve shown employees how you want them to interact with customers, use role-playing to let them practice and get it right.
6. Communicate again and again.
Does your customer experience training end after new-hire orientation? Perhaps you also have posters in employee break areas? As often as you and I might think and talk about the ideal customer experience, chances are your employees hear about operational tasks/issues far more often. You definitely should start your communication of the ideal customer experience during new hire training – more than a 30 minute module please! And, there’s nothing wrong with posters – provided you’re following the advice elsewhere in this post. Customer experience should be a central part of ongoing associate communication including newsletters, pre-shift meetings, performance appraisals and reviews of company results. That keeps it top-of-mind for everyone.
7. Be realistic.
As I suggested earlier, when defined well for your employees, the ideal customer experience becomes an attainable goal. In an effort to out-distance your competitors, you might be tempted to define a customer experience that is closer to Nirvana than reality. Resist this temptation if you want your employees to take you seriously. As you define the ideal customer experience for your organization, objectively consider the breadth, depth and quality of your products and services; the tools and systems available to assist employees in their interaction with your customers; the physical spaces in which your employees and customers interact; and the quantity and quality of employees who are available to serve your customers. Having considered these factors, describe a customer experience that is reasonably likely to happen.
So how does your organization stack up? See how many guidelines you can “check the box” next to:
5 or more – You’re doing great and I would say your employees know what you expect of them.
3 or 4 – Some of your employees know what you expect. You can now focus your efforts on the other ideas to increase understanding and awareness.
Below 3 – You’ve got some work to do to clearly define the ideal customer experience to your employees.
Use these 7 guidelines to make your customer experience expectations clearer and easier for employees to follow.