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 commitment and advocacy. Simply stated, commitment and advocacy build both personal investment, 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, Baptist Healthcare, UKG, Trader Joe’s, Umpqua Bank, Virgin Group, Costco, Zane’s Cycles, L.L. Bean, Disney, Harley-Davidson – ‘get’ this.
We’ve created a model, or hierarchy, of stakeholder emotions, applicable to both customers and employees. The model has a total of 20 net stakeholder emotions. Eight of these are negative, which we define as Value Destroyers:
We recognize that the perception of value can be compromised at any stage of a customer’s or employee’s life and in any element of the customer experience or employee experience. If these emotions have a powerful and lasting effect, they can undermine perceived benefit and contribute to churn. It’s essential that existence of these emotions be identified so that relationship risk can be mitigated or eliminated.
The hierarchy identifies 12 Positive Emotions:
– Cared For
Of these, 5 of the emotions – Interested, Energetic, Exploratory, Indulgent, and Stimulated – are what is described as “Attention”, that is only mildly positive and short-term in their effect on perception and decision making. Moving up the hierarchy, 5 of the emotions – Trusting, Valued, Cared For, Safe, and Focused – are more leveraging, actively contributing to building and sustaining customer and/or employee relationships.
At the peak of the hierarchy pyramid is a set of 2 deep-meaning emotions – Happy and Pleased – defined as the Advocacy Cluster for both employees and customers. It is here that truly great, differentiated (and often unique) and memorable CX and EX live.
Employees are both the common denominator and the keystone element 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.
As demonstrated through our hierarchy of employee experience maturity, employee satisfaction and engagement both have relatively passive and superficial linkage to customer personalization and perceived value, but well-defined, well-executed employee advocacy and commitment will result in making each customer feel special. And this builds a stronger vendor-customer relationship and stronger financial performance on every key measure.