Parking lot. We use it in the meeting management world to mean an agenda item that is tabled for later discussion. It is generally posted on a sheet of flip chart paper, taped on the meeting wall, and then placed on the agenda of the next meeting so it is not forgotten as a topic for discussion.
I was working with a large B2B company and sat in on their weekly senior leadership staff meeting. The attendees all agreed they needed to spend a considerable amount of time talking about the negative impact of their customers’ experiences of their company. Survey result verbatims and customer complaints repeatedly contained comments on their great products but their lousy customer service. Their customer churn rate was up. Customer contact employees’ morale was low. But, this particular meeting was already full of higher priority issues. So, customer experience was put on the parking lot flip chart.
A month later I attended the same senior leadership staff meeting in the same meeting room. The parking lot flip chart sheet with “customer experience” written on it was still hanging on the wall and was not on the current meeting agenda. The marketing director again reported an increase in the number of customer complaints and an elevation of customer churn. Yet, it appeared the topic of “customer experience” was not going to make the cut for attention in this meeting.
When I pointed to the parking lot sheet, there was silence. Then, in defense of their negligence, one participant commented, “We have had a lot of hectic meetings over the last month. We’ve just not been able to get to it.” However, someone else, no doubt feeling guilty about their earlier enthusiasm that remained only a good intention said: “Wonder if we are we just rearranging deck chairs on our Titanic?”
If your focus on customer experience is mere lip service, it will telegraph its low priority to everyone in your organization. Employees do not watch your mouth; they watch your moves. Observation trumps conversation. Clear your parking lot of pending items for later attention and put customer experience at the top of your agenda for actions and practices.