Many people work in repetitive customer service jobs – check-outs, ticket sellers, bank tellers and cashiers, to name just a few. These jobs can be mundane and often thankless.
Each day they have hundreds of relatively brief contacts – moments of truth – with customers. Or put a little differently, they have hundreds of opportunities to create a positive, negative or bland experience for customers.
These customer-facing people are therefore highly visible brand ambassadors, who shape customer opinions of the brand.
So, how do these repetitive task brand ambassadors deliver a great customer experience?
The short answer is by delivering on the brilliant basics. That is, by consistently delivering on the basic functional and emotional expectations of their customers.
Let me explain…
We had just got off an international flight. We made our way to the airport security queue, waiting for our hand luggage, and ourselves, to be screened. The flight was full, so the queue was long.
The people who work in this job play an important role. Day in, day out, they have to be on constant alert for suspicious looking people, and dangerous or illegal materials. It’s thankless and it can be stressful.
What would it take for a passenger to say that he or she had a “good” experience, going through this security check?
Step into my shoes for a few minutes to get some clues to the answer.
Top of mind, I wanted to get through security quickly. I want it to be a no-fuss process. Those are my basic functional or rational needs. At an emotional level, I would appreciate just a small amount of the human touch – even an acknowledgement or smile. This would be particularly important to me if I have been waiting in line for quite a while.
These basic needs seem pretty simple. But what followed was to prove to be the low point of our experience in Europe.
Let’s zoom back into the security area…
Only one security conveyor belt was operating. The others were lying idle. Maybe there were budget cuts. Maybe the other belts were not working.
With nothing better to do than wait in line, all customer eyes were on the security team. They seemed to be in their own zone. Passengers were being “security-processed” in an impersonal manner. The staff showed no humanity at all towards the customers.
The queue was moving slowly – really slowly. Watching the staff go about their work in what seemed to be a glum manner made the wait seem even longer.
After about 20 minutes, the queuing passengers were getting impatient and irritated. One of them complained to a passing a staff member. The response was some sort of mumbled grunt which had the tone of “So tell me something new”. This “brush-off” increased the level of customer irritation. The line suddenly seemed to be moving even more slowly.
Now let’s do a quick time-out. There was only one hand luggage screening conveyor belt in operation, and it moved at one speed. So, in reality, the speed of the queue was governed by the speed of the conveyor belt.
The staff were probably stressed because this was yet another long line of passengers, some of whom would complain about the wait. And there would be more planes to follow.
So, what could they have done to create a good customer experience?
Let me “re-wind” the scenario and “re-create history” as follows.
People arrive in the queue. Someone from security moves down the line of waiting people and apologises, saying that there is only one conveyor belt operating. He explains that the team is working as fast as it can to get people through as quickly as possible.
While people may not be happy with this news, their expectations have been managed. They now expect to wait.
Message 1: If there is a delay, let people know, and keep them informed.
Let’s move onto the emotional side of the customer experience.
Members of the security team do their jobs efficiently, and with a human touch. They acknowledge passengers as they go through the security screen. They apologise for the wait. The customer feels acknowledged.
People waiting in the queue notice the human touch being given to their fellow passengers. It puts them in a better mood. They see that the security staff are doing their best. They leave the security area feeling sorry for the overworked and stressed security staff.
Message 2: When you are pleasant to the customer in front of you, the good mood will be contagious to other customers.
So, getting back to our question: how do people in repetitive service positions deliver the “brilliant basics” to give a good customer experience?
The answer is pretty simple.
First, your organisation needs to understand what the brilliant basics are. They typically revolve around basic functional and emotional needs eg speed, ease, convenience delivered with a friendly, human touch.
Second, in your induction and training, create pride that, while the jobs may seem “mundane”, they are highly visible brand ambassadorship positions. Make participants aware that they have an opportunity to be their best at each moment of truth. And train them to be their best by delivering on the brilliant basics.
It all gets down to the basics. Do them well, do them consistently and you will deliver them brilliantly to create happy customers.
Until next time.