Two Secrets to Creating Customer Experiences from the Inside Out
By Holly Stiel President, Thank You Very Much Inc. | February 23, 2009
The big buzz these days is to talk all about the customer Experience. It is pass'e to use the term customer service and all the rage to sing the praises of the customer's experience. I am all for delivering memorable and pleasurable experiences, especially in the hospitality industry. I have been advocating being a "Memory Maker" for many years. It is just that no matter what you call it, the route to the customer's experience comes through the employee. If we only focus on the customers and do not give equal focus to the employees, we do not have a prayer of delivering the experience we are striving for or promising in our branding and advertising.
In order to deliver a great experience, we need to tell the truth about the darker, shadowy side of service. We need to be able to have an open and continuous dialogue with our employees about the core issues that interacting with masses of people on a daily basis bring to the surface. When you break it down to its essence, the experience people walk away with is about their feelings and these feelings are esoteric in nature. Here are two ideas to help you talk about the emotional side of service.
One of the shadow sides of customer interaction, is repetition and the uninspired experience it creates for the employee. I demonstrate the power of this simple idea in my workshops by putting the participants through a short exercise asking them to find a partner and say something that they repetitively say at work as if it was the first time they had ever said it. We compare service providers to actors and ask them to act as if they were performing on stage. The result of this short and simple exercise is that the room becomes "a-buzz" with laughter, and with a level of recognition that we create our own experience as well as the customer's experience - even at a micro level such as doing a repetitive task. We then ask everyone to stop and "feel" the room -- the shift in energy -- and thus the experience is palatable.
Next, we ask everyone to literally hum, to make the point that creating a service experience for customers is not something that you can actually pick up with your hands. While it is worth enormous amounts of dollars to businesses, it is not something you can put in a bag. It is esoteric, a vibration, a hum, a buzz, a feeling. We then hold up a bag that has large block letters reading, "BAG O' SERVICE." This drives the point home even further. Service, feelings, and "an experience" are not something you can put in a bag. It is not STUFF and yet it is the important result that successful, conscious companies depend on. No one can leave a business after having had a connected heartfelt service experience and then say to their friends and colleagues "Want to see the great service I just received? Look I have it right here in this bag!" It sure would be easier to provide if this were the case. Because it is energy that is being experienced, it simply doesn't work that way. The good news is that we can do something about it.
Once the employee recognizes that they are responsible for the experience that they personally receive, as well as what the customer receives, we can move on to talk about some of the more difficult aspects of creating an experience of delight for others on a consistent basis. Because it is all about feelings it becomes emotional very quickly. Talking about deep-seated emotional issues can be very difficult for managers as well as employees. One of my very favorite and simple ways to talk about these issues is through a concept that I call the ME sign.
Every single customer that employees encounter and each of us when we are customers, wears a giant sign and that sign says ME. The sign has flashing lights all around it! In fact they are so bright, they temporarily blind the person. They cannot recognize that an employee may be busy helping someone else. They cannot see that talking on a cell phone while attempting to check in or order a meal is rude. No, they cannot see anything because the lights on the ME sign are flashing too brightly.