This is part of a two-month series on the importance of company culture. Find more posts about culture here.

A lot of folks have gotten the memo that you need to delight your customers to retain them. Unfortunately, as with any trend, they’ve ignored the advice on how to implement these programs. They see it as an “action item”, not a complex cultural shift. Too often, it looks like a memo from management that says: “Start delighting customers. Do anything they want. Good luck!”

The problem with this is two-fold:

1) The support rep is not “bought in” to the idea, and thus has no motivation for it, aside from the fear of executive retribution.

2) The support rep still has their previous requirements (answer x tickets, respond x fast, etc) that may conflict with the “delight” directive.

This recently happened at a health clinic in California, which will remain nameless to protect the innocent. Doctors and nurse practitioners were told to “delight” patients. “Fluff their pillows, get them water, ask them if there’s anything else you can do for them, etc.” That was it…no real explanation of why, no tips on how to do it, and no instructions as to how this would fit in with existing policies and practices.

The biggest issue was pretty obvious: these doctors and nurse practitioners were expected to get through X number of patients a day (a number they already felt was high.) Since this metric hadn’t changed, they were now being asked to do MORE work and still get through the same number of patients. In other words, it was basically impossible.

But moreover, they didn’t really understand why they should bother. In their minds, they were providing great medical care and that’s all that mattered. Readers of this blog know that even small parts of the customer (or in this case, patient) experience can affect whether they choose to give your organization money again, and health clinics are no different. But the employees didn’t necessarily know that.

How should this have been handled?

1. Figure out how to work this into the structure and policies of the organization. Things will have to change if you intend to spend more time (and potentially money) on customer happiness. Move away from or lower volume expectations so care can be the focus.

2. Explain to your employees why this is important. Talk about hard numbers…returning patients vs patients who went elsewhere, stats from case studies, etc.

3. Help employees ease into it. Don’t just expect them to pick it up right away…work with your employees to try different things, note what does and doesn’t work, and reassure them that the customer’s delight is more important than volume.

If you’re going to dive into delighting customers, great: it’s going to be a powerful retention tool for your business. But if you don’t plan, adjust, and educate accordingly, it’s never going to actually happen.

Cupcake photo courtesy of Kelly Sue DeConnick.