smith+co on
customer experience
Chris Humphrey
  • By Chris Humphrey
  • May 25 2016

Compartmentalise at Your Peril

Thoughts on integrating HR into the customer experience strategy

An established high street restaurant chain contacted me to enquire whether I’d be interested in a role at their head office. A member of the HR team enthusiastically proposed an ‘exploratory meeting’ with the CMO, and so I waited. I got back to them, and waited. And waited. In the end, after several failed prompts, it took more than two months for the manager to contact me again with a very poorly written email informing me that I had been too senior for the role.

“Forward thinking leaders recognise that customer experience is not just about frontline employees or even just about ‘customers’, it’s about intentionally building a customer experience framework across the entire organisation” Chris Humphrey

My frustrating experience with this particular restaurant chain left a bad taste in my mouth, kept me away as a customer and even led me to discourage friends, family and acquaintances from eating there.

Somewhere in their decision making process this company fell into a trap that so many succumb to - compartmentalising the brand experience. Customers are treated differently to frontline staff, who are treated differently to the head office staff, who are treated differently to prospective employees.

The problem with compartmentalisation is that any form of holistic approach to customer excellence soon becomes much more difficult, especially in increasingly complex and fragmented organisations, leading to inconsistency and poor performance. Forward thinking leaders recognise that customer experience is not just about frontline employees or even just about ‘customers’, it’s about intentionally building a customer experience framework across the entire organisation.

The line between the internal and external is now fading into insignificance, where it belongs. Treat an internal employee (or candidate) the same way you would treat a customer. This isn’t something that this restaurant chain had prioritised - to be just as intentional about ‘internal’ communications as they are about customer communications. And, take responsibility for service failure - never underestimate the power of a sincere apology that’s made quickly, as opposed to sending a cursory excuse two months after the issue.

Above all, over-manage HR processes and be highly intentional about integrating HR into the customer experience strategy, so that it pervades the entire organisation. Every interaction, internal and external, forms an impression of your brand that either adds or destroys value, and this includes the way you treat unsuccessful candidates who may well have become your customers.