Written by Silvana Buljan for Buljan & Partners Consulting
Many organizations invest important efforts in defining guidelines, process maps, customer journeys, compliance rules and so on for giving employees guidance in human interactions, especially with customers and suppliers. The basis for these guidelines is often a rather transactional and functional view on customer experience, without touching the emotional part of the experience.
But what exactly is the emotional part of the experience? That an employee is smiling and welcoming a customer when entering into a department store for instance? Or is it the hairdresser taking care of a baby girl while her mother is enjoying a hair treatment? It can be both, and it can be none of them – the key is the authenticity and presence that I´m embodying as person delivering the experience.
Sounds complex, but actually is pretty easy:
Authenticity means we are not fake, and our emotional behavior reflects the mood we “are in”. The main moods we move around are peace/acceptance, ambition, resentment, and resignation. It´s not related to a specific event, it´s the background from which we act. If our mood is resentment, and our corporate guideline expects us to smile when welcoming a customer, this smile will probably not be perceived as authentic. Then it´s probably better not to smile, and at least our customer is not disappointed because of a fake one. What is the appropriate behavior in that case? To let my customer suffer from the resentment my employee feels? No, the option is to create an environment where resentment does not feel at home – neither for my employee, nor for my customer. There is a whole industry in architectural design, feng-shui and many other concepts aiming at the wellbeing of physical environments. And there is the option to facilitate connection and engagement between employees to create positive moods.
Presence means we “are here”. We do not do several things at the same time when interacting with a customer. Recently I had an interesting experience in a department store where the same person was in charge of giving advice on books, charging them, allocating new shipping into the desks, and taking care of complaints. It was practically impossible for her to deliver a great experience, because she could just not be present. Being present also means not thinking of many other things while interacting with a customer. I cannot connect to customers if I think of the status of my To Do list and all the things I still have to finish before going home. Again, as a company I have a direct and strong influence on this behavior, and by doing what I like to do: creating processes and workflows, structuring things. The crucial difference is that this structure needs to support employees instead of creating more tasks or doing the job of colleagues who have left the team.
As organization I must facilitate an environment that supports authenticity and presence, as employee I choose to be authentic and present. If both conditions are fulfilled, the probability for moving from transactional to experiential is very high.