In our Customer Experience Consultancy, we are always asking employees to improve the well-being of customers. We also encourage them to surprise and delight, as well as exceed expectations of customers. After all, we want employees to produce Customer Experiences that leave customers happy and pleased. However, making these broad statements is not enough.

We then break these goals down into specific, attainable goals for the employees along the way. Why? The two most important reasons: to improve the Customer and Employee Experience.

Science supports the concept that achievement of specific and attainable goals is more rewarding than general goals, particularly when they are related to improving the well-being of others.

Researchers from Stanford and Harvard collaborated to prove this principle a couple of years ago. Participants were either tasked with making a person happy or making a person smile. The results showed participants that could make the other person smile felt more satisfied than the participants that could make the other person “happy.” Researchers concluded that the efforts of making someone smile were what the participant expected, while the efforts of making someone happy were not. When the efforts needed to achieve the goal didn’t match the expectations, it led to less personal happiness by the person with the task.

So what can you do to make it easier for employees to hit their Customer Experience goals and feel satisfied with their work performance? A few things, including:

Break down high level objectives into more realistic tasks.

Instead of telling your employees that you want them to exceed the customer’s expectations or surprise and delight them, tell them something more specific they can do to achieve that outcome. Moreover, it should be within the employee’s ability to do that. For example, let’s say that your business is rather transactional, but you want to increase the personal engagement. You could ask your employees to get the customer to laugh. If the norm is that customers leave a message and wait for a callback, perhaps you make it so that all calls are answered by a live person instead, which could surprise (and hopefully delight) the customer.

Give employees the authority to do their job.

Once you have an idea of the practical tasks you want the employees to do, you must then allow them the tools to do it. If that means they need more training on soft skills, then give it to them. If that means giving them more leeway on discounting or the authority to fast track an order, then do it. When employees feel empowered to achieve their goals without having to “ask their supervisor” for permission to do so, they can be amazingly clever at making them. It is, as I always say, happy employees make happy customers. And again, science proves it.

According to the iOpener Institute for People and Performance, people that are happy at work stay twice as long in their jobs, work harder, and take less sick leave. Best of all, they are twice as likely to feel they are rising to their potential.

Focus on making smaller goals to achieve the bigger picture.

It’s easy to be seduced by a fancy (and expensive) CRM system that comes with an elaborate (and expensive) training program for employees. It’s tempting to hire a PR firm to fix your image in the public eye and help gloss over any glaring missteps. However, these big investments might have the same (or even less) impact on the overall goals of the organization as a focus on achieving goals based in the soft skills of customer-facing employees. Not only will achieving these goals inherently improve your Customer Experience, but that success will also translate over into uplifting the employee experience—and round and round we go.

You can’t expect your employees to make someone happy; it’s too broad a concept.

But you can expect them to waive the shipping costs when the customer’s package arrived late. Or get the passengers to smile when a flight attendant makes funny jokes in the safety speech. By being specific, giving them the ability to please customers, and focusing on these small ways to make customers happy, you also make employees happier.

Best of all, by making it easier for an employee to exceed a customer’s expectations, you also make it easier for employees to exceed yours.

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