We are in an era where many organisations have an abundance of data. What used to be a luxury due to the significant costs involved, thanks to technology, is now readily available in swathes.
Battling a toxic culture
Data drives our decision-making and helps to evolve our strategies. Yet what can often be an essential missing element is the overlay of emotional intelligence which is needed now more than ever as we battle an increasingly toxic culture.
Globally, consumers have been struggling with an onslaught of feelings and emotions throughout the pandemic and as part of this pent-up frustration is being focussed on service operatives.
Sadly we know that levels of abuse both verbal and physical directed against colleagues in the travel, retail, entertainment and hospitality sectors, are at record levels. We may be in the tailwinds of ‘The Great Resignation’, having witnessed a mass exodus from certain sectors, but it is still impacting the team members that have stayed.
Many colleagues are underprepared and overwhelmed, attempting to both resolve a difficult situation and manage their own feelings. Understandably defence has become a regular protection mechanism but this greatly limits the potential for customer engagement and future relationship opportunities.
This is not the best footing for either party to build a good rapport and remember, your most loyal customers can be those who have experienced the best service recovery.
With more emphasis on SEO and online engagement than ever before, many customer relationships are starting digitally. As the tools of technology evolve to allow for more human interaction, we still have to understand that the way today’s consumers first engaged with our brand may be very different from the customer journey of years gone by. This can mean that the relationship lacks a certain quality when it comes to an accurate understanding of our offer.
What I am surprised at, after twenty years of engaging and evolving customer relationships with brands and businesses, is that so many organisations don’t make it easy for a customer to truly understand what the relationship ahead might involve. A brand promise, if you will.
This enables consumers to understand exactly what the brand stands for, and what they can hope to experience in terms of service levels at any point of the transaction or aftercare. It also clarifies what that brand does not offer as part of the mix which can be then used as a value-added element when it comes to delivery.
Embracing opportunities and challenges
Today, as business leaders we are presented with opportunities and of course challenges as we begin what we hope is the end to the pandemic. Supply chain issues continue, financial pressure mounts on both commerce and customers; the current conflict in Ukraine causes great concern for all.
Add to all this, the seabed of known issues that need our urgent focus and attention – climate change and sustainability, diversity, inclusion, and accessibility. Leaders need to demonstrate their humanity and authenticity and not pretend to have all the answers.
This is a time to ask questions and remain focused on the interests of our stakeholders, teams and customers. We have to switch off the ‘fight or flight’ mode and take the time to embrace the difficult conversations and celebrate small wins as much as the big ones. We have to be generous with our time.
Daring to celebrate others outside of our business who have shown great leadership highlights that we can be vulnerable and show openness, giving our colleagues invisible permission to share and open up too.
I am excited by the pace and development of technology to enhance all we can deliver, yet I remain steadfast that business will also require the hearts and minds of humans to add empathic and emotional connection. We absolutely must ensure that is always part of our manifesto.
About the author: Global go-to consumer specialist, Kate Hardcastle is a multi-award winning international business consultant and commentator. She works with some of the world’s biggest brands to reimagine their customer engagement.
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