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I have earned and maintained Superhost status with Airbnb for years. What does that have to do with IT Support? Nothing and everything!
The customer experience is not dependent on an industry. Its focus is, of course, on the people who participate in the services and products we support and provide, namely the customer.
It’s hard to be a customer in today’s world. Bad experiences come to mind more quickly than any good experience; great experiences are rarer still. The customer experience is more than the singular topic of “customer service.”
Whereas, customer satisfaction measures part of a singular touch, I believe that the customer experience identifies a “cradle to grave” approach, easy access, ownership, and heart.
I don’t want to say how long ago it was, but I had a job as a secret shopper. Every week the company would send me the mark, the business they wanted me to visit. They would tell me what to ask for and how to act. I would spend 15–20 minutes at that business, and then it would take me two hours to complete the reports and mail them off.
Later in life, during the Internet age, I started a little blog and magazine article writing around restaurants, “The Undercover Diner,” another secret shopper experience. I would pop into a restaurant in whatever city I was in, assess the usual things like atmosphere, service, price, cleanliness, and, of course, food. I then compared my reviews to other’s to see if they were similar, and then I would review those reviews and remark rather sarcastically if I thought they were ridiculously kind or not.
What is it about NOT knowing that you are being assessed as an agent for your customer care? It allows the truth of how you feel about your jobs to come out! That is why I appreciate the secret shopper experience. One gets a true picture of how a customer really gets treated.
Why can’t we simply be kind and helpful in our own right? I believe that organizations make it way too hard for us to do that. It seems that we need to measure everything, but are we actually measuring the truth?
We often concentrate on time limits on the phones or at deskside, a value of quantity over quality. We also value the metrics more than the people performing the jobs that provide the metrics.
Providing the customer with a fantastic experience goes beyond measurements. We should provide that level of experience because we have something to give and something to teach. We then become the heroes of our own story. We get to give. We give things that people need or provide information to help them along their way. What a mark of respect.
The most important thing about the customer experience is not the numbers, it’s the heart of the person who is giving it. It should not be a burden. It should be an honor and a pleasure.
Back to Airbnb. I have been an Airbnb host for four years. I have earned the slender achievement of Superhost. Yes, it made me feel good, but that is NOT what motivates me. I have lived in hotels as part of my job for the past 27 years. I have identified what works and what doesn’t work when it comes to hospitality and have a desire to provide my guests a fantastic experience that would remain in their psyche long after they are gone.
It starts and finishes with kind and thorough communication; I communicate the way I would like to be communicated with. I inquire: what do they love to do or drink. I get to know them as much as I can before they come. I provide something special that is specifically for them. If they are celebrating an anniversary, I might provide some flowers and perhaps some champagne. I make sure that the environment is spotlessly clean; that they have everything they need in the room. From there, if I get to meet them upon check in, I greet them with a smile, help carry their bags, introduce them to the space, and go over the expectations for them as guests (SLAs). I am available if there are questions or other things that come up, make recommendations for activities or places to eat, and then send them on their way with a smile and a hug.
Yes, this is about their experience, but in juxtaposition, it’s about me. It is my desire to share my knowledge, to be a representative of hospitality, to be a knowledge base, to create a feeling that they will not forget. It’s about a heart of service.
After all the years of working in the service and support industry and certifying agents and managers, I am always surprised with agents’ reactions to this information: a particular HDI standard states that, “75% of customer satisfaction has to do with meeting the customer’s psychological needs, while only 25% has to do with meeting their technical needs.” Our people get into this business to work on computers. They misunderstand that there are actually people that they have to deal with. And in my lengthy experience, most of us in IT have a people problem. Let’s be truthful.
I cannot tell you how many times I have heard this statement:
“Our customers are just plain stupid.”
That has come out of not only agents and technicians, but also from managers’ mouths in front of me.
What I want to say to them (but don’t) is, “Get out of IT and get a different job!” IT is NO place for someone who feels and thinks that way.
Think about this. If we did not measure the customer experience and our jobs didn’t rely so heavily on those metrics, would it still be a thriving, kind, and helpful environment?
There is also a huge difference between a good customer experience and an extraordinary one. What is that difference? I don’t think it has anything to do with the specific actions of our agents or technicians. I think it has everything to do with their hearts. Either you have a heart for service or you don’t and are simply there for a paycheck. If the latter is true, your numbers will never mount up.
In this case, the customer experience relies solely on the agent’s internal moral guide of empathy, kindness, and service, not their technical ability. Processes are important, yet they drive a different part of this conversation.
Deep, I know.
I wanted to give you something to chew on here. And as you noodle this around, you might need to make some changes in your organization that have to do with something other than processes. You might need to do some coaching. You might need to make some staff adjustments.
Look at what is really happening to your people. Are they simply burnt out? Or are they just not suited for the service industry. That’s your call to make. Whatever decision you do make, make it with the entire customer experience in mind.
Deborah Monroe is one of eighteen Master EQ practitioners in the world, through the Global EQ Community of 6 Seconds. She's also an associate with the Institute for Organizational Performance and an HDI business associate. Working with all levels of executive leadership, management, and individual contributors, Deborah concentrates on integrating humans and process to create a balanced working environment. Her aim is to build understanding and empathy, creating a positive bottom line through employee and customer retention.
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