You already perform governance practices in other parts of your business. Good governance results in your paychecks going out on time. It results in you paying your taxes, balancing your books, keeping your inventory flowing and all the other activities that need to get done consistently on an ongoing basis.
Customer experience governance is no different. It starts by assigning specific tasks to people as part of their job responsibilities. For example, managers of LEGO stores are required to respond to personal emails from customers every time one arrives in their inbox.
But governance isn’t just about oversight. It also establishes processes that force customer experience concerns into the mix when making day-to-day business decisions. Take Canada Post, the postal service for Canada which, unlike our own USPS, has turned a profit for the last 16 years in a row. It requires all funding requests from any department to answer ten customer-focused questions in the business case. This ensures that all leaders think not just about how their projects will affect the bottom line but also about how they’ll impact the customer experience.
Don’t be afraid to try some of these practices yourself. Review job descriptions to find opportunities for inserting customer-centric activities that are relevant to your business, and then hold people accountable for performing those activities. Similarly, start examining your processes to find places where a customer experience reality check belongs. That can be as simple as requiring people to write a paragraph describing how a proposal will affect customers whenever they ask for funding for a project.
The culture discipline creates a system of shared values and behaviors that focus employees on delivering a great customer experience. It’s the secret weapon of companies that lead at customer experience, like USAA and Zappos.
Culture starts with hiring, which many managers get wrong. That’s because they’re still looking primarily at what their candidates know – their job skills – and not focusing on who their candidates are. That’s a problem because you can teach people skills and how to perform tasks, but if they dont want to help customers, you’re not going to teach them to be different people.
Are there really that many people out there who just dont want to help customers? Yes. Kevin Peters, the president of Office Depot North America, asked all 22,500 store associates to take a personality assessment test designed to evaluate employees’ skills, behaviors, and aptitudes as they related to serving customers. To his surprise and disappointment, a significant percentage agreed with statements like: “If the job requires me to interface with customers, I’d rather not do the job.”
To avoid falling into the trap of hiring people who won’t help you deliver a great customer experience, hire the will, train the skill. For example, during the interview process, ask candidates to describe a time when they helped a customer. If they can’t come up with an example, or if their example sounds contrived, they’re probably not someone you want.
What do you do with the employees you already have? Start by training them in relevant customer-centric behaviors, like asking open-ended questions (“How can I help you?”) and not closed-end questions (“Can I help you?”). And to seal the deal, tie formal and informal rewards to customer-centric behaviors. For example, at Enterprise Rent-A-Car, no one with below-average scores on the Enterprise Service Quality index can move up to senior management.
Delivering Superior Experience
By adopting the six disciplines outlined in my book, “Outside In: The Power of Putting Customers at the Center of Your Business,” any sized company can succeed by delivering a superior customer experience. In the book, my co-author and I document the practices of companies that have succeeded in doing so. These organizations represent a mix of industries. Yet all of them adopt the same fundamental practices, which they tune to their specific needs.
Whether they’re large or small, companies that want to produce a high-quality customer experience need to adopt six disciplines that result in a great experience: