Liz Boehm [Posted by Liz Boehm]

My nephew just started kindergarten this year and it got me thinking about some of the life lessons we learn in our early schooling.  Here’s a short list of some of the ideas that I think are most applicable to customer experience professionals.  As always, I’m thinking about healthcare CXPs, but these also apply more broadly.

1.   Creating your own language is fun, but no one outside your group will understand you.  The cool girls in my elementary school had this language – I think it was the “idiga” language where they would insert “idig” in the middle of their words.  They could have long drawn out conversations with each other, but the other geeks and I couldn’t understand a word.  Maybe that’s why I react so strongly when I read health plan content that’s rife with terms like “provider,” “coinsurance” or “eligibility” (you can almost see the “idig” in that last one).  The uninitiated – meaning pretty much every consumer out there – won’t be able to understand it.  Health plans that want consumers to actually understand their benefits should stick to plain old English – preferably with few syllables.

2.  It’s easier to go out on a limb if you know your parents are behind you . . .  Most of us had one of those seminal childhood moments – first day in a new school where everyone already knew each other, standing up to a bully, returning to school after an embarrassing incident.  And if you didn’t have one of those moments, I’m sure you’ve seen the movie.  In all of those cases, it’s so much easier to step forward with confidence if your parents offered some advice and encouragement – and told you that they’d still love you no matter how things worked out.  The same is true in business.  It’s a lot easier to take a stand (and get others to follow your lead) when senior management has given you’re their blessing.

3.  . . . But your parents can’t protect you in every situation.  Yes, it was great to know your parents were backing you up.  But then there were situations that happened too fast – or maybe where you’d absorbed the lessons of some earlier advice – and you had to act on your own.  The same is true for customer experience professionals.  Sometimes you have to stand up against the “middle management mafia” without explicit executive backing because you know it is the right thing to do.  These situations are scary, but at least you walk out knowing you did the right thing.  And if the mean kids tease you anyway, you can always run and tell the teacher.

4.  If you make a promise, keep a promise.  This is perhaps the most important lesson we learn in kindergarten and then too often forget – maybe it’s because of those adolescent hormones.  In kindergarten, if you repeatedly failed to live up to your word, or stole, or were otherwise deceitful, your friends eventually left you for greener pastures.  So will your customers.  So whether your brand promise is to “make life a little easier,” or “improving healthcare one person at a time,” be sure you live up to your promise – in your products, your service, and every experience your customers have with you.