By Carolyne Gathuru
There is a lively debate about the origin and meaning of the famous adage – charity begins at home. Philosophers and critical thinkers dissect it for its deeper ethos concluding that to start with, its original meaning points that the role modelling for charitable behaviour needs to start in the home setting to raise those that follow in that vein.
Secondly, that people cannot have an outpouring of charity and love unless they care for those who are nearest to them including those in their homes, their friends and close community. Finally, that if people cannot demonstrate charitable works to the family, then in all likelihood, they will not provide the same to strangers.
The reason for reflection on this age old adage is that customer experience is no different, for indeed, our first customers are ourselves and the people in our homes, and if we do not provide great customer experiences in the home setting, then it will not happen at work or at any other external engagement, towards our internal and external customers.
For the purposes of further introspection into customer experience in the home, and to add credence to the now business – adapted adage that customer experience begins at home, two quotes from two famous personalities directly allude to the practical licence of this statement.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit,” Aristotle.
Practice does indeed make perfect, and to deliver excellent service for internal customers at the workplace, as well as the external customers that the brand serves, requires a practice ground that will then yield the desired excellence. Where else to find this than in the home environment? It naturally falls in place that to effectively test drive customer service initiatives, and to up one’s customer service game, then one should try to deliver great service at home and work at it consistently.
Our family members and those who live in our homes are easy, accessible and readily available for the excellence practice range. All the great skills that one needs to possess to ensure that they work well with colleagues and foster teamwork, as well as handle external customers with aplomb, can all be learned and polished up in the home.
Imagine a home front where there is great etiquette and courtesy when communicating with family members. Wouldn’t that serve to alleviate many a conflict? Imagine a home environment where emotional intelligence reigns and the people therein are: highly self-aware and attuned to their own responses and triggers; have self-regulation and are in a continuous bid to respond to matters arising rather than to react emotionally toward them; gunning consistently for self-motivation with a thrust towards zeal, persistence and maintenance of hope in the face of frustrations; conscious of how empathy, compassion and care for each other needs to be the order of the day and are studious about relationships thriving on the foundation of really listening and finding win-win solutions.
That is what customer experience in the home environment would serve to nurture. It is also said that over forty percent of one’s actions are governed by the subconscious and that decisions are actually propelled by habits. One person’s decisions have collective impact at home. Execution of customer service is therefore driven by the sum of one’s habits either excellence oriented or otherwise.
So customer experience does fully fall in the home docket, and in the wise words or Aristotle – if customer experience excellence is repeatedly meted at home, it becomes a habit that will extend to follow the doer everywhere they go. Customer Experience Begins at Home.
“Your beliefs become your thoughts |Your thoughts become your words |Your words become your actions |Your actions become your habits |Your habits become your values |Your values become your destiny.” ― Mahatma Gandhi
What Mahatma Gandhi – he of the most respected non-violent protests – points to quite intensely in his quote, is that one’s first customer is oneself. As is said time over, one cannot give out or give away, what one does not have, and to attempt to provide excellent customer service to others when one does not have self-excellence is an exercise in pure futility.
One can only pretend for so long to be a proponent of service excellence before what truly resides within comes out. The legendary Dr. Wayne Dyer’s impactful analogy about squeezing an orange repeatedly, and observing what comes out, and concluding from this simple act that no matter how much an orange is squeezed only orange juice emerges, is the anchor upon which the self-excellence lesson lies. That one cannot provide excellent customer experiences and be graceful to internal and external customers, if one does not have excellence within his or herself.
Excellence is an outward expression of an inward assurance of diligence and purpose. If one is struggling to trust others and let things be as they are, to provide value to others and to extend quality, and to extend leadership excellence that inspires and motivates, it points inward to a lack of self-trust, a gap in self-value and the need to lead self with excellence in order to be an outward extension of the same. One’s personal brand needs to have its true north pin pointed towards excellence, for service excellence to be an automatic given for others.
For one to determine if this is truly their brand, they would need to engage in spending some quality reflection and visioning time, akin to what organisations do, while developing corporate brands.
The same strategy sessions that are organized to deliberate over the brand reputation and brand vision, the brand mission and non-negotiable values, need to be applied to one’s personal brand especially in the pursuit of internal excellence for external application. Customer experience excellence indeed begins with oneself as the first customer, and some worthwhile time should be hived off to reflect upon desired goals, legacy wishes and personal success objectives.
Once the gap between the current and desired level of excellence is determined, then it would do good to create systems and structures for successful execution. Consistent practice will yield great outcomes internally that will benefit both self and others. A destiny of customer experience excellence is thus a product of perfecting positively service led thoughts and ideas.
The home is made up of several ‘selves’ and in alignment with Mahatma, to enshrine a destiny riddled with excellence, then self-thoughts, words, actions, habits and values would need to be an extension of the occupants of the home, be it single or multiple occupied. Customer Experience Begins at Home.
Internalising both Aristotle’s and Mahatma’s words of wisdom towards ensuring customer experience excellence starts at home, will translate into provision of great customer service for one’s family, one’s domestic employees and any other suppliers who interact on the home front. From the home leadership level or at peer to peer level, having interactions that promote a feel good feeling from recipients will be produced by: handling everyone in and around the home environment with courtesy, dignity and respect irrespective of stature or status; approaching conflict situations with the competence to think through resolution that are win-win for all involved, encouraging family and household members to not only uphold and support each other, but do so with a smile and creation of delightful encounters by being present to what is important to others and plugging into that.
Surreal to the imagination? Possibly not. If homesteads (and not just homesteads per se) but those that make it one, would generate this level of service delivery, it would epitomise true excellence. No prompting would be necessary to put in the effort towards good customer service anywhere and everyhwere, it would be the culture, transferable from generation to generation.
So there is hope – customer experience excellence does start at home and listening to the voice of the customer from the home front provides a very good practice ground towards listening to feedback from both employees and external customers. Anyone purporting to provide great service at work and does not do so at home or vice versa is either pretending in one place, or is a potential dual personality profile, which is the exception rather than the norm. Consistency of service delivery is achievable and indeed the home front provides unique and accessible opportunities for practice, which should be grabbed, appreciated and taken full advantage of for the benefit of tomorrow’s customers.