Customer service professionals spend a lot of energy today on the comfort side of customer service. We even have metrics that calculate the arithmetic of effort. We focus on speed and accuracy of service with yardsticks hardwired to the science of the business. Service providers know exactly how long customers are at the fast-food pickup window, how frequently they call back on the same issue, and how long they window shop on a company’s website.
The “joy” side of the customer’s experience gets far less airtime in the boardroom. The famous poet Maya Angelou wrote, “People will forget what you said and what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Calculating Versus Giving Customers Joy
Ah, therein lies the problem. How do you measure a feeling? How do you calculate joy? Is our metric mania preventing our focus on the most essential part of the customer’s encounter? Which is more important to the success of a marriage, “frequency of taking out the trash” or “sincerity of affection?” Can you imagine someone saying, “I stopped focusing on showing affection toward my spouse since I could not properly measure it!”
John Steinbeck’s description of a fishing expedition in his book Sea of Cortez puts an insightful finger on the business world’s metric dilemma when it comes to customer affect. Read the passage below and consider what it communicates about the implication of “the metrics of joy:”
The Mexican sierra has 17 plus 15 plus nine spines in the dorsal fin. These can easily be counted. But if the sierra strikes hard on the line so that our hands are burned, if the fish sounds and nearly escapes and finally comes in over the rail, his colors pulsing and his tail beating in the air, a whole new relational externality has come into being—an entity which is more than the sum of the fish plus the fisherman.
The only way to count the spines of the sierra unaffected by this second relational reality is to sit in a laboratory, open an evil-smelling jar, remove a stiff colorless fish from the formalin solution, count the spines and write the truth. There you have recorded a reality which cannot be assailed—probably the least important reality concerning either the fish or yourself.”
Steinbeck’s prose reminds us that no matter how comprehensive and accurate our modern metrics, they will never completely capture the magic and mystery of an engaged and joyful customer relationship. By focusing too heavily on objective data, tidy calculations, and sterilized reports, we lose touch with the fact that we are putting precious energy on the “least important reality concerning” the customer, the employee, and the organization.
Measurements are important. But we need to stop trying to “drive a nail with a B flat!” Give your customers sincere joy, even if it cannot be graphed on a PowerPoint slide or calculated for a report.