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Customer Experience – Not Just a Front Line Initiative

By: Beth Ingebretson

Google the term “Customer Experience” and you will find 369+ million results, topping the results of American pop culture icons such as Taylor Swift (358+ million) and the Twilight series (98.3 million). Even with an over-abundance of information available on the internet, and almost 19,000 books on the topic (source: Amazon), very few companies are getting it right. Why? Because many assume the burden rests only with the front-line employees, instead of addressing the entire customer experience ecosystem.

“Customer Experience” must be embraced at all levels of your organization, and by EVERYONE, not just those individuals that regularly interface with your customers. Harley Manning and Kerry Bodine described the “Players in your Customer Experience Ecosystem” on page 44 of their book, Outside In. You might be surprised to learn that the “players” in your organization include not just your customer-facing employees like customer service representatives or sales people, but also your business users (IT, Accounting, Human Resources, etc…) and partners (i.e. technology vendors, consulting firms, and potentially even your parcel delivery service!). You must develop and nurture a customer-centric culture, and ensure that all employees understand their role and impact in the overall ecosystem! To illustrate why, I would like to share with you two basic, real world stories of  my recent “customer experiences”.

My first illustration is a recent visit to a fast food restaurant. As we walked in the door, we are cheerfully greeted by someone who is cleaning tables in the lobby. Another cheery greeting as we walked up to the counter. Our order is quickly taken, and we walked to a newly-cleaned table with our hot, fresh meal within a few short minutes. So far, so good! Well… after eating, one of my children needs to use the restroom. As we walked in the restroom, I saw crumpled paper towels overflowing from the garbage can, and the toilets were in desperate need of cleaning. Worse yet, when I brought the situation to the attention of the restaurant’s manager, he did not seem overly concerned about the lack of cleanliness in the restroom, nor did he immediately send someone in to address it. This is a classic example where the term “customer experience” was not embraced by all employees, or even by all levels in the organization. And because of that, what had started out as a pleasant dining experience by my family, turned into something that left me wishing we had eaten elsewhere.

Now, let’s look at a more positive illustration of my point. My husband recently had coffee with the General Manager of an upscale, urban hotel. As they chatted, he shared a simple, yet very poignant, philosophy. He said, “Every hotel room and public area should look like you are the first person to ever walk into it.” That’s a great philosophy to have, but it is nothing without execution. As they continued to talk, my husband noticed the man’s eyes frequently dart around the lobby, looking for any small detail out of place. As they concluded their conversation and stood up from the comfortable club chairs in the lobby, the GM turned to fluff the pillow and cushion of the chair he had just vacated. He was putting that philosophy into simple actions, and he set the expectation to all his employees that he expected EVERYONE in the organization to follow his example. He believed that his actions would have a direct impact on his guests’ experience in his hotel, whether he was directly interfacing with them at the time or not.

These two illustrations made me think about the small (and big) things that I do daily (customer facing or not) that can have an impact on the customer experience ecosystem at Avtex. And, it also reminded me that in order to be successful, a “customer experience” strategy must be embraced and practiced at all levels. So, I challenge you to think about it as well. Regardless of your role, what impact can YOU have on your customers’ experiences? What small actions can you take to improve the “customer experience” and incorporate them into your culture and everyday work?

By: Beth Ingebretson

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