What is the single biggest driver of a compelling customer experience?
Is it your product’s performance?
Is it your customer service?
Is it your social media presence?
It’s none of the above.
The single biggest driver of a compelling customer experience is how well your employees work together. It’s difficult to create a sense of Brand Harmony for your customers if your employees are at cross-purposes.
This observation comes from the Yastrow and Company team’s many projects that help companies create compelling customer experiences. And we’ve seen that the single biggest factor influencing teamwork is the strength of the relationships between individual team members.
We vs. Us and Them
In 2009, I published a book called We: The Ideal Customer Relationship. The main premise of the book is that if your customer’s frame of reference, when thinking about you, is “We” instead of “Us and Them,” that customer will see you as a partner and value you over your competition.
The same principle of “We” exists inside your company. The more “We Relationships” that exist between your employees, the stronger your culture will be, the more effective teamwork you will see, and the more compelling experience your customers will have.
Relationship Strength Benchmark
Here’s an exercise to measure your company or department’s relationship strength. If you think about all of the possible relationships between employees in your company, how many are “We” and how many are “Us and Them?” Give yourself one point for each We Relationship. Of the employees who need to collaborate, do at least 1/3rd of them have We Relationships with each other? If not, you have a relationship deficit!
Almost every company scores lower than they’d like in this exercise and sees room for improvement. Now imagine: what would be different about your company if there were many more “We” relationships among your employees?
Of course, you can’t expect all relationships among your employees to be “We.” It’s not important if a worker in your shipping department doesn’t have a strong, collaborative relationship with someone in the legal department. But that shipping employee will certainly be more effective if they have a “We” relationship with someone in Quality Control.
Creating We: The Relationship Building Encounter
I focused on creating We Relationships last week with the employees of Willoway Nurseries, a dynamic and exciting player in the wholesale nursery business. Willoway has a strong culture, and their CEO, Tom Demaline, is dedicated to making this culture even stronger. The Willoway team and I covered on the following principles as we discussed how to maximize “We” within the team:
1. The Goal of Every Team Member Interaction: Relationship-Building Encounters
Employees within a company continually need to transact business with each other. If every one of these interactions is not purely just a “transaction,” but a relationship-building encounter, employees will develop We Relationships with each other.
2. The Key to Relationship-Building Encounters: Conversations
Conversation is the quintessentially human activity. And when two of your team members are able to create an effective conversation, as opposed to any sort of miscommunication, they will be well on the way to building their relationship.
3. The Critical Ingredients of Conversations: Listening, Dialogue and Personalization
Good conversation is not about explaining your needs and expectations to a fellow employee. It’s about listening, so you can understand the other person’s perspective. It’s about ensuring that you create a flowing dialogue with the other person, and personalizing your approach based on what you know and learn about one another.
One of the most common times this does not happen is when managers talk with their reports. Effective management and leadership are definitely not about edicts and explanations; they are about relationship-building between the manager and the employee that is grounded in mutual, open conversation.
If you’d like to know more about how to create a culture of We Relationships inside your company, get in touch with me and we can share some ideas. It’s one of the best ways to create an experience that encourages your customers to love doing business with your company. And, just as importantly, it will create a rewarding work environment for your employees, encouraging them to stay employed, stay engaged, and stay the course.