You’ve seen or heard these words before, probably more than you’d care to remember. When a project is kicked off or a favor is asked, many people blurt out this phrase without hesitation. For those of us who work in the trade of customer and user experience, these words open the door to a much larger issue. They are a crack in the foundational values of good customer experience.

Customer experience is a function of people. It’s fickle and fragile. It thrives on collaboration and is cultivated by the actions (both direct and indirect) of every employee at a company. It is a shared responsibility and vision. Any one person can help to improve customer experience, and, in the blink of eye, any one person can destroy it.

Seeing Beyond The Sea of Tasks

There are times when the words “that’s not my job” are entirely justified, when experienced at the task level. Job descriptions exist for a reason, providing the foundation of responsibilities that are expected of a position. A sales person should not manage a software engineering release. Nor should customer support budget a company’s payroll. These are tasks -- assigned pieces of work to be finished within a certain period of time.

Customer experience transcends the task level. It’s difficult to assign, and it should never be bound to a certain period of time because it is much larger than the confines of a task. It’s a shared responsibility, therefore it’s everyone’s job.

For product and development, it’s listening to customer feedback when building the next product wireframes. For finance, it’s waiving a late fee for due to an honest customer mistake. For upper management, it’s making sure customer satisfaction is treated as a core KPI and for marketing, it’s providing support via their social media channels. These are all small tasks that, together, yield amazing customer experiences.

The simple declaration of “that’s not my job” may hint towards a larger culture issue -- a lack of employee empowerment, encouragement and accountability. 

Empowerment - 'That Could Be My Job'

Employees get caught up in the daily grind. As they settle into a company, they typically cultivate a set of responsibilities that are focused and finite. However, when employees get lost in their responsibilities and details, they lose perspective of the bigger picture. Objectives and goals become lost in tasks and tactics. We feel as though we can't make an impact. Basically, if it’s not on our list, it’s not our problem.

Empowerment takes an employee’s narrow, focused perspective and cranks open the aperture. It allows them to survey the bigger picture and see how their work affects other teams and end users. Empowered employees feel like the have a voice, and a commitment towards a larger, shared vision. Customer experience is one of those shared visions.

Employee empowerment reminds engineers about the customer impact of the quality of their code, and support teams about the importance of putting customer's needs first. It reminds those with direct control over the customer experience to be aware of their actions, and those with indirect influence to explore ways to get involved.

To empower employees, establish a company-wide (or departmental) customer experience “code of conduct.” These would be statements such as “we will always answer customer support inquiries within 48 hours” or “we will always incorporate customer feedback into each new product launch.” Creating statements like this allows people to speak up, and veto ideas if they compromise the “code.” If everyone agrees to deliver on these statements, then they become ingrained in the work we do.

Learning Opportunities

Encouragement - 'That Should Be My Job'

Empowerment taps into the power within us. Encouragement, on the other hand, taps into the power around us. It allows a company to rally the troops and set a course, enabling their newly empowered workforce to seize the opportunity before them. It takes those who now feel like they can contribute and thrusts them into the action.

By actively encouraging its employees to become more involved, a company can better communicate its vision and instill a sense of camaraderie between teams. This is essential to providing individuals of the organization with an understanding the true power of customer experience, as it invigorates those who operate at the fringes of customer-facing business.

Whenever possible, try to recognize the customer-impacting work of teams who are non-customer-facing. These are typically teams such finance, engineering and operations, who operate behind the scenes yet have the indirect ability to positively affect the customer. This is critical in establishing a collaborative goal to deliver the best customer experience possible. It encourages those empowered to deliver better customer experience to continue. A little positive feedback can help others feel that much more committed to the cause.

Accountability - 'That Is My Job'

If your employees feel empowered and encouraged, they’ll feel invincible. They’ll transition from feeling like outsiders to feeling as if they have a direct line to positively influence a company’s customer experience.

You must establish that both triumphs and tribulations alike are a shared responsibility amongst everyone. Everyone is accountable in delivering the best customer experience possible. Accountability keeps us human and vulnerable. It forces us to consider not only the benefits, but the consequences of our actions, and helps us to weigh the risks. The point isn’t to provide a means for punishment when the customer experience is sub-par. In fact, quite the opposite. It helps to establish a sense of unity. Most importantly, it dismantles the silos we operate in. The individual tasks and roles that once defined us are now pointed towards the collective goal.

As these three traits are embraced within a company culture, “that’s not my job” will continue to evolve towards an understanding that “it’s everyone’s job” -- which is exactly what customer experience should be.

Title image by Renkabora /