“If You Were The Only Girl In The World”: Being Real With The Employee-Customer Connection

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This sweet old song, “If You Were The Only Girl In The World”, with words by Clifford Grey and music by Nat Ayer, and written in 1916, has special meaning on Valentine’s Day. The song contains some lines which have great employee ambassadorial metaphors, saying a lot about emotional connection and personalization between a vendor’s employees and customers.

Here are a couple of fun examples, and questions to go with them:

– “If you were the only girl in the world and I was the only boy, nothing else would matter in the world today…..”: As an employee, does the experience provided on behalf of my employer feel personalized and special to the customer?

– “I would say such wonderful things to you…..there would be such wonderful things to do.”: Beyond lip service, is there perceived rational and emotional value in what is provided to customers, i.e. is there intentional, differentiated over-delivery?

Several years ago, in worldwide customer service experience research conducted for a major high-tech organization, to drive stronger downstream customer behavior, it was found that processes had to take service employees well beyond the basics of knowledge, efficiency, and friendliness. Consistently, and irrespective of continent or country, the most effective reps showed true empathy for the customer’s issue, literally “owning” the issue as if it were theirs as well, walking in their shoes. and making a true emotional connection.

Customer experience pros can argue back-and-forth about whether a vendor can create deep emotions such as bonding and love in a customer. From my perspective, at least, experiences that drive customer brand trust and passion can be both shaped and sustained. That’s largely a function of organizational culture, customer-focused processes – – and employee ambassadorship. Ambassadorship builds both passion and partnership.

In Jeanne Bliss’s great book, “I Love You More Than My Dog”, she speaks to how companies can build deeper, more lasting emotional relationships. As Jeanne believes (with my enthusiastic agreement),’being real’, with customers and employees is a key way more positively emotional, personal connection can be created. She says: “Companies that customers love work hard not to lose their personality – not in their products, not in their service, not in anything they do. They become beloved because of how they connect with customers in their lives. They relate personally with them. And their personalities come through during interaction with them.”

One example she cites is The Container Store. The company is dedicated to creating transparency with employees which, in turn, drives positive customer behavior. As she states: “By committing to creating an environment of trust and nurturing in their employees, The Container Store has successfully built a retail experience that compels customers to come back for more.” There is a powerful connection between the employee experience and the customer experience. As we’ve often noted, Other organizations – Wegmans, Southwest Airlines, Zappos, USAA, WestJet, Trader Joe’s, Umpqua Bank, Zane’s Cycles, L.L. Bean, Disney, Harley-Davidson – ‘get’ this

Employees are the common denominator in optimizing the customer experience. Making the experience for customers personal, emotionally positive, distinctive and attractive at each point where the company interacts with them requires an in-depth understanding of customer needs. It also requires a thorough understanding about what the company currently does to achieve that goal, particularly through employee behavior. It requires that companies understand, and leverage, the impact employees have on customer behavior at an emotional level.

Employee satisfaction and engagement both have relatively passive and superficial linkage to customer personalization, but employee ambassadorship and commitment will result in making each customer feel special (i.e., “the only girl in the world”). And this builds a stronger vendor-customer relationship and stronger financial performance on every key measure.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Michael,

    What we are seeing is that the companies that customers are going back to now that they have more funds in their pockets – are those that have a humane and human approach to their business and employees.

    In addition, as you read social media feedback that spurs on business growth…just peer into it to decipher what people most spell out accolades for: it is the behavior of companies and people that are real and genuine.

    This behavior is easy to say it is wanted…but very hard to enable. Companies that do so become beloved because they create an environment where people can bring the best version of themselves to work.

    Jeanne

  2. Jeanne –

    Over the years, I’ve encountered a few companies, including those identified in your book, where the employee experience has co-equal weight and corporate emphasis with customer experience. Books like yours, and “The Customer Comes Second”, “Firms of Endearment”, and “Conscious Capitalism”, really speak to the cultural and financial benefits of doing this.

    Agree that we don’t see this humanistic approach in too many firms. Were it not for the fact that many HRD and corporate execs are fairly risk-averse, and still largely fixated on drivers of employee engagement and satisfaction, there would be more recognition of the myriad values of employee ambassadorship.

    Michael

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