How to Fight Our Caveman Impulses to Create a Positive Customer Experience

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This is not your granddad's customer service advice says Adam Toporek, author of the book, Be Your Customer’s Hero: Real World Tips and Techniques for the Service Front Lines. Toporek recently was on C-Suite TV where he talked about how organizations should train and motivate their front-line employees in order to increase sales.

Front-line employees are the employees that are the first to deal with customers such as the cashier, those working on the service floor or anyone dealing with customers face to face in the store, phone or email. It's the first level of dealing with the customer at the lowest level in the organization.

Motivate, Don't Educate

I think education is really focused on imparting knowledge. With front-line employees knowledge isn't enough, you need to be showing them how to use that knowledge and showing them how to understand their own feelings and their own emotions. The motivational part is actually about getting them confident with the tools and the techniques so they feel more motivated to want to go out and do a good job.

A lot of front-line employees really have difficulty with the challenges of front-line service. And when they do they sort of turtle up and shell in and you want to bring them out of that and give them that confidence.

Customer Service Versus Customer Experience

Customer experience is the entire journey, the entire experience a customer has with the organization. Customer experience involves a marketing piece they may get or an email, it's not just a point in time. Customer service in the traditional lens is a part of customer experience. It's more about that one to one interaction and helping to serve you in the moment.

But that may not be the entire experience. Let's say I'm working at a bookstore and I'm behind the counter, the customer service would be while I'm helping you. Customer experience may be were the isles cleaned, were they neat and organized? All of that feeds the experience or as we talked about the customer journey.

Mentality and Mindset

Mentality and mindset is what I really wish I knew and understood when I was young and on the front-lines. Not only understanding the customers mindset but what makes them tick and why they do what they do. Also my own mindset, why am I taking something personally, why can't I depersonalize the situation, why am I getting upset when I don't need to be? So many front-line people, they're not experienced in the world or in business in a lot of cases and they don't have these skills and this lens on how we all think.

We Still Have Caveman Brains

If you look at it from the standpoint of experience, what does every experience have in common? The are all filtered through this imperfect organ called the human brain, so it behooves us to understand how that human brain works. The good news is that we live in the golden age of psychology. We've learned more about neuroscience and what makes humans tick in the last few decades than we have probably ever known before. The bad news is what we have learned is that we are all basically irrational. Our mind is designed to take shortcuts.

If you look at sociology, society, digital technology, all of these things have evolved very rapidly, but our brains have evolved pretty slowly. We still have, unfortunately, caveman brains which are designed to make snap judgements to survive. These snap judgements aren't that firm when it comes to customer experience.

Making Our Caveman Brains Work For Us

Here's how you can apply these principals to customer experience. We've all heard of first impressions and their is a ton of research on first impressions and they all basically say the same thing. No matter what the study is, first impressions happen subconsciously and they happen very quickly.

There is another principal called confirmation bias and that is the principal that we all want to be right, which is why politics is so much fun. What we do is ignore the evidence that tells us we're wrong and we accept the evidence that tells us we are right. When you combine those two things that's an important factor when you are designing a customer experience. You take a first impression and you combine that with confirmation bias and what do you have? You have a bad first impression and you are already in the hole.

The human brain is trying to tell them that that first impression and what they already believe is correct. Similarly, there is something called negativity bias which is why the evening news always leads with something like 'your microwave is going to kill you'. We are attuned to negative information, we are always looking to what's a threat. We give more credence to negative information than to positive information, meaning if you give a bad experience it is going to be weighted heavier than a positive experience.

What I find fascinating from a customer experience standpoint is that you can use all these psychological principals and evaluate each touch point, each place where you come in contact with a customer and say how are we violating them, how are we prepared if we set those off? How are we prepared to deal with that or our team trained for that?

The Customer is the Customer

Customers can not only be wrong, they can be nuts and mean at times, all kinds of different things. The problem with the traditional concept of 'the customer is always right' is that the principal behind it got lost and the phrase carried over. That was from a time that their wasn't customer service and they were trying to teach people that the customer is valuable, their opinion is valuable.

We try to look at it as the customer is the customer. That means that you and the customer are not on the same level. It's called customer service and we are there to serve the customer. They are our focus and they are not there to give to us. They should be decent of course and there are some lines they shouldn't cross, but big picture, it's customer service and we're there to serve.

We know what a customer is in modern times and if you are a customer centric organization, what you are doing, your actions, your processes, your systems should all be revolving around the customer.

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