One of the most often asked questions I get from firms about implementing a customer experience is:
“How can I empower our employees to interpret our new customer experience freely, without risking them going off-piste?”
The answer is….you can’t. Not for as long as risk is interpreted as inherently bad. Not for as long as you live only in your comfort zone.
For too long, companies have constructed customer experiences around compliance with their own safety net – “No Food, No Drinks, No Change, No Toilets, No Backpacks, No Credit Cards, No Pets, No More Than 3 Students At A Time and even No Leaning On The Counter.”
Employees were trained that, as long as they stayed within the company rules, no harm would come to them or the company.
But now that’s changed. Modern brands are actively asking customers to engage with them on their own terms. To play with the product. To come and learn with our staff. To share with us on Facebook or Twitter. They have dared to be brave.
And having tried these new customer experiences, people start to reappraise brands that stick to the old rules. Gradually, the things they used to ‘put up with’ in the past, they’re now starting to challenge. Or they simply go somewhere else that feels less authoritarian. Customers are moving towards experiences that offer more personalised choices, environments where they don’t have to fight for attention when they want it, and get privacy when they don’t (restaurants around the world, take note).
And most of all, they want to be able to trust the companies and brands they connect with. In particular, they want a firm’s DNA to genuinely act in their interests, rather than simply comply with “house rules”, regardless of even the most extreme circumstances.
But for a company and its employees to be brave, and to feel empowered to do so, they need to accept not being in total control all the time. Employees can still be true to a brand and its values, without adopting a ‘one-size-fits-all’ attitude to every customer situation.
And, actually, if you want loyal, happy customers, it’s not brave to stick to the old rules. It’s foolhardy.
Seth Godin: The Icarus Deception http://www.sethgodin.com/sg/
Don Peppers & Martha Rodgers: Extreme Trust http://www.extremetrustbook.com/