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The Customer & Employee Renaissance Series

Posted on : 12-10-2012 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Customer Service, Inspirational, Leadership

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This post originally appeared on LinkedIn as part of their influencer program on October 2, 2012.  To see the original post click here.

The business world is changing around us in many ways, but hasn’t it always been changing and evolving?  We have just been through a time of greater focus on metrics and processes.  I refer to the era as the Jack Welch era, based on the Six Sigma evolution that has come and gone.  This focus brought greater efficiencies to business, but, as with anything, the case can be made that it was at the expense of other areas of business, such as employee turnover, innovation, or Customer experience.  Now we are entering a new phase that is being defined by a new generation of employees and Customers alike.  In some ways it is a Renaissance or a rebirth.

Times of change can be exciting to many, but very concerning to others.  We like to say change is good, but we need to face facts that change is hard on everyone, even those who may be excited by it.  As I write posts we will explore pieces of this renaissance and how it is impacting your business.  I would imagine we will have people reading the posts in various stages of the change.  Often small business owners are the first to see change in front of them and they sieze the moment to build there business.  Those of us working for larger institutions we may see the need for change, but due to the speed larger businesses move, seeing the shift is not always noticed until it is too late.  This is an era where smaller, more nimble businesses will have the chance to really excell.

Economic times always play a huge part in any revolutions, or even renaissance.  There is a reason why people look for something different, and often it is a chance to grow personally, professionally or a mix of both.  Historically in the US we have been very optimistic, and even if there were different views, we celebrated them.  As I look back I think we started to see a shift to a more divisive society from the late 1990′s and that continues through today.  The economic realities of the past 10 years have contributed to this tremendously.  In business our own artistic abilitiles were limited as we focused more and more on processes.  This also led to growing frustration with work.  At the same time technology advances changed the way we work.  Today many of us are connected day and night to our work email, expectations of our own performance has grown, especially as companies have cut back.  It sometimes feels non-stop.  

From a Customer perspective we have seen amazing amounts of change.  Shopping has shifted from smaller businesses that knew who we were and what we needed to larger stores with amazing selection.  In many ways that selection and price reduction was a huge plus, but we have all seen the drawbacks as well.  Service was not like those smaller stores.  Finding those hard to find parts by simply asking the clerk from the local hardware store was replaced with going through countless drawers in the nut and bolt aisle at the big home improvement store.  Of course this is changing again as we are now able to search the web.  Companies constantly looking to reduce costs added new technology, such as the automated voice when you call an 800 number.  Now instead of reaching someone we get to push 1 to be transferred to someone eventually after we are forced to enter all kinds of information that never seems to make it to the representative, then we have to repeat it all again.  You can also press 2 to be disconnected or 3 to reach the wrong department.  When your call finally reaches someone, they are limited to a process of a script. Of course no one provided you the other side of the script so you are at a major disadvantage. Hopefully your issue is on the script because the representative does not have access to decision makers and their abilities are confined to the process and systems they have in front of them. No deviation! When you go to the local supermarket, the checkout process has shifted from that friendly person, to either a person who is concentrated on meeting the number of items checked per hour, or worse yet, the supermarket forces the Customer to do the checkout for themselves.  Has all this new technology led to a better Customer experience?  Statistics would say it has not.  In fact many polls shows Customers feel the experience with most companies is not near an acceptable level.

I am sure if you asked a CEO, they would tell you how great their Customer and employee experience is.  We would all love to believe that, but often times our real life experience is different.  As Patricia Martin points out in the video below, a Renaissance comes about after a period of dark times.  The question is are we now in the dark times for employees or Customers?  I think it is possible, but I still have a sense of optimism and I think the best of times are in front of us.  As part of this series we are going to take a deeper look at the past, present and the future.  Together, we will start painting that future, and I expect it will be a masterpiece.

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to present at TedxBroadway.  It was an amazing experience and I loved listening to all the speakers.  One of the speakers I enjoyed learning from was Patricia, and I thought this post was a great opportunity to share her perspective with you.  It was funny because Patricia and I had similar thoughts in our presentation, but prior to the conference we never had the opportunity to meet. I hope you enjoyed the post and the video!

Frank