Skip to content

Modern Day Customer Experience Lessons from a 1947 Cinema Classic

cx lessons from the movies

If you’re like me, every holiday season you wax nostalgic about all of your favorite holiday movie classics. But if you’re also like me, you might have to admit that it’s actually been quite a long time since you’ve actually sat and fully watched any of your favorites from beginning to end.

This year, however, something unusual happened. For the first time in longer than I care to acknowledge, I found myself watching the 1947’s classic Miracle on 34th Street from the very beginning. And not just in a cursory fashion – I was all in and focused only on the movie.

Now, off course we all know the famous stars (Natalie Wood and Maureen O’Hara) and the essentials of story – a pragmatic single mom, Doris, doesn’t encourage her precocious young daughter, Susan, to believe in Santa Claus.

However, Doris happens to be the special events director at Macy’s and hires an old man to be the new Macy’s Santa. And you know the rest – there’s something special about this man, but will Doris and Susan ever allow themselves to believe? Can a young lawyer prove in court that he’s the real thing?

Well, that’s the basic plot that everyone remembers, and of course, everyone has their own personal favorite scene (mine was always the bags of mail being dumped on the judge’s bench). But watching the entire film again for the first time in so many years, it was amazing to realize just how ahead of its time the movie really is, in terms of modern day customer experience efforts.

What Miracle on 34th Street Teaches Us About Customer Experience

Today, with so much focus on how to compete on the basis of CX credentials, and constant efforts to find new ways of delighting customers, it’s easy for organizations to lose sight of the foundational basics of an exceptional customer experience.

Sometimes, just concentrating on a few basic tenets that can permeate your entire organization is better than orchestrating a small handful of one-off, overwhelmingly “wow” moments that are hard to replicate.

As you look ahead to a new year, if you find that your CX efforts are in need of some refinements, take some inspiration from a 1947’s cinema classic. Sometimes, simply going back to these five basic and timeless principles is all you need:

Be Upfront With Customers About Your Limitations

1) If you don’t have exactly what a customer wants, don’t try to convince them that they want something else. Do help them find exactly what they want.

When little Peter tells Kris Kringle that he wants something that Macy’s doesn’t have, Kris ignores the company policy of actively pushing other toys that Macy’s has overstocked. Rather, knowing that the exact toy Peter wants can be found elsewhere, Kris promises Peter that he’ll get his wish.

To his Mom’s bewilderment, Kris tells her exactly which store she can find one. Her reaction? She congratulates the store manager for bringing back the true spirit of Christmas and says, “I’ve never done much shopping here, but from now on, I’m gonna be a regular Macy’s customer.”

Remember, trustworthiness never gets old or goes out of style. Be straightforward about your capabilities and your offerings. If you don’t offer something, but you know who does, speak up. In the long run, through referrals and top-of-mind consideration for future business, your customers will reward you for your refreshing honesty.

Put the Customer’s Needs First

2) If you don’t have exactly what a customer needs, don’t try to convince them that what you do have will be just as good. Do put their best interests first and help them find what’s best for them and their needs.

When a little girl tells Kris that she wants a new pair of skates, Kris recognizes that not just any skates will do. She’s a little girl who needs lots of support to “protect those little ankles.” Kris tells the little girl’s mom that sure, Macy’s got skates, but the best ones for her little girl can actually be found at Gimbel’s.

Again, another loyal Macy’s customer is established! Remember, your customer experience starts at the very beginning, which means that Sales plays a huge part in setting the stage for success. Forcing a sale that’s not a good fit is a sure-fire way to undermine the experience. If the needs don’t align well with the solution being offered, it will hurt your relationship and reputation.

Cultivate a Customer-First Mindset

3) Do make sure the behaviors above permeate throughout the organization.

After customers begin lining up outside the store manager’s office just to express their appreciation for Kris Kringle’s customer-first attitude, a push is made to ensure that all employees act as true ambassadors to customers for all of their holiday shopping needs.

The marketing department even creates and equips employees with “A Shopping Guide for the Convenience of our Customers” wherein they can all advise customers of what the other department stores in New York have in stock, thereby making their holiday shopping experience much easier.

Recognize and Reward Employees

4) Reward employees who consistently embody the behaviors above.

As Macy’s reputation as a “benevolent soul” continues to grow, Mr. Macy quickly realizes the value of foregoing small, short-term wins in return for longer-term customer loyalty and positive brand sentiment.

He also understands the importance of recognizing those who consistently embody customer-first attitudes. Thus, generous bonuses are bestowed to select individuals – Kris included – with expressed appreciation for leadership in these behaviors.

Don’t Overlook Employee Opinions

5) Make a point to care about what your employees care about. If it’s important to them, it should be important to you.

It’s been said dozens of times before, but we’ll say it again. If you want your employees to care about your customers, you need to demonstrate that you care about your employees.

And while compensation, benefits, career training, and development are all on the menu of methods to increase employee engagement, there is also another more personal avenue to explore. Specifically, taking an interest in what matters personally to employees.

When Kris Kringle is asked what he intends to do with his bonus, he responds that he has a doctor friend who really needs a new piece of equipment. Flanked by Mr. Macy and Mr. Gimbel, both men make overtures to support that effort as well.

When you take the time to learn about what your employees care about, and work to support those causes as well, the impact on employee loyalty is immeasurable. And the effect is contagious as happy employees spread their enthusiasm to customers.

From all of us at Satrix Solutions – Happy New Year!