The Attributes of CX Excellence: 3 Essential Soft Skills
Looking for the ‘secret sauce’ that will deliver a stellar customer experience in every interaction?
By measuring their CX, brands understand how they are performing. The practical question remains on actions to be taken. What’s next?
If the results were good, how do we sustain them over time? If the results were disappointing, how do we improve?
In order to analyze their CX performance, organizations often tend to focus on a series of specific moments within the experiences by looking at it through a chronological lens: the welcoming, the discovery, the purchasing moment and so on. But what if there is more to CX than a scripted succession of steps?
Over the past two years, I’ve become interested in comparing experiences and what sets apart good from excellent. The CX data that we have collected over the years revealed two very interesting angles:
1- The Output = Purchase Intention.
Our years of collected data constantly showed that customer experience directly impacts business performance. Here’s the part that really got us thinking. On average, 96% of Ambassadors (who are extremely satisfied clients) would ‘definitely buy’ a product. However, only 26% of Advocates (who are satisfied clients) who only had a good experience would ‘definitely buy’ a product! Excellent experiences drive purchase intention – good experiences do not.
2- The input = Attitude and Behaviors of the Brand Ambassadors.
Here’s an interesting fact: In 2021, 80% of Sales Advisors in retail stores were perceived as “friendly”. Yet only 43% of customers reported to have enjoyed an excellent experience!
It was fascinating to find that, regardless of the brand, regardless of the country, there were three essential attributes retail teams must have to elevate a good experience to an excellent one. Proactivity, expertise, and passion.
Good experiences, we learned, aren’t good enough. Being “friendly” is not enough. Only those retailers whose frontline personnel radiate those three essential soft skills created brand ambassadors — people so satisfied with their experience that they couldn’t wait to tell their friends and colleagues about the brand.
Let’s look at why these skills transform happy customers into enthusiastic ambassadors, and at how we could nurture those attributes into our teams.
Proactivity – The game changer
Definition: Being proactive is the art of leading the entire interaction, providing guidance, and feeling responsible for the client’s experience.
Brands are often challenged with customer-facing employees who take on a passive role — the ‘clerking’ mode. They let the client take the lead, answering client questions but not serving as a guide. Often, they equate taking on a proactive role to being ‘pushy’.
Data shows that 63% of Advisors were perceived as proactive in retail, a performance driven by Greater China where Advisors reached 69% of proactivity. This attribute is significantly more perceived compared to ‘Expertise’ and ‘Passion’.
In the customer’s shoes: As a customer in a retail store, you must have had an experience where the staff member demonstrated a proactive leadership role. If you did, then you must have felt the guidance throughout the entire interaction. On the other end of the spectrum, ‘passive’ Advisors will drive undecided customers away, or make them feel like they must sustain the interaction. As expressed by one of the written feedback we once go on one to our questionnaire: “The Client Advisor was very passive and spending time at the store was difficult.”
As a shopper or a client in the presence of a proactive Advisor, you would most likely experience the following:
• You will feel guided and discover your needs.
• You will be offered recommendations and situation-specific advice
• You will be encouraged to try and experience the products.
• You will be offered creative solutions that anticipate your needs
• You might be surprised with products and services that exceed your expectations
• You will be invited to join your brand universe by signing up for a mailing list or purchasing something
• You will be guided along to the next steps of the relationship.
• You will be followed- up on, and engaged in a long-term customer relationship and build loyalty — even becoming brand ambassadors
It’s not only our study that demonstrates the bottom-line value that empathy — and the proactive mindset that flows from it — brings to your brand. The 2016 Empathy Index revealed that the top 10 brands in the index rose twice as much in value as the bottom 10. They also earned 50% more than the lowest-ranked companies.
Expertise – The trust builder
Definition: Expertise stands at the crossroad between identifying your customer’s needs and being able to match them with relevant information and product-offering.
It’s simple. You are more likely to trust people who demonstrate expertise. Don’t you?
In the premium and luxury industry, based on our benchmark, 58% of Advisors were described as experts.
You would feel in a conversation with an expert when you experience the following:
• Being asked relevant questions to discover your needs
• Being listened to actively more than being spoken to
• Being presented with solution that correspond to your immediate answers and concerns
• Understanding well the conversation because all the technical information about the products is being ‘translated’ into plain language with the confidence that comes from deep product knowledge.
• Providing information about your company and your industry with a high level of details and knowledge (which publication, the latest trend, and more).
• Receiving personalized presentations corresponding to your own needs
• Guided until you reach a decision that benefits you
Expertise is well worth cultivating in all your teams. Think of ‘expert professions’ such as doctors or lawyers for instance. There is always an element of diagnosis (such as asking the right questions) before prescribing a course of action (sharing knowledge and recommendations with leadership). Nowadays, clients can easily access information online and be very knowledgeable about products. This is challenging the level of expertise of associates and requires them to go beyond generic level of information known to the public.
Passion – The memory builder
Definition: In retail, Passion is this extra layer that comes on top of the Expertise, which is so powerful, yet so rare. It is the natural drive to passionately convey the values of a brand and soliciting emotions. The Client Advisor’s genuine positive energy can be felt, remembered, and most of the time, is contagious.
Passion is not only a good ingredient in movies! Creating memorable experiences starts with passion.
Passion for one’s work is perhaps the rarest of these three essential CX ingredients. In our benchmark, passion is the lowest attribute of all positive attributes ever recorded. Only 55% of Advisors rated as passionate.
Many client-facing team members might tick off all the boxes on your scripted sales process, yet they lack the intense enthusiasm that characterises outstanding experiences. When your employees can evoke emotion in your clients with their passion for your brand and the work you do, it’s contagious. Your customers will catch their positive spirit!
Your frontline teams will exude passion when they:
• Radiate a love for your brand and its products
• Go above and beyond to delight your customers
• Exhibit joy as they work
• Live out your brand values
• Share their own experiences with your products
An outstanding customer experience begins at the foundation: your employees’ experience. We have measured an increase in the level of perceived passion when brands organized inspiring initiatives that drives the teams’ pride to belong.
Build passion in your teams by treating them as your most important customers. Empower them to exercise their creativity in their work. Reward them for outstanding work every chance you get and promote them to a higher level of responsibility as they grow in proactivity, expertise, and passion.
Learn how you can develop these three essential soft skills in your customer facing teams. Get in touch with the CXG team today.