What is Your Team Saying — And Hearing — When it Comes to CX?
Customer experience is a broad, often misunderstood topic. To deliver consistent, positive experiences, you need consistent, positive communications.
It’s difficult to change things for the better when there are pervasive falsehoods, fables and factually-questionable stories traveling throughout your organization. Do you know the customer experience misconceptions at your organization?
I was consulting with a client who was concerned about how to move to a more remote workforce. (Sound familiar?) While they were encouraging more flexibility, the problem was they felt there wasn’t really a consistent pattern to how managers and employees were acting on this.
In my work with them, I spent a few days interviewing employees from throughout the organization. I asked questions about their desire for location flexibility, what they believed the organization’s leaders thought about employees who worked from home, and more.
In each interview, I stressed they could be honest with me since I wasn’t attaching names to the results.
By the end of just a handful of interviews, I knew the problems were around pervasive misconceptions, miscommunications and rumors.
Some didn’t think remote work was an option:
- “I can’t wait for this organization to let us work remotely. It’s ridiculous that we can’t.”
- “I won’t manage employees who work remotely. I don’t think they have the right equipment for that and I don’t want to bother our IT team.”
Others attached conditions to remote work:
- “Our manager works remotely but I’ve never been brave enough to ask if I could do that, even though I have a commute that’s over an hour now.”
- “My team knows if they work from home, they better be available through direct messaging unless they specifically ask for a break.”
While others still were actually already working from home:
- “I work from home a few days per week. My manager is ok with it, but we agree not to really ‘publicize’ it.”
Do you hear the mix-ups in messaging and understanding? And this is only a small sample of the answers I heard!
This was an organization seeking ways to support workers remotely. They had a budget, incentives, and well-designed processes. They had started exploring this remote work initiative as part of their focus on customer experience and how their employees could deliver more for customers by being more flexible.
But somehow, many of their employees didn’t believe it. They shared stories with one another about unreasonable managers, what leaders “really thought,” and how they shouldn’t even request working remotely because it was frowned upon.
We had to address what was happening with a robust communications strategy, best practices training, and reinforcement along the way. Getting everyone on board with the why, what and how of remote working took some time, but by communicating directly and consistently, we managed to shut down many of misunderstandings relatively quickly.
This type of mythology is most likely happening in your organization.
- Employees talk to one another because they haven’t heard directly, emphatically and honestly from their managers.
- They make assumptions based on culture.
- They fear retribution for simply asking questions.
These cultural miscommunications have a negative impact on the employee experience AND the customer experience.
A Void of Communication Creates Misunderstanding
In some organizations, even the leaders discuss customer experience in terms that are nebulous at best. They might believe in the idea of customer experience, but not really understand the strategies, behaviors and actions needed to deliver on it.
Meanwhile, employees are sharing their own stories about customer experience. They believe they understand what leaders want and how to deliver on it, but this may be based on hallway conversations and not official communications.
The void of communications creates ample opportunity for misconceptions to gain traction. Humans are notorious for filling in the blanks with the most negative answer.
Have you ever worked in a place that had a rumor of impending lay-offs? If the leaders say nothing, there’s an assumption they’ve said everything. What you’re not saying can be just as important as what you are.
Let’s look at three widespread examples of miscommunication that negatively affect customer and employee experience.
3 Internal Misconceptions that Hurt Customer Experience
There are communication gaps in your organization. It’s time to address them head-on and stop the mythology before it becomes a cornerstone of your culture.
Misconception #1: Our company doesn’t care about customers.
If leaders are always talking about profit, shareholder value, and cutting costs, it’s easy to end up with this perception.
Don’t get me wrong, these are all important goals of a successful business. But when we only communicate these goals, it’s nearly impossible to be customer-centric.
Once this misconception takes hold, it becomes a lot more difficult to change the culture. Employees begin what I call a “shrug campaign.” This is when, even though they believe the customer deserves better, they’ve lost the will to fight for them.
How to Fix It:
Look at how leaders in your organization are actually communicating on a regular basis:
- Is there any discussion of customers?
- Do your results dashboards mention them at all?
- Do leaders regularly celebrate those employees who deliver for customers?
If your last several employee communications have barely mentioned customers, then start practicing “customer-first” communications. Start by identifying what leaders can say about customers, the experience they’re promised, and how employees are key to that experience.
Misconception #2. There are negative outcomes to helping customers.
This rumor is indicative of a culture that doesn’t empower employees to do the right things. Processes and systems can never provide airtight answers for every situation. Sometimes, employees need to make a judgment on how to best help a customer.
When a manager then punishes the employee who made a judgment call, that means other employees start leaning into NOT making those decisions. They say things like “I have to check with my manager” or “That’s the policy, even though it doesn’t make sense here.”
Customers get more frustrated and so do employees.
How to Fix It:
How can leaders help empower employees?
If you haven’t identified and shared a Customer Experience Mission, that’s a perfect place to start.
A CX Mission is key because it can act as a clear point of reference, helping employees understand the right judgment call to make.
As time goes on, highlight the employees who make the right judgment calls, directly referencing how their decision connects back to your Customer Experience Mission. It won’t only boost morale, it’ll also empower others to do the same.
Misconception #3. Customers are out to cheat us.
One of the things I listen for when working with a new organization is the Blame Game.
- Are departments blaming other departments?
- Are front-line workers blaming the processes and systems they’re required to work with?
- Are leaders blaming customers?
The Blame Game is always a problem, but the last item is the one I want to focus on here: The misconception that customers are no-good cheats! It’s too common that organizations view their customer almost as an adversary: constantly trying to game the system, manipulating the goodwill of the brand, and lacking the understanding of what it takes to give them what they want.
This notion is toxic and destroys company culture from the inside-out. When organizations seem to blame or distrust customers, it creates a battle between the brand and the customer, and employees feel forced to pick a side.
Do customers try to game the system and take advantage of brands? Yes, some do. But most don’t. Customers are trying to achieve a goal, complete a task, and feel a certain way. Assuming every customer is trying to pull a fast one is like assuming every driver on the road is driving a stolen car.
How are processes introduced to employees? If processes are put in place ONLY to avoid fraud or punish customers, then it’s easy to see why employees would believe customers are up to no good.
How to Fix It:
Look for how internal communications discuss customers in general. Are customers described as a problem?
One retailer I worked with sent an email in ALL CAPS stating customers were no longer allowed to go into dressing rooms, because of two cases of shoplifting in two separate locations.
Now, it’s important to address what factors led to theft, and take precautions against it. But stating that basically every customer was now a presumed criminal led to suspicion, awkward interactions, and uncomfortable experiences for customers.
What CX Miscommunications Exist Within Your Organization?
These aren’t the only myths around customer experience. Myths show up in contact centers, in bank branches, in factories, and in the field. Look for where there is a void of communication and information, and you’ll likely discover misunderstandings, misconceptions and overall mythology.
- Aim for direct, consistent communication with employees about and for your customers.
- Build a foundation of trust with a customer experience mission statement and CX Success Statement.
- And reward those employees who do the right thing.
A customer-centric culture is built from the inside out. Bust up the misconceptions and communicate directly in your organization to serve your employees and your customers with honesty and integrity.