The “new normal” of the past few months has me thinking about what really matters, both in my professional and personal lives. My relationships seem to be key. This shouldn’t surprise me, since a big piece of customer experience is cultivating relationships and the emotions behind them. However, the presence and impact of my relationships has come into sharp focus as the world adapts to a new way of living.
So how does our variety of relationships play into customer experience?
Networking is frequently underestimated, but right now it is particularly important. Your network may include your customers, and keeping yourself and your product visible in a present and caring fashion is a great way to deepen a relationship.
Recently I received a hand-written card from a past co-worker, who had taken the time to tell me what they appreciated about working with me. Did they do that for just me or for 100 people? It doesn’t matter. What it did for me was deepen a connection with someone I rarely see but with whom I would like to remain connected. That helped us both: me, because it taught me about some of the value I bring to others, and them, because they are in retail and am I going to go that store as soon as it’s open again? You bet I am.
- Consider reaching out and checking on your connections, and treat your relationships to a boost as well.
- Sincerity matters. Much like the old advice to “smile when you’re talking on the phone,” people can sense when you don’t really mean what you say or type.
Be true to your existing relationship, and connect with the purpose of nurturing it.
How does the relationship one has with coworkers affect customer experience? The way we feel at work carries into our actions. Although process is necessary for efficiency, and efficiency is necessary for optimum productivity, they can kill the emotion that connects us to each other.
The influence of coworker relationships on the customer experience is part of a larger circle. People work better—more efficiently, more thoroughly, more loyally—when they care. Caring is cultivated by individuals being connected to a common purpose. To best fulfill that purpose, individuals work together, which develops relationships. The relationship engenders further caring about both the successful completion of the common purpose and for the individuals directly.
People work better when they care.
Once these relationships are established, it carries into the customer experience through personal interactions and customer service delivery. The customer can always feel genuine caring, regardless of how it’s delivered.
- Do an “inventory” on your relationships with your coworkers and see if you’re connected to them and your purpose. If you’re a manager, be sure your reports are clear on their purpose so that they can elevate their work and service delivery.
- Satisfying and rewarding relationships with coworkers and the common purpose can also fuel innovation and improvements in customer service!
And of Course, Customers!
Don’t underestimate the desire for connection. With many services now being offered online, or even “curbside,” people are missing the personal touch. But little things can make a big difference. One of my online services includes a little thank-you card (well it’s a small piece of paper, but it LOOKS like a card!) with the handwritten-in-ink, signed name of the person who put my order together. And maybe I’m more nerdy than most, but when I see that “Phil” has put my order together and signed their name, I genuinely say “Thanks, Phil!”, and it binds me just a little closer to that company and the invisible Phil who helped me out.
Maybe your business doesn’t allow for a physical connection, like the little paper with Phil’s signature on it, but think about what you can do that would fit within your operation restrictions (budget, timelines, staffing). This can be integrated with marketing or separate from it.
- Don’t be afraid to go “out of the box” on this one, because that is exactly what is going to give the “personal touch” thing you’re seeking. Just stay in line with your corporate culture, so that it is sincere and feels natural to your customer.
- When a customer receives an order confirmation email, or checks the status on your website, consider highlighting an employee wearing/using their favorite company product. For example, if your company sells shoes, include a picture of a warehouse employee rocking his favourite wingtips as he’s leaving for the day.
- Do you have internal customers? Look into whether your ticketing system supports account photos, so your customers can see who they are actually talking to. Many desktop applications offer this feature as well (email, chat, etc.) and can contribute to putting the human touch on each interaction.
Kristin Jones is a passionate customer support advocate with a focus on people and process, and has been leading IT teams with delight for more than a decade. A lifelong learner who seeks to inspire others with fresh ideas, she is an active member of the HDI community and holds certifications in ITIL v3., HDI Support Center Manager and KCS Foundations. She strives to end each day having smiled more than frowned and having helped someone (or something!) work better. Follow Kristin on Twitter @kitonjones.