Kindness – personal trait, or adopted skill?

coffeeThis my personal story of losing faith in natural kindness in customer care. I have been thinking for quite a while if putting this post together makes sense and if it’s even relevant for this industry. And I came to a conclusion, that at least I might ignite a spark of discussion about how people in corporate settings are motivated to present natural kindness towards customers and where are the boundaries of rules (or scripts in contact centers, if you like).

So what happened? As some of you might know, I was used to dropping by for a cup of coffee on my everyday commute to the office. There a place where I used to feel welcome, well taken care of, in other words, very comfortable. What I valued the most was the heartwarming approach of the staff, that used to greet me right after opening the door, being very polite and helpful throughout my stay and waving goodbye when leaving.
I perceived this customer oriented approach as if it was something genuine, real, almost personal. And needless to say, this was a huge part of my motivation to drop by every working day to make my start of the day even more pleasant. At this point, it might make sense to mention, that I’m not talking about a local cafe, but a multinational venture.

My certainly idealistic vision was crushed the day I was asked to fill out a survey on the internet about my satisfaction as a customer. What I thought would be a shallow statistical survey turned into a deep questioning on various aspects of the customer service I was receiving. And there it was…

“Did the staff greet you when you entered the venue?”
“Were you explained the differences between offered coffee types?”
“Did the barista smile when processing your order?”
“Did the shop assistant part with you properly?”

Well, it’s nice to see that training managers execute and measure results rigorously. Of course, rather than make customers suffer from rude shop assistants, it makes sense to prepare them for an exceptional customer service. But maybe, in this case, employees are forced to act like pre-programmed robots, pretending a real interest in the customer.

Without any doubt, many contact centers undergo the same challenge – balancing on the edge of tight scripts and free options of response is always hard. Scripts certainly guarantee a certain level of customer satisfaction; yet can they really take customer care to the next level? I believe they can’t because any kind of pretending is so difficult to mask which causes a drain of mental energy of the agent.

The whole story seems to me like it is taking us back to the roots of customer care excellence which simply needs to be deeply rooted within employees, not by means of technical training (how to do it), but rather emotional and mental preparation (explaining how customers perceive employees and how to actually enjoy, or even like customers and act as if they were your close friends). And to have people that are willing to act in this radically new way onboard is something AgentBalance can help a lot with (See Job Fulfillment and Self-regulation parameters).

Author: Václav Martin, CEO AgentBalance