Human touch and customer experience: rediscovering craftsmanship

ph: The Lacemaker by Jan Vermeer (1669), online

Culture is often overlooked, but is a critical foundation in a distinctively customer-centric organization: an organization where all employees collectively and individually prioritize customer needs in everything that they do every day.

(Mc Kinsey’ Service Operations Practice)

A great read from McKinsey [link here], finally clarifying that excellent customer service is not just about systems, metrics and operations, but stems from a specific culture of service.

In order to foster customer-experience excellence, companies need to provide client-facing employees with a sense of purpose, and create a flexible structure that empowers them to take ownership of the client requests from the beginning to the very end. Even if it means stepping out from established protocols or devising unconventional solutions.

McKinsey’s take reminds me of the concept of craftsmanship, beautifully profiled by sociologist Richard Sennett in his book “The Craftsman” [link here]. Sennett describes craftsmanship as the human strive to do something well for its own sake. Craftsmanship is not getting the job done, is doing the job well. People of craftsmanship focus on the best quality output, rather than the amount of time or effort required. They critically interrogate their work, assessing bottlenecks and evaluating possible avenues of improvement. They keep polishing and updating their skills, looping in reflection and innovation.

Technological developments and a Fordist model of work organization have pushed aside craftsmanship as not profitable and not scalable. In a customer-centric era, what if we brought craftsmanship back? How would that define the way we attend to our customers? Would it change how we train and reward our frontline teams?