By Lucy Kiruthu (An abridged version of a speech shared during the KCB monthly tea break on Wednesday 29th January 2014)
Do you have someone that you can call at 3am and they will not complain that you have interrupted their sleep? Do you have people that do not consult their diaries when you have an emergency? Do you have people that never leave you out? These we call our friends! We all have friends.
We also have another group of people, they pay our salaries; we come to work every day because of them, without them our companies would not exist. These people are more demanding than ever before, they live in the microwave generation, they use instant showers, the mobile phone and the internet are the greatest inventions of their times, they want it now. These people are very informed, they are smarter but also they are less forgiving, and above all they have options. In fact their options are just a click away – they have a choice. These we call our customers!
There is yet another group of people that is very important. They either make our work quite easy or they make our work extremely difficult. Without them our jobs cannot get done. They are all around us; they are Very Interesting People (VIPs). These we call our colleagues or better still we call them our internal customers!
Every day we interact, we interact with our friends and with our customers both internal and external I want to share with you 3 insights about these 3 groups of people.
The 1st insight is that we need to connect with these people!
We feel good having friends around us and they hurt our feelings when they do the unexpected. We connect with our friends at an emotional level, no doubt about that! We feel them, they feel us.
Let us talk about our customers. What has Coke got to do with open Happiness or KCB got to do with making a difference? Great companies are those that recognize the need to connect with their customers at an emotional level. They are aware that studies have revealed – that 75% of customers’ perceptions and over 50% of their decisions are driven by how they feel about the company, its people, its processes, about the brand as a whole.
Imagine only about 25% of what our customers think and feel about us has anything to do with their functional needs we may be meeting the functional needs but customers want more. Customers like to feel important. Following up on a customer request, offering a seat, having a fast moving queue, a location and opening hours that are convinient, an operational ATM, a good morning, a parking space, a friendly, helpful and concerned staff, a thank you on the telephone all these are basics that help us to connect with our customers.
Every point of interaction whether face to face, via the telephone, on social media, on emails, via the statements, via marketing communications materials etc offers an opportunity to connect with our customers.
Tony the Zappos CEO says “every call is perceived as a way to make a positive emotional connection with a customer”
When we have a strong bond with our customers at all points of interaction they feel great about being our customers. They can see and they can feel that we are not just trying to be nice and helpful at the contact centre or at the customer service desk but that across the entire organization we are putting them first.
What about our other VIPs. A friendly work environment is one where staff connect with each other at every opportunity. They do not wait for team building events to connect but every day they take a sincere interest in each other. Do we make our collegues feel good about being part of this team? When they come to our office, send us a work related email or call us they are not an interruption, it is an opportunity to help and to connect. I had an opportunity to work at Wal-Mart stores – the largest retailer in the world; we were referred to as associates because we were connected by our deep desire to serve with excellence! On our tags, it said our people make the difference!
Helen Keller once said “the best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart”.
My second insight is that it takes commitment, it took a commitment to get married for some of you and it has taken commitment to stay married. It takes commitment to remain a long-term friend. Let me not dwell too much on that because I am not an expert in those kinds of relationships. But there is a relationship that I have taken a keen interest on, the relationship between an organization and its customers. A relation that starts when we connect and blossoms when we commit.
Organizations that are committed to long-lasting relationships with their customers know that everyone both in the frontline and in the back office has a role to play in making those relationships work. Individuals that are committed to a strong relationship with their customers both internal and external know that it takes personal responsibility.
Vince Lombardi a celebrated American football coach once said “individual commitment to a group effort — that is what makes a family, a team, a company, a society, a nation work”.
Are we committed to understanding our customers’ needs and expectations? Are we committed to meeting and even exceeding these needs and expectations? Customers like to feel important. Are we committed to making them feel important, do they feel that we care at every point of interaction? Are we committed to making it easier for them to do business with us? We all have a personal responsibility to make it happen.
Customers both internal and external can feel and can see our commitment through our everyday actions and reactions. Let our actions and reactions show that we are committed to putting the customer first. Let us listen and listen some more to our customer’ feedback, it might surprise us.
When your collegue walks to your desk – ask them…. how may I help you? That shows your commiment to serving each other internally. If you do it internally you will excel externally. Working together as a team starts with individual commitment
Moving on to the 3rd insight….. Who has hosted a party at their home recently? I have no doubt that your good friends were at the top of your guest list.
In their 1980 hit song Celebration Kool and the Gang proposes that we need to celebrate and have a good time. Are we having a good time with each other and with our customers? My 3rd insight is that we need to celebrate our customers.
Jeff Bezzo the founder and CEO of Amazon.com compares customers to guests invited to a party. He says that at Amazon.com we see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. He goes on to say …. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better. I have been their customer for more than a decade and I can attest to this.
As a team we have the responsibility to make the moments with our customers memorable. Think about your own expectations as a customer, they are not where they were 5 years ago. Your customers’ expectations too are not where they were 10, 5, 3 years ago. They have risen and continoue to rise. Let us always seek ways to make the customers’ experiences a little bit better. In my book “Customer Service at its Best” one of the thoughts that I share is that if we do not take good care of our customers someone else will.
Let us remember our Customers are friends with benefits, the internal ones our colleagues (our VIPs) they help us get our jobs done. The external ones in addition to paying our salaries are or can become our brand ambassadors – walking / talking adverts for the brand. It’s a friendship with benefits.
To sum-it all up, our ability to connect with each other and with your customers, our commitment to build strong relationship with our customers and our intent to make the moments memorable requires ACTION. The Chinese have an interesting saying “Talk does not cook rice”
We must take ACTION.
- Are there good things happening at your company that we must continue with? Let us keep going
- Are there some things that we must stop doing because they do not add any value to our customer’s experiences? Let us stop
- Are there are some things that we are not doing and we must start doing because they will make us better? Let us start
Alexander Dumas says “Friendship consists in forgetting what one gives and remembering what one receive”. Let us remember that our external customers are the reason we come to work everyday and that our internal customers help us get the job done. To make a difference, we need both as our friends.
Let us make our customers our friends. Let us make our customers feel good about being our customers! Let us hold on to our customers for life.
Is your customer your friend?