In my Daily Dose video series, I explore the topics that chief customer officers must grapple with on a daily basis. Join me as I discuss what I’ve learned over the course of my 35-year career, so that you can more effectively do the work that needs to be done.
The following is a lightly edited transcript of the video below.
In our lives as customers, we find hope, encouragement, and joy in companies who act with “congruence of heart and habit” – taking actions at work grounded in what they learned at home. In today’s Daily Dose, I want to share a story with you that helps illustrate what wonderful things can happen when companies empower and encourage their employees to act with this concept in mind.
Blogger Lauren Casper and her husband had navigated their way through their local Trader Joe’s as best they could. The trip had turned a bit chaotic with the two children, and Lauren described how they were rushing to get done and out of the store. “Not only are we two white parents with a brown son and daughter,” she said as she described her day, “but our son has noticeable developmental delays and different behaviors caused by his autism, and our daughter has physical differences with her missing and webbed digits.”
She was close to tears from the outing when she heard someone call out her name in the parking lot. A young woman who worked at Trader Joe’s, who Lauren described as resembling her adopted daughter, held out a Trader Joe’s bouquet to her. As she delivered it to Lauren, she said, “I was adopted as a baby, and it has been a wonderful thing. We need more families like yours.”
Celebrate Kindness, Retain Employees
This type of action is not uncommon for Trader Joe’s employees who are hired and rewarded for team collaboration, innovation, and taking the initiative to delight customers as Lauren Casper experienced with her family. From always walking customers (never pointing) to that can of garbanzo beans that you can’t find, to the many spontaneous dance parties that erupt in the middle of the aisles, to people dashing to the back of the store to get something for a customer who forgot something to put in their basket, people are celebrated for these acts of kindness. It’s no wonder they have an unheard of 4% turnover of employees.
Celebrate and reward your people for their humanity. Make-mom-proud companies build their reward systems to celebrate actions of both heart, what we learned at home, and habit, the behaviors we are encouraged to continue. Congruence of heart and habit has at its core building an organization that reinforces the behaviors we learned when we were young, doing the right thing, taking the initiative, and treating others as we’d like to be treated.
Go Beyond Words to Empower Employees
Employees want to do the right thing, and they want to be noticed for it. For example, at the investment firm where Joe worked, customer focus was a core value of the company. It was stressed in every meeting. A credo to customer service was engraved on the wall and survey scores were tracked. Yet, the metrics really discussed and heralded were average revenue per client, and profit margin, and the bottom line. To assist advisors in achieving these goals, they were trained in customer contact approaches and given quotas in the number of customers that they needed to contact each month and the number they needed to convert and grow.
However, to Joe, these guidelines felt limiting. He wanted to spend more time per customer to add value beyond those selling quotas, and this would throw Joe’s numbers and contact numbers out of whack. Joe found that spending more time with customers, guiding them, and helping them with value actually increased his long-term productivity, but he had to go outside the prescribed length of time with each customer. And at times, this meant that he did not meet his established monthly customer contact goals. Each time this occurred, Joe had to defend his approach and recap the growth he achieved with his clients over time because of his different and innovative approach.
And while each of these meetings ended well for Joe, he was always a little sunk that he wasn’t receiving reinforcement for doing the right thing. Over time, the repeated focus on numbers without recognition of the quality of his engagements or his initiative actually led Joe to depart the company to join a firm whose core values were aligned with his. What Joe craved was to be rewarded and celebrated for making good, independent decisions and for his skills in innovating.
Employees Value Purpose and Trust
Joe is not alone in this desire. Employees asked about the subject in research conducted by Citigroup and LinkedIn said that they would actually pass up a 20% raise in exchange for more control over how they work. This means being part of a greater mission and being trusted to make decisions and take actions. Otherwise, companies will continue to lose good folks like Joe.
Inadvertently, as companies grow with the stressors of making deadlines and sales goals, mixed messages can be sent about what is important and what will advance people in their careers. But when employees are recognized and rewarded for taking the time to extend themselves personally, they will want to stay. When the moments when employees take a chance to right a wrong or solve an issue bravely are heralded and rewarded, an elevated kind of company emerges.
So ask yourself, do you recognize employees for their ability to care, to innovate, and to take the initiative?
HOW WOULD YOUR COMPANY ACT IF EVERY CUSTOMER WERE YOUR MOM?
How do we cut through the rigmarole of business to give customers the treatment they desire, and employees the ability to deliver it?
In her latest book, customer experience expert Jeanne Bliss recommends making business personal to get the traction you need by focusing on one deceptively simple question: “Would you do that to your mother?”