It has always been my firm belief that you cannot expect employees to be highly customer centric, if each of their movements are heavily scripted and they need permission for every contact moment that is ‘out of the ordinary’. In fact, the most beautiful CX moments, are those that are spontaneous and deeply human. And though you cannot control that kind of spontaneity, you can create a culture and an environment that does enable this kind of fantastic customer centricity.
The most crucial part of enabling customer centric behavior is creating a safe environment for your employees. If you want them to act in a customer centric way, they will need to be able to solve problems or offer customer advice in a fast and smooth manner. You will probably have your very own vision on how that should be done in the most optimal manner, and that’s great. But you will also need to learn to accept that your employees are different than you, and that they will therefore have different methods than you to address your customers and their problems. As long as they too achieve the goal of helping customers in the best possible way, their approach is perfectly fine.
It’s a well-known fact that unlearning control is a challenge for many leaders, CX or otherwise. But trusting and empowering your employees to act fast, intelligently and compassionately towards clients, is truly key if you want your company to be customer centric.
Creating a safe environment is not the same as producing anarchy, of course. Part of the safety craved by employees, are clarity and concrete boundaries. If your message to them is something like “you can do whatever you want, as long as you help the client”, they might very well experience stress and feelings of uncertainty, which – ironically – will not help them feel safe. That’s why it’s very important that you define some sort of a playing field and boundaries for them.
You could for instance define and limit their budget to help people. I heard a great example from my good friend Shep Hyken: employees at the Ritz Carlton receive a budget of 2000 US dollars to solve problems. That’s a pretty big sum, right? Let’s say that, if you complain that your hotel room wasn’t properly cleaned, customer service employees will obviously have that fixed. But there’s also a big chance that you will find some chocolates, with a friendly handwritten note of apology, in your room or even a bottle of champagne.
In this case here, they’ll not spend $2,000 of course, but they do know that that’s the limit. Just the fact that there’s a boundary, a clear playing field, offers them a more comfortable and secure feeling: they know that they can do whatever they want within that limit to help customers. And, again, you have to trust that they own the capabilities to make the right choice and to figure out if the mistake and the solution are balanced out. Trust, safety and clarity really go hand in hand here.
One last thing that I would recommend to help your employees become more customer centric is to always share as many positive stories as you can. I mean that in the most literal of ways: every time that one of your employees has done something great for your customers, chronicle it. It doesn’t matter how: take a picture, use a quote from the happy customer, share a video or just let your employee share the anecdote internally. The aim is that all their colleagues receive some inspiration and affirmation about their success story and that the employee in question is celebrated because (s)he took an excellent decision. There’s truly nothing better than a great example to influence others to follow and show how important these actions are for your organization.
So, these are my 3 top tips to help you help your employees become more customer centric:
- Trust, empower and create a safe environment,
- Add some crystal clear boundaries to that freedom, in order to make it less scary,
- And document all your wins, to celebrate the ones achieving them and inspire others to follow in their footsteps.
Did I forget any? I’m always curious to hear about your methods out there!