My first job was as a server at the Smitty’s in Kingsway Mall. I was fifteen years old and what I really cared about was how much tip money I left with at the end of my shift. To me, better tips meant the difference between K-mart or Jordache brand jeans.
I quickly learned that I got the best tips when my customers felt I really cared deeply about their experience. Having them leave happy meant I needed to not only figure out exactly what they wanted but anticipate and deliver it impeccably.
Looking back now on the decade I spent as a full-time and later part-time server (to give myself a little extra cash after rent) I realize how much that job taught me about customer service. What seemed like common sense at the time, anticipating and listening to customer needs and delivering the best experience I could, I now understand as both an art and a science.
Throughout my career I have seen again and again how crucial it is to put customers at the centre of everything you do. Companies and organizations that do this well are rewarded with the highest brand loyalty and customers who sing their praises.
Great experiences build bonds with customers, strengthen business, and enable growth. While remarkable service moments come in many different forms, there are a few things that organizations who are great at customer experience consistently do.
In most well-recognized, customer-focused companies the commitment to customers is set at the top. It’s in their company’s vision statements, mandates, values, and core expectations of their employees. It’s more than words on paper, it’s a true commitment and care that permeates everything they do.
Once the culture is set you have to find ways to make it real in everyday practice. In the fifteen years I spent working at Intuit we employed an annual ‘follow me home’ program for all employees.
Everyone had to find a customer and spend time with them as they used our products. As you can imagine it was sometimes tricky to find someone to let me come into their home and watch them do their taxes, but it was incredibly revealing and worthwhile. Not only did we all gain a better understanding of what customers actually experience while using our products, we were able to take what we learned, quickly adjust our offerings, and serve them better.
The best organizations give their employees the ability to solve customers’ problems in the moment. Thinking about my years waitressing, I would never have been able to consistently deliver delightful experiences if I was bound by strict policies and regulations. Instead, I could modify and rush orders, and treat each customer uniquely to make sure they left happy.
Within organizations that really get it, there is a process for identifying customer needs that aren’t being served, then rapidly adjusting products, services, and delivery to create better experiences. This type of agility is what keeps these businesses thriving.
I know that our public service is not a private business, but I believe that there are ways we can employ these basic principles and best practices to better support and serve all Edmontonians. I want to empower City of Edmonton employees to view their work through the eyes and experiences of those who rely on them. I want them to be encouraged and enabled to deliver high quality service quickly and effectively.
Edmontonians have such a deep and unwavering pride in our city. We know that it’s a great place to live and work and we’re more than happy to tell anyone and everyone about it. When I had to choose between moving to Silicon Valley for my career or remaining in Edmonton, I chose Edmonton. I want to make our city stronger and more agile. And I want your love of Edmonton and the stories you tell about it to include how great our city works for you.
Yours in partnership,