Check out the mission statements of most organizations, and there’s a good chance you will see some reference to customer service, customer experience or ‘customer centric.’ Sounds great, right? But listen to the conversations in the boardrooms and meeting rooms, however, and those are rarely the areas that are really being addressed. Those conversations revolve far more around revenue, productivity and marketing strategy. Oh, sure, ‘customer experience’ comes up, but it’s usually in the context about how to create the appearance of customer centricity.
I remember back in the early 90’s, when Sears Canada lost a whopping $90 million dollars. Their response? Rather than get better at engaging their fleeing customers, they decided to cut costs by laying-off a giant chunk of their in-store workplace. A colleague remarked, ‘pretty soon they’ll just be turning the cash registers around and making customers do all the work themselves.’ We both laughed – not remotely suspecting that 20 years later, that’s exactly where the world would be headed.
Are You Serving Customers – Or Processing Them?
In today’s world, we have self-serve checkouts, and outsourced call centres filled with people who’s focus isn’t on serving customers, but on processing them as quickly and cheaply as possible. I have heard more than one senior executive talk about how much more money they could make if they could just focus on their business instead of having to deal with ‘customer service issues.’ Seriously – they say that.
The companies that do get it – and there are very few truly customer-centric companies – understand that customer experience can’t just be something a company offers – it has to be the company’s sole focus. It’s all about loyalty.
Loyalty From Customers Comes From Loyalty TO Customers
In today’s ultra-transparent world, there is no way in Hell you can expect loyalty from your customers, if you aren’t genuinely loyal to them. And just like the loyalty you have for your friends, it means you have to have their backs, and make sure that you’re always there for them. Playing silly cost cutting games with telephone IVRs pretending to be people, outsourced call centre agents pretending to be empowered or self-serve options pretending to be conveniences certainly don’t send that message.
Most companies’ loyalty to customers pretty much seems to stop the second they have the customers’ money in our hands – yet we wonder why our customers aren’t loyal to us. It’s time for us all to look in the mirror and do a little integrity check.