Customer support scripts don’t always do the trick

When your entire organization has a siled view of the customer experience, the mission is lost and customers pay the price.

Scripts, processes, technology, and playbooks provide valuable guidance to frontline employees, but not all customer situations can be pre-engineered. When the unexpected arises, the team’s mission will make it easier to make the right decision.

Paramedics with alarmed faces rush in. “I can’t stop the bleeding,” they shout as nurses quickly circle the comatose patient on the stretcher. The young surgeon pushes to remove the fabric tourniquet from the victim’s thigh. Blood spurts wildly. “He’s bleeding,” a nurse barks, applying pressure. The surgeon thinks for a moment before calling for a catheter and within seconds he has the lifesaving device in hand.

Rarely does the front line of a commercial enterprise call for such a life-and-death response as this scene from one of my favorite shows, “The Good Doctor.” But every situation has one thing in common. When interacting with a client or patient, you never know what will happen next. All front lines are what the US Army War College called VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous). A quality customer experience depends in part on responding appropriately to everything that’s going on, and few companies do that well. Research by Accenture and Adweek found that while 80% of companies believe they provide a superior customer experience, only 8% of customers agree.

Marketing joins the customer experience front

Businesses have long recognized that salespeople and service are critical frontline employees. Today, many marketers and some tech specialists have joined the frontline as many customer interactions are now digital.

Marketing programs are often the gateway to other business interactions, creating valence – good or bad – for other customer experiences. Whether in person or through digital services, everyone working on the front lines must be prepared to respond to the unexpected at all times.

Related Article: 8 Tips for Building a Winning Customer Experience Strategy

A shared customer-centric mission is critical to Frontline’s success

While many things are needed to make frontline responsiveness effective, one thing must be true. Everyone on the front line must share a common mission, an ultimate goal. This mission must be customer-centric. Companies can set internal goals (e.g. pipeline goals, revenue growth, team productivity), but these cannot be the primary mission.

In the emergency room, for example, the shared mission is patient health and safety. Imagine if the technician providing the catheter in the “Good Doctor” scene believed his mission was to save money on equipment or if the surgeon believed his mission was to complete the procedure quickly so he could complete his quota? What would have happened to the patient’s experience if these different goals had conflicted or slowed the response? Internal goals, especially financial ones, can be important markers of progress, and companies need to be financially sensible.

However, these internal goals should be accountable to the customer value mission, not the other way around. Overriding is the term used when people become so focused on achieving a metric that they lose sight of the big picture.

Dan Cockerell, former vice president of the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, says, “We learned at Disney that making money is simply a lagging indicator of all upstream entries.

Related article: Are you sacrificing customer experience for marketing leads?

Customer Experience Mission Guides When Nothing Else Can

Every frontline employee makes dozens of daily decisions that impact the customer experience. A front line without a mission is a real risk to strategy and contributes significantly to the fear that employee empowerment will cause chaos. There are many types of safeguards to guide employee action, including training, scripts, checklists, rules, processes, technology, and manuals. These provide great help, but at the dynamic periphery, where each client may have a bespoke need and where each situation is at least slightly different, action requires creative problem solving that cannot always be pre-conceived.

The mission is determined by the management of the company and constitutes an essential element of the strategy. It provides boundaries and guides the direction of decisions when quick action is required, and there is no time to move up and down the management hierarchy. Like it or not, in VUCA situations, the front line has the power. If the team’s North Star is clear, a mission will keep the team on track. Without a mission, there is no telling which direction an employee may go when things get ambiguous.

Of course, it is imperative that employees understand the mission and are both empowered and supported to accomplish it. Healthcare solutions provider CVS has an admirable mission. “We help people with their health wherever and whenever they need us. And we do it with heart. Because our passion is our raison d’être: To bring our heart to every moment of your health™.” The CVS mission is clear, customer-centric, concise and inspiring. However, having this mission on their website didn’t stop a store’s employees from denying a vulnerable elderly customer a COVID vaccine just because he was not computer literate and he could not register online for an immunization appointment.

A mission also serves the people on the front lines of customer experience

People want to work for companies whose purpose is intellectually and emotionally aligned with them. A recent EY Beacon Institute survey of business leaders found that companies that exemplify purpose have employees 1.4 times more engaged, 1.7 times more satisfied, and three times more likely to retain employees.

Maintaining a quality frontline workforce is a major asset in today’s competitive human capital marketplace. It’s the frontline employees who will be the first to hear customer concerns and notice what excites them before traceable data patterns can be seen in enterprise systems.

Anne M. Mulcahy, former president and CEO of Xerox Corporation, said, “Employees are a company’s greatest asset — they are your competitive advantage. You want to attract and retain the best; encourage them, stimulate them and make them feel that they are an integral part of the company’s mission.

Your company’s mission is your promise to your customer and will keep your team focused on what’s most important, no matter what unexpected event happens on the front line.

Joseph P. Harris