Open letter from an employee to a customer

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Fountain pen is writing on a letter

Digital transformation mainly relies on two joint streams : employee experience and customer experience without which the employee experience won’t be delivered. On the other hand, leaders often underestimate the digital maturity and appetite of their employees as well as their need to be exemplary. As a result the unbalance between the internal and external side by be very frustrating.

Fictional letter from an employee to a customer.

Dear customer,

We don’t know each other, at least not really. You are an anonymous shadow visiting our stores, at best a loyalty card number but we don’t know a lot about you even if we’ve been promising a careful and personalised experience to you for a couple of years. You don’t know me better. When you’re talking to your friends you call me the “the idiot”. In fact, not me really but the guys who work for me, what is quite the same. Let’s say I’m the Chief Idiot.

But why so much hate ?

It’s easy to understand. We make your life difficult. We suck. We have no power but say “no” or “wait…I need to ask for approval, come back in one week”. We endlessly make you repeat the same story to different people. We poorly know your history with us. We ask you to wait 5 minutes to get information you already got on your smartphone and you’re proudly showing in front of our faces. We spend 10 minutes hidden behind a screen to do something you do in less than 5 minutes on our app. We don’t have info about the discount you’re coming to the store for because you received an email.

So you come to visit us because you heard our promise and you are logically disappointed because we can’t keep it. You’re angry at us and and I can’t do anything except agreeing with you, all the more since I experience exactly the same when I leave my office to become a customer, here or in another place.

We are aware of everything you’re complaining about and even more. You can’t imagine all the frustration we remove by bending over backwards. We really do our best with what we have. But even the best intentions are not enough to solve anything and there are too many grey zones left. But be sure of one thing : no one wakes up in the morning saying “I’m going to make a customer’s life a nightmare”. It’s all the opposite. We do or don’t do things for a reason that are good a wrong but for reasons. Because a process requires us to do things in a specific fashion, because we don’t have the application or information to do things in another way.

Let me share some examples with you.

• you manage your services in a dashboard on the customer space on our website. We use 4 apps to do the same in stores, none of them connected to the others. Offering you a great customer experience was priority, but doing the same for employees was seen as too expensive for back-office solutions.

• When you app tells you if a given product is available in a given store, we need to go through 6 screens to get the same info.

• Some workflows were simplified or even removed online to make things more fluid, with less approval steps. But the in-store processes did not change. When the app says yes, we must ask for approval from managers.

• With your smartphone you can compare products, see our competitor’s prices. We are not allowed to have our smartphone in stores, so we’re more in the mist than you.

• when we started with click-and-collect, it was a real success in terms of sales. But we did not hire associates so your orders are never ready when you come to the store.

• Regarding ecommerce, we started to use a specific store’s inventory before building a specific warehouse. As a result, most of  the inventory was taken during the night for online orders and customers found an empty store in the morning.

In fact we work for the retail division. Ecommerce belongs to the online division. Do you know that the two guys leading these divisions never speak to each other and are competing on the revenue ? That each one drives his initiatives on his own, without dialogue with the other ?

It’s not an excuse and you are right when you ask us to deliver on the promise. Being talk bdly at is never pleasant but it’s well deserved. Maybe you don’t complain about the right people. You and me are in the same ship. A poor experience frustrates you but it also frustrates the one who does its best to keep the promise but has not the means to. We both lose in this game.

So I’m not angry at you at all. I’m just a little bit jealous.

Maybe you don’t realize what it took to offer you a front-office you’re very happy with. But if you had a look at my for tools and by back-office you would cry. Digital is as shiny on your side of the wall that’s it’s creepy on mine.

You can say how disappointed you are one Facebook. Don’t expect any answer from us : it’s blocked.

You are very helpful to us when you come to the store with your smartphones. Benchmarks, product characteristics, competitors prices….. because we’re not allowed to bring our mobile phone in the store. So we’re happy when you share your info with us.

Your order where you want, items are shipped were you want. It’s transparent…but not for me. Regarding the way the revenue is attributed, most of the time that my staff spends with you when you come to pick-up your order does not change everything in their performance indicators.

You are happy that so many points of friction have been removed from your journey. They were not actually removed, just moved to our side so everything looks transparent for you. In the trade off we earned frustration and time consuming tasks. Nothing has changed, the peeble just moved from one shoe to another.

I really hope that one day everything will be in place so you and I will do our job in a seamless way. That you’ll have a great experience doing the customer’s job and I’ll have a great experience doing my job, supporting your experience. Together, not the one against the other.

The Chief Idiot that loves you more than you think.

Photo Credit : Fotolia