Getting customer connections on track

As always, I use day to day examples of my own experiences to deliver my messages around the topic of customer experience.

The Story
I was recently on the LUAS on route to a meeting and along the way, a couple of ticket inspectors boarded. I was highly amused at a gentleman (and he was an absolute gentleman) from the Transdev ticket inspection team. I watched him ‘work’ the carriages, going from person to person, checking their tickets while leaving most, if not all passengers, with a smile. It was fascinating to watch, and some passengers really engaged with him, asking him travel questions, giggling etc., as they clearly felt comfortable doing so.

As a customer, it was fantastic to observe and a brilliant experience. As a CX professional, what I really appreciated was how this man turned something quite serious into something extremely pleasant. He changed the mood in the carriage, lifting everyone’s spirits while still going about his more serious task, checking tickets. It’s extremely difficult to connect with customers with a service like the LUAS, but this was a brilliant way to do just that, whether intentional or not.

There are certain skills ticket inspectors require to do their job, skills that enable them to handle customers who may be challenging or perhaps even abusive should they be revealed as fare evaders. These are skills they need to draw upon when required, however they needn’t be on display for the majority of travelers who do pay their fares. This gentleman highlighted this point beautifully.

 

The Message
The message here is that delivering a superb customer experience goes right back to the recruitment process.  What is the right fit for your company culture and how do you draw in the right candidates? A role like this requires a certain set of skills, however if we want to ensure a great customer experience, attributes are extremely important. Skills are what we learn, however attributes are qualities that we naturally have such as warmth, enthusiasm, empathy etc., and these are essential for building human to human connections.

You need to decide what qualities are important for your business and establish ways to draw them out in the interview process. For First Direct bank (the number one customer experience brand in the UK), empathy is extremely important, so they hire their customer facing staff from the caring community who have natural empathy as a quality.

Zappos (the US online shoe retailer and customer experience champion), has a very clear culture and makes cultural fit a top priority. Their purpose is ‘To live and deliver WOW’, and the ‘wow’ is mostly delivered over the phone, its most important connection with customers.  How do you hire staff with the right qualities to deliver this powerful customer promise? Zappos use specific hiring strategies to see what the candidate is like outside of the interview setting. For example, a lot of candidates interviewing at Zappos come from out of town (they’re based in Las Vegas), so are picked up by a Zappos shuttle bus and given a tour en route to their interview location. Following the interviews, the Zappos team talk to the shuttle bus driver to see how nice that person was when they weren’t ‘switched on’ in interview mode. A great test of seeing the person and their qualities as they really are.

This gentleman on the LUAS was making customer connections in spades. I’m under no illusion that the model may not work if all the ticket inspecting staff who are hired are warm, friendly, empathetic and engaging. It could however, work brilliantly if a percentage of the staff were hired based on warm and engaging qualities like this gentleman to balance things out. Transdev don’t get much of a chance to engage with customers and this would be one way to enable them to continue to build emotional connections.

I only wish I had seen his name badge at the time as he really deserved a shout-out but I know if you come across him you’ll know exactly who is!