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CX thought leader and prolific Forbes contributor, Micah Solomon, recently posted an article titled “13 Ways Leadership Can Lead Employees to Provide World-Class Customer Service.” In it, he outlines ways leaders can infuse, inspire, and support their teams in providing the best experiences for their customers as possible.
Often, articles about customer experience focus on two areas: programs, process, and technologies; and customer interaction (both digital and in the real world). What struck me about this piece was that it recognizes that in order to do good things outside of your four walls, organizations must first have their own houses in order. It places unequivocal responsibility on leadership to empower employees.
As CX continues to mature, it’s important that leaders embrace the essential role of each and every employee—customer-facing or not—plays. They know your customers from a range of perspectives, and they know your business. Number 11 on Solomon’s list is “Ask for suggestions [from your employees].” I’d like to propose a 14th, complementary point: Invite your employees to be co-creators of the customer experience.
There are some people who paint the millennial workforce as entitled, even lazy. I wholeheartedly disagree. Sure, most aren’t clamoring for an 80-hour workweek. Instead, they’re spending time with friends and family, or giving back to their communities. I’ve found that what they want, no, yearn for, is more meaning in everything they do. And while for some that means working for the Peace Corps or Humane Society, most of these young people simply want to contribute in very real ways to their teams, to your customers’ happiness, and to your business.
This presents a profound opportunity for companies that want to be ridiculously successful. Your employees are in the ideal position to identify root causes, anticipate problems, and see opportunities far down the line. But you’ve got to ask. Putting out a suggestion box paired with those mini pencils isn’t enough. Adding a gratuitous question to your annual Employee Engagement survey simply won’t cut it. You’ve got to listen.
Several years ago, violinist virtuoso, Joshua Bell, carved out a corner at a metro station in Washington, D.C. and played. Most passersby didn’t pay much attention. They were isolated in their own thoughts, mentally solving problems, planning, or tuned into a playlist. A few recognized the beauty, stopping for a few minutes to listen. He collected $32 in tips. Interestingly, the people who paid the most attention were small children, although they were quickly whisked away by their busy adults.
Bell performed for 45 minutes. He played one of the most intricate compositions ever written to perfection on an instrument worth $3.5 million. Just a few days prior to this public appearance he appeared before a sold out crowd of fans who paid an average of $100 per ticket.
Your employees are playing beautiful music. But because they’re not high-paid consultants or change management experts, their insights often go completely unsolicited and unheeded.
If you’re serious about CX, get serious about listening to your employees. Provide them with formal and informal forums in which they can engage in ongoing dialog with leadership and each other. Ask specific questions about customer challenges. Invite advice on improvements. Listen closely to their music, but only if you are willing to act on what it has to say.
Employees are a treasure trove of wisdom. You know who they are, what they do, and how to reach them. There’s no excuse. By giving them equal floor time, you’ll open up a vast new landscape of business intelligence that will help you achieve CX nirvana—that magical and yet non-imaginary land where great relationships and business success meet.
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