Are Your Policies Negatively Affecting Your Customer Experience?
To kick off 2023, we surveyed our customers across various service industries, as well as customer experience experts in our community to report on their biggest CX learnings of the previous year and their plans for the year ahead. We asked about the best ways to measure CX, the most successful methods of coaching and recognizing frontline teams, their biggest focus, learnings and challenges and goals. In this series, we’ll be diving into the survey results to provide new ideas on how you can make 2023 the year your business wins on customer experience.
When asking our customers and various industry experts what their number one customer experience tip is, one of the our most interesting answers to come out of the survey was:
“Policy leads to poor customer service experiences. Empower your people to find a way to say yes.”
Have you ever been in a service situation where the frontline employee says something along the lines of “I’m sorry sir/madam but it's just our policy and there’s nothing I can do”. That’s what our survey respondent is talking about here.
The complete lack of frontline autonomy and empowerment…and subsequently a frustrated customer. Of course at times customers may have unreasonable requests, but for the most part, are your policies negatively affecting your customer experience?
If so, how do you create a work environment where employees feel empowered to think outside of the box and exceed customer expectations? Read on to find out.
Customer Service Policy Red Flags
Your customer service policy, customer experience guidlines, or service standards as we like to call them, will either facilitate or hinder your frontline teams from delivering the best experience possible.
Here are some sure-fire signs that your policies are holding you back:
- Frontline teams are vague on, or worse totally unaware of your policies: The State of Frontline Work Survey relieved that just 25% of service businesses have consistent service standards that are made visible to frontline teams. That leaves 75% of businesses with teams who either don’t have policies, have inconsistent policies or policies that are unknown to frontline teams.
- They’re rigid: While your policies need to be specific and clear, don’t make them so rigid that it makes it impossible for employees to think on their feet and cater to unique customer needs. This is exactly why we prefer the term Service Standard than “policy”.
Strong guidelines have wiggle room, are centered around a gold standard of service, not arbitrary rules, and give customer-facing teams a sense of autonomy over the customer experience.
- Policies vary across various branches and locations: If a customer visits one branch, they expect to receive the same level of service when they visit another in a different location. Varying policies across different locations leads to frustrated and confused customers.
- They’re outdated: When was the last time you revisited your customer service policy? Is it still relevant? What needs updating? With the evolving climate and rapidly changing customer needs, revisiting your service standards on an annual basis is worth doing.
- They’re uninformed: Unfortunately, you can’t just steal another company's customer service policies and call it a day. Your policies need to be informed by actual customer sentiment. What matters most to your ideal customer? And what policies can you put in place to ensure they walk away feeling so satisfied that they keep coming back for more?
Crafting Policy that Facilitates Awesome Customer Experiences
The key to delivering awesome customer experiences is by empowering your employees. Christine McHugh, Vice President of Customer Service at Starbucks, says that “most employees want to deliver awesome customer experiences” the trick is, you need to “create policies and solutions that enable frontline workers to help customers”
To do this:
- Revisit (or create) your customer service policy based on actual customer data.
- Make sure all employees (new and old) understand your Service Standards like the back of their hand.
- Make them visible to customers to manage customer expectations.
- Make sure they are consistent across various branches and locations.
- Carry out coaching and role plays using these standards, providing your teams with examples on how to apply them in a variety of ways.
- Use out-of-the-box customer experiences as blueprints and coaching examples for your teams to learn from.
So, are your policies helping or hindering? Revisit them today to ensure your frontline teams are set up for success.
Up next: How Service Brands Are Most Successfully Measuring Customer Experience