Here’s the scene. You’ve ordered some new kitchen chairs and arrive at the furniture company’s warehouse to pick up your items. You spot a big sign that says “Order Pick-Up” and wait for service, but there isn’t a dedicated attendant. A few employees sidle by, and you notice their concerted effort to avoid eye-contact with you.
Finally, somebody shuffles up to you, nods, and wordlessly reaches for the order slip in your hand. After a brief glimpse, the worker looks up and mumbles, “Follow me.” You proceed after the shuffling employee through a maze of stacked warehouse shelves, wondering what you did to cause the worker’s sombre mood.
But you consider your surroundings and realize there are three other employees shuffling around, heads-down, while leading customers to their orders. And then it hits you: it’s not you, it’s them.
After the employee stops in front of the rack that holds your chairs, he helps you load the boxes onto a trolley and sends you on your way with a curt, “Thank you.” During your ride home, with the new chairs you want to feel excited about, you can’t shake your dissatisfaction with the experience.
Actions Have Consequences
Customer experience breakdowns occur all the time. What most organizations don’t realize is breakdowns aren’t usually the fault of a single employee. Instead, a brand’s behaviour – or the way its people act towards customers and each other – is often the culprit of broken brand promises.
The actions and body language of the people who represent a brand impact the delivery of that brand’s customer experience. In our warehouse example, employees walked with their heads down and grumbled to customers and each other, which created a downcast and uninviting atmosphere. Maybe the employees were feeding off each other’s negative energy that day, or perhaps the mood and sentiment of the brand’s leaders was the root cause of the gloomy behaviour. Whatever the case, the collective behaviour of the brand impacted the delivery of its customer experience.
Understanding the impact of actions and body language is a key step in helping your organization develop a brand behaviour that fosters great customer experiences. Leaders and employees must realize that subtle things like body language (slouching instead of sitting up straight) or the way they carry themselves (shuffling vs. a bounce in their step) are as important to the customer experience as what they say and do.
The Power of Positive Behaviour
We touched on how employees’ actions and body language can lead to them delivering a customer experience that breaks the brand promise. But just as often, the right behaviour can enable employees to keep the brand promise.
There’s a great video by a well-known psychologist – Shawn Achor – in which he talks about the concept of “mirroring.” The crux of Achor’s belief in the power of positive behaviour revolves around the brain activity that occurs when we merely see another person smiling. Our brains – through little sensors called “mirror neurons” – have the ability to release dopamine that tells us we are smiling, when in reality we are experiencing somebody else smiling.
Put in the context of customer experience, this science is incredible. It means that positive actions and body language, whether in meetings between an organization’s leaders or in front-line customer interactions, have the power to impact the customer experience. Remember, your brand is the sum of experiences you deliver to customers and employees. Your behaviour during interactions with employees will define their behaviour during contact with your customers.
Here are some basic positive behaviours that can immediately help organizations improve their customer experience:
- Speak clearly
- Maintain good posture
- Walk with a purpose
- Make eye contact
- Remain positive
- Be friendly
The most important aspect of an employee’s behaviour is how it impacts other employees and customers. And given the overwhelming scientific research that supports the idea that our behaviour is contagious, it’s vital that organizations begin to consider how they want their brand to behave. If implemented correctly and lived by the organization’s people at every level, the right actions and body language can significantly improve that organization’s ability to keep its brand promise.