Customer experience: The importance of being humanVivek Subramaniam
We live in a digital world. A connected world. A flat world. Interestingly with all connections, we seem distinctly disconnected, with all the flatness there are more silos and hierarchy.
Data and the intelligence it brings is needed and a must. However, like they say balance between the ‘science’ and ‘art’ is key.
In a world where business results are often measured using cold, hard numbers, the human angle or the experience we go through seems to be progressively diminishing.
In all my interactions with senior leaders, one common theme that comes across is ‘Increasing customer experience’ or ‘Improving employee experience.’ Yet, somehow, with all the pressures we face, this seems to be taking a beating.
There is no point having all the intelligence at play if you don’t want to pick the clients call or the client does not want to deal with you. There is no point in predictive analytics of knowing when someone will quit if there is no professional relationship at play.
A very senior sales person once told me, the client should feel really really bad when they fire you for their business reasons. If they don’t, you did not build a psychological contract. The same holds true with an employee when they leave.
So, how do you build this psychological contract and create a great experience?
If we were to draw parallels with Maslow’s theory (we could call it Maslow of the Human Experience), the depth of any client-seller relationship is governed by these four levels.
Level 1 – The Basic Hygiene
In general, there are some base level hygiene items to keep in mind as a bare minimum.
• Responsiveness – Communicate, communicate and communicate. Respond to mails and messages within the stipulated time. Close the loop out and do not keep people hanging.
• Timeliness: Someone once said, for a 5:00 PM meeting, five minutes to five is on time and 5:00 PM is late. Keep people informed and respect the other person’s time.
Elementary as they may sound, many a times, these are areas that lead to a lot of challenges resulting in not so great experiences.
Level 2 - Stay True to the Cause
This is about being straight forward and objective. You get hired to solve a specific issue. Can we stay true to the cause and not get caught up in the organization’s politics? We all like people who are able to stay focused and work with the approach – you see what you get, you get what you see.
Level 3 - Demonstrate ‘I Care’
While the first two are probably sufficient in any short-term, transactional relationship, building a sustained client engagement requires a deeper involvement. For someone to trust you with making a real difference to their business, the relationship can’t be defined simply by a list of deliverables.
Have you moved from ‘tasks’ to ‘outcomes’? The willingness to think FOR the client and have your own skin in the game makes a huge impact. Often, this means building deep, real connections at a human level.
Level 4 - Show Empathy
Empathy is about your ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and being able to understand and appreciate their world view. At this level, relationships are far more enduring and likely to sustain far beyond the current role or current company. To build relationships that last a lifetime, empathy is essential.
Finally, data matters, but no matter which way we look at it: relationships matters more. Businesses are about people coming together to achieve an objective. The destination is super critical but the experience of the journey is the true differentiator.