How Engaged Employees Give Customers the “Wow!” Factor

Create a Customer Experience Strategy

In any industry there are expected experiences and delighters. Take the airline industry: you expect to arrive to your destination safely. In many people’s experience, having their luggage arrive with them is a “delighter.” If it happens, it feels like hitting the lottery.

The other day, while traveling, I tapped into TripAdvisor to choose a restaurant. Every moment, from beginning to end, was a delighter. A bubbly girl met us at the door with “free hugs” then served a shot of rum with dark chocolate, explaining the rum process. After ordering, we were served courtesy plates of snacks from the kitchen (no stale peanuts). Everything was impeccable – from the restaurant and bar to the bathrooms. It was, quite honestly, an unexpected, delightful experience. I now recommend this restaurant to everybody. And I don't even like rum.

With the birth of TripAdvisor, Smartphones, and every app imaginable to help customers choose the best places to visit, stay, shop, and spend their money, organizations are scrambling to create “wow” experiences for their customers.Customers expect more, want more, and will spend their money where these expectations are met.

Even a “wow” experience like the Soup Nazi from Seinfeld draws crowds. Wow experiences are different. They are unique. They are unexpected, initially, then have to be repeated every time. They are genuine, in that they reflect the values of the organization. (Think Apple stores!). And they create loyal customers.

It feels like a tall order. But engaged customers come from engaged employees. Engaged employees come from a culture of purpose, values, appreciation and recognition, and autonomy. In the service industry, frontline employees are the ones who represent the organization’s values.

Bloomberg Businessweek reports that creating a fantastic customer experience has become a top strategic priority for organizations.

Have you prepared your employees to provide “wow” service?

1. Don’t assume your employees know. It’s management’s job to explain to each employee the impact of her job on the organization’s values, mission, and vision. This creates purpose. Purpose is a cornerstone of employee engagement.

2. Little things are big things. Do away with the attitude, “It’s just a small thing.” How we approach every task – however “small” it may feel – is the way the organization works on the whole. The girl at the restaurant didn’t just serve us rum, instead discussed how it was made. She described how we should combine the flavor of chocolate with rum, shaping our experience. To become delighters, start with your customer experience and ask, and answer, these questions:

  • What would better my experience here?
  • What details, “small things”, would move my experience from good to great? How can these details be a differentiator in the industry?
  • There are four essentials of customer experience: reliability, convenience, relevance, and responsiveness. Where does your organization shine? Where does it fall short?

3. Create a blueprint for excellence. Every employee should have a clear customer experience vision, understand who their customers are, be trained, and given the tools she needs to provide top customer service excellence. Is management hindering customer service? Is responsiveness slow because of cumbersome approval processes? Are your employees disconnected from who their customers are?

4. Connect with your customers on an emotional level. Not every organization has to provide free hugs, but teaching employees to connect with customers (yes, this can be taught) is critical to the customer experience. Ask the customer questions before trying to make a sale. Make eye contact and listen to what the customer is, and isn’t, saying. Be patient. Smile. Get feedback in real time by asking: Is this what you need? Or, after providing services, ask customers to fill out a quick survey. (This can be sent electronically or done in situ).

The best way to create a culture in which the customer experience reins is one in which the employee understands her purpose, has interiorized organization values, and is recognized for her work. Creating a culture of ownership in which every employee becomes an ambassador for the organization’s values and imparts them on each and every customer is an organization that creates a culture of loyal customers.

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