Here's a little story about how I walked out of a Staples for the last time.
A Snapshot of My Customer Experience
On a Sunday, just before 6:00 p.m., my wife killed our printer's black ink cartridge. This was a minor crisis. She is a teacher, a weekend printer of worksheets.
I drove to Staples, our nearest office supply store. They were very close to closing when I got there. I walked up to a locked front door, just as a teenage employee was letting some customers out.
She smiled and let me in anyway.
As I walked inside, a cashier and a manager—who were standing 30 feet away by the cash registers—shouted a series of OH! sounds (i.e., "Whoa!" "No!" "Yo!" "We're closed!"). Aggressively. As if to make sure I knew to leave.
So, I left.
"Sorry," the teenager said.
"It's not your fault," I replied.
As it turns out, the local Best Buy carries ink cartridges for our printer.
Later Thoughts: The Employee Experience
I've since thought of a few reasons why those employees may have acted the way they did:
- They were missing Sunday football.
- They'd had a hard day and a series of stressful customers.
- They were burdened by store management concerns.
- They thought I might be a slow-browsing, confused type of customer.
- They just wanted to go home.
Perhaps, at any other time or day, my experience would have been different, but I can't know that for sure. I only know what happened: those employees placed their concerns above mine.
And that mindset is a cultural one.
Think of the teenage employee who smiled and let me into the store. She thought she was doing the right thing, only to apologize for it as I walked out the door. The odds are pretty low she'll make that "right thing" mistake again.
The shame of it is, when employees are trained to ignore customer-centric impulses and focus on company-centric results, they suffer too. The employee experience becomes less about fulfilling acts of service, helpfulness, and care, and more about dispassionate business items like revenue, efficiency, and internal politics.
Of course those employees wanted to go home. Who would want to stay late in a place like that?
Make no mistake. The employee experience is a crucial element of the customer experience. When employee engagement suffers, so does the customer experience. When employees are empowered to help customers, engagement and the customer experience improve.
There's a simple reason why customer-centric cultures give companies a major advantage: they make employees and customers want to come back.
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