The staff at Dollis Hill station often write amusing or uplifting messages on a whiteboard near the ticket gates. I don’t usually give these scribbles much thought as I rush by on my way to work, but some time ago I saw a quotation that left a lasting impression on me:
I can’t find a source for this quotation, but I read that Gandhi may have come up with it as a take on a Sanskrit proverb that encourages personal integrity.
On a personal level, the implications of Gandhi’s words are clear; How can a person be happy if their words or actions are at odds with what they think is right? I think that the words also have a strong message for businesses that want to improve their customer experience. In customer experience, the “happiness” that most interests us is how the customer feels. And the words, actions, and thoughts that we can change are those of the company. With this in mind, the quotation is like a distillation of fundamental customer experience principles:
- Positive customer experiences (“happiness”) happen when customers feel that their interactions with an organisation meet their expectations. Those expectations are shaped by the company’s communications (what the company “says”) and they are fulfilled by the company’s products and services (what the company “does”).
- Companies that want to consistently deliver positive experiences, must align the whole organisation on a shared mindset (what the company “thinks”). It takes a clearly articulated vision, supported by training and incentives, to ensure “harmony” between the parts of the organisation that are involved in internal operations, customer facing channels, communications, and so on.
I think of this as a jigsaw puzzle, with the company’s mindset at the base. It connects with two pieces that represent the company’s words and actions. If they are aligned with company’s vision, the gaps between them should be minimised. In the real world, there is far more complexity, of course. The work of aligning the activities of many divisions, with a range of products and services, and a complex mix of channels, on a customer experience vision has been likened to herding cats.
The piece at the top of the jigsaw puzzle represents customer experience; how customers feel about their interactions with a company. Unlike the rest of the puzzle, this piece is out of the company’s hands. The company cannot dictate how the customer feels. It’s the customer who determines whether the company’s products and services lived up to their expectations, whether doing business with the company was easy, and whether they felt good about it. That’s why smart companies take great pains to understand the customer and feed this insight into everything that they think, do, and say.
Is it too much of a stretch to apply Gandhi’s words to customer experience? Given the magnitude of the causes that he devoted himself to, and the frugal lifestyle that he adopted, you might not think that Gandhi would have paid much thought to customer experience. In fact, he said something quite powerful and profound on the subject that I’ll share with you in a future blog post.