How to Turn a Problem into an Experience with Soul

Written by Maria Moraes Robinson

In our Customer Experiences with Soul approach, we emphasise three pillars which are critical for an experience to be meaningful: authenticity, systemic vision and universal human values. In other words, the motivation to deliver a meaningful experience must be genuinely and deeply human. And it is always a great satisfaction to be able to see concrete examples of experiences that express these pillars.

One of the places we do our weekly grocery shopping is St Marche, our local supermarket which is the equivalent of Waitrose in the UK, albeit with just a small number of units in São Paulo. In all of our visits over the course of several years, we have been able to see a major concern by management in delivering a high value experience for their customers. This is seen predominantly through the attitudes and behaviours of their employees.

During our visits we often take a break for a coffee in the cozy corner inside the supermarket. This Sunday, when we were taking this break, we had a really quite noteworthy experience. We asked the employee Vanessa, who we already knew, for two macchiatos, which were prepared with care. After handing us the coffees, Vanessa asked us if they were good, because she had realised that the speed with which the water was passing through the coffee grounds during the preparation was faster than usual, meaning that the coffee was potentially not as strong as it should have been.

Vanessa Santos Macedo, St Marche, Vila Leopoldina

We drank the coffee and confirmed that it was in fact weak. She then promptly began brewing another coffee by testing another tap on the machine. However, the result was similar. So she excused herself and went to the duty manager to see what might be going on. A few moments later she returned saying that the granulation of the coffee grounds had been regulated differently and therefore she would have to add more than normally needed. So she made us two new macchiatos, this time being far stronger.

While we were drinking them, she told us that she knew just how much we appreciate good coffee and how frustrating it would be to have a coffee which was not up to the quality that we were normally used to. This was quite clearly a genuine expression of concern for our experience, something which greatly moved us.

And then experience became even more surprising. About two months ago, I looked for organic strawberries in the aisle next to the cafe, but there were none to be found. The supply of these strawberries is infrequent, depending on the availability of the producer. At that time, Vanessa had also been in the cafe and had witnessed my search without success. Now, after we finished our coffees, she very cheerfully said to me, “We do have organic strawberries today”. You can imagine my joy mixed with a great surprise, to find that she had remembered.

As the Qualtrics XM Institute, which conducts research on Customer Experiences in the USA, states, a high quality experience is one in which our tasks are carried out successfully with low effort and high satisfaction. We could perceive these three factors present in Vanessa’s attitudes, who performed everything quickly, lightly and with great autonomy to make decisions in her area.

With this brief annecdote I would like to congratulate St Marche for empowering its employees to be able to make their own decisions. This autonomy is something which we see present in all those employees with whom we interact. Vanessa deserves particular praise for being an excellent professional who naturally is able to offer meaningful experiences and with soul to St Marche’s customers.

In our courses and workshops we emphasise the importance of the need for empathy to be shown by everyone in an organisation for truly soulful experiences. Soulful experiences refer to the care and real interest in delivering value, expressed and articulated in the contact between people as opposed to focusing on these many attributes in the product or service. Soulful is experienced when the value proposition, i.e. the promise made to the customer, is delivered in an authentic way.

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