A great deal of my work as a Customer Experience Specialist involves the recounting of stories. Contrary to popular belief, not all of the stories I tell are of the negative variety! As students of Customer Experience will attest, the use of storytelling to ‘bring to life’ the benefits and consequences of ‘operationalising’ Customer Experience is hugely beneficial. Whilst it is often easy to focus on experiences that fall a long way short of meeting customer expectations (as it happens so often!), it is vitally important to showcase the magical stories that restore our faith in both human nature AND the world of business!
It is a joy to write about Customer Experiences that quite literally WOW us; that send tingles down our spine; that can sometimes bring a tear to the eye. The 1st May 2016 was my Grandma’s 102nd birthday. Yes – you did indeed read that correctly – Pauline Golding is 102 ‘not out’!! Two years ago, I had the enormous pleasure of sharing the story of her 100th birthday and the amazing actions of four ladies from McDonald’s. If you have not read it or heard me talk about it, you can find it here.
What these ladies demonstrated was the overwhelming power of caring about customers. The joy that can be bestowed to and upon people by others who take the time to ‘think’ and ‘act’ in a truly, genuinely, authentically customer centric way is astonishing. One of the most customer centric brands in the world, The Ritz Carlton refers to this behaviour as ‘Making Memories’. They believe that customers should remember the Ritz Carlton for the right reason – hugely positive ones. As a result, all Ritz Carlton employees are empowered to do what it takes to ‘Make Memories’. If you have never done so, you MUST take a few minutes to read some of the inspiring memories that have been made by their people – have a box of tissues at the ready though – some of them are very emotional!
Unless you were born without a heart – or without the ability to feel emotion – it is difficult not to be moved by what the McDonald’s ladies did, or by many of the Ritz Carlton stories. The effect surprising and delighting customers can have on everyone involved – especially those doing the surprising and delighting – is undeniable. However, is taking action like this really worth it? Yes, it may be charitable and ethical and a nice thing to do, but does it have any effect on the bottom line?!
This last sentence is preempting an inevitable question from those who are either cynical about this kind of thing, or just do not believe that the selfless actions of employees can have any positive effect on the financial performance of an organisation. I regularly share the Ritz Carlton approach to making memories with businesses from all industries and all geographies. Some of these companies do not think that they could ever replicate the Ritz Carlton approach – either due to lack of available investment, or lack of buy-in and commitment from senior leaders.
The thing is, just because the Ritz Carlton is a premium brand in the hospitality sector does not mean that they are in an exclusive position to behave in this way. A global financial services business I have been working with considered this very carefully. Inspired by some unbelievably determined and capable Customer Experience Professionals, they wanted to challenge the status quo and see if the same behaviour could be afforded to their people and customers.
The result has been stunning. With a surprisingly small budget and immeasurable amounts of determination, this company’s people have now been making ‘magical memories’ for the last six months. Birthday cards; photo frames; holiday brochures; charity stair climbs; are just some examples of the ‘props’ they have used to ‘think’ about appropriate ways to ‘surprise and delight’ customers – often with a backdrop of quite harrowing circumstances. They are doing it quite simply because it is ‘the right thing to do’ – because they care. The effect on people – employees and customers – brings tears to the eyes.
It is just a shame that I cannot share any of their stories with you. What I can tell you – well the cynics anyway – is that the introduction of ‘magical moments’ in this particular company has led to almost a halving of attrition in their contact centre. One particular customer touched by a magical moment was so moved; he decided to reinvest some funds into the company. This one customer has resulted in a return on investment for the whole initiative of 200%!!! The desire of this business to do the right thing has in turn been the right thing for the bottom line.
Don’t just take my word for it though – or the Ritz Carlton’s for that matter. Sir Richard Branson believes that ‘surprises are delightful’ as well. Only last week he wrote about the subject on his Virgin blog – some of the stories he shares are fabulous – you can read it here…
The common theme running through all of the organisations who desire to surprise and delight customers is that they do not need to spend a huge sum of money doing so. This is not about money per se – it is more fundamentally about mindset and behaviour – enabling behaviours where you allow people to THINK beyond day to day tasks. You enable people to think about….. people. The effect that doing something nice can have on a person is immeasurable – if only a smile-o-meter existed!!
As Sir Richard Branson says at the end of his blog, ‘we can all do a little bit extra to brighten up somebody’s day’ – the perfect quote to conclude this post!
The global financial services business referred to in this post is Old Mutual Group. On the 4th May 2016, their UK Wealth business received recognition for their work by winning a UK Employee Experience Award -it is hugely deserved – well done ladies!