Where some might see a customer 'behaving badly', actually the customer seeks the best solution. It is the professional’s job to show them alternatives and clear advantages to choosing them.
This is the first in a series where I will examine bad to disastrous customer incidents, and applying Customer Experience (CX) principles for future reference. The next time similar circumstances apply the customers (and the employees) have a better customer experience, a better day.
First, here’s the story with the juicy details, because everyone likes a ‘behaving badly’ story.
Actual Customer Experience Scenario
An employee is shopping at their workplace on day off.
Public Announcement: “[Employee] to Cash, please. [Employee] to Cash.”
Confused, the employee reports to the cash register.
Coworker: “This customer needs help with something.”
Employee: “Uh, you do realize I’m not working today, right? I’m not even in uniform.”
Coworker: “I’m sorry, [Employee Name], but he insists that it must be you who helps him.”
Customer: “Come on, man! It’s just one little thing! You can help me!”
Employee: “Nope, I’m not here to help you. I don’t work for free.”
Customer: “That attitude isn’t going to take you very far! If you worked at my company, you wouldn’t last very long!”
Employee: “You’re right. I wouldn’t work for a company that operates on slave labor.”
Employee leaves store without addressing customer request.
"Without employee engagement, good customer experience is difficult to achieve."
Ideal Customer Experience Scenario
Customer: “You know what, [Employee] actually was very helpful with this the other day. I think she could help me. Please could you page her?”
Coworker: “Sure, I understand. How was she helpful, perhaps we can solve it right away?”
Customer: “Thanks, but I really would rather have help from [Employee].”
Coworker: “No problem, let me see if she is available. One moment, please.”
Coworker locates employee requested.
Employee: “Hello Mr [Customer Name], good to see you again! How can I help?
Customer: “Oh, hello, great! Let me tell you what I need.”
The first scenario is slanted toward’s the employee’s perspective, the latter towards the customer. Without employee engagement, good customer experience is difficult to achieve. I will explore this topic in more detail in another post.
There are numerous points to consider. Yes, it was the employee’s day off. No, they are not obliged to work for free – or even answer the page to the cash register. Let’s remember, the customer remains focused on their needs and unlikely to think of or care about organizational matters. The customers demand what they think is the best solution. It is the professional’s job to show them alternatives and clear advantages to choosing them.
"Asking the right questions opens many doors to improvement."
The issue here is not whether the employee should step in, but rather, why the customer decides to request a specific person. The customer probably sees it as the best solution probably because previous interactions proved this particular employee was competent and effective.
A Bad Day
The above interaction counts as a bad one due to negative emotions on both sides. The employee felt confused, irritated and taken for granted. The customer felt frustrated and indignant.
To improve this customer experience, there are several things to change from the operational side to encourage positive emotions.
Performance & Innovation
The employees should aspire to the performance of the ‘customer favorite’ and training should incorporate emotional awareness elements so interactions with customers reflect a high degree of positivity. Management has an opportunity to monitor indications to the contrary to this by guiding employees to report such requests or anomalies openly, and examining the underlying causes. Asking the right questions opens many doors to improvement. Are the rest of the employees performing to encourage repeated custom? Is this a ‘difficult customer’ with who the employee has built a rapport? Has one particular employee improved their customer interaction in a new or changed approach, and can this be incorporated into employee training? Which employees need a refresher in handling customers?
Handling Customer Requests
Employees need to be aware of policy or system to immediately address the customer request. Ideally, the co-worker would have the means to check the availability of the requested employee, but at the least, the customer is given the option to speak to the manager. This shows the customers that the organization takes their request seriously. Once again, this allows management direct insight into the underlying reason for the request. It may be a personal preference of the customer, in which case employee performance may not be the issue.
"Incentivize employees to help customers."
Managing Employee Preparation
If the requested employee is available, and working circumstances allow it, then stepping in will make the customer’s day. Employees are more likely to do this if this is incorporated into their training and refresher sessions. Again, managers need a system in place to track repeated requests, to address the underlying reasons.
In this particular instance, the employee policy and procedure on days off needs to be clear. It would be good practice if the employee were able to indicate their change in status from ‘day off’ to ‘working’ using a digital system, prior to facing the customer. That way they know they will receive adequate compensation – a good policy would outline a minimum amount of time and pay to incentivize them to help customers.
Employees as Customers
Finally, companies delight in employees coming into the workplace on their day off as a customer, where they spend their hard-earned pay towards the organization’s bottom line. In a healthy organization, having employees as customers encourages and also marks a good working relationship. However, it’s highly likely regular customers will recognize a particular employee outside of their uniform. Management preempts awkward exchanges like the one above by training their off-duty employees to smile, acknowledge the customer and immediately refer them to an available colleague. Even better, refer to the above section on incentivizing the employee, where the organization’s relationships with both customer and employee are safeguarded.