As is usually my routine on a Saturday morning, this past weekend I arrived at my local coffee drive-through to pick up my double-double. I pulled up to the speaker, placed my order and then proceeded to the pick-up and payment window. There the cashier was ready and waiting with my steaming cup of much-needed morning brew.
So far so good…until I started rummaging through my wallet in search of exact change. I joked that my purse will finally be light enough to carry around. At which point the cashier said to me, “Can you please hurry up?” I think the face I made was one of pure bewilderment, as she proclaimed, “There is a clock on my side measuring my response time.”
And just like that, my customer experience switched from satisfaction to irritation. I brusquely handed her a five-dollar bill, collected my change and drove off—annoyed and vowing never to return to this particular drive-through again.
Reflecting on the experience itself, I asked myself: What was the objective of this transaction? From the coffee shop’s perspective, was it to complete the transaction in the shortest time possible? If so, then this staff member should score 100% on her performance review. She did everything she was supposed to do. In fact, she even politely encouraged me to speed up. She completed her task and moved on to the next transaction.
But, what about customer experience? Customer experience is an effective interaction with a customer, not a simple transaction with a customer. I had just experienced a transaction, rather than an interaction.
Ironically, this experience mirrors my professional expertise at Circle & Square, a learning solutions company that focuses on training, consulting and coaching, often focusing on customer experience.
Customer Experience — Interactions Not Transactions
At Circle & Square, we believe that all customer service interactions can be represented by three overlapping circles: task, customer, and employee.
A task is the work that needs to be done (the transaction); a customer is the person who needs the work done; and the employee is the person who is completing the work.
In my coffee shop scenario, the staff member who served me was absolutely focused on completing the task or transaction. However, she made a critical error by ignoring the customer—me—the human being behind the task. She did not connect with me on a human level, even though my joke (funny or not) provided her a perfect opportunity to do so. She went straight to the task. If I had to rate her in terms of task-oriented service, then I would be inclined to give her full marks. However, she performed the task to the detriment of the customer. She was not hearing me—rather she only heard the work. She therefore missed a huge opportunity to develop a customer relationship.
The truth is, we are living in a world where the customer constantly gets ignored in favour of the task. This staff member is measured for task (serve time); her review and bonus are likely directly linked to task metrics like productivity and number of customers.
As far as I could tell from my own customer perspective, there was absolutely no focus on relationship—a critical element required for me to return here, and not go to the competitor across the street, or even the same brand up the street.
Often, quick service restaurants use complaints (number and severity) as an indicator of customer satisfaction. However, I didn’t complain. I simply left dissatisfied (and will never return to complain). How do you measure that?
In psychology we know that when a customer comes forward, they may come with two needs—a connecting (human) need and a task need. Often, employees tend to only focus on the task and neglect the human need (the customer in front of them).
We are not suggesting a major increase in serve time, however we encourage our clients to make a meaningful connection with customers: to truly interact with customers and treat them like people, not parts of a task.
If the goal is outstanding customer experience, we ask our clients to have meaningful relationships with their customers by being conscious of both connection and task.
Many organizations do tasks well. There is nothing extraordinary about the task, unless it is erroneous. The ability to connect with customers becomes a key differentiator—it allows the employee to see the person behind the task.
Our goal at Circle & Square is to re-humanize both management and the workforce by giving them new tools, language, and skills to deal with each other and with clients. This course of action would create an efficient, productive, and stable long-term workforce along with a tuned-in management team that is focused on meaningful customer interactions.
The store managers and the chain need to create a shift in mindset from task-oriented performance to customer centric hearing. This shift becomes a differentiator in the market place and gives them the competitive edge. All good companies have pretty decent people and products, but it’s their ability to connect with customers that accelerates them ahead of others.
Taly Fleischer is a Director with our Circle & Square practice of Farber. This group has three service offerings, corporate training, consulting, and leadership coaching. Taly leads the coaching offering, which utilizes her own frameworks and leverages the proprietary Circle & Square methodology. Taly can be reached at 416.496.3751 or firstname.lastname@example.org.