I was shopping for a graduation card the other day, and all of them seemed to say something like this: “Dream big and reach for the stars, your goals are within reach and you are on your way to an amazing future.”
If I was just getting out of school I would find this rather terrifying. I think I’d much prefer a hearty “Congratulations – well done!” instead of a bunch of vaguely inspirational words reminding me how far I had yet to go.
But I see the same thing in the businesses we help at our customer experience consultancy. Companies like to articulate lofty “reach for the stars and exceed everyone’s wildest expectations” aspirations, but for the most part they don’t do a very good job of translating these goals into achievable milestones. Mission statements and aspirations are great, but standing alone, they don’t inspire employees or lead to concrete actions that improve the customer experience.
For example, I often hear some version of this: “We really want to “wow’ our customers.” Ok, that’s great, but what does “wow” even mean? Is being “wowed” different from being pleased, or is it more of an unpleasant surprise? As in “Wow, I never thought I’d have to wait an hour for my meal to arrive.” And how do you know when you’ve achieved “Wow?”
Vague goals like “wow” are close cousins of impossible ones, like “we’re going to give every single customer an exceptional experience.” Sorry, it can’t be done. You can’t give everyone a great experience, every day, all the time, no matter what you do.
When senior management comes up with these lofty mission statements, they mean well. They mean to be inspiring and aspirational. But what really happens in the ranks of employees is quite the opposite. Either the employees immediately recognize the “goal” as a meaningless mission statement that they feel no particular desire to follow through on, or they try to “wow” everyone and fail, leading to poor morale and a perception that they’ve failed.
The answer to this dilemma is to pair aspirational goals with concrete actions that will bring you closer to reaching them. At Beyond Philosophy, we call this a Customer Experience Strategy. Think about your customers and what they really want and need. Then, find out which aspects drive most value for your company. Identify a couple of steps you can take to improve their experience with your company then follow through.
Ask Your Employees
If you don’t know how to improve your “wow” factor, or whatever else you aspire to in your mission statement, talk to the employees who deal with customers every day. What problems do customers encounter? Do your employees think your company can deliver a better experience? What do they think it would take to get there? Your front-line employees are the ones who will implement your strategy – make sure they think it’s a good idea and are willing to do what it takes.
I’ve often found that employees are more than willing to take action to improve customer interactions. It’s management that typically stands in the way by articulating vague, impossible to achieve goals without consulting the people in the ranks. By involving employees, you create realistic standards and a two-way dialogue that boosts morale and increases your chance of success.
Reach for the Stars, but Keep it Down to Earth
I don’t mean to suggest that you shouldn’t set high standards. But they need to be tied to specific goals your employees believe they can achieve. Remember Wells Fargo? That was a prime example of unrealistic goals gone awry. When employees couldn’t reach the company’s aggressive sales targets, they started opening accounts without the account holders’ permission! And we’ve all seen how well that turned out.
You don’t want to be Wells Fargo. Be the company that inspires your employees through realistic goals and teamwork to make them happen.
Does your company have unattainable customer experience goals? How can they be brought down to earth? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
To help improve employee engagement and value for your customers and your business register now for our FREE webinar on Employee Ambassadorship: Realizing and optimizing stakeholder value. The Author, Michael Lowenstein, and I will demonstrate how companies can keep a consistent customer focus and optimize economic performance.
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Colin Shaw is the founder and CEO of Beyond Philosophy, one of the world’s leading Customer experience consultancy & training organizations. Colin is an international author of six bestselling books and an engaging keynote speaker.
Follow Colin Shaw on Twitter @ColinShaw_CX