How to take advantage of the outbreak and create outstanding Employee or Customer Experiences?

“They ask me to think outside the box but I don’t have any budget!” something I got used to hear along the years.
What if we change this for “They ask me to think outside the box and I don’t have any budget!”.
There’s only one way out: Think outside the budget, no matter the box!

The sentence “Think outside the box” has been used for several years to encourage people to be creative, not to limit themselves to what exists. Thinking outside the box was, and still is, something needed to find new ways, new products, new solutions… It’s something companies keep saying to their teams, and still, often we do not see the expected result.
Easy to say, hard to implement? Or are we missing the right drive so that everyone can have that skill?
The fact is that few believe to have that capability. Or used to believe! The association of “thinking outside the box” being just for creative people is a belief that can kill great ideas and movements. Everyone can and does think outside the box, at least once in an entire life! If not before, the outbreak made us do it for sure!
As the outbreak stepped into our lives, all of us, in one way or the other, had to think outside the box!
This world situation made all companies and people shake. The need to quickly adapt to the situation was, for thousands of people, a surviving matter. Being in touch with several companies, managers, leaders, workers and friends, as well as learning how to manage my own company, along the way, I realized that budget is, no doubt, something that stops creativity, mainly in what concerns our Customers and Customer experience. This is something that used to happen before Covid-19.

Why does budget kill creativity? Because, often, either we get stuck with what our budget used to be or we have to do a new one. Or even worst, we have no budget at all. How can I do something special for my Customers if I don’t have a budget?
Well, that’s exactly one of the best ways to do something special!

For more than 20 years I’ve worked with companies to improve their processes, sales, environment and culture through a service culture and great customer experiences. And it’s precisely for that reason that I do believe that “Thinking outside the budget” nowadays is the key! As it was before.

The best Customer Experience ideas I’ve had the chance to see, were not based on gifts, discounts or big investments. The best ones think outside the budget!

Still not convinced? Here’s a true story.

In one of my last webinars a participant shared her birthday experience and the way her husband was able to surprise her.

Participant: It was my birthday and due to the outbreak, we could not socialize with our family. I was never a big fan of birthday parties anyway!” she explained as a starter of the story!
Participant: “As the times require, we did a zoom call with all our friends and family. My husband made a cake, with a few slices missing, and had candles!” she explained with a smile and showing her amazement for not having an entire cake.
Me: “What happened?” I asked
Participant: When it came to the part of singing, everyone showed either a piece of the cake my husband made or a cake they personally made so that we could all eat a piece of cake at the same time!” explaining that her husband made the cake and decided to take a piece to those living closer and gave instructions to those living far way or in other countries to have a piece of cake for the call!

There’s no business in this story, but there is meaning, creativity and, who knows, a future possible business!

Can we think about similar surprises we can do to our teams and Customers? I truly believe we can. Could we do it before? Of course we could! The difference is the way the world is ready to receive and appreciate this kind of behavior now more than ever!

The other part of thinking outside the budget has to do with sales and sales goals. At this precise moment, we have no idea of the emotional state of a person we haven’t spoken to for a long time. We do not know if the person is ok, if she/he lost someone, if money is a problem or not… we simply do not know! So how can we plan the way we used to? How do we know that visiting a Client is what he really wants at this time? Oh… and what if there’s the budget issue?! What if the Customer visitation budget was cut? If that is the case, think of the amazing opportunity we have to do something remarkable.

Daniel Pink in “To Sell is Human”, calls this way of behaving - UpServing. The quickest way to UpServe (always do something for the other person over his expectations or something even you were not thinking about when you started) is to have a personal purpose and find meaning in our actions. The quickest way to do so is to Serve!

Tina Seelig, who wrote “What I wish I knew when I was 20” brilliantly explains how students show and have an amazing capacity of making great business with no budget.

“What can we do to make money if we start with absolutely nothing?” (Seelig, 2009).

The way she explains her work with the students is simply finding business in problems that need solving.

So why can’t we? Why don’t we use the material presented by teachers, like her, which was already proved effective?
When Tina Seelig gives her students a project, with no budget at all, it puts them under pressure to create a profitable business within 24, 48 or 72 hours. Some might panic at the beginning, but in the end, projects come out, and some of them become real and successful businesses. They have no other choice than thinking outside the budget!

Want an Outstanding Customer Experience and Loyalty? Take advantage of the situation to rebuild the way you deal with your employees and customers.
Taking advantage of the outbreak means to restart with a new way of dealing with people. Consider asking the whole team what kind of ideas they may have to implement right away (outside the budget). Remember that the “stupid” ideas often bring great thoughts attached and be ready for a great surprise.
It’s the best time to apply the logic of doing Human to Human based business.
To do so, please, Think Outside the Budget. Connect, Surprise, Create with a personal purpose and you will, for sure, get amazing results inside and outside your business!

Thinking outside the budget is different from not having or building a budget. Simply move forward and inspire your teams with a Greater Purpose and don’t let the budget kill your entrepreneur inner side! Thinking outside the budget will make you think of things that a budget would never allow you to!

Let’s be clear, the engagement of employees in companies and its goals was not at its best before the outbreak. Actually, 86% used to say they liked, or even loved their jobs, although only 21% were engaged with the goals. Or shall I say budget?

Is there a better timing to correct what was not going in the right direction than this worldwide situation that made everyone stop?

All in all, if you want Great Customer Service, do it from the inside-OUT. Humanize and be authentic starting by your colleagues, teams and employees with no budget at all, just purpose. Take advantage of the moment and rebuild your culture, rebuild your people, rebuild yourself… Soon you will definitely need to work on a budget!

Wishing you great ideas, Great Service and keep safe!

P.S. Keep your budget in mind instead of your mind on the budget!

Carla Carvalho Dias | Keynote Speaker, Author and Business Consultant