There are two dynamics in this that make those companies successful:
First, they've found a way to connect their offering to improving people's lives.
Second, and perhaps most important, they've communicated this connection up, down and sideways throughout their organization, so that every employee acts it out in their jobs, every single day. That's called engagement and alignment, and companies that have it are successful in a lot of ways.
Let's go back to the first point - finding a way to connect their offering to improving people's lives...
Some products lend themselves to this "connection" more easily than others. For example, a hospital, or pharmaceutical company have obvious and direct connections to improving people's lives. But what if your product doesn't fall neatly within the spectrum of health care? What if you sell auto parts, or snack food? There's still a connection - you just have to find it.
One of the ways to finding it is to look for the positive emotions that can be associated with the use your product. A couple famous examples come to find: The Michelin Tire Baby Ad, and the Pepsi Generation. Tires by themselves don't necessarily trigger the "improving lives" emotion. And as for cola, well, it's sugar water - the kind of stuff that your doctor probably tells you to stay away from.
But both Michelin and Pepsi successfully uncovered the raw human emotion that can be triggered by the use of their products, and suddenly, each became very much associated with improving people's lives.
So how about your product? How does, or how can it make better the lives of the people that use it?
And when you figure it out, share it with your employees. Help every one of your employees connect the dots between what they do in their jobs, to the use of your product, by the end customer.
See the issue from the customer's perspective - use empathy.
Resolve the issue entirely.
So, then - what's the customer's role?
The customer's role is to treat the employee with respect and empathy - not unlike the employer's role.
Here's where I expect a lot of readers to say, "No, that's not true - I'm the paying customer - without me, the employee has no job, and the employer has no business. My role is soley to make the purchase."
Customers can impact their own experience.
I've been there - and I suspect you have too. I remember being stranded in an airline terminal, and being less-than-reasonable with the airline's customer service representative. Despite my rudeness, he remained polite, calmly explained the situation, and I begrudgingly accepted it. I walked away felling less than satisfied - the outcome didn't put me in a better position, and I didn't feel particularly good about myself after giving the guy such a hard time. After all, the flight delay wasn't his fault.
Contrast this with a similar situation, when I went out of my way to be empathetic and compassionate with the service representative. In return, I felt like I was receiving a more personal treatment - the representative quietly gave me a restaurant voucher so that I could enjoy enjoy dinner in the terminal, while I waited out the delay. Yes, my customer experience was a better one the second time, and I suspect it had a lot to do with the way I acted toward the employee.
I'm not saying that as customers, we should treat our servers better so that we can get more from, but I am saying that if we make it a point to treat them better - with empathy, compassion and respect every time out, we just might trigger some customer service karma that will make the experience better for everyone - including us.
Two key traits of any customer-facing employee are the ability to anticipate needs, and the desire to help. And there's one demographic group that surely has both: retired professionals who aren't quite ready to settle down.
During a recent flight from the airport in Portland, Maine, I stopped to check the board that lists the arriving and departing flights. A gentleman in a purple vest surprised me, by asking if I needed any help. That was Henry, one of 7 "Ambassador" volunteers at the airport. The role of the Ambassadors is to make it easy for travelers to navigate their way through the airport, and arrive at their gates, stress-free.
Ambassadors are positioned in "hot spots," or locations where customers are likely to have needs. For example, when security lines are long, several Ambassadors are stationed at the entrance to security; they direct customers to the correct line, and help them anticipate what they'll need to do up ahead (i.e. remove belts, shoes, etc.)
Airport security lines are a notorious source of delays, but as Henry explained, the Ambassadors are focused on minimizing the time that customers spend in line. In fact, the efforts of the Ambassadors helped to reduce the average wait times during peak periods to under 6 minutes! Those results are beneficial beyond the customer experience; they also have positive impact on security operations: shorter lines can reduce staffing requirements, and improve employee satisfaction. Just as happier employees make happier customers, the reverse is also true.
The Ambassador program is also designed to improve the experience for arriving customers. When there's a concentration of inbound flights, more Ambassadors are stationed in the baggage-claim area, where customers may need help finding the right carousel.
Portland International Jetport has identified a productive way to tap into the positive attributes and experience of recent retirees to create a more positive customer experience, by positioning their Ambassadors in common "hot spots." This "roving Ambassador" concept can be applied to most any business, where customers are physically present.
What are the areas in which customers most often need help?
Where can you pre-empt confusion by placing cheerful, knowledgeable employees?
What bottlenecks can be reduced by having employees marshal customers through a process?
PWM's Ambassadors make travelling a whole lot easier - whether you're coming or going!
I recently added a second cable box to our home, so that we could watch college basketball games on the extra TV. But the box didn't work.
I followed the instructions to set it up, but there was only a bunch of rapidly-changing scrambled numbers in that place that should have shown the time and channel. I checked to be sure the cabling and power cords were plugged in correctly - they were- then re-set the box, and waited several minutes. Still nothing.
I called Time Warner Cable Technical Support, and young-sounding representative had me re-do what I just did, then she tried to re-set the box remotely. After getting the same "scrambled number" results, she admitted, "I've never seen this happen before."
At that point, I thanked her for her efforts, and asked to speak with a "more experienced" technician. She said she would gladly transfer the call, but first, "Would I be willing to complete a quick 3-question survey?"
I thanked her for the opportunity to provide feedback, but explained that I didn't feel it made sense complete the survey until the problem was solved.
A few minutes later, I was speaking to a more senior supervisor who quickly concluded that I was given a faulty cable box, and that I could exchange it for a good box at Time Warner office a few miles from my home. I agreed.
Then this more experienced supervisor surprised me by asking me the same question his subordinate did: "Would I be willing to complete a brief satisfaction survey?"
My answer was the same - I didn't think it made sense complete a satisfaction survey until the problem was fully solved. And fully-solved meant that I'd be able to watch college basketball games on the big TV downstairs.
Here's the Point:
Customer satisfaction surveys are intended to monitor and improve the level of customer experience, by understanding the customers' current levels of satisfaction with the service provided and the experience delivered. The ultimate focus of those surveys is the customer.
When a survey response is requested before the service is delivered, it's often because the CSR's bonus is tied to survey results. When that's the case, the CSR's will often aggressively "distribute" surveys after every interaction, in the spirit of bolstering their bonuses. From this customer's perspective, the message became, "Help ME get a bigger bonus, even though I didn't solve YOUR problem today."
Satisfaction surveys should only be delivered after the job is completely finished. Sending them out sooner causes two potential problems:
The customer gets the idea that the survey is more important than the solution and the experience; they feel the company is more "survey serving" than "customer serving." And customers tend to defect from companies like that.
The survey responses lose their meaning, because they're not connected to the intended outcome, and the company begins making decisions off of bad data. Decisions made from bad data tend to be bad decisions; bad for the company, and bad for the customer.
Only after the job is finished can a customer be truly satisfied, and only then can those survey responses have any meaning worth measuring.