How Transparent is the Customer Service You Provide?

February 17, 2016 Appirio

By Brett Brewer and Jiordan Castle

customer service

Transparency in Customer Experience can feel like a tightrope walk for many companies, particularly as consumers become increasingly dependent on the internet for suggestions and reviews. Yelp informs our dining habits; Glassdoor defines our salary and job prospects. Companies are learning — and not wrongly so — that transparency can lead to disaster: public shaming, loss of business, etc. But if you approach customer service transparency from a “How are customers going to like what they see when ‘what you see is what get’?” perspective, you stand a better chance of winning customers over. People respond to authenticity, empathy, and honesty.

Negative attention is still attention

Making the ways in which your workers interact with customers more transparent and visible can bring positive attention to your brand. More transparent methods of working with customers also make it easier and more enjoyable for your workers to put time and energy into delivering a great Customer Experience. In the case of one bar and grill in Indianapolis, a particularly transparent customer service experience had a domino effect, thanks to the internet’s propensity for public shaming. Last month, a woman who had visited the restaurant for dinner posted a scathing review of her experience on the restaurant’s Facebook page, saying she would never return “after the way [we] were treated when [we] spent $700+ and having [our] meal ruined by watching a dead person being wheeled out from an overdose.” As fate (or a timely exchange on social media) would have it, a managing partner at the restaurant responded to the post, explaining that the patron in trouble was actually an older woman who’d had a heart attack and, fortunately, had since been revived.

Worker Experience and Customer Experience are inextricably linked

Consider this: Rather than comment back to the vocal patron on Facebook with an offer to compensate her next meal at the restaurant or provide a stock “please tell us what we can do to…” apology, the managing partner who responded took a radically different approach. He wrote, “It sounds like you were very concerned about her so I thought you should know… But I can completely understand why you think being intoxicated… [jerks who] didn’t understand your bill should take priority over a human life.” Somewhat unsurprisingly, his response led to a public flogging of this customer; she even deactivated her Facebook profile and later claimed to have been hacked. Though it’s easy to think this exchange simply gave transparency to a terrible Customer Experience, it unintentionally gave voice to a great Worker Experience.

Freedom + judgment = empowerment

Companies concerned with employee engagement talk quite a bit about happiness, but the truth is that happiness is subjective. Snacks, PTO, on-site yoga — these things may make us happy in the workplace, but they don’t make our jobs any easier or more enjoyable in the long run. Empowered employees, on the other hand, are truly engaged, armed with the tools, technology, and support of senior management necessary to make difficult decisions and positively affect Customer Experience. In the case of this particular restaurant, the managing partner is empowered to speak out for 3 critical parties: the brand (restaurant), anyone who reports to him, and the customer who faced a medical emergency. When workers have the power to speak out on issues that matter — or if a customer complaint turns into a public spectacle — it’s because senior management has made that employee feel that the direct, to-the-point way of responding to a problem customer was correct and valid. The freedom to act plus the ability to judge how best to handle a situation with equal empowerment is the key ingredient to long-lasting employee engagement.

Do the people on your team know they have the freedom to make important decisions? Does your organization have the tools in place to support them if there are negative repercussions? These are important questions to have answers to, especially for frontline workers early on in their careers — people who are inherently customer-facing. This can mean your consultants, your call center reps… even the field marketing and content teams who creatively construct and broadcast your brand. When you give your workers the technology, training, and support they need to work most effectively, you get a more transparent, streamlined Customer and Worker Experience… and everybody wins.


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