It’s become cliché to say it, but everyone does own the customer experience. If the custodian sweeping up doesn’t believe his role plays a part, then it’s easy to pull the thread and suddenly nobody thinks they own the experience overall.
I ask this question a lot when I speak to groups. Who owns the customer experience? “We do!” they say proudly. But here’s the often sad truth.
If everyone owns the customer experience, then it’s just as easy for nobody to own it.
We need to define what ownership means for each business leader, each employee, each person who influences the experience your customers have, whether they think they do or not.
It’s easy to say everyone owns it.
I’ve seen posters on the walls of corporate headquarters. I’ve seen signs in offices saying “one (fill-in-the-corporate-name) for one customer. We are in this together!” I’ve seen felt blankets placed over chairs in conference rooms with the label “customer.” All of this to get people to realize they need to think about the customer every once in a while!
These tactics become background noise quickly. They don’t help the employee crunching numbers in the finance department or tracking legal issues with franchisees understand how they are, indeed, connected to the overall customer experience.
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The ones who get this right?
They talk about mission. A lot. They lead with it. There is a famous story of a janitor sweeping at NASA and the President asks him “what are you doing?” to which he replied “I’m sending a man to the moon.” That is mission. That’s not about a poster he saw on the wall. That’s about a belief he had in the mission that was communicated everyday to everyone.
Everyone can own customer experience. But that same idea can be used as a scapegoat strategy. If my department is a problem, I might find it easier to shirk responsibility by saying we all own it.
When I get the standard answer of “we do!” about ownership, I challenge back a bit.
What does that mean? Not in general, but to you? How do you own it? When was the last time you tried to own it and got pushback? Silos exist in any organization, so acknowledging what someone is supposed to do with ownership is key. Does owning the experience mean reporting outside the traditional chain to make improvements? Is there a centralized place for communicating about potential improvements?
And what if I don’t interact with customers? Who is helping me connect my role with the actual customer experience? It’s easy to ignore the customer when you don’t ever interact directly with them.
So if everyone owns the customer experience, how can you help your team understand how to own it at the individual level?
1. Start with the mission.
This is really the core of any successful and powerful customer experience. Know what you’re trying to do first.
2. Empower your leaders to help their teams to envision their role within this mission.
Leaders understand repeating the mission, tying in daily work and rewarding those who think outside the box to live the mission is when great things happen.
3. Centralize communication around customer experience feedback and ideas from all your employees.
Your front-line sales people might have great ideas about how to improve the experience, but not know what to do with those ideas. Having a place where ideas are equally evaluated, regardless of the role or title of the employee, can lead to magic!
4. Reward those who sound the alarm on customer experience issues.
Each and every employee should know there won’t be anything but gratitude and praise for those who highlight an issue that needs attention and action. Reward them by taking action, too, and not just letting the feedback sit there.
Owning the customer experience is one piece of the puzzle to delivering exceptional experiences. Everyone should own the experience. But each person needs to understand what they’re owning.
Image credits: sfllaw, linus_art via Creative Commons license