I admit it I’ve been known to take a complex topic like “customer experience excellence” and make it even more complex.
So let’s take a simplified, hopefully not a simplistic, run at how to treat customers in a way that separates you from the competition. To keep me on track, I’ll offer a framework courtesy of leaders at Mercedes-Benz USA.
In my book Driven to Delight: Delivering World-Class Customer Experience the Mercedes-Benz Way, I offer a comprehensive look at structured training on customer experience delivery. For our purposes, and in the spirit of simplification, I’ll offer an overview of the Mercedes-Benz USA customer “LEAD” training.
LEAD is an acronym for 4 elements essential for driving delight at Mercedes-Benz USA and I suspect for your business as well. LEAD stands for the following:
Here are key learnings associated with each of these concepts.
Listen – Business author Steven Covey noted, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Listening to understand is the foundation of customer experience excellence. Listening is an active process of clarification and summarization. It requires lots of questions and statements like, “Can you tell me more?” “Let me make sure I understand,” and “When did the problem start?”
Empathize – While listening is an “intellectual” process of comprehension, empathizing involves “emotionally” understanding another person. It typically requires a willingness to hypothesize about the likely emotional experience of another. It also is an opportunity to connect with customers prior to addressing their needs or preferences. It often involves phrases like, “I can imagine you might be feeling,” or “Wow, that probably was frustrating.”
Add value – We are surrounded by technology. There is an app for this and an app for that and even apps to help us organize our apps. While technology tools can make our life easier, help us gain information with a push of a button, and keep us connected in a virtual sense, it cannot replace the need for human contact. When customers opt to be served by a human (for example, passing up self-service on the web to reach out to a company’s call center or passing up an ATM to be served by a teller), those customers look for people who can do things that automation simply can’t. They are looking for people to “add value” by resourcefully offering expertise or options beyond what fixed computer programs or algorithms can offer. When we share stories of customer experience excellence, we instruct and inspire team members to deliver added value.
Delight – Solid service brands remove pain points for their customers. They “get service right” and “make things right” when there are those occasional breakdowns in product or service delivery. By contrast, outstanding customer experience providers do all the things solid service brands do AND forge strong emotional connections with customers. Those connections build customer loyalty and referrals. Customers often talk about brand connections by suggesting they are “delighted” or “wowed.” So what is “wow” or “delight?” It is exceeding customer expectations in small and large ways! It is demonstrating to customers that you not only care “for” them through service excellence but also care “about” them through your personal interest, thoughtfulness, compassion, and concern for their needs, well-being, and future.
Customer experience training is not a one-time proposition! It needs to be a prominent and ongoing part of your company’s culture. For example, at Mercedes-Benz USA, LEAD training is a recurring and evolving training offering.
I wish you good fortune as you LEAD customer experiences by being Driven to Delight your customers, every time – no excuses!
Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies.
Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli
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