Updated: Jan 7
Tony Johnson is 4xi's Chief Experience Officer in Residence. He is a world recognized Customer Experience thought leader, a master trainer, a coach, an author, a keynote speaker, and an award-winning hospitality leader. Tony is passionate about how Culture and Customer Experience are essential strategies and how embracing them can transform business success.
As we move headlong into Customer Service Week (the first week of October) and Customer Service Day (October 5th), there is no room for mediocrity, apathy, or lack of attention to detail.
During the pandemic, we all had to take stock of what was possible and take steps to ensure continued financial viability, but the time for lackluster customer service has come to an end. The market has been slow to recognize this, leaving you open to differentiate yourself from the competition.
There are two key places where this lack of attention is impacting the customer: Service and Staffing.
SERVICE Customer service and experience continue to be important to the end consumer. That said, many companies are using the ongoing pandemic as an opportunity to do less and charge more under the guise of “better serving our customers.” It would be comical if it wasn’t such a ham-fisted money grab on the part of organizations that should know better.
Here are just a few examples – and no, I’m not calling them out by name because I believe we should praise in public and critique in private.
A major entertainment company has recently removed some of the free perks of park guests in favor of making them paid add-ons. This was all done to help guests “streamline and simplify their vacation experience.”
Several airlines are still not offering complimentary cocktails in their main cabin premium seats and have also eliminated many of the snack options available outside of the first-class cabin. During this time first-class seats are more expensive than ever and upgrades for frequent travelers harder to come by. This is all by way of ensuring a “safer flying experience” for you.
2 major hotel chains are forcing you to opt into daily housekeeping services while not making it a part of the check-in process to remind you of that. Whether you like daily housekeeping or not, I would bet you like having enough towels and coffee – something most have cut back on in terms of in-room quantity at check-in. It’s all okay, though, because it’s done “for your health and safety.”
The marketplace needs to evolve and change, there is no doubt. But some of the moves taken by major organizations look like nothing more than a chance to take advantage of customers under the pretense of providing world-class experiences and safety.
"The challenge here is to go the other way. To do more, give more, not less. Stop making excuses, leaning on the pandemic as a path to profit in the good name of customer experience."
This can be a key way to set yourself apart from others in your market and show your customers that you still truly prioritize their safety and experience within your business. The dividends will grow over time as customers continue to become frustrated with increasing prices and decreasing benefits.
Companies have been grousing and complaining about staffing levels for the past year and have even had the audacity to post signs asking patrons for patience since they don’t have employees. This may have been necessary in the dark days of the lockdown, but now it is just excuse-mongering.
Organizations leaned on the extra payments that individuals were receiving through the government as the reason for the staffing issues – and they wore that like martyrs donning a badge of honor. If that were the case, then as soon as those payments were eliminated, there should have been lines of folks applying for jobs. That has not been the case. It has been months now since many states cut off the Pandemic Economic Assistance benefits and it hasn’t done much for hiring.
The hallmark of the pandemic was it quickly shifted from a job seeker market to an employer market and employers took full advantage. As a rule organizations low balled salaries, were inaccessible to prospective employees, dawdled when it came to responsiveness to candidates, and posted and reposted jobs to find overqualified talent at ridiculously low wages. This was true from the front line to the executive ranks. Now the tables are turned and employees are going to make it expensive for employers to re-staff.
WHY IS THAT?
Because markets like the service industry have long mistreated their teams and now people are fleeing those industries for other opportunities. They are taking safety and work experience into account and finding that line of work is lacking.
And before you just assume everyone is in the same boat, the major big box home improvement chains are finding success with staffing because of their commitment to employee engagement, safety, and workplace culture.
If you are struggling to fill your open positions, ask yourself these questions:
Q: What have you done to improve your reputation in the community or your market as the best place to work?
Q: Are you hustling when it comes to recruiting or waiting for people to come to you? That means not just hiring fairs, but assertively recruiting and making sure you have systems in place such as SMS applications and easy-to-use online portals.
Q: How have you treated your applicants? I will go ahead and guess that you’ve treated them terribly. So what will you do about it?
Q: Finally, are you paying market wages for the caliber of talent you need? I’m not even going near the political ramifications here, but have you determined what the market is demanding for the work you need done and how that integrates into your financial model?
Now is the time to gut-check how you are interacting with customers and how you are responding to the events in the marketplace. If you allow your organization, leaders, and front-line teams to make excuses for why something can’t be done, you will find you continue to struggle to deliver even the same level of service you did pre-pandemic, much less find a way to exceed it.
"This is every bit as much a mindset problem as it is a staffing or pandemic problem. You can make the decision to have an amazing reputation, deliver world-class service, train your teams, and engage your employees – or not."
It's up to you to set the tone in your organization and please make that tone one of optimism, accountability, and excellence.
That is how you inspire the future of CX.
To learn more about 4xi and our human-centered, hospitality focused approach to business improvement and growth, visit www.4xiconsulting.com or reach out directly to Tony at email@example.com
CX + Training Coach | Chief Experience Officer | Master Trainer | Award Winning Hospitality Leader | Author | Keynote Speaker | CXO
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