Many customer experience programmes encourage the front-line staff to smile at the customer. This of course makes total sense. A genuine smile is a great way to connect to anyone. You can even hear it over the phone.
But this simple expectation of friendliness creates an interesting management problem. A challenge which stretches all the way to the C-Suite.
After all, how do you make an employee smile?
Genuine smiles don’t appear on command. You can try to prescribe them as part of your training and process manuals. But compliance doesn’t mean sincerity, and customers can spot a fake smile a mile away.
You can also decide to create a wonderful working environment. There’s growing support for the statement that happy employees produce happy customers. Think of it as a modern day variation of the statement that happy cows give more milk.
But also on this path, success isn’t guaranteed. In fact, kindred customer spirit Maurice Fitzgerald even questions whether it leads anywhere. After analysing 345 companies, he could only conclude that: "employee satisfaction does not do anything at all for customers in most industries". While my data-set is more limited, I can only confirm this conclusion. I've even experienced situations with an inverse correlation between employee and customer happiness.
Now don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that employee satisfaction doesn’t contribute at all. But I am saying that to make employees smile at customers, they need to be more than happy to be working for you. They need to enjoy working for the customer. Enjoy providing them with great experiences.
As a leader, this means you need to do three things:
#1. Give your people a reason to get out of bed.
Don’t tell your people to smile at customers as part of hitting their targets. Instead, give them a customer related purpose which they enjoy fulfilling and which will eventually drive profit for your business. If they like putting a smile on your customer’s face, they will start smiling themselves.
#2. Show them you mean it.
Too many leaders fail to walk the talk. So greet your colleagues with a genuine smile. Build teams of positive people, that support and build each other. Even if they’re not in the front line. And yes, create that employee experience which treats your people like you hope they will treat your customers.
#3. Be ready to support.
No one can be cheerful all the time. But customers will nonetheless expect the same level of friendliness at every interaction. So be sensitive to the ups and downs of your people. Give them an opportunity to take a time-out. Put a mechanism in place to cheer them up on those days when it’s hard to smile.
Creating a front-end culture of genuine smiles is one of the bigger leadership challenges that I'm aware of. Because as you might guess, it’s not the smile that matters. It’s the sincerity that goes with it. The desire to meet and exceed customer expectations. The desire to make customers smile, because you made their day.
SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS! Did I miss a beat? Do you (dis)agree? What do you do to make your people smile? Use the comment section to share your thoughts and views with everyone who reads this article. We can all learn from each other.
This article is one of a series to help me articulate my thoughts for The Customer Fitness Code. This is a new book I’m writing to complement the rapidly expanding Customerfit system. If you would like to know more, you can already check out www.customerfit.eu or get in touch. Meanwhile, don't forget to follow me on Linkedin or subscribe to my newsletter.
(c) 2018 Alain Thys, all rights reserved
Photo by Brooke Cagle
About this blog
Whenever inspiration strikes, I use this space to share my thoughts on customer experience management, storytelling or what ever else crosses my mind.