Thursday, August 07, 2014

8 Days to 40: Lesson #7

Lesson #7: The One.

This one is pretty easy. A few years ago, while researching and designing customer engagement content for some work I was doing, I discovered something powerful…

Every company I know that provides some level of customer service tries to accomplish it in the most efficient way possible. This means putting processes and systems in place to help automate and reduce the time and effort they had to manually put into resolving customer issues. This can be a real landmine, however, because as most of us have experienced, it can come across super impersonal and end up being down-right unhelpful.

As I examined closely the difference between those companies that were successful in their efforts versus those that mostly failed, I noticed a very interesting pattern.

There are two main approaches used by companies.

  1. You aggregate your data and look for patterns – the most common problems/issues. Then you automate to resolve these. The idea is that you would resolve a large proportion of issues without much cost or effort, thus saving a lot of money and allegedly helping more customers more often - and it turns into customer satisfaction. This strategy becomes the center of your customer service efforts. Exceptions are handled on the outside of the center through escalation processes, etc.
  2. You figure out the worst problems. The ones that cause the most pain. You comb through your data looking for the exceptions. Then you build your processes around solving those most extreme cases. The idea is that if you can easily solve these hard cases, then you should be able to easily resolve the small ones. This strategy is focused on dealing with the most impactful experiences – the ones that customers ae most upset about and are the hardest to typically get resolved. In a way, this is putting escalation resources on the front lines.

Personally, I am a fan of the 2nd approach. And the companies that did this, were way more successful in my research.

Well, one day I was bemoaning to good friend over lunch how at the time I was stuck working onsite with a single customer. I was itching to have more time to build the business work on things that could take my expertise to the masses. I had a lot to share and could help people on a larger scale, if only I could get liberated from this one customer engagement (a close to full-time, 9 month engagement).  The business needed the engagement at the time, so I couldn’t drop it, but it just felt so constricting.

My friend looked at me carefully and quietly said, “you know, the best public figures are also the best private ones.”

I looked at him a bit confused. He continued, “I’ve noticed that the people and companies best at serving the masses are those who really care most about the one. Why don’t you take advantage of the time with the one to really learn how to be good with one? I have a feeling if you can do that, you can scale much better.”

I sat pondering that for a while without saying much. I just kind of said, “hmmmm…interesting thought.”

Then my research experience came back to me and I realized my friend was right. Really right. The successful companies could very well be summarized as follows: Those that cared the most about taking care of the one were the best at caring for the most.

That’s a powerful thought. It really struck home to me as well.

The example of our Savior, Jesus Christ is a perfect example. His whole ministry was focused on the one. The parable of the lost sheep, the prodigal son, the washing of the feet, the healings, the suffering for all of us individually – so that he could succor us each, not just so he could succor us all. He began with each. The one.

This lesson extended to my family too. I knew that if I could become excellent with my family, that it would need to be by being great with each member of my family. I couldn’t just be a good manager of the unit or make myself a good person or a talented dad. I had to care about the one. Like my dad did to me (see Lesson #1 in this series).

When the one is enough, then you really know the meaning of what I decided during my research was the final and most powerful principle of successful customer engagement - or maybe we should call it the most powerful principle of human engagement: Caring.

Learning this lesson greatly changed my career, my relationships with my family, and with my Savior. It was a great insight to what it meant to take upon me the name of Christ and how to begin to be more like Him. I am very grateful for a friend who said with courage, the thing I needed to hear - for calling me out. It was inspired.

Today is August 7th. Tomorrow I turn 40. To celebrate, I am going camping with my family. I leave in about 3 hours. I will not be here tomorrow to write and share Lesson #8. That will have to wait till at least Saturday night (look for it Sunday morning). Because I am going to spend time with my kids. As much as I love writing for all of you (and myself), I really have learned to love and care for the one. My kids are the ones for me this weekend.

In the meantime, figure out what your ones are. Spend some time with one of them. The effect really does flow up and out.

See you Sunday morning!
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