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Business Humanity Increases Customer Raves and Business Growth

Business Humanity Increases Customer Raves and Business Growth

Jeanne Bliss

We are at an inflection point in our experience as customers. If you think about it, our lives as customers is a reflection of what is happening in the world. And while technological advances take us further into the world of chat bots and artificial intelligence, humanity has never gone out of style for customers.

It just seems harder to find in business these days. Now more than ever, our humanity needs to show up in the ways we do business with customers and each other. And an app alone will not solve everything. With rising high-tech solutions to ‘take care’ of customers, the need for high touch has also escalated. Customers need a healthy dose of both.

Yes, an app can let you know the arrival time of your repairman, but it is the man and his handshake and how he cares for your home that shows the kind of mother he has. Yes, you can book your ticket online, but it’s the gate agent’s concern in making your connection that shows if she’s been honored – so she can honor you. Yes, you can pick up your rental car without even talking to a human, but a smile from that person checking you out can improve your experience.  And give you comfort, when they have the authority to let it slide when you return your car a few minutes late. High tech without a human connection may make interactions more efficient, but we need to know when to blend humanity and caring into customer experiences.

Tech founder and healthcare professional Michelle Chaffee writes about her experience with ovarian cancer at what appeared to be cool and high tech in the beginning. “The minute I walked into the new digs of the clinic, I knew it was very different and could get the gist of what they were trying to do,” she said.  “It felt very space-age, very ‘Jetsons.’  Patients were greeted Apple-style, by young concierge types standing around at the ready with devices in hand to check you in. This seemed fine, I was intrigued and certainly willing to continue with the adventure.”

But Michelle’s experience ended with a decision to ultimately depart after she had been guided by device-carrying concierges for hours, sending her to and fro within that sterile building.  “I wanted to scream out ‘will someone help me? I’m afraid my cancer has spread!’  But, by this point I knew it wouldn’t make any difference, so I unclipped the GPS tracking device from my shirt and dropped it in the designated receptacle as I headed out the door. They actually gave me a GPS device so they could ‘find me’ when it was time for my appointment.”

From time to time as a customer, you might feel that you don’t matter based on the treatment you receive. Me too. That’s because sometimes “process” doesn’t include taking care of the human at the heart of it. And that can happen in a variety of industries. That’s what happened to Michelle Chaffee. As efficient as the processes she went through were meant to be, they inadvertently designed the heart out of them. The “concierge” Michelle encountered behaved more like a people mover and process handler than a care provider.

Companies that work to put an understanding of customers’ lives and emotions charge toward different outcomes, earning organic growth through customer raves:

  • Cleveland Clinic, for example, has embedded “caring” into how they operate with an initial three-point plan that included a simple rule about not passing a bed with a call light on, to elevating everyone’s role to caregiver, to visiting patients as a united team of caregivers to nurture the patient from head to toe, without fear or concern that all efforts are coordinated.  They are rated the #2 Hospital in the United States by U.S. News & World Report, garnering a “recommend to others” rating well in the 90th percentile of all hospitals.
  • Vail Resorts, rated among the worlds’ most expensive ski resorts, thrives from customer loyalty and admiration, in large part because of the humanity they celebrate and encourage in their team.  Taking such action as removing the words “That’s not our policy” from everybody’s vocabulary – they encourage everyone to deliver the “experience of a lifetime” – and that means celebrating acts of humanity like picking up a guy they’ve seen doing snow plants all day long and sending them to refresher snowboard school – at no charge.

As the examples above illustrate, these actions are enabled by a deliberateness of leadership, and an intent to embed humanity into the business culture and operating model. This spans everything from how a company hires to how they enable employees to bring the best version of themselves to work, to their policies for caring for customers in vulnerable moments.

But in order for any of this to happen, companies need to focus: on the lives they serve, on rethinking the automatic responses and operations, and their processes that might cut the human out of how they serve.

To learn more and to receive a guide including 32 toolkits to improve the story of your customers’ lives, visit Make-Mom-Proud.com.

Jeanne Bliss is president and founder of CustomerBliss, counseling such clients as AAA, Brooks Brothers, Kaiser Permanente, Johnson & Johnson, and The US Postal System. She pioneered the role of the Chief Customer Officer, leading customer experience for over 20 years at Lands’ End, Microsoft, Coldwell Banker and Allstate corporations. She is co-founder of the Customer Experience Professionals Association, and has authored four books: Would You Do That to Your Mother: The ‘Make Mom Proud’ Standard for How to Treat Your Customers(Penguin/Portfolio, 5/8/18); as well as Chief Customer Officer 2.0, Chief Customer Officer: Getting Past Lip Service to Passionate Action and I Love You More than My Dog: Five Decisions that Drive Extreme Customer Loyalty in Good Times and Bad. She lives in Seattle.

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