If you see it, you own it: a simple rule for great customer experiences

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Often times when we talk about building companies that are focused on delivering great customer experiences, we talk about the 10 things you need to do, or we may even focus on the top 5 or top 3. My experience says that most people and companies can really focus on one thing, if they really want to see change and improvement. So what is that one thing? I’ve discovered that it’s a very simple rule. Everyone in your company will get this – and everyone will know exactly and immediately how to apply it to their area of work.

The rule is a simple household rule that we use with our teenage sons and it goes like this… ‘If you see it, you own it.’ The application for them is easy – if they see their dirty laundry lying on the floor, they own picking it up and getting it to the laundry room. If they see a piece of trash that anyone left on the floor somewhere, they own picking it up and putting it in the trash. If you see it, you own it. It’s simple.

In organizations of any size, this same simple rule has great application to improving the customer experience. If an employee sees something that isn’t working for a customer, they own either solving it themselves (if it’s within their authority) or getting the issue to someone who can solve it. I was recently interviewing a customer for a client and asked them who their best partner was and why they were the best. The answer the customer provided was right along these lines – he stated that their best customer is proactive no matter who he talks to. They don’t worry about titles or divisions or departments in front of him – they leave those details for behind-the-scenes. He knows he’s not always asking the right person for something, but whoever he talks to either gets him what he needs or gets the information to the right person so he gets what he needs. That’s a powerful differentiator in the market.

Why does this work so well? First, it’s simple. There’s no corporate jargon involved and it’s a practical rule everyone uses in non-work situations. Second, it creates individual ownership. The larger organizations become the more isolated the mindset becomes, but in reality the customer doesn’t see the divisions and just wants what they need done. If you see it, you own it creates a mindset that whoever the person is who first identifies an issue or potential issue has to take individual ownership for its resolution. Third, it empowers employees. In a large organization, on a daily basis employees are seeing things that they know are not right, but they feel powerless to do anything about it because the problem lies with a different group, a process they’re unfamiliar with, or they assume that another group that is responsible will capture the issue and resolve it. This is how customer issues fall through the cracks between departments. The rule creates immediate action for employees to take and it empowers them – even though they aren’t solving the problem entirely on their own, their contributing to its resolution. Employees generally want to do the right thing, but often don’t know how or are afraid of doing something wrong inadvertently. This empowers them to simply report the issue to someone who knows better than they do how to resolve it. Lastly, it’s a self-reinforcing activity. As employees take simple small actions they will be reinforced by customers that are happier to work with them. It reinforces positive behaviors in employees.

This is a simple rule that will quickly transform your customer experiences. If you see it, you own it. Get it started in your company this week.

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