When it comes to customer experience the driver is typically customer satisfaction or advocacy. When we work with clients to improve these metrics and in turn drive profitability, we often find a key enabler is the positive engagement of the employees responsible for the customer experience delivery.
Here’s an example of when it works. Because when it does work, it can really work.
At Disney, it’s not a trade secret that staff understand that every time they are in front of customers they are on stage. And their role is to make their audience happy. It’s also well documented that this is something employees implicitly understand because of the way they behave off stage. They look at each other in the eye when in discussion and smile at each other – often. The natural response from those they engage is positive and so they smile back. That reaction becomes a behaviour they enjoy giving and receiving – smiling is a positive communication tool.
So if we accept that employees also spend their time ‘off stage’ smiling which leads to happier employees (there are plenty of other similar activities to keep the culture alive at Disney), then it’s fair to assume when it comes to dealing with customers it will be easier to deliver happiness. The great thing about the Disney approach is how the ‘tone’ of the customer experience is clearly defined by the business which therefore allows the execution to be personalised.
Here’s an example which perfectly highlights the power of the Disney employees engagement with happiness. It’s about a security guard. He works at one of the Disney parks. Visitors to the Disney park carry autograph books around so that they can get signatures from characters buzzing around. The security guard also carries an autograph book. Whenever he sees a little girl dressed as a Princess he makes a b-line to them and asks, “Hey, you must be the famous Disney Princess, please may I have your autograph in my book?”
Needless to say it’s a hit with the mums and dads and probably turns the little girls into lifelong fans of Disney. He would say he is just doing his job.
Happiness is a powerful emotion which can change attitude and behaviour. There are not many tangible assets, let alone emotions that have that strength. Customer happiness felt from a branded experience can create the deepest consumer feelings for the brand, which when converted into actions cut through everything to achieve brand preference and advocacy.
Japanese Professor Masaru Emoto has been studying the impact emotion has on life. He has chosen a very basic life form: the water molecule, to study emotion. His findings show that if you create a positive feeling around the water molecule it grows in a different way to a water molecule that has been surrounded with negative feeling.
If you are wondering what’s the connection to customer experience, go with it, they do link up eventually!
The research involved experimenters telling different water molecule structures they were loved or hated which had significant consequences on how they were formed. Those ‘mistreated’ look ugly whilst those ‘loved’ look beautiful.
Now relate this point back to the Disney employee and the way they have evolved because of the happiness bestowed on them and hopefully you will see the connection.
If positive emotion impacts water molecular structure what can it do for an employee responsible for delivering a branded experience?
I’ve witnessed this first hand. Some time ago I worked on a customer experience assignment with a great ‘customer-centric’ visionary leader. But they couldn’t understand why the brilliant customer improvements they’d identified weren’t landing as successfully as hoped. The reality was the ‘boss’ didn’t invest emotionally in the employees in charge of making the customer improvements happen. In fact, it ended with the pay-cheque. So the team could not feel the warmth of a positive experience and struggled to know how to pass it on to customers. The leader would get frustrated and say, ‘but that’s their job!’
If you recall, that’s close to how they put it at Disney. But at Disney the crucial difference is that it’s the employees, not the employers, who say, ‘that’s my job’. The big difference being that time has been invested (continuously) in helping employees understand, through experience, the positive impact to customers of delivering something which makes them happier.
If you want great customer experience – which leads to great customer satisfaction – which leads to greater profitability, you probably need to start with a great employee experience. Does this approach work? Richard Branson preached something similar and look where it has got him!
Posted by Christopher Brooks, Director, Lexden
Lexden is a Customer Strategy Agency | We put customers at the start and the heart of marketing strategy.
We work with brands to attract and retain happy customers | We achieve this by helping them to understand what makes their customers tick, building memorable customer experience strategies and creating engaging customer value propositions.
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