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I've been traveling a bit lately and, as a result, have had the chance to catch up on some long-overdue reading. The book I just finished is The Four Agreements by don Miguel Ruiz, a shaman who writes about how those Agreements can help you to achieve personal freedom. Yes, the book title says "four," and I mention "five;" he wrote a follow-up book with his son a couple years ago that is devoted to the Fifth Agreement.
The Agreements are pretty straightforward, yet difficult for many to come to terms with. I'm not here to write about spiritual or personal freedom or to help you achieve happiness in your life, but I thought the Agreements could easily be applied to customer experience and translated to customer freedom and happiness.
Agreement #1: Be impeccable with your word.
Being impeccable with your word means (a) speaking honestly, openly, and candidly; (b) saying what we mean and meaning what we say; and (c) speaking - and acting - with integrity, all of which allow us to build and earn customer trust.
I've written about trust and transparency before. Transparency in your business dealings is about telling the truth. It's about not making misleading claims or hiding behind the truth. Openly communicating about how you do business means you're not hiding anything. Companies that openly share information so that customers can make informed decisions about their products, brands, employment, etc. are more easily trusted. Customers can more-easily decide whether they want to have a "relationship" with a company.
Words are powerful. Are you using the right words?
Agreement #2: Don’t take anything personally.
When you work on the frontline, dealing with customers every day, it's hard not to take some of the things they say and do personally. It's not about you; it is, however, about the company (your employer) and the company's policies, procedures, products, etc. It is the customer's perception, and you need to determine how much of it is the company's reality.
As an individual on the frontline, though, what you need to do is figure out how to deliver service with a smile. Listen. Empathize. Share the customer's frustrations with those in the organization who can make changes. But in the moment, your job is to take care of the customer. He's not always right, but he is the customer.
Agreement #3: Don’t make assumptions.
You know what happens when we assume, right?
Communication is important to any relationship, including the customer's relationship with the company. Ask questions of the customer. Get clarity. Don't assume you know what the customer wants, what's wrong, why she's frustrated, etc. Ask. Engage in a conversation. Listen.
Similarly, leadership must not allow employees to make assumptions of what's expected of them. That should never happen. If employees don't have clarity, and if they're not getting the information they need, they shouldn't be afraid to ask for details; but it should never get to that point. It's important for company leaders to openly communicate the vision and goals of the company and to provide that clarity.
Agreement #4: Always do your best.
And, as the book states, Agreements 1-3 will only work if you give them your best.
Agreement #5: Be skeptical, but learn to listen.
I'm not advocating that companies be skeptical of their customers, but I like the notion that they should learn to listen. So many still don't. They say they do. It looks like they do. But if they really did, then the experience wouldn't be so awful.
A conversation typically has two parts: speaking and listening. It's a two-way street. Or is it? Perhaps there's a third component: hearing. Yes, we talk; and yes, we say we listen. But do we actually hear what has been said? I think hearing requires a subsequent action or reaction. And in the customer conversation, that part is often missing.
By the way, these Agreements apply to delivering both a great customer experience and a great employee experience.
Which of these are you in agreement with?
The same way that you are the main character of your story, you are only a secondary character in everybody else's story. -don Miguel Ruiz