Customer Experience Lessons from Elf on the Shelf

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Do you have an Elf on the Shelf? If not, do you know the story behind the Elf? You’ll be surprised to learn that the Elf can actually teach us a thing or two about customer experience.

A quick summary of the purpose of the Elves before we begin: In a nutshell, Santa sends and Elf or two to your home to watch over your children, and the Elf/Elves report back to Santa every night about whether the children will make the Naughty or Nice List.

Santa sent two elves, Jingle and Jangle, to my house to watch over my kids. The Elves can be quite mischievous, though I’ve not seen ours do anything as crazy as what they do at other homes. Jingle and Jangle suggested that I write a post this week about what they can teach me (and you) about the customer experience. There might even be some tips for the employee experience, since they, ya know, work for the Big Man.

Rules: There are no rules for Elf on the Shelf – well, just one: you can’t touch the Elf, or he loses his magic.
Don’t let rules and policies hold your employees back from delivering the best experience possible. Shun the policies and empower them to do the right thing.

Memorable Moments: Having an Elf on the Shelf is about creating magic and memorable moments for your kids.
Creating magical and memorable moments for your customers is what the customer experience “discipline” is all about. Make every interaction, every experience, remarkable – in a good way. Have your employees done anything magical for your customers lately?

Naughty and Nice Lists: The Elves travel to the North Pole every night to report to Santa about your children: did they make the Naughty List or the Nice List today?
Unfortunately, we’re finding out that most companies are making the Naughty List when it comes to customer  service and customer experiences overall. Jeannie Walters gives us some great examples and statistics in this infographic.

Excellent Listeners: Your Elf will be constantly listening for things your kids say, good and bad. Are they rude or respectful?
This one’s a two-way street, which I’ve written about before. Your employees should be listening to customers, to hear what they are saying and what they are not saying. In return, they should be responsive and respectful.

Great Observers: Your Elf will also be a constant observer, always looking for behaviors to report back to Santa, good or bad.
Your frontline, your people who interact with the customer directly, need to be keen observers. They need to be perceptive and base their next actions on what the customer has already said or done; be proactive. Watch what customers are doing and be one step ahead of them.

No Good Deed Goes Unnoticed: If your kids behave well, they end up on the Nice List.
And so should your employees. Thank and recognize them for a job well done. Let them know they add value. Don’t forget about the customer experience; it’s just as important, if not more so, than the customer experience.

Take Their Jobs Seriously: The Elves love what they do.
You know the drill: hire for attitude, train the skill. Hire the right people. People who are passionate about your brand and about what they were hired to do. They take their jobs seriously, but they also like to…

Have Fun: The Elves play games every day. It makes their jobs fun.
Employees need to take a break and have some fun at work, let off a bit of steam. We work long hours; let’s not be miserable! It shows. To your customers. And yet, because passionate employees love what they are doing, they really are having fun.

Tell Stories: The Elf on the Shelf was originally a book. The Elf elicits further stories.
I read this post yesterday about Using Journey Maps to Tell a Story. Know who your customers are. Tell their stories throughout your organization. Get everyone on the customer-focused bandwagon. And don’t forget to share stories about remarkable experiences. I bet Zappos has a ton of stories to tell!

Unique: Each Elf is different and special in his/her own way.
Your organization is unique because you come at your business from a different point of view than your competitors. Your customers are also unique. They each have their own stories. They have their own needs or problems that need to be solved by the product you offer. They have different personalities and different ways of handling situations. Employees should be trained on customer diversity. It’s a good thing.

Great Helpers: Your Elf is busy helping Santa every day.
Your frontline staff should be great helpers, too, helping customers and each other every day. My post about my experience at Living Spaces gives some great tips on being helpful.

Motivation: Elves are motivation for kids, to behave and to stay off Santa’s Naughty List.
Figure out what motivates your employees. Zig Ziglar said it best: “Motivation gets you going and habit gets you there.” Once they are motivated and passionate about what they do, once they see that they belong to a culture that focuses on them and their experiences as much as the customers’, the rest is easy. The hard part is understanding what motivates them. This post sheds some light.

Competition: The Elves are certainly raising the bar on elf mischief every year!
And last, but not least, know what’s going on with your competition. Don’t dwell on them, but instead figure out what makes your brand and your customer experiences more unique and more magical than anyone else’s. Consider this quote from Rita Gunther McGrath and Ian C. MacMillan in an HBR article: “You can’t outperform rivals if you compete the same way they do.” Game on, Elves!

When I think of magical service, I think of Disney. Magical and Disney go together, always. As such, there’s only one quote I can end this post with:

Do what you do so well they want to come back and bring their friends. -Walt Disney


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