It Takes a Village to Build a Great Customer Experience

 | 

Long gone are the days when customer service was significant only at the cash register. Nowadays, there are dozens of touch points with customers to make (or break) their experience. Feels like a lot of pressure, doesn’t it? 

Thankfully, it’s clear cut on how to set your company up for customer experience success at every opportunity for interaction, and it starts right in your own office. A few simple changes can make a big, punchy impact and improve your customer service from top to bottom.

Providing the best customer service that will drive better customer outcomes is about a culture that runs through your company. It starts with leadership and extends to company values, hiring, sales, and beyond. 

How can CX boost your business?

One of best examples of a CX-focused culture is found at Nordstrom. In an era when department stores are shuttering at a rapid clip, Nordstrom has maintained a loyal customer base; when you hear how they go above and beyond for their customers, it’s easy to see why (there’s even a book about it!)

Probably the most legendary stories of Nordstrom’s stellar CX is the story of a set of returned car tires:

“A man walked into the Fairbanks, Alaska, Nordstrom department store with two snow tires. He walked up to the counter, put the tires down, and asked for his money back. The clerk, who’d been working there for two weeks, saw the price on the side of the tires, reached into the cash register and handed the man $145.

The customer wanted to return the tires. It did not matter that Nordstrom’s did not sell tires and never sold tires. They sell upscale clothing. 

The clerk accepted the return because that is what the customer wanted.”

Now, it’s not sustainable to go to such extreme lengths all the time, but the importance placed on the customer is what shines through. This isn’t the only remarkable CX story to come out of Nordstrom – it’s a deeply ingrained part of their culture that permeates everything they do. 

Nordstrom retail employees are trained to provide stellar service in ways you might not even notice: salespeople will walk around the counter to hand off your bagged items, rather than across the counter; salespeople are trained to escort you to whatever item you’re looking for instead of pointing; and many more examples. 

Beyond in-store interactions, Nordstrom has also managed to successfully identify how to provide excellent customer experiences beyond the store. Customers can contact Nordstrom through just about every social media platform out there, choose from multiple delivery methods including curbside pickup, same-day delivery, in-store pickup, bring in any (yes, any!) item for tailoring, or have a stylist come to their home. 

Nordstrom’s dedication shows through in more consequential ways than heart-warming stories. While other major retailers are floundering, Nordstrom welcomed an additional two million new customers into its “full-price” stores, opened three new stores, expanded its retail presence with “Nordstrom Local” stores, and their loyalty club expanded by 11 million members who generated 56% of sales in 2018. 

How (exactly) to build a culture of CX success within your company

So it’s clear why it is essential to build a strong culture of CX, but how exactly do you do it? 

There are some essential steps that leaders should take when starting to work toward this kind of a customer service focus in their organizations.

Start with refreshing or updating your company’s core values or principles. Keep in mind that these define the reasons your business exists, and what your employees’ purpose is being at work every day. You want your employees to provide that top-tier customer experiences, so incorporate that in your core values. Then make sure they’re posted everywhere, and ensure they’re tied to how your employees are measured and supported.

Next, you need to get ahead of the curve with your CX culture. That’s all about how you work with your employees, from the moment they’re hired to the day they leave your company.

First, hire the right people. Leaders should be looking for people who already know how to work with customers, who have experience helping them better understand the products they represent and get the most out of the services they’re selling. It’s crucial for leaders to do careful background checks and ask a lot of questions of prospective hires so they can find the people who have proven they will do the right thing for their customers.

Once the right people are in place, coach them. Leaders should train their employees to embody the company culture of CX and handle whatever difficult situations may arise. They should also delegate. Find the CX stars within the company and have them start coaching others to share what they’re doing right. 

A good leader will do more than coach team members, though. It’s also on you to inspire your teams. You are the driving force. It’s your job to make them want to live up to the company culture — to want to help others. Offering incentives like bonuses, raises, and promotions to your team will only go so far. Your team needs to be inspired to help customers for the simple sake of wanting them to have a good experience, not because it’s their job.

And finally, your employees need to be empowered to help customers. You have to give them all the tools they need to give your customers the best possible service. That includes flexibility with their time. If your employees are pressed to finish certain tasks, they won’t have the flexibility to devote enough time to do the right thing, which is seeing each customer support case through to its successful resolution. 

For your business to provide the customer experience that will put it head and shoulders above your competition, it takes changes at all levels. But leadership will ultimately drive those changes to create the culture your company needs to succeed at providing stellar customer service that drives better customer outcomes.