I woke up this morning with a few thoughts on my mind. Let me walk you through them and I promise I’ll tie them together at the end.
Thought 1: “The Kick the Cat Syndrome”
I’m remembering a cartoon where a kid kicked the cat. They didn’t kick the cat just because, though, they kicked the cat because of a sequence of events. In this sketch, a dad came home from work upset, and said cross words to his wife. The wife responded by doing something angry to one of her older children, who in turn did something mean to the young child, who later kicked the cat.
Each of these actions was done by someone who had a bit more power (in size, age, etc.) than the person they were doing it to. And the cat just happened to be on the receiving end. This visual stuck with me a for a long time, making me think about how we react to things that happen to us, mistreating others who have no involvement in the original scuffle. I’ve also thought about how my actions with my family could cause this ripple effect, and how I need to be careful in my actions and reactions, lest I create habits in my family that I don’t want.
Thinking about customer service, we can take the very same concept, except instead of something negative we put something positive. Or many somethings positive. Those positive things should come from the top (the owner, president, general manager, etc.) and communicated and supported down through the ranks. It’s no secret customer service (CX) is generally an entry-level role, even though it is sometimes the most important interface a customer will have with your company or brand. But that’s another conversation for another day.
When leaders positively reinforce behaviors, results, attitudes, efforts, etc., the positive sentiments and actions transfer through the management structure, to CX supervisors, to the actual customer service agents, and then guess what? Instead of “kicking the cat,” the customer service agent relays those positive vibes to the customer. Exhibit A is Zappos’ legendary customer service, where every agent was empowered to make things right with each customer. CX agents were respected and empowered, and their job was to delight customers. This only happened because of the extraordinary leadership and vision from the top, passed down through each manager, and to the agent. Every customer felt it.
Exhibit B comes from a grocery store chain my wife frequented as a teenager in Ohio. She tells me the story of a customer saying, “oh, that was actually on sale for 2.99 instead of 3.99” or something like that. The customer said it and the cashier would not argue, but cheerfully accept this new information and apply the price the customer said was right. She said she witnessed this multiple times. Contrast that to a time I was at a grocery store and had five pineapples because they were 99 cents each. The cashier argued with me about the price, thinking I was cheating this massive multimillion dollar business out of a few cents per pineapple, and told me to prove it. So, I went to get the sign with the sales price and showed it to her. Then she got mad at me because I moved her sign.
This was not a delightful customer experience. I know there is room for abuse in one of those scenarios, but the difference in loyalty (and honesty) created and nurtured by kind and empowered customer service agents is amazing.
Thought 2: “I just need $250 for the holidays.”
Years ago my wife and I went to a seminar were the guy was talking about various mind and life hacks (we signed up for one thing and found it was different, but ended up staying). Anyway, one of the most impressionable things that happened was reading “the wall” where people had written their immediate dreams. The presenter invited people to take a 3×5 card from the table by The Wall and write what they really wanted or needed. What was something that, if they got, they could move on with life.
During a break I went to The Wall to read through the cards and was shocked. We weren’t wealthy by any measure, but some of the things that were massive road blocks for people could be achieved rather easily. Someone wrote they needed $400 for new tires. Someone wrote they needed $250 for Christmas. Some people just needed $50 while others needed a 50 cent per hour raise.
Having been forced into entrepreneurship (again, another story for another day) years earlier, I figured if you needed $250 you could probably earn it in a week. Perhaps by nannying some kids, washing windows, or some other service business. If you really, really wanted a few hundred bucks, you could figure out how to earn it. But these were massive mental roadblocks that were keeping people up at night.
I think it’s easy for leadership to forget the rice and Ramen days when they had a very, very small budget, and the impact an additional $50 would make on that budget. When I was in college, going to school full time and working full time, my wife and I would save our pennies and look forward to going to Burger King to get their one dollar Whoppers. Eventually we moved up to Pizza Hut and shared a $7.99 pizza. This happened near payday, and was a highlight of that time in our life. Burgers and pizza are exquisite when it’s rice and beans between those indulgences.
There’s a massive political and social debate about “living wages.” I’m not here to jump into that debate, but I am here to say that for people who earn low wages, a $50 incentive can go a long way. While an executive might not even blink, or think about, $50 (or $500), someone who earns very little and has a very tight budget values $50 very differently. At Snowfly we facilitate effective rewards and incentives programs, and regularly see small amounts of money rewarded to employees. Those small amounts might be trivial to a manager, but please never forget or underestimate the power of $10 or $20 or $50 to someone who really needs that money.
$50 a month adds up to $600 over the year. That is more than enough to cover the $250 for holidays, or the $400 for tires. That can even cover those, and a few burgers and pizzas!
Side note: at Snowfly YOU decide what the right rewards budget is for your organization. We’ll talk about it with you, but we won’t push you to some magic number. We will show you how, using some of the Snowfly features, you can get multiple times the value out of your budget with our gamification and other tools.
Thought 1 + Thought 2 = Better CX
Let’s combine the ideas from both thoughts. I used a financial example but there are definitely other ways leadership could impact how CX feels. Money rewards are “extrinsic,” while a compliment, public recognition, or other non-monetary rewards are “intrinsic.”
When leadership strategizes, and purposefully plans, for treating the most visible organizational interface with their customers in a better way, customers feel it. They feel appreciated and they increase loyalty. They choose to spend money with you. They tell others about you. They look forward to their interactions with you. This happens when you hire the right people and you treat them well. Empowering them as well as rewarding the right things can create much better experiences.
Will this cost you an extra $50 a month? It certainly could. Your team would love to be able to earn extrinsic rewards. But it has to be combined with the right culture, and a solid hiring and training program. Rewards and incentives is one piece of a puzzle. It won’t carry a bad culture, or rotten leadership. All of the pieces of the puzzle work together to create a better customer experience. But it’s worth it. It’s vital to your organizational success. CX is the difference between surviving, thriving, and having to close your doors because you lost your business.
Want to talk about YOUR rewards and incentives programs? We’d love to chat. Reach out here: