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Celebrate mindsets that value the customer AND the employee

Prioritize these three additional mindsets to shape excellent customer experiences.
Hortense de la Boutetière

Leads performance transformations in the energy, industry, and healthcare sectors; guides culture change; and advises executives across industries as they make crucial leadership transitions

Admit it. You (and most flyers) don’t really listen intently to the airline flight attendant’s safety demonstration before takeoff. That can prove dangerous, of course, when a problem develops on a flight. But one airline’s flight attendant demonstrated how to get passengers’ attention to grasp the safety message.

Employing an olden recording with a Mad Men-style tone, the attendant mouthed its words flawlessly while walking up and down the aisle, gesturing spiritedly with her hands. Passengers not only paid attention and grasped her safety spiel, but enjoyed it!

Clearly, this approach would have been impossible if the attendant had not understood it was her job to “own” the customer experience, she was empowered to try a different approach and she would be valued for achieving her objective. Here are the valuable lessons.

Taking Ownership

From “It’s not my job” to “I truly care about the customer and will do my best to solve their problem.”

This accountability mindset is key. Employees must see themselves as drivers of desired outcomes while delighting customers. Too often, though, employees use a “check this box” approach and follow traditional and often stale procedures while hiding behind an “I’m just doing what I’m told” refrain. To avoid such customary mindsets in its employees and foster a “can do” attitude, one European food chain highlighted passion and teamwork when screening applicants.

The Takeaway: Overly directive leadership and job expectations that focus on activities vs. outcomes remove accountability from employees. Focus employee discussions instead on what you want them to achieve – and then let them do it.

Empowering Employees

From "I am not allowed” to “I am empowered to go beyond what’s expected to delight the customer.”

With the “I am not allowed” mindset, employees believe they cannot behave differently. This can foster significant resentment and frustration among employees who blame their company for being out of touch with customer needs. Changing this mindset proves difficult if management fears frontline staff will cave to customer demands without clear rules to follow. Savvy employers know employees must be empowered to go beyond and that management trusts their judgment.

In that spirit, a leading hotel chain authorized its employees to spend up to $2,000 each to resolve customer complaints. Plus, a U.S. department store chain emphasized one rule to employees: Use good judgment. These organizations recognize that acquiring a reputation for delivering sterling customer service may cost a bit more at times.

The Takeaway: The more rules in place, the less you trust employees to make the right decisions – and they know it. Use customer design principles to guide employee behavior, then explicitly give them permission and the tools to do it.

Feeling Valued

From “It’s beneath me” to “I know why I’m doing this because it has a greater purpose.”

Employers must alleviate the mistaken belief that service positions are demeaning. Sure, some customers can make staff feel they are their “servant,” but difficult customers will always exist. Employers must create a respectful environment that removes servility from service-related jobs.

A hotel chain, for example, communicates that its staff are “ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.” A theme park brands its customers “guests” and its employees “hosts,” “hostesses” and “cast members.” And a bank CEO, after spying dirty windows at a branch two days straight, washed them himself. Within two days, there wasn't another dirty window in any of its branches.

The Takeaway: Signal with both words and actions the value of employees and the work they do. A great employee experience and a great customer experience go hand in hand.


These mindsets may be tough to stamp out overnight, but it is crucial that organizations prioritize addressing them. Shaping the customer experience is a platform on which companies can stand head and shoulders above their competitors, or a weight that can drag them down to financial failure.

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