In the sometimes fickle world of customer experience, every relationship matters. Especially those that involve navigating customer facing exchanges. A customer who may have accepted a service infraction on a Thursday, may fly into a rage if the same infraction happens on a Friday. Businesses that have elevated their sensitivity to the nuances of customer behaviour to a fine art, understand the connection between expectation and emotion. Understanding this connection makes the difference between selling a service and selling an experience and in this experience economy, customers will pay for the difference.
The experience economy has been generated by modern-day customers who have value the “experience,” as much as they value the basic benefit attached to the product or service being purchased. So, whilst two restaurants may be offering the same cuisine, at similar price points, the restaurant with the more enticing ambience, more engaging wait staff and other amenities such as warm towels for hand sanitizing, may pull a larger, more discerning crowd that wants an “experience.”
As well, two automotive dealers may be selling the same type of vehicle, but one dealer offers a self-service system for booking appointments to test drive vehicles. In the arena of experience warfare, this convenience feature will set one dealer apart from its competitor.
In the experience universe, three relationships impact and accelerate service excellence for a business. Its relationship with time, its internal service relationship and its relationship with performance outcomes.
If urgency is not a core value for the business, impairment of its relationship with customers is guaranteed.
You can tell a lot about a business by just looking at its relationship with time. The relationship is either time-sensitive or time-tardy. If urgency is not a core value for the business, impairment of its relationship with customers is guaranteed. I come across so many corporate values statements that hardly ever include urgency. In the early stages of discussions with clients regarding their service delivery footprint, wailing about “the lack of urgency” abounds. Employees don’t respond to email messages, phone calls are not returned and often, customer complaints revolve around promises not being kept. Unless the relationship with time is corrected, this business is in for a steep descent into endemic service failure.
Next, a business needs to nurture a well-oiled internal service delivery mechanism, so that superior internal service quality becomes a forerunner to superior external customer experience quality. In case you’re wondering, this means the destruction of internal departmental silos that, by their very nature, are obstructive and their replacement with a cross-departmental pipeline that supports efficient horizontal collaboration. Internal service delivery systems should always be under the microscope to ensure that the internal pipeline is always clear of bottlenecks that can impair the customer’s experience.
A business needs to nurture a well-oiled internal service delivery mechanism, so that superior internal service quality becomes a forerunner to superior external customer experience quality.
Finally, a business that has a clearly defined relationship with performance outcomes, should hold itself responsible for activating tactics that “actually hold employees accountable” for the outcomes that they produce. In so many businesses, the word “accountability” is an over-used and an under-activated phrase. Managers talk incessantly about “holding people accountable” for performance, yet the mechanics for doing so are either not followed, or do not exist.
Managers are comfortable accepting “busy” work from employees, when it’s “productive” work that should be the metric. Holding employees accountable means that productive work is the only outcome that should be accepted. Of course, so often, managers compound an already problematic situation by not being fully competent at effective delegation. Managers would need to master the scientific process for delegating work, so that direct reports complete work to time, to required standards and to performance expectations.
Holding employees accountable means that productive work is the only outcome that should be accepted.
As customers, we marvel at businesses that do what they say that they’re going to do. Products are delivered on time, movement across digital channels is effortless and interaction with service representatives across departments is consistent, superior and successful.
A closer look behind the scenes would reveal, in all likelihood, an iron-clad relationship with time, departments without borders and employees who display a sense of urgency, pride in their work and own responsibility for producing high quality outcomes.
Is this luck, magic or heavenly favour that has been bestowed upon these businesses?
Maybe. But, a more plausible reason could be summed up in just one word. Enforcement.