When we are validated, and even the slightest concession is made to accommodate us as customers, it makes a difference. And that difference adds up in how we stack up the companies we will go back to and talk about.
This is not a plea to throw company profits out the door by loosening every rule willy-nilly. It’s about preparing employees. It is about trust for your front line, proven to lead to business growth. It’s about enabling employees to act in situations where valued customers are at risk. It’s about then letting them make the call to let a few hours slide off a car rental return because they have a high value customer in front of them.
As we become increasingly self-sufficient in almost every part of our lives as customers, it becomes even more urgent that, when someone connects with the humans of your company–that the contact is meaningful. The authenticity of those connections, people’s ability to really help, and the frontline’s respect for the customer, because they themselves are respected–are more critical than ever now. “Doing” human interactions well in an increasing self-service world will set you apart.
Companies that are putting in the work to enable this, are reaping the rewards. For example, Mercedes Benz USA, began taking this approach in their Customer Assistance Centers, enabling call center reps to balance standard operating procedure with information about the customer they are assisting. In many cases, the informed exceptions they make lead to increased advocacy and a more profitable customer.
A study of 20,000 customers by CSpace measuring the “CQ”- customer quotient score validates the importance of outreach that is worth customers’ time and that honors their need–especially when they choose to stray from the self-service path. Customers want openness, relevance, empathy, experience, and emotion. These are all experiences frontline folks want to deliver, but need permission and the ability, to extend.
What we know, and you know as a customer, is that most of us don’t make it our intention to ‘take’ a company for anything. We want to be treated fairly. We want to be known. We want to be honored when inevitably, Murphy’s law kicks in and that warranty expires the day before our computer wipes out its motherboard or the brakes go skittish on our car, or that vacuum cleaner we bought goes on the fritz.
Often at these times, we encounter someone who sheepishly has to tell us the bad news. And stand by it even though it makes them squeamish. And that is….“sorry, I can’t do anything for you.” And that’s because the majority of the rules in companies are created to protect a company from the minority of customers who seek to take the path to take advantage. The minority. The company suffers because customers leave based on these moments.
But what if the frontline was trusted to have some wiggle room to make a judgment to do the right thing? As I mentioned before, and am a broken record on this with companies, this is not blind belief, but rather ‘informed’ belief. It is investing to prepare your people with information to quickly learn who the customer is who they are chatting with or talking to on the phone or looking at eyeball to eyeball.
John bought his laptop and along with it purchased the extended warranty and damage coverage. Having had some expensive issues with his previous laptop, he wanted his bases covered. Exactly 3 days after his warranty ran out he opened his laptop to white horizontal lines running vertically down the screen (anyone who’s ever seen this knows the pain of this sight). He had spent over $300 for the warranty and within its coverage period had only used it for a minor incident right after he purchased the computer. John felt that the company would do well by him and brought the computer in. He was immediately told the policy and offered a new computer to purchase.
Undeterred he asked to speak to a supervisor who repeated “policy” and reminded John that he knew the warranty when he bought it and those were the terms. “Three days, only three days!” John exclaimed. They said there was nothing they would do for him.
The Make-mom-proud companies give employees the knowledge to make a decision about how to proceed. They do this by establishing an environment of ‘informed trust.’ They train and enable them to make smart decisions. And then they trust them to make decisions that honor and value customers. They honor the front line, by honoring their ability to keep valued customers.
Excerpted from Would You Do That To Your Mother? The “Make Mom Proud” Standard for How to Treat Your Customers by Jeanne Bliss with permission of Portfolio, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © Jeanne Bliss, 2018.