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The silent 'P' in CX

by Sonya Bennett

Crossing to subway
Some of the work I enjoy most is around customer experience: gaining customer insights; using data to validate hypotheses; developing strategies; mapping optimal customer journeys across owned, earned and bought media; and, ultimately, turning all of this into something that looks like a family tree dating back to the 1500s.

Oh, and then we add the MarTech, the AdTech and numerous other system integrations and data feeds to make it all happen. And that’s even before we develop the communications.

But most customer experiences don’t just require smart thinking and sophisticated tech. They also require human interaction. In fact, for many organisations, a large part of the customer experience is delivered entirely by its people. Actual real-life humans. Yet, often, the ‘people’ part of a customer’s journey is treated either as an afterthought or is absent altogether – the silent ‘P’ in CX.

Before you roll your eyes and surmise that it’s some other department’s responsibility to engage internal teams, think again. The impressions, events or occurrences delivered by our people are sometimes more important than the ones that are controlled by even the best CX design or tech.

Creating the magic

This was recently illustrated on a trip I took to Disneyland in Hong Kong. I wasn’t too keen on it, but I have two kids under the age of 10 and figured I would just slap a smile on my face and suck it up for two days and nights.

Interestingly, my Disneyland experience lacked exactly what I spend most of my time planning with clients. Aside from a solid UX experience thanks to live chat when enquiring about hotel rooms, they didn’t follow me around the internet re-targeting to convert me, there was nothing outside the traditional booking confirmation email to get me excited about my trip, and I didn’t receive any offers whatsoever to pre-purchase a Disney transfer from the airport, meals in the park, or special fast passes to meet Mickey and Minnie.

Yet once we walked through the park arches, it was the best customer experience. Ever. And it was all delivered by people who were engaged in the brand.

Power to the people

The Disney crew live the Disney brand. Every team member, from the hot dog stand cashier to the hotel concierge, concluded their conversations with “have a magical day”. They bent over backwards to take a ludicrous number of family photographs with the other crew in costume. Even the parade dancers on Main Street had unlimited waves and high fives for us.

So, yes, the rides were thrilling and, yes, my experience would have been so much more had it been optimised both pre- and post-visit, but it was the people that made Disneyland. The well-trained, empowered and engaged crew that delivered hit after hit of events and occurrences that left a lasting and positive brand experience.

We often hear that a great CX strategy needs to touch every part of a company – and it does. If not for the reasons of strategic alignment or governance, certainly for the pure and simple fact that your people can make – or break – any well-thought-out and expensively orchestrated customer experience.

Three 'P' keys

  1. Listen to your people

    Operate at the coal face when you’re researching how to develop the ultimate customer experience. Jump on calls, walk store floors, talk to the teams who engage with the customers you’re targeting on a daily basis. Not only will you learn valuable lessons that will form the foundations of your strategy, but you’ll become the voice of the customer and the people that directly serve your customer.
  2. Empower your people

    Accept that, while rules and policies are in place to protect all parties, they sometimes need to be bent to help the customer. Giving your teams the freedom – and therefore the courage – to do the wrong thing for the right reason can create loyal, influential brand custodians.

  3. Engage your people

    Ask yourself whether your people are empowered through their training, their KPIs, and your reward and recognition programs. Is training carried out in a rock star conference style or dictated via a bland, 50-page word document? Are rewards solely commercial-based? Or are there softer measures in place where individuals are recognised for positive customer feedback?
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