Jacqui Sabo | Crain's Phoenix

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Jacqui Sabo

Background:  

Faciliteq offers modern office furniture and interiors for businesses in Las Vegas and Phoenix. As a provider of innovative workspace solutions in the country, Faciliteq creates sustainable, employee-friendly environments. Its clients include American Airlines, Best Western and Avnet.

The Mistake:

Inadvertently shifting the employees focus away from the customer.

I thought creating a great customer experience was about writing standard operating procedures and then teaching the employees to use them. We thought that if we had metrics and clear roles and responsibilities that we could improve the customer experience.

For some reason, our customers had become really unhappy and they were making phone calls telling us that. We thought we could fix it by writing policies and procedures, but that didn’t happen.

The employees became very task-oriented and started to follow the processes and procedures. They stopped thinking about the customer experience. In other words, we inadvertently shifted their focus away from the customer, which was where they naturally resided. Because the customers were unhappy, we gave the employees a series of directives and measured all of it. They knew that if they weren’t doing these things they’d be accountable.

There was a shift in culture away from empowering our employees to focusing on fixing the problem. The message that we sent was that we didn’t value or trust their ability to solve the problem with the customers. We kind of took it out of their hands.

There was a shift in culture away from empowering our employees to focusing on fixing the problem.

The Lesson:

We had to sit down with the employees and say, “We think we’re doing this all wrong. We think we made a mistake.” So, we had to start with a little bit of humility. 

We reminded them that the customer comes first. If you have to choose between responding to your manager or a customer, we’d prefer that you focus on the customer and make the decisions that align with our values. So, we had to go back to our core mission and our core values. 

If you use those core values when making a decision with a customer then even if it’s a mistake or if we have to correct something further, we’ve got this guideline. They were just so nervous about following the processes and procedures that using basic, common sense had flown out the window. I think we created a culture of fear instead of empowering them.  

In order to create a great customer experience, you have to understand what that experience is. So, we asked the employees to go out and see their customers, to spend time with them. We work in cross-functional groups. We have an account manager, a project manager, designers and customer service reps. We started sending them out into the field together. It got them to refocus on the customer.

Even though we had processes and procedures, everybody applies that learning differently. So, we had to reset our expectation: Everyone is going to learn at a different pace. As long as we’re doing what we think is right for ourselves and our customers, mistakes are OK. We still have to circle back and figure out what we did wrong. 

We learned that when it comes to writing processes and procedures, the people who do the work do a better job illustrating them than the people in leadership. The people on the frontline know better. They really know what to do to respond to the needs of the customers, so trusting them was important for us too.

Follow Faciliteq on Twitter at @Faciliteq.

Photo courtesy of Jacqui Sabo

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