Written by Silvana Buljan for Buljan & Partners consulting
A desperate customer in search of help and solutions often finds himself confronted with complex procedures, incomprehensible sales pitches and decisions made unilaterally in the corporate world. Further still, rather than be lessened, he finds his frustration increases because he fails to receive an acceptable solution. This is an ongoing trend in many companies, even while claiming that the customer experience is the focus of their strategic priority – in today’s world it doesn’t look good if you don’t have a Customer Experience department.
We will use the biblical story of the Tower of Babel to illustrate this problem: “man” wants to be God, reaching as high as the heavens. As punishment, God takes away the universal language spoken and introduces different languages and the chaos caused by the lack of understanding ensues. Finally, “men” end up fighting each other and the tower is abandoned.
Implement customer experience vs. add value
Many times, in the corporate world we make the same mistake as that of the Tower of Babel by seeking to define and implement a customer experience strategy; “I invest in this so that I can be the best in the industry” and, rather than searching for what really adds value for the customer, we seek superficial excellence in methods, metrics and awards to be won.
There is a desire to reach as high as possible simply because there is the belief that customer value is directly correlated with the amount of internal resources used. The reality is that with every stone that I place in my Tower of Babel, I move farther and farther away from my customer. With each rule, guideline, framework or performance target, I achieve exactly the opposite of closeness: disconnection and lack of an emotional connection, which is exactly what the customer wants when looking for a distinctive and memorable experience.
The importance of putting yourself in the customer’s shoes
What is this “emotional connection”? Nothing more and nothing less than putting myself in customer’s shoes, understanding their state of mind in dealings with the organization and conveying that I am actively searching for solutions and am not simply completing tasks to meet my company’s guidelines.
From our point of view, the emotional connection that a company should nurture in the relationship between its employees and its customers can be built on six aspects: empathy, motivation, training, a helpful attitude, commitment and responsibility.
- Empathy fosters a “put yourself in the other person’s shoes” attitude and facilitates a better understanding of their point of view. This requires a process of openness in the person who wants to have an empathetic attitude: being open to a point of view other than their own, questioning their own stance and connecting with the person.
- Motivation is contagious and fills the customer with the same passion that the employee feels for finding innovative solutions and taking care of the details. It is a very positive emotion that removes all indifference.
- Employee training is a basis for establishing a relationship of trust: if the employee has the freedom to break the rules and autonomy to make decisions that ensure an excellent experience, the customer not only recommends the company, but also perceives that it relies on its employees. This is a criterion that is increasingly being demanded by customers.
- A helpful attitude is, however, the most powerful tool in making the customer feel that he is more than just a sales transaction and ensures that he isn’t treated like a number. Here the important thing is differentiating between serving and servility, which is in no way liked to a helpful attitude.
- The employee’s commitment in fulfilling the promise given to the customer is fundamental in avoiding dissatisfaction. Fulfilling a promise is fundamental for satisfying the customer. For the customer to be committed to a brand requires more than fulfilling the promise: exceed their expectations, because that conveys that the company cares about their interests as a customer.
- Responsibility means being educated, prepared and willing to deliver a service in a professional manner and with an exemplary standard of quality. Customers who believe that an employee does not feel responsible for doing his job very well can hardly feel that he is in an environment of trust.
Connecting with the customer through commitment and trust
Applying these six aspects ensures that the Tower of Babel is nothing more than a biblical story and that the company achieves its objective of being close to its customer, being connected with its customer and fostering a relationship built on commitment and trust. The metrics then fade into the background and are understood as a result of the emotional connection and not as the “mathematical” goal.
Silvana Buljan is founding partner of Buljan & Partners Consulting and Service Line leader for Customer Centric Management Leadership. Silvana is a specialist in design and implementation of Customer Centricity, Customer Experience, CRM, Project Management, Organizational Change, and Executive Training & Coaching projects across several industries since 1998.
More info on Silvana: