Are Your Customers Delighted? Would They Give You a Second Chance?
The following is based on a May 2019 interview with Kirsti Laasio, Chief Customer Experience Officer at HappyOrNot’s global headquarters in Tampere, Finland. She spoke with freelance writer Tom Hagy of Philadelphia for our first installment of the HappyOrNot CX360༠ Leadership Insights Series. In it we will share our thoughts on the importance of delighting your customers, how it will impact your competitiveness and your bottom line, and how to make delighting customers part of your organization’s DNA. To get CX right, successful organizations nurture cross-functional cooperation and integrate certain CX essentials into their culture. Our mission in producing this series is to help more organizations get CX right.
“CX is the sum of emotions your brand evokes.”
What is it and what is it not? How do you know a good customer experience when you see one? Companies often get it wrong because they think managing people means directing them to operate within the confines of inflexible guardrails. That often translates into activity driven by policies and not empathy for customers, which in turn translates into decisions to purchase or not, to remain loyal or go somewhere else, to spread the good word or share a bad experience. Kirsti shares a personal experience to illustrate how the process and policy-obsessed approach doesn’t work.
TH: What does customer experience, or CX, mean to you?
KL: To me, CX is the sum of emotions your brand evokes during all touchpoints a person has with your company. It also has to do with loyalty, convenience, delight and offering an effortless experience.
TH: So it’s not as transactional as some companies might think.
KL: Right. It’s about what the experience awakens inside a person. It’s not just about fixing something that may have gone wrong.
TH: It’s as if you’re describing a relationship.
KL: I am. I think about the personal relationship I have with a brand at different touch points. It’s about a feeling. You can think rationally about products and services, but people pick you based on feelings and emotions. There will come moments of truth where you ask, “Do they make me happy or not? Would I give them a second chance?”
TH: Can you give an example of a time you were delighted or disappointed with your customer experience?
KL: I am most disappointed when a corporate brand just sees me as a wallet. I went to a restaurant recently for a quick lunch. The hostess asked if I had a reservation. There were many empty tables, but she said she could not seat me without a reservation. I offered that I was only there for a quick bite and wouldn’t take a table for long.
TH: That sounds reasonable.
KL: No, she said. I didn’t fit into her process. Their policy was inflexible. She was sending me away even though I was willing to be quick and spend money. Where was this employee’s sense of ownership? Why wasn’t she given the freedom to resolve a simple problem? I went somewhere else. It was clear that she had to resolve the problem in a way that made her life easier, not mine.
TH: That sounds almost robotic.
KL: Yes. And in that case they didn’t even look at me like a wallet.
[clickToTweet tweet=”CX is the sum of emotions your brand evokes – K. Laasio, HappyOrNot CX360 Series, Part 1. ” quote=” CX is the sum of emotions your brand evokes.”]
“There will be times when you must sacrifice your process and even a little short-term profit.”
Frontline employee training often centers around scenarios, ostensibly real-life scenarios. But no one can predict every situation their employees will face on a given day. The good news is that any customer “problem” is a great opportunity to gain their trust and loyalty. This requires giving employees latitude to proceed with a level of compassion — which is not something you can put in a checkbox.
One of the leading luxury hotel chains famously authorizes employees to spend up to $2,000 per day to delight customers who may be less than satisfied. Management has to surrender any urge to turn people into machines and give them the resources to make things right. Having said that, if programmed correctly, actual machines can delight people, too. Read on for what Kirsti has to say.
TH: What should management do to make sure frontline people do the right thing for the customer and, by extension, the company?
KL: There will be times when you must sacrifice your process and even a little short-term profit. Empower personnel to resolve problems on the spot. The most customer-focused organizations even give their employees a budget to solve customer problems immediately. The sooner the better, too, since an unhappy customer will share their experience with friends pretty quickly.
TH: Do you always have to spend money to make customers happy?
KL: No. You might say you lack the resources or don’t have the budget, but mostly you must prioritize and make customer experience everybody’s job.
TH: Speaking of robotic, what about shopping online? Isn’t a personal experience difficult to achieve there?
KL: There are many opportunities to provide a smooth experience on the web, too. For example, localization. I am Finnish and when I shop from Finland why would the customer chat pop up in English? And when I have almost completed my order, but want to correct something on an earlier screen, why is there no back button? Why must I start the process over again? Little things like that give or take away from my experience on a website and reflect on the brand. Sometimes it’s as if the company execs have never even tried their own system.
[clickToTweet tweet=” There will be times when you must sacrifice your process and even a little short-term profit – K. Laasio, HappyOrNot CX360 Series, Part 1.” quote=” There will be times when you must sacrifice your process and even a little short-term profit.”]
“Everyone must own customer experience and they must be held accountable for it.”
Good CX technology has to feed information to humans, who then know the protocols and are empowered to make corrections. For CEOs and SVPs any decision to deploy new technology or change systems will be based on a number of factors, all of which comes down to one question: Will it really make a measurable difference? Kirsti discusses how it will.
TH: Like most technical systems, customer experience technology costs money. How do you answer potential HappyOrNot clients who want to know what ROI they can expect from installing Smiley Terminals?
KL: Let’s take a practical example. Say an average customer would spend $50 at your restaurant. If they are unhappy, they simply may not even pay you the $50 or they just never come back. Can you turn that situation into a positive one? If you don’t know when and where you have issues, how will you know what to correct? A retail customer will just walk out, so you must capture their emotions in real time to really hear their voice. Think about how much repeat business or referral business is at stake and you can easily calculate the ROI. How you solve a problem will have a lasting impact on that customer.
TH: What would you say companies get wrong in building CX systems?
KL: First, if “good customer service” is merely an item to tick off on a checklist and they don’t share customer feedback with others in the organization, they won’t motivate their personnel to own the customer experience. They systematically get it wrong.
TH: How do they build meaningful systems?
KL: Those who get it right make everyone in the company accountable. From the frontline people and developers to the top executives – everyone must own customer experience and they must be held accountable for it. You can’t just leave customer experience to a customer service department. And the value of sharing feedback across the organization can’t be over-emphasized.
TH: But aren’t sales results the best indicator of customer satisfaction?
KL: Of course, selling is important, but sales figures are about the past. We strive to help companies with their future. CX is how customers choose to remain with you or to come to you in the first place and it can predict future loyalty, too.
TH: What about you? Do you like what you do? Focusing on customer experience?
KL: I do like what I do! I love to delight customers and help them to delight theirs. It’s very close to my heart and one of the reasons I joined HappyOrNot. It’s such a positive purpose, helping people have better experiences in both their business and personal lives. I am a strong believer in striving for a delightful customer experience.
TH: Focusing on happiness — what could be wrong with that?! Any closing thoughts?
KL: Yes. No matter what type of company you are, no matter what product you sell or what type of service you provide, at the end, know that you are in the experience business. To get it right remember that great customer experiences begin with great employee experiences.
[clickToTweet tweet=” Everyone must own customer experience and they must be held accountable for it – K. Laasio, HappyOrNot CX360 Series, Part 1.” quote=” Everyone must own customer experience and they must be held accountable for it.”]
Kirsti Laasio is a Customer Experience Management executive with extensive international experience in building brands and managing product portfolios for consumer electronics, mobile services and operators. She was educated at the University of Passau in Germany, the Helsinki School of Economics, International Center in Finland, and the Germany Academy of Management in Munich.
Tom Hagy is a Philadelphia-based freelance writer and business owner.
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