Dear Bajans: Providing a good customer experience doesn’t equate to servitude.
Our collective customer- centric ethos as a nation is severely lacking. In the midst of all of our economic woes as a country, including an IMF programme and likely further austerity measures, one would think that providing an excellent customer experience would be at the forefront of everyone’s minds.
In the upcoming months, we can expect Barbadian consumers to be more discerning, not only in terms of the prices they receive, but certainly with regards to the quality of customer service.
But I want to be bold and honest and clearly say if your organisation has a Customer Experience (CX) problem then you have a leadership problem. Let’s not bury our heads in the sands, poor customer service is as a direct consequence of poorly focused leadership. As leaders we must own this, it’s our fault.
Let’s look at where it starts – hiring practices. It’s critical to recruit persons who are customer-centric at all levels of the organisation-this includes both junior and senior level roles. Very often, when leaders are hiring there is a heavy focus on technical skills and competencies and sometimes the customer service aspect is minimized or in some cases ignored. This practice should be avoided. We know of many cases where persons are technically competent, but when it comes to dealing with customers – they have the worst attitudes. They are so focused on completing the technical aspects of their job that they regard serving customers as impositions on their time. Some may question … can’t you train people in customer experience? I firmly believe that training cannot fix a bad attitude. Simply put, all the training in the world will not change a person if they have a bad attitude. And after all of that training, you would have wasted your company’s time and money. Some may say yes, you have to monitor and reinforce after training, but in spite of all this, if a team member has a bad attitude its quite difficult for them to change unless they want to. You must recruit persons for customer-facing roles who value customers, have a good attitude and are solutions-oriented.
Accepting mediocre standards
As leaders, we have to take on the huge task of coaching those employees who may be falling below the standard. It’s not enough to accept mediocre standards. It’s quite difficult to operate at a higher level of customer experience in an organisation where a culture of mediocrity has been permitted. You will have to confront those issues and deal with them effectively. Secondly, you must provide a new roadmap for your team members. This is where Customer Experience guidelines are entirely useful. However, they shouldn’t be developed without input from the team. It’s best to gather your customer experience champions and using likely scenarios from your business, craft a set of easy- to-use and follow guidelines. And don’t be afraid to address issues which may seem basic, such as the protocol for answering the phone, greeting customers in person and recording out of office messages.
Not explaining the big connect
The truth is as leaders we don’t often explain to our team members their role in an organisation. I call it the “big connect”. How much does your department or service contribute to the entire organisation? When you are not meeting your targets how much revenue is your area losing? Do your team members understand the impact of a bad attitude on customer service? Do they realise the impact inaccurate documentation has on customer service? So even though they may think it’s a simple error -do they understand the time it takes for a customer to have to wait until they are corrected? So, in other words does each team member understand the value of their role within the organisation? I think it’s important that team members realise what is at stake for the entire organisation when their attitudes are not good ones and consequently their customer service is poor.
Be Brave! Customer Experience can be a lonely place!
Finally, implementing customer experience is basically an exercise in change management. There is a saying that culture eats strategy for breakfast, but I can tell you a bad culture will eat strategy for lunch and dinner too! Sometimes being the customer advocate can put the CX practitioner in a lonely place. But at the end of the day you must lead with conviction and that is not always the easiest thing to do. So, if your customer experience is not a good one, and you are a leader, it’s all your fault.