Is allowing your employees to express their personality at work going to increase or decrease an experience of your customers?
One of my clients — a bank — asked me to run a series of workshops with their employees to better understand their experiences while working in their branches. The idea was to find out what can be done to improve their work so that they will be of better service to customers.
During the workshop the ladies suddenly started talking about the regulations regarding using red nail polish. Apparently for decades a red nail polish was strictly prohibited. they were allow to put a color as long as it was light pink or beige. Somehow someone in the headquarters thought that any other color would be offending customers.
Nail polish and employee behaviour
Somewhat surprised by this story I asked how this regulation influenced their perception of the work conditions. It was not that unexpected to find out that it made them feel impersonalized. Cogs in the machine. Replaceable parts. someone who needed to behave and act exactly as prescribed.
Fortunately, years later (this last March to be exact) the regulation was waived. Red color was finally allowed (I wonder how about orange or green — I need to ask). Yet, although the decision about the permission to wear red polish whenever wanted was officially proclaimed by the COO, some of the branch directors chose to go against it. It seemed to them as if something that was the silent basis for the Customer Experience they stood behind was suddenly changing. And they were not willing to accept it.
AS one girl in the workshop wore a nose-ring, I asked how about it. She told me that as soon as she enters the branch she is asked to remove it. So she looks serious. And professional. She confessed that it felt to her like part of her personality was being stripped off. Day after day.
Funny enough, some of their customers, whenever seeing her leaving work (nose-ring being put in place) could hardly recognize her. And frequently commented on it surprised with the transformation. they would prefer to see the real person not an official in a company suit. They would prefer to have a real person in front of them.
There are companies that built their recognition based on employee personality. apparently, Southwest airlines are hiring flight attendants who can distinguish themselves with some sparkling traits. The most widely known story is about one of their flight attendants rapping the safety instructions. This would be a flight to remember, wouldn’t it?
Another example is Netflix. It allows their front line employees to adjust their conversational style to the style of the customer. When a customer contacted it to tell them that his service was not working correctly, he was greeted by a man who identified himself as Captain Mike of the good ship Netflix. The client took the silliness in stride and responded as Lieutenant Norm. The two had a back and forth in character about the issue until they reached a resolution. Obviously afterwards, this customer shared the story all over social media.
Personality, Customer Experience and role-playing
This situation got me thinking — where does the CX value lay? Are people more keen to experience predictable encounters or would like to see personality and be surprised? I guess the answer it either simple or straightforward. In some cases predictability is crucial. No one would like to have a forgetful surgeon or a fireman with a head in the clouds. But on the other hand, personality is something that makes us see people in service as humans and not robots.
So, I wonder — how would a bank work if a branch employee would behave like an actor? obviously, every actor has her own unique personality. On the other hand there are certain rules that guide a play or a film. Isn’t there something that could be appropriated? I have a feeling there is plenty.