My youngest son, Jeffrey, was never very good at math. He struggled from the earliest 3 and 4 times tables and could never find his comfort level after that. It wasn’t for lack of trying (well, maybe sometimes it was). He simply was not geared toward numbers.
I remember the first few times he tried to reconcile equations – Wow, what an adventure! No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get him to figure out how equations worked. His mother couldn’t do it either, and his third grade math teacher … well, let’s just say that Jeff made her question her chosen vocation more than once.
Finally, one day, out of pure frustration, Jeff’s teacher pulled him aside while the other kids were at recess and said in a pleasant but firm tone:
“Look, Jeff, you are making this a lot harder than it is. You see this equal sign in the middle of all the numbers? If you want to get the correct answer on the right side of the equal sign, you have to have all the correct numbers on the left side of the equal sign. They have to add up. That is what an equal sign means!
You can’t just make up your own numbers on the left side and hope they will produce the exact number on the right side. So, I want you to take a few minutes and really focus on that number on the right side of the equation, okay? Get to know it really well and think about what it really means. Then figure out what you have to do to get the numbers on the left side to equal the number on the right side.”
In the world of customer service, it seems to me that sometimes we face the very same challenge getting things to add up. We already know the correct answer; that is, we know the results we want from our customer service interactions!
In every customer service interaction, we want our customers to be moved to the point they will always choose our brand or product over the competition.
We want customers to promote our products and services to others. We want these same customers coming back for more purchases, or signing up for new contracts or purchasing even bigger and better things. We want for them to be satisfied consistently in each customer service interaction and experience and for that satisfaction to create customer loyalty in the overall experience.
All of these ideas lie on the right side of the customer experience equation!
The question is:
Are the things we do as a customer service organization creating that outcome?
In other words, is the left side of the equation really adding up to the number we are looking for on the right side?
Customer service organizations continue to encourage and support the same old behaviors in their customer service agents. They back up those behaviors with soft skills training, product training, systems training, voice analytics … on and on it goes.
But is all of the stuff on the left side really adding up to Customer Loyalty on the right side?
I suggest the answer is NO.
Our customer service agents are more polite, more knowledgeable, more system-equipped than ever before. Yet by almost all measures, customer engagement, customer satisfaction and customer loyalty scores continue to tank, and customer flight is more of a risk for most companies than ever before.
Haven’t we learned yet that politeness does not build customer engagement?
Haven’t we discovered that simply providing a solution to a customer’s product issue does not create Customer Loyalty?
Those things do not provide us with the right answer simply because we want them to.
Sometimes, just like my son back in third grade, we make things a lot harder than they really are. Perhaps his math teacher had a point. You can’t just make up your own numbers on the left side of the equation and hope they will create the number on the other side.
First, we have to focus on the right side of the equation. We have to find out what is Customer Loyalty? What does Customer Loyalty really mean and what does it demand?
Then we have to figure out what we need to do to make our systems, solutions and behaviors – our left side of the equation – add up to Customer Loyalty on the right.
If Customer Loyalty demands emotional satisfaction for the customer, a practical solution that makes the customer feel like it was crafted uniquely for him, a Low-Effort experience and the overall sense that the customer experience has produced a clearly defined value proposition for him – these are the components of Customer Loyalty – then we need to start aligning those systems, solutions and behaviors with the answer we want.
That is what an equal sign means!
Like Jeff, we must arrange the numbers on the left side to satisfy the number on the right side. Until we do, we will keep coming up with the wrong answer. By the way, in case you are wondering about my son … twenty years later, he grew up to be a teacher. There is hope for us yet.