Why you need to train your team in the basics of customer experience communication

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Today, all of us are feeling the pressure of the market. There is scarcity in terms of all kinds of resources. Buying power is drastically going down. Customers are worried about their budgets, society, geopolitical imbalance and the environment. That means that the role of customer experience will only keep expanding. And that’s why I believe that it’s more necessary than ever to train your team in the basics of CX communication.

You can well imagine how this unstable environment creates challenging work conditions for your sales and service people. Of course, in difficult times, it’s only natural that price and cost savings get the attention. But before you know it, you end up in a conversation with your customers that only focusses on price. And that’s something that you absolutely need to avoid.

In these times, it’s more crucial than ever to really understand what your core strengths are. And then to deliver on those. Because the truth is that most of organizations will not win the race for the best price. There’s probably always going to be someone who will be cheaper. And you just don’t want to go into this negative spiral. On the one hand, yes, more customers will choose for the best price, today. But on the other hand, it is also true that the market leaders are mostly the premium brands. Rarely, you’ll find a cheap, discount brand that rules an industry

I really love how Filou and Friends went about that. They are a fashion brand for kids, but now that they noticed that parents are struggling to get around with the rising energy and other prices, they moved their mission to “every child should be able to play without a care”. And so they launched an outlet store, to allow parents to buy what their children need.

But sometimes it happens that companies cannot deliver on their promises. What often happens in these cases is that companies feel uncomfortable with being completely transparent. But they are playing a dangerous game in doing so. For instance, you buy something online and the delivery date that you receive has been fabricated to match your expectations, rather than reality. They already know that they’re not going to make that delivery date. But they’re saying it anyway to get the deal signed. Reality is that everyone is suffering with delivering on time today. Just be transparent and honest about it and customers will really appreciate that. At the same time, you have to focus on your core strengths, why they need to buy for you, and in parallel just openly communicate about how everyone in the market has trouble to ensure superfast delivery. That kind of transparency is what we need today.

Yet I see so many leaders that are organizing their organization’s failure, by putting unnecessary pressure on their teams or on themselves. The case of “lying” about delivery times may already be bad, but there are some really extreme examples of that around as well. That can have really far reaching consequences. I really love the example that my nexxworks Partner Peter Hinssen gives in his keynotes about the Wells Fargo scandal. CEO John Stumpf was pushing and pressurizing his team so hard to up-sell and cross-sell and perform that they ended up creating 1.5 million fake accounts. Stumpf always maintained that it wasn’t his fault. That he ‘just’ urged his teams to be a little bit more productive. But that kind of pressure will always have negative consequences. Maybe not as extreme as this one, but there will always be a backlash.

So this is something that we need to work on. I really believe that companies can stop organizing their failure and instead organize their own customer success. And that has everything to do with the basics of communication. It has everything to do with expectation management.

Take the example of a sales person who feel so much pressure to reel in an enthusiastic customer, that they promise to have the proposal ready by the next evening. But on the way home, they realize that there is no way that they will be able to keep that deadline. And so the customer receives it a day later than promised and is really disappointed.

The truth is that most customers don’t expect a proposal the next day. Next time, just try to give them a realistic date that works both for you and for them. Instead of saying that you’ll have it by the next evening, ask if mid next week works for them. And you’ll find that 80% of customers will probably agree to that. Some will say that they do need it by tomorrow, and then you’ll need to deliver upon that. But 80% will say that mid next week is fine. And when you deliver it 3 days earlier, the day after tomorrow, then they will be extra happy.

That’s what organizing your own success looks like. You can either put pressure on yourself or your team and disappoint your customer or you can set the bar a little bit lower knowing that you will jump high over that bar and create customer happiness. So it’s not always the customer’s attitude that defines happiness. It’s where you set the bar. Of course, it is really important that you do not set the bar too low. You cannot say that you will send that proposal in two weeks. That’s obviously not going to work. Put the bar at a reasonable height – from your perspective and that of the customer – and then jump high over it.

For me, one of the biggest problems in CX is that a lot of organizations today, even in these difficult times, put the bar up much too high, knowing in advance that they’re not going to be able to bank on their promises. That is organizing your own failure. And I know this is extremely basic, but in times like these, when everything is under pressure, we need to go back to the basics of customer experience. Teach your teams, train yourself in that expectation management and communication. And you will see that just by doing that, that the pressure on yourself and your team is lowering and the happiness of your customers is increasing.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Steven Van Belleghem
Steven Van Belleghem is inspirator at B-Conversational. He is an inspirator, a coach and gives strategic advice to help companies better understand the world of conversations, social media and digital marketing. In 2010, he published his first book The Conversation Manager, which became a management literature bestseller and was awarded with the Marketing Literature Prize. In 2012, The Conversation Company was published. Steven is also part time Marketing Professor at the Vlerick Management School. He is a former managing partner of the innovative research agency InSites Consulting.

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