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6-steps to improve Customer Experience through Staff Engagement

Silvia Myers

Silvia Myers, Founder of Bright Cherry

02 June 2016

With Customer Experience trending high on executives’ to-do lists, many organisations are keeping busy figuring out ideal recipes to satisfy their customers’ taste buds while following the organisation’s overall strategy.

Topics such as Omni-channel interactions and Big Data strategies are high on agendas and whilst they are extremely important, there is a certain ingredient of customer experience that we tend to leave untouched- Our People.

“Sometimes we forget that companies are made out of individuals and it’s the joint effort of all individuals who create the experience for our customers.“

How we went cruisin’

We went on a holiday recently and unlike anything that we’ve done before, we decided to go on a cruise around the Pacific Islands.

Staying on a boat for ten days, locked in with people you aren’t sure you are going to like isn’t really something we would normally feel excited about, but failing to make holiday plans in time, we decided to give this a shot.

From the moment we stepped out of the taxi, my experience was far beyond my expectations. There were many reasons why I was a happy camper; including avoiding an airport or any sort of queues.

“However, the main reason why I was so pleased with the overall customer experience wasn’t due to any of the perks- it was because of the staff who made up the experience.”

From the minute we embarked to the moment we disembarked, we were addressed with our first names, serviced by extremely happy and accommodating teams and had every special request or any question attended to with time, care and personable response.

“Every single process or an activity was ticking around us, all we had to do was turn up. There was no hassle, no one ever said things like “that’s not my job” and I never heard that something “can’t be done”.

And all of that while being on a moving vessel which in a single day serves over 9,000 meals, cleans over 1,500 rooms and carries over 3,000 passengers and crew.

“How?” I kept asking myself the whole time? How is it possible, that everything works so well on such a large scale and how does everyone manage to have so much enthusiasm, energy and the culture of going the extra mile for you?

A recipe for success

Being a consultant on holidays, I couldn’t help myself but to dig deeper into the topic. I observed, interviewed, questioned, probed and analysed and at the end of the holiday, I had a recipe for success:

1. All staff understood their purpose

The company had a clear customer strategy- to make the holidays for their customers easy and fun while being safe. Regardless of the position, each staff member would quote that their job was to make your holiday easy and fun while being safe. Therefore, all activities staff performed on a daily basis had to support that overarching goal.

2. All staff acknowledged that they chose to be there

For those of you who have never been on a cruise ship, let me tell you that working on a ship is extremely hard. Your average employee doesn’t get a full day off for about 7 months. Yet, I did not find a single staff member who would complain about the conditions. Regardless of how many times I probed, the response was always along the same lines- “the job is hard and we don’t get much time off but no one forced us to do this and we are here because we want to be. We chose the job and we are happy that the company chose us”.

3. Staff had a clear career progression path and clear steps on how to achieve it

Unlike so many other hospitality jobs, the cruise ship staff knew exactly what are the steps they need to take to climb to positions such as the maître d, the comedy club manager or a cruise ship entertainment director. The career path was clear, engaging, obtainable and evaluated on a regular basis.

4. Leaders were vocal about staff appreciation

Whenever possible, the leadership teams mentioned individual staff names, introduced their teams to guests and each of the leaders was openly proud of having “the best team” ever. Saying “thank you” is so simple and powerful and yet costs absolutely nothing.

5. Staff engagement surveys

Just like getting feedback from customers, the company constantly surveyed staff as well to ensure staff are happy and engaged and to get ideas on how to engage them even more.

6. Leading by example

The most powerful of all my observations though, was how the cruise leaders were practicing what they preached. Just like every other staff member who had just started, the cruise director was out there amongst the guests, the first one to start, the last one to finish and yet without fail always full of energy. The first one to accommodate customers’ requests, give one a nice smile or share a laugh. Just like children mimic their parents, staff copy their managers. The behaviour leaders display is more important than we might think.

Focusing on programs, technicalities and features can bring valuable improvements to your customer experience. However, all organisations are made out of people and only when we manage to get the best out of them do we get the best for our customers too.

Does any of this resonate with you? I’m looking forward to hearing about your exceptional experiences.

Silvia is the Founder of Bright Cherry, a customer centric consultancy specialising in helping entrepreneurs and small business owners understand their customers and build successful businesses around that. The fact is that 90% of entrepreneurs fail and one of the reasons is that majority of businesses don’t understand their target market. Get in touch to join the growing network of successful entrepreneurs committed to reach new heights through delivering to their customers’ wants and needs.