3, March 2017
Lao Tzu was an ancient Chinese monk who worked in the imperial library of the Zhou Dynasty in 6th century BC. Known as the founding father of Taoism, legends say Lao Tzu was born with white hair having spent eighty years in his mother’s womb. Well, what has Lao Tzu or Taoism got to do with customer experience?
Taoism is a religious doctrine that is based on Lao Tzu’s philosophy. It emphasizes on living in harmony with the Tao – the source and substance of everything that exists. It is a system of belief, attitudes, and practices set towards the service and living of a person’s own nature. In short, Taoism is the ‘way to be’. While Taoism has been around for centuries, it offers valuable insights and lessons to today’s customer experience professionals. Here are a few lessons from Taoism that enterprises can apply to their customer experience strategy.
Lesson #1: Customers are to enterprises what Tao is to life
Customers are the raison d’etre of any business; they are both the source and substance of any business enterprise. Enough has been said and written about customer obsession and customer centricity of super brands like Zappos, Amazon and Apple. Customer Experience Management in isolation can become insufficient if the enterprise isn’t customer-centric. Like Taoism, customer experience is all about accepting your Tao (your customer) and giving a smile to enable possibility.
Add-on Read: Here’s an insightful whitepaper on being data driven and customer-centric from Forbes.
Lesson #2: Seven billion paths to customer experience
Taoism believes that there 7 billion people in this world and each one has an individual path to Taoism. Taoism teaches patience; they believe any process of learning and healing takes time. Akin to that, enterprises need to accept that there are 7 billion paths to customer experience. Each customer is unique, therefore their customer experience needs to be unique to their needs. Enterprises need to create a one-of-a-kind experience every time they interact with them. The experience needs to be personalized as customers have very little patience for businesses.
Add-on Read: Here’s a 2015 article on ‘The Internet of Me’ from Verndale which is still relevant. The Internet of Me: Why Personalization is More Important Than Ever
Lesson #3: Glimpsed only through its effect
Tao isn’t a thing; it isn’t an object. It has reality and evidence, but no action or form. It can only be described by the effects human beings are aware of. Similarly, customer experience is a not a project or a piece of software that can be procured from the market as a packaged software. It is a collection of every interaction between a customer and the enterprise across the customer’s journey. Customer experience projects should not just be measured in terms of standard contact center KPIs and metrics but also from a customer’s perception of how they experience it.
Add-on Read: I had written a blog earlier on four new critical contact center KPIs for customer experience success in the digital era.
Lesson #4: There is a Yin, there is a Yang
Taoism gave the world the Yin Yang principle. It speaks about forces, patterns and things that depend on one another and does not make sense individually. Some of these forces are conflicting and incompatible but when they are made to work together seamlessly, it leads to perfect harmony. Likewise, customer experience is made up of diverse groups of people, processes, and technologies. Bringing these disparate components together and making them work in harmony takes a concentrated effort. Enterprises get bogged down in overseeing these daily operations when they should be focusing on their customer.
Meanwhile, customers don’t care about enterprise systems or processes, they care about how they are treated. Customer experience is not about being right always, it’s also about how businesses recover when things go wrong.
Add on read: Micah Solomon on 7 rules of compensating your customer after a service or a product failure.
Lesson #5: Be aligned to the one
‘The one’ is the essence of Tao, it is considered the energy of life, and when you possess it you will be truly yourself. In the same way, every business and brand has its own personality. However, commoditization of products has eventually lead to the commoditization of services and experiences too. By the time a new product or a service gets launched, competitors launch an indistinguishable version. Every time a customer interacts with a brand, they have an expectation of how that interaction should go. Most of the time there is a huge gap between what they expect and what they get. Businesses need to ensure their customer experience needs to be aligned to their ‘one’ – their brand promise – so that they deliver a consistent, yet unique customer experience.
Lesson #6: Great acts are made up of small deeds
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Lao Tzu believed that great things had to start from humble beginnings. While this can be applied to almost every situation an enterprise might face, it fits like a glove when it comes to customer experience. Many customer experience transformation projects fail because of unrealistic and gargantuan visions that make it idealistic but unworkable. Large customer experience projects need to be broken down into smaller projects and executed one at a time.
Add-on Read: 97% believed that delivering a great customer experience was critical to their business success. Only 37% of executives were just getting started on an improvement plan. Read Oracle’s Global insights in succeeding in the customer experience era.
Lesson #7: Wu wei and customer experience – the art of effortless effort
Have you ever seen a Tai-chi master move? He moves with grace, appears powerful – so effortlessly. Taoism believes in Wu Wei meaning ‘no-action’ or ‘actionless action’. It refers to a natural way to do things, as opposed to forced efforts. Customer experience has to be effortless – not just for the customer but also for the agent and other employees. This doesn’t mean that you don’t do anything, rather it means that customer service has to be an effortless activity. Outstanding customer experience has to be in the DNA of each employee rather than a forced activity.
Add-on Read: CEB has been the pioneer in the concept of effortless customer experience. You can read more on their page.
Enterprises claim customer experience is a top priority yet most of them are not getting their customer experience act right. Where do you think they are going wrong? These lessons from Taoism might sound simple but they are difficult to implement. What challenges do you think enterprises might face while implementing them? Do you think they are relevant? Share your opinions with us.