Author’s Note: When writing The Journey to WOW, I tried to create a story that would be meaningful for everyone involved in creating a customer-focused organization. This is an excerpt from Chapter 17. In it, Maddy describes the attitude everyone needs to begin transforming a customer service culture.
“So,” Madeleine said as they seated themselves. “What have we learned so far today?”
Cameron looked down at his shoes for a moment, then up at her. “Quite a lot, I think,” he said quietly, “but I haven’t had time to figure out what it means yet.” He described to her the events of the morning. Madeleine listened intently.
“It’s frustrating,” he said. “I feel as though I’m getting to see a bunch of random pieces of a puzzle, but none of them fit together yet. I don’t even know what the ultimate picture looks like. I know what I’m seeing is important, but I’m not sure what to do about them or how they fit into the big picture.” He looked at Madeleine, who returned his gaze with an appreciative smile.
“That’s a good feeling to have,” she said.
Cameron raised an eyebrow. “No, really!” she insisted. “Most people already assume they know what the picture looks like, and then try to jam the puzzle pieces into places they think they should be – whether they fit or not. Then they hold their completed puzzle up for the world to see, jagged and imperfect, believing they’ve found a truth. It may be frustrating for you now, but when things do start to come together, you will at least be seeing what’s really there, instead of seeing the things you want to see.”
Cameron nodded. It was small consolation to his frustration, but it was something. He thought in silence for a few moments.
“Maddy,” he asked finally, “when we first met and I told you about the books I’d bought, you said I was getting every perspective except one – the most important one. What is the perspective I’m missing? That’s the key, isn’t it?”
“Oh, VERY good question!” Madeleine said, eyes twinkling. “There’s hope for you yet!” She checked her watch and began to stand.
“No, wait,” Cameron said, grabbing her arm. “I don’t have time to play games. Telling me I’m asking good questions isn’t helping me.”
Madeleine sat back down and turned to him. “But your questions are important.” She was serious, and for the first time, Cameron could see the depth behind the brightness of her eyes.
“But I don’t need questions. I need answers,” he said. “Look, I have to come up with a plan soon. This has all been very educational, and I have no doubt it will help. Right now, Maddy, I really need answers.”
Madeleine regarded him thoughtfully for a few moments. “Cameron,” she said, tilting her head to one side, “what size of electric motor goes in an appliance?”
Cameron blinked. “What?” he asked. “What does that have to do with . . .”
“It has everything to do with our discussion,” Madeleine interrupted seriously. “Now tell me – what size of electric motor goes in an appliance?”
“Well, it depends,” Cameron said, starting to get a little annoyed, “on the kind of appliance. I mean, what’s the size? What will the motor be running? How long will it run for? What are the loads? There are a lot of factors.”
“Cameron,” Madeleine said slowly. “I didn’t ask you for questions. I asked you for an answer.” She kept her gaze on him, expectantly.
“But . . .” Cameron’s mouth snapped shut as Madeleine’s point hit home. He flushed.
“Cameron, there’s no point in trying to come up with answers until you’re sure you’re asking the right questions,” Madeleine said. “I understand your urgency, but the truth is, getting the questions right is ninety percent of the battle.” She turned so that her whole body was facing him. The frills on her lace hat danced. “Customer experience and customer service are all too often taken for granted. People think that just because they recognize a good customer experience when they see it, they understand how to deliver it in their own organization.
“It’s like someone thinking they can bake a great cake just because they recognize one when they see it. Or someone thinking they can build a house just because they can swing a hammer. It doesn’t work like that. Nor can you just find some kind of paint-by-number users guide to customer experience and apply it to any organization.
“What’s the term you corporate folks like to use? Oh yes – best practices – that’s what you call them. More like risky practices usually. I mean, they might have been a best practice for one organization, but they could be useless to another. A templated approach can only take you so far. People think of customer experience as being something simplistic, easy, uncomplicated. But if it was really all that straight-forward, why are so few organizations really good at it? Some people will tell you that it’s just common sense, but that’s nonsense,” Madeleine continued in earnest, her eyes boring into his. “What seems to be common sense for one person might be seen by somebody with a different vantage point as the silliest thing in the world.
“Customer experience isn’t a thing, Cameron,” she continued. “It’s a perception. And it changes depending on the customer and the organization. If you want to deliver it, you first have to identify what it looks like.” She paused and patted his arm. “Once you’ve identified it, the answers you’re looking for are much easier to see.”
Cameron looked up at Madeleine, and saw the earnestness in her eyes. There was a depth to this woman that transcended the eccentric clothes and quirkiness. He saw that now, too. And she was right. Despite the pressure from his CEO, there was no point in trying to come up with answers until he knew the right questions to ask. “So, what now?” he asked finally.
Madeleine gave him a warm smile, and her eyes resumed their twinkle. “Well,” she said, “for starters, I think we’ve waited here long enough.”
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