August 16, 2014 | Customer experience
A rigid attitude might just be the antithesis of great customer service. Proving that they’re a company that knows how to have a little fun, this story from Sainsbury’s supermarket highlights how your support team should spot great opportunities to do things that are quirky and out of the ordinary.
Lily Robinson (who insists that she is three and a half years old) was quite confused by one of Sainsbury’s products called tiger bread. In her eyes, the bread didn’t resemble a tiger at all, and in fact looked very much like a giraffe.
With a little assistance from mom and dad, she wrote a letter to Sainsbury’s customer service department.
To her surprise, customer support manager Chris King (age 27 and one-third) told her that he couldn’t agree more. He explained the origins of the name:
“I think renaming tiger bread giraffe bread is a brilliant idea – it looks much more like the blotches on a giraffe than the stripes on a tiger, doesn’t it? It is called tiger bread because the first baker who made it a loooong time ago thought it looked stripey like a tiger. Maybe they were a bit silly.”
Lily’s mom enjoyed the letters and ended up posting them on her blog. Before long, this cute correspondence was a viral hit, and the pressure was on for Sainsbury’s to change the name of the product to the much more appropriate giraffe bread.
What motivates employees to go above and beyond the call of duty to provide this kind of a memorable customer experience? It’s not magic, but method. The customer support manager didn’t consult a script. He did what he did because Sainsbury has created a culture where going the extra mile for customers comes naturally.
Such devotion to customer service pays handsome dividends. Emotionally engaged customers are typically three times more likely to recommend a product and to repurchase. When we love someone or something, we want to shout it from the mountain tops.
With an eye to these benefits, many companies are making the customer experience a strategic priority. Yet they are struggling to gain traction with their efforts.
Why is customer experience so difficult to get right? The main hurdle is translating boardroom vision into action at the front line. That’s even more important in an era when optimizing individual customer touchpoints is no longer enough.
The best way for companies to create emotional connections with their customers is by ensuring that every interaction delights them. To do that, you need more than great products.
How to create memorable and positive customer experiences.
1. Listen to employees. Want your employees to take great care of your customer? Start by taking great care of them. Treat them respectfully and fairly, of course, but also get involved in tackling their issues and needs. Establish mechanisms to listen to concerns, then address them.
2. Hire for attitude, not aptitude — and then reinforce attitude. To get friendly service, hire friendly people. To recruit frontline staff with a natural service bent, use group interviews. Having hired people with the right attitudes, ensure they reinforce the behaviors they want to see.
3. Give people purpose, not rules. Rules have their place, but they go only so far. When people are set clear expectations and trusted to do their jobs, they feel valued and empowered. They choose to go that extra mile through passion, not compliance.
4. Tap into the creativity of your front line. Giving frontline employees responsibility and autonomy inspires them to do whatever they can to improve the customer experience. When they see a problem, they fix it without waiting to be asked.
Because of technological advances it is now easier than ever for companies to understand customers on an individual basis. Even so, engaging with customers is still largely undertaken through personal contact. Building a trusted relationship with your customers happens at the front line, one interaction at a time. So in order to establish an emotional bond with your customers, start with your employees.
“A business absolutely devoted to service will have only one worry about profits. They will be embarrassingly large.” – Henry Ford