Monday, September 30, 2013

What Employees Do When No One is Looking

Photo by Chris Nguyen on Unsplash
Do you know what your employees are doing when no one is looking?

I love Herb Kelleher's definition of culture: "Culture is what people do when no one is looking."

The problem is, it (culture) doesn't happen on its own; I think that might be called "anarchy!" Culture needs a little push, a little guidance, and once it has that, it takes on a life of its own.

So what does that mean, a little push or a little guidance?

I've updated my framework for a customer-centric culture from a three-legged stool to now include five building blocks, with purpose still being the first block:
  1. Purpose
  2. Core Values
  3. Employees
  4. Leadership
  5. Customers
In that order.

Bear with me.

Your purpose is your why; it's the reason for being, the reason for doing what you're doing.

Employees want to work for companies with which they are aligned. When employees are connected with your purpose and are passionate about what they are doing and who they do it for, there is a real benefit: they are more focused (on what they do and on the success of the business), want the business to succeed, and will do anything to ensure it does.

I added core values because I think they are necessary to help employees make the right decisions, in general. When in doubt, fall back on your core values. More importantly, your core values are going to drive hiring decisions, to ensure that you hire the right people, which is the next building block.

When you hire the right people, they will be aligned not only with your purpose but also with your core values; they'll embrace the same values in their own lives. Jim Collins says it best in Built to Last:

"Core values and purpose are not something people 'buy in' to. People must already have a predisposition to holding them. ... the task is to find people who already have a predisposition to share your core values and purpose, attract and retain these people, and let those who aren't predisposed to share your core values go elsewhere."

Be employee-centric before you are customer-centric. Why? because, as Kip Tindell, Chairman and CEO of The Container Store, says: "Take care of employees better than anyone else, and they will take care of customers better than anyone else."

Simple enough.

Perhaps I could have put leadership before employees, but we all know that leadership is there to support employees and, basically, stand back and get out of their way. Leadership has a key role in ensuring the culture stays on the right track. Leadership must model, support, and reinforce the desired behaviors; be transparent and trustworthy; communicate; and quite simply, respect and care about the employees. Set the course, and set them free.

And finally, as odd as it sounds, customers are the last (not really, but last on this list) building block of the customer-centric culture. As Hal Rosenbluth said: "... if you genuinely want to put customers first, you must put employees more first.” That's why customers end up last in this list. So, last but not least, take the time to get to know your customers and their needs. Listen to them. Walk in their shoes. Understand what jobs they are trying to do, what needs they are trying to fulfill. Make every decision as if the customer was in the room.

You can’t sell it outside if you can’t sell it inside. -Stan Slap

Happy CX Day!

This post is part of the Customer Experience Professionals Association's Blog Carnival "Celebrating Customer Experience." It is part of a broader celebration of Customer Experience Day. Check out posts from other bloggers here.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Small Businesses Lose Big - Or Do They?

Why do you frequent small businesses? Why do you shop local?

Last month, the team at Software Advice published the findings of a six-month long research study, The Great Retail Experience Race: Local vs. National, in an article titled, "Small Businesses Lose Big to the Big Guys When it Comes to Presenting Offers." They compared five major national retail chains to five local shops on three experience metrics:

1. % Upsell/cross-sell
2. % Personal/emotional connection made
3. Time to make personal/emotional connection

The infographic to the left summarizes their findings. One of the conclusions noted:

Ironically, the local stores actually had more opportunities during the race to upsell customers because their employees talked to our site visitors more often (the second column in the graphic shows the percent of times where a personal, emotional connection was made with the customer). The small businesses simply didn’t take advantage of these opportunities to upsell at the same rate as the national stores.

This got me thinking. While the Software Advice team takes the retailers' point of view and provides advice for the small retailers to help them grow their businesses, I'm going to first consider this from the customer point of view.

Back to my original questions: Why do you frequent small businesses? Why do you shop local?

Is it because you know these businesses are going to push their marketing tactics and daily deals on you?

Or is it because they are close and convenient, and more importantly, you truly do have a personal and emotional connection? Is it because the shop owner is your neighbor or your uncle?

I think we shop small businesses and shop local for different reasons than we shop the big box/big brand retailers. Perhaps there are some things that the national retailers can learn from local retailers' customers:

We are your neighbors, family, and friends. Treat us that way. Know that we are the reason you are in business.

We don't want to be upsold or cross-sold every time we shop. Sometimes, I just want a cup of coffee.

And from the local retailers to the national brands:

We are building our businesses, one brick, one customer at time. In order to do that, we value each and every individual that walks into our stores.

We're in it for the long haul. If we constantly upsell and cross-sell, our customers will tire of that. We want them to come back and shop without fear of being sold to every time. If we can help them, yes, we will certainly do that.

We have to work a little harder. We don't have the marketing budget of the national brands, which means we take a different approach. We greet customers as they enter our stores. We engage in friendly chatter. We put our hearts and souls into our businesses. We focus on the experience, not the discounts.

As a result, we are building relationships. We are having conversations, learning about our customers, and helping them buy the right product to meet their needs. We are taking names, remembering faces, and looking forward to the day we see our customers again. This is our community.

We are unique. We can offer different products, change our menus, and create unique experiences for our customers without having to go through a corporate review process.

We know what "ownership" means. National brands can only hope that their employees are as committed to their businesses as we are to ours.

We stand on our reputation. If we come across as pushy or too focused on making a bigger sale, word gets out. All we have is experiences. We have one or two locations; big box retailers have 700 (or more). If a customer has a bad experience in one of their stores, they could potentially go to another location. We don't have that luxury.

I'd like to see this study done in other cities and with more representation. Perhaps Austin, and its Keep Austin Weird mantra and community, also adds to the lower upsell/cross-sell numbers and supports my tips to the national brands.

Stop selling. Start helping. -Zig Ziglar

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Rethinking Hotel Lost and Found

Today I'm pleased to present another guest post from Sarah Simon.

Earlier this year, over the course of two weeks and two business trips, I managed to leave nearly identical articles behind in two different hotel rooms on opposite coasts.  The realization that you’ve left something behind on a trip comes slowly; days later, you wonder “Where is my sweater?  What happened to that pair of jeans?” A mental inventory quickly revealed that I had left a pair of jeans and a sweater in Miami, and done exactly the same in Oakland.

The Customer Experience student in me promptly recognized the opportunity to compare the “article recovery” process of each hotel.  Sadly, my experiences were both depressingly negative.  First, I called each front desk and was promised – with little confidence – that the head of housekeeping should be in touch with me.  It took at least one follow-up call from me to actually reach that housekeeping team lead. In each case, this individual had rather poor professional communication skills and limited English proficiency.  (Note: As a sometimes struggling student of Spanish, I sympathize with those learning an additional language.)  I had to repeat the description of my belongings several times to multiple staff members (which was a bit embarrassing as I had in one instance left behind intimate underthings along with my jeans and sweater).  I also had to repeat my name, date of stay, and room number over and over.  Both hotels required me to recite my credit card information to the head of housekeeping in order to pay for shipping.  I found it a bit odd to have housekeeping staff handling financial information and would have felt more comfortable with the front desk assisting with this matter.

Within a week or so, both packages arrived containing all expected contents.  I was strangely – thankfully – relieved that my forgotten clothing had found its way home.  Looking at these twin experiences through customer service eyes, however, I was determined to think of a way to improve this process.

What Could Be Improved?
For the sake of discussion, let’s assume a hotel that is part of a large chain frequented by business travelers (e.g., Hyatt, Hilton, and Marriott).  I envision the process unfolding like this:
  • Guest checks out of room.
  • Housekeeping enters room and discovers left-behind articles.
  • Housekeeping staff uses handheld device used to track room status to indicate found articles.  A form enables this staff member to document the number and type of articles, including a brief description.  
  • All of this “lost item” information is instantly linked to the guest room and guest account.  In this case, the guest is a member of the frequent traveler program with a credit card linked to her account.
  • An email is automatically generated to the address on file notifying the guest that a lost article was uncovered in her room*.  A follow-up telephone call may be placed within 5 business days if the guest does not reply.
  • When the guest claims the items and expresses a desire to have the items shipped to her residence (or other address of her choice), she is presented the option to have the card on file in her frequent guest account charged.  This step can be executed electronically or over the phone, per customer preference.
  • A shipping label is generated, and the items are retrieved from storage, packaged and sent to the guest’s address.
*One caveat is that this program would require guest opt-in to protect privacy.

A program like this is truly win-win and would benefit the customer, the business, and the employees.

  • Feels cared for by hotel
  • Rewarded for loyalty by value-added service
  • Easy retrieval of goods
  • Less stuff sitting around unclaimed in storage
  • Positive reflections upon brand (looking out for customers’ best interests, easy to do business with)
  • Improved process efficiency
  • Fewer distractions
  • Able to focus on core competencies
  • Less frustration

My Challenge
In the spirit of Stan PhelpsWhat’s Your Purple Goldfish, I challenge a major hotel chain to make this lost item recovery their lagniappe for their frequent travelers.

Sarah Simon is a career insights professional with 16 years of experience in the feedback industry. Specialties include VoC architecture, journey mapping, developing linkages to business performance, reduction of customer defection, results analysis and communication, with expert survey design skills.  She is the survivor of a botched early-generation "big data mining" operation and is happy to live to tell about it. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Help! My Execs Don't Get It!

Image courtesy of 401(K) 2013
Executives are still saying, "Show me the money!" when it comes to justifying listening to the voice of the customer and putting the customer at the center of all they do.

How can you (a) gain their buy-in, (b) show them the money, and (c) convince them to stop just focusing on the metrics?

So glad you asked.

As unbelievable as it is, there are still plenty of company executives out there today who don't get it; they still need to be convinced that they should be listening to the voice of the customer and making decisions based on customers' wants and needs, not their own.

The following tips apply whether you're trying to get executives to buy in to this entire notion or if they've (sorta) bought in but are only focused on the metrics, not the actual improvements.

Before you begin on this journey, it's also important to know your audience and understand the language in which they speak. By that I mean, what's important to your executives and what are the hot buttons that they can relate to? I think most of them speak the language of sales or revenue. Tell your story in a way that helps them understand how being customer-centric ultimately translates to shareholder value.

Stakeholder Interviews. Giving stakeholders an overview of your strategy, along with the objectives, highlights of their involvement, and well-documented reasons for putting customers at the center of the universe will set things off on the right foot. At the same time, understanding stakeholder needs, concerns, and roadblocks as well as identifying what insights they'd like the initiative to provide will help you identify ways to better engage them. Whether you're just kicking off your CX and VOC strategies or have a more-mature program, stakeholder interviews can help to bring executives (back) into alignment with the effort.

Build Your Business Case. Identify your objectives and then align the outcomes and benefits tied to each. Clearly, the stronger the business case, the better. Your outcomes may be customer retention, account growth, new business through referrals, culture change, etc. Benefits might include cost savings and other efficiencies. Communicate objectives, outcomes, and benefits to gain buy-in.

Enlist an Executive. OK, that sounds counter-intuitive, but there is quite possibly one executive who gets it. Enlist his or her help to build the case, be the champion, and help you socialize the message with the rest of the executives.

To support the business case, show some Quick Wins or Proofs of Concept. Quick Wins can be achieved through service or account recovery examples or by listening to customers at a specific touchpoint, making improvements, and showing ROI. To help build your case, focus on what's important to the customer as well as to the business; use a critical touchpoint or moment of truth as your stepping stone. Baby steps. Small, yet impactful, examples - tangible value - for the big win.

Customer Immersion. Walking in customers' shoes has become a cliché in our world, but that's what customer immersion programs are all about. Have executives experience what customers experience when they (try to) do business with you. This can be eye-opening, for sure!

Customer Stories. Tell their stories, whether it's what needs they are trying to fulfill, how they interact with the company, what their experiences are, or what the brand means to them. Use their comments (verbatims) from surveys or social media to bring their stories to life. As strange as it may sound, humanize them. Humanize their experiences.

Journey Maps. Another way to walk in your customers' shoes is to map their journeys to complete some tasks with your organization. It's an eye opening experience for everyone (assuming there's cross-functional collaboration to create the maps and the maps are shared to educate employees and executives alike).

These tips will help you appeal to both the emotional and the rational sides for your executives, a one-two punch that ought to get them focusing on the right thing: your customers.

What's measured improves. - Peter F. Drucker

Friday, September 20, 2013

CX Professionals to Celebrate #CXDay on October 1!

Customer Experience Professionals around the world will be celebrating the very first CX Day on October 1, 2013. It's a global celebration of companies and people that are creating great experiences for customers; it is the brainchild of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA), the international non-profit organization created to guide and enhance the growing field of customer experience management.

We're so excited that CX Day has recently received Congressional recognition. From here on, October 1 will always be recognized as CX Day!

CX Day offers something for everyone. CX professionals who can't make it to their local networking events (LNE) to celebrate are invited to participate online.
  • Register for a free webinar with Bruce Temkin, CXPA Chairman, and Dan Hesse, CEO of Sprint Corporation, who will discuss the CEO's role in leading a customer experience transformational journey. 
  • Join in on a series of online events throughout the day, including four Google+ Hangouts across global time zones.
Why am I sharing this here? I've been an active member of CXPA for a couple of years. I'm one of the team leads for the SoCal CXPA Local Networking Events. I was on the planning committee for this year's Member Insights Exchange back in May. And I'm heavily involved with both planning and participating in CX Day.
  • I'll be hosting the Australian Google Hangout at 9am AEST on October 1, or 4pm PDT on September 30. I'll be moderating an event that includes CX Experts Tabitha Dunn and Erich Dietz as well as Australian CXPA member Cyrus Allen. Our topic is "Voice of the Customer Programs and the State of CX in Australia."
  • I'll be hosting the Pacific Google Hangout at 9am PDT; I'll be moderating a team of CX Experts (John Carroll, Lynn Hunsaker, and Yvonne Nomizu) who will be debating the finer points of VOC programs, specifically, the shift from asking to listening.
  • I'll be hosting, along with Jeannie Walters and Deirdre Sommerkamp, the #CXDayChat on Twitter, with guest host Iris Lindberg. Our topic will be "Celebrating CX as a Profession," and you can find details on how to join us, as well as the questions we'll be posing, on the CX Day website.
  • I'll also be participating in the CX Day Blog Carnival, writing on the topic of "Building a Customer-Centric Culture." For more details on the Blog Carnival and other participants and topics, visit the CXPA website.
  • And finally, on the evening of October 1, we'll be hosting our first SoCal Local Networking Event in San Diego. This event has already sold out! (Note: All LNEs are free to attend on this day only. Otherwise, they are free to members and $20 for non-members.)  But if you'd like to join us for another Local Networking Event, we'll be hosting an OC event in Irvine on October 15.
There are ways for your organization to participate, as well. Check out the Company Celebrations page on the CX Day website for ideas on how you can celebrate CX on October 1. It's not too late!

And if you're not yet a member of CXPA, take a moment to join! I guarantee you will not be disappointed!

The Customer Experience Professionals Association is a global, non-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of customer experience management best practices. It provides customer experience management professionals with educational and networking opportunities to help them succeed, and facilitates the industry-wide advancement of the discipline of customer experience management. The CXPA’s members include individuals who develop, manage, optimize, and envision how organizations interact with their customers. This community includes customer experience practitioners within companies, vendors who support customer experience efforts, and other stakeholders in the industry.

Founded in April 2011, the CXPA has more than 80 Corporate Members and nearly 2,300 customer experience professionals in its community. CXPA Gold Sponsors include Confirmit, ForeSee, Oracle, and Verint. Clarabridge, Inc., Corsential, Interactive Intelligence, Mattersight Corporation, Medallia, ResponseTek and TNS are CXPA Silver Sponsors. For more information, visit

Customer Experience Professionals Association, CXPA, and the CXPA logo are trademarks of the Customer Experience Professionals Association. All other company names mentioned may be trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective holders.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Top 15 Things Every Successful Customer Service Representative Must Do

Today I'm pleased to present a guest post by Amy Kirkegaard.

Becoming a successful customer service representative is not as easy as you'd think. True, the majority of the population could probably pass as an average customer service representative, but it takes a specialized skill set to be successful.

Some skills may come naturally to you, whereas others you need to learn. If you are considering becoming a customer service representative, check this list to see if you have what it takes to be a success.

Assertive. If your position requires negotiation or persuasion, be assertive when making an offer. Don't stutter or hesitate. The customer will think you don't agree it's a fair offer.

Body Language. If you're meeting your customers face-to-face, don't cross your arms, tap your fingers on the counter, or stand with your hands on your hips. Smile, even if you don't want to.

Communication Skills. Depending on your particular job, you will interact with customers over the phone, in person, or via email (or possibly all three). You need to speak clearly and slowly. Don't mumble. If you're communicating via email, use proper grammar. Don't use slang, and don't abbreviate the way you would if you were texting. Use spell check, even if you don't think you need to.

Creativity. Depending on your employer, you may have authorization to do whatever necessary to keep the customer happy. Think of unique ways you can accomplish this without sending your employer into bankruptcy.

Empathy. Express to the customer that you are sorry for the inconvenience. Make them feel like you truly care about their situation.

Food and Gum. Don't eat or chew gum if you are helping customers on the phone or in person.

Listen. The person calling you may have been on hold for quite a while. They may be frustrated or irritated, or just flat-out mad. When you give them the opportunity to tell their story, listen and take notes. Don't interrupt.

Memory. You need to have a good memory, especially short-term. Don't ask the customer the same questions over and over. It will make them feel like you don't really care.

Multi-Task. You'll probably need to do several things at once. Examples are: listen, type, search, change orders, fill out reports, etc.

Office Hours. Decide if you are willing to work nights or weekends. Remember, many people will be calling after their normal business hours, so many call centers offer extended hours.

Patience. Customer service representatives must be patient. If you tend to get frustrated easily or if you have a short temper, this industry is probably not for you.

Professional. Keep your emotions on an even keel. Don't be rude or sarcastic. Don't talk about your personal life or what kind of day you've had. Stay calm.

Product Knowledge. If your industry is technical or unique in some way, it helps if you have prior experience within the industry. If not, your employer will likely send you to product training so you are better able to help customers.

Resolution. You will need to find a way to solve the customer's problem, or at least bring it to a close. That may mean a return call from a supervisor or further investigation. Make sure you don't leave any loose ends hanging.

Time Management. You should help the customer in the least amount of time possible. This benefits you by allowing you to help more people, and it helps your customer by allowing them to get on with their day.

Use these skills to take your customer service to the next level. Your customers, as well as your employer, will appreciate your effort.

Amy Kirkegaard is a freelance writer who writes on a variety of topics, including social media, online reputation management, and doctor reviews. She previously worked in marketing and human resources for an oilfield equipment manufacturer.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

If a Tree Falls in the Forest...

Image courtesy of mastermaq
If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

We've all heard that saying, right? Or perhaps you've heard the modern version: If a tree falls in the forest and no one tweets about it, did it really happen?

According to Wikipedia, "If a tree falls..." is "a philosophical thought experiment that raises questions regarding observation and knowledge of reality."

I much prefer the Urban Dictionary definition: "It symbolizes the ineffectiveness of unheard opinions or thoughts."

You might see (or hear?) where I'm going with this. Let's wax philosophical for a few minutes as I tie that falling tree thought to the customer experience.

If a customer tells you about his experience but the right person/department doesn't hear about it, does it mean anything?

If customers provide feedback, but you don't act on it, does their feedback matter?

If a customer tweets a complaint/issue, and no one answers, did the issue never happen?

If a customer has a bad/good experience but doesn't tell anyone, did it really happen?

If no one is watching or if no one says anything, did that bad/good experience really happen?

If a customer recommends your business, but you don't acknowledge the referral or deliver the same experience that garnered the recommendation, does that Promoter matter?

If you say you have a customer-centric culture, but you don't listen to your customers, are you kidding yourself?

If your customers' perceptions are their reality, are they your reality, too?

If it gets measured but doesn't get done, what's the point?


Are you around to hear your customers? Are you paying attention? How effective is your customer listening? Are you doing something about it?

Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one. - Albert Einstein

Friday, September 13, 2013

Are You Providing Value-Added Service or Value-Unique Service?

Image courtesy of hozae
Do you know the difference between value-add and value-unique?

Chip Bell recently sent me a copy of his latest book, The 9 1/2 Principles of Innovative Service. Within the first few pages, he introduces readers to the difference between the two concepts:  value-add and value-unique.

Chip defines value-added service as: "Take what your customers expect and add a little more." Value-unique service, on the other hand, is "not about the addition... it is about a unique and unexpected creation." To achieve the latter, shift your culture and your employees' thinking from "I'm doing the best I can" to "I'm creating something unique, unhindered by bad policies and bad culture."

It is the service we are not obliged to give that people value most. - J.C. Penney

To inspire readers to create something unique and unexpected, Chip has outlined his 9 1/2 principles of innovative service. Each principle is explained using real-life examples, many from his own experiences.

1. The Cracker Jack Principle: put a surprise inside
2. The “Big Boy” Event Principle: connect with respect
3. The Purpling Principle: elevate the class
4. The Speed Limit 23 MPH Principle: put total sense into service
5. The Circus Principle: before and beyond service
6. The Campfire Story Principle: hardwire wisdom into service
7. The Fly-Fishing Principle: monogram the moment
8. The Easy Button Principle: effort removal squared
9. The Panning for Gold Principle: turn an oops into an opportunity
1/2. The Fruit Salad Principle: synergize your service delivery

I won't explain each of the principles more than that because the book is short, with just over 100 pages, and can be read in an hour or less. But don't be fooled by the brevity - the book is full of great examples of companies that are delivering unique experiences.

If you'd like to hear more about this book and about Chip's philosophy, Adrian Swinscoe interviewed him a couple weeks ago; otherwise, get yourself a copy of the book.

The 9 1/2 Principles of Innovative Service is the latest book by Chip Bell, senior partner with the Chip Bell Group. In addition to being an author, he's a consultant, trainer, and speaker. He has authored or co-authored 19 books. You can contact Chip through his site, and you can buy this book through Simple Truths.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

This Is Why We Love To Invest In Our Senses: Hearing, Touch, Sight

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Today I am pleased to share a guest post by Michel Falcon.

We like to invest in strategies that will give us a quick ROI but that are rarely long term.

Earlier this year I contributed to a TIME magazine post, “Could 2013 Be the Year Customer Service Gets Better?” My short answer to this question is: not until we all learn to become more patient.

When leading a department or organizational initiative, we are given a budget to operate within. Some business leaders will command a return of 3x, 5x, or more. I get this part; I love profit just as much as the next business person. What I will never accept is investing in a short-term strategy because we are looking for a feather in our hat.

I love this quote from Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO of Amazon, about his business strategy: “We are willing to be misunderstood for long periods of time.”

What he means is that he is willing to invest in long-term strategies that may not pay a return for months or even years. If you’ve followed, or purchased from, Amazon before, you know that the majority of Bezos’ investments are focused on strengthening their customer experience to drive organic growth while Amazon investors remain patient. In fact, the Business Week article “Amazon Investors Give CEO Bezos Room to Run” underlines the notion that he receives plenty of latitude when it comes to executing his business strategies, no doubt with good reason: at the time the article was written earlier this year, Amazon stock was up 40% over the last 12 months and traded at 700 times the last 12 months' earnings!

It is very rare for a publicly-traded company to have such composed investors who aren’t calling for the CEO’s head when margins remain razor thin. Should we doubt his decisions?  You decide: Amazon began operations out of a garage and is now a successful behemoth and world-class benchmark for companies in all industries.

Companies have grown impatient and lost the ability to think long term

We have grown impatient. We have grown impatient because the internet has given us not only immediacy but also an easy opportunity to achieve a short-term ROI. An SEO or a PPC campaign can increase our brand awareness and conversion, which is great; however, that's not a sustainable or long-term growth strategy. We are consistently running a rat race trying to find our next customer. This is called a “transactional business.”

I have a love-hate relationship with the internet. I love it because it allows me to deliver this blog post to you. I hate it because it has negatively changed the way we invest in customer acquisition.

When can we expect to see a ROI?” says your boss.

If you’ve ever been responsible for managing an operating budget, you’ve heard this after you presented your strategic plan.

This is what happens with 99% of companies: we stick with strategies that will save us from getting fired. We invest in programs that are tangible, ones that you can hear, touch, and see because they offer an instant sense of accomplishment.

When your boss says, “Show me what you did with your budget,” you confidently say:

Do you hear that radio ad? That’s what we spent the budget on." [HEARING]
Turn to page 37; we purchased a full page ad.” [TOUCH]
At 3:00pm, we will have a 30-second spot on channel 23.[SIGHT]

Let’s do this again, but with a customer experience focus.

Your boss says, “Show me what you did with your budget.

You reply with:

Oh, I invested it into a complaint resolution system to ensure that our customers are having complaints resolved within one business day. We don’t expect to see an ROI for 12 months.”

This is neither instant gratification nor sexy. When you invest in TV, you’re profiled on a grand stage, and that’s cool. A complaint resolution system will get you a pat on the back, at best.

Let’s be customer-centric for a moment. Your customers don’t care if you’re on TV. They don’t become more loyal to your brand because you have a 30-second spot. What they do care about is that you’re around to handle their calls, emails, live chat, and tweets when they need your help. The immediate ROI of this is your customer simply saying, “Thank you.” They appreciate that you are there for them when they need you. It might take another purchase or two before they become profitable again, but I promise they will come back (if the customer is a fit for your business).

I confidently recommend that all businesses, regardless of size or industry, slash their marketing budgets in half and reallocate those monies into both employee-centric and customer-centric transformations or refinements. I advocate that they invest in advanced hiring solutions, greater training programs, and voice of the customer strategies. We need to build the foundation of our businesses first so that we can grow organically. Then we can invest in what I call “marble granite strategies,” i.e., the bells and whistles, such as a SEO program, TV, radio, etc.

My grandfather grew his fish market in Lima, Peru, where I learned my first business lessons organically -  through word of mouth and repeat business. If he were alive today, he would probably be thinking, “What the…?” because he wouldn’t understand why we all run to instantly gratifying ways to grow our businesses.

The easiest sale we will make today is one from repeat or referred customers because often they are already sold on our service or product before they arrive. The only way to grow organically is by delivering a world-class customer experience. I’m sorry, but that logo you spent a month critiquing or that 30-second spot you spent three months producing isn’t going to grow your business.

Be patient, my friends. Let’s operate our businesses like it’s 1975 all over again.

Michel Falcon is a customer and employee experience coach and keynote speaker based out of Vancouver, Canada. He has been featured in, and contributed to, Time, Forbes,, and 1to1media. His book, “Be patient and willing: how the world’s most admired brands grew from obscurity to celebrated” is due in 2014. In the meantime, you can download his FREE ebook, “The 28 Traits of Organizations Who Are Customer Experience Titans” by visiting his website

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Leaky Bucket Syndrome

What happens when companies spend huge sums of (marketing) dollars on customer acquisition when they can't even keep the customers they have because their products, services, and experience stink?

I don't know (OK, I do know), but I think Pizza Hut UK is about to find out.

Pizza Hut just rolled out a new campaign to "inject 'fun and passion' into the brand." The ads are supposed to highlight "Pizza Hut's ongoing investment in improving its customer experience in-store." But at the same time, they are supposed to recapture Pizza Hut's "vibrant vibe." (Did they ever have that to recapture?)

The first ad announces that Pizza Hut has named comedian Paddy McGuiness as its new Chief Customer Officer. Of  course, that's what drove me to the Marketing Week article on this topic, but after I watched the commercial, I was a bit confused.

Are they making fun of the Chief Customer Officer position? Do they actually know what the position is? Do they think this will save the brand? Hiring a joke of a human being (even just as a spoof) for a Chief Customer Officer, the role that is supposed to oversee the said "improvements in customer experience" they are hoping to achieve, doesn't instill confidence in the public or make them feel like you are focusing on the customer experience. Why is that funny? Wouldn't that have the opposite effect: Here's a company that does not take the customer experience seriously.

(Don't worry. I haven't lost my sense of humor... just playing devil's advocate here. And yet... am I?)

I'm sure there's more to come on this story/campaign; the article states that there will be a "series of sketches."

In an article from mid-August, a Pizza Hut representative says:

The Pizza Hut brand is going through a lot of change at the moment and we’re using digital as the primary outlet to communicate those developments to customers.

Let me repeat. Making a farce of the CCO role is how you communicate to customers that you are going through changes and that you are investing in the customer experience? Perhaps they are actually in the process of hiring a real CCO?

The paragraph goes on...

By focusing on content and putting CRM at the heart of what we do, we feel we can stand apart from rivals. Domino’s are fantastic at what they do online, but its not the right approach for us. Their proposition is built around direct response and ecommerce, whereas ours is slight trickier because we’re trying to get visitors to come into our restaurants and not order online.

 The same article states:

...because visits to its restaurants are “relatively low” in the UK, it must turn its attention to using digital channels to boost sales and target existing customers with promotions.

Target with promotions? Get likes? Accumulate fans? O sure... that's great. But what about the experience? If you are busy acquiring new customers and/or driving existing customers to your stores with deals, the food and the experience better be great, or you've just wasted your money and disappointed your customers.

In talking to clients about the perils of focusing on acquisition and sales rather than on the experience and retention, I like to say: "As fast as you're bringing them in the front door, they're running out the back door." Some refer to it as the leaky bucket syndrome.

If I was a lawyer, this is where I'd present Exhibit A.

On both Twitter and Facebook, Pizza Hut UK has been blabbing about the new Chief Customer Officer. Though from their Facebook posts, you get the feeling they really don't know what a CCO is:

The top right post states: Make sure you LIKE the page to be kept up to date with Paddy in his new role as Chief Customer Officer. He's got plans for discount news on Monday! Get it here first!

Wrong! Chief Customer Officers don't hand out discounts. Chief Customer Officers know that discounts are for losers, for acquisitions, for making a quick buck.

And on their Twitter account (@PizzaHutUK), among their tweets about their new CCO...'ll find several tweets from customers desperately looking for help from customer service, which is where the real focus ought to be.

Follow the plight of one young lady (@hollyfraser87), who had a series of interactions with Pizza Hut UK on Twitter on September 5 after a store manager told her to be quiet when she complained about an extra charge. Pizza Hut UK wiggled all around, sending her to their contact form page, their Facebook page, etc. Whatever happened to: "Here's our customer service number. Call us, and we'll help you right away."

Pizza Hut UK is throwing money at the wrong thing. Forget the advertising. If you're seeing fewer customers in your stores and year-over-year sales are down, take a good look inside. (And outside. What are your customers saying about the product and the experience?) Why on earth would you throw money at some huge ad campaign that will only bring you more dissatisfied customers in the end?

I heard Robert Stephens, co-found of Geek Squad, say this in a presentation a couple years ago, but it still holds true today... and every day:

Advertising is the tax you pay for being unremarkable.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Customer Loyalty: Why Woody Allen Has It And Your ATM Doesn't

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Today I'm pleased to share another guest post by Micah Solomon.

In my years as a customer service consultant, I’ve yet to hear a customer blurt out anything that sounds like this:

I just love that gorgeous blue Citibank ATM at Prospect and 8th.  I’d follow it anywhere–if that machine ever pulls up roots and moves across town, I’m going with it.”

Of course not.  Loyalty to an ATM, no matter how efficient the machine may be, is a ludicrous concept.

I’d be the first to agree that customers do want efficient, ATM-like advances in the businesses they frequent. (It’s what I call “offloading the transactional,” and it’s central to building customer experiences that won’t drive away Millennials and other digitally-informed customers.)

The problem is if you end up with your priorities screwed on backwards and try to get the efficiency tail to wag the loyalty dog.

Customer loyalty can almost never be based solely on efficiency and convenience, rather than on extraordinary customer service. (It doesn’t work to say “We won’t bother creating a remarkable customer experience. We’ll just make sure they can have it fast and error-free.")

Convenience may make a customer settle for you, but it won’t make a customer love you.  S/he may see you as Mr. Right-Now, but s/he’s not going to take you home to meet the parents.

I know Amazon and you’re no Amazon.
Amazon, of course, is the giant exception to this rule.  Amazon is a juggernaut built on extraordinary efficiency and convenience: the ease with which its customers can research, buy, and, when necessary, return its products. The unrelenting efficiency of the Amazon machine is unprecedented. And it’s a strong enough advantage–when deployed on an Amazonian scale–to build customer loyalty.

But is your business, seriously, anything like Amazon?  Are you (let’s be candid here) about to build The Great Amazon Killer?

Didn’t think so.

Build customer loyalty like you build a great movie.
More likely, you’re going to build customer loyalty the way a great movie does. By being great.  (Not by making your tickets easier to buy than the tickets for other movies.)

Being able to purchase tickets on Fandango with your smartphone, print them out at home, find all nearby movies and showtimes and where films are showing in 3-D vs 2-D is all great.  Movie theaters, like other businesses, need to be offering their customers these conveniences, and they’re putting themselves at a ridiculous disadvantage if they don’t. (There’s probably no more reliable way, in fact, to kill your business than by burdening your customers with inefficient processes and outdated procedures.)

But let’s listen in on the friends who’ve lately been haranguing me to see “Blue Jasmine,” the new Woody Allen film.  Not once have they completed their recommendation with, “You know, ‘Blue Jasmine’ is the movie to see–because you can order the tickets online and print them out at home, paying with your Amex card so you never have to wait in line!

Instead, they tell me they enjoyed Woody Allen being in top form as a director, how awesome Cate Blanchett was, and that it was a rollicking good tale.  Yeah, they appreciated being able to research and buy the tickets online, but it’s not what they’re going to talk about.  Or what brings them back to see it again, this time with their friends.

Remember, customers could have gone to see "Lone Ranger" as easily as they flocked to the hit Iron Man sequel. They just didn’t. Not because Fandango functionality was down for the Armie Hammer/Johnny Depp megaflop, or because their friends told them the tickets were any harder to buy than those to another movie.

They avoided “Lone Ranger’ because their friends told them it blew chunks.

Building customer loyalty is about moving customers.  Making them enjoy the experience.  Spinning a mighty good tale.

And, of course, not sucking.

This post was originally published by Micah on Forbes and is reprinted here with his permission.

Micah Solomon, author of "High-Tech, High-Touch Customer Service," is the business keynote speaker, author, and customer service consultant termed by the Financial Post "a new guru of customer service excellence." Solomon offers speaking and consulting on customer service issues, the customer experience, and company culture - and how they fit into today’s marketing and technology landscape. An entrepreneur and business leader, he previously coauthored the bestselling "Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit."

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Butterfly Effect

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Is the Butterfly Effect the antidote to the Broken Windows Theory?

Last week, I wrote about the Broken Windows Theory; in effect, it means that an environment that is not maintained (hence, filled with minor crimes, like broken windows) sends a signal that it is not monitored, which, in turn, leads to the occurrence of larger offenses or issues because no one is watching.

I started thinking about how to stop that chain of events that occurs, specifically about one of the lessons I listed: Fix the small things before they become big things. And then I remembered the Butterfly Effect. What is it? I won't bore you with the history or the theory or the concerns over cause-and-effect or predictability, but I'll get to the heart of the matter: a small change or a small action at one point can lead to larger changes down the line.

"It has been said that something as small as the flutter of a butterfly's wings can ultimately cause a typhoon halfway around the world." -Chaos Theory

Maybe they are both theories on the same side of the coin, or maybe the Butterfly Effect is the antidote to Broken Windows.

When I shared my Broken Windows post on Google+, Dan Oestreich commented:

Years ago, when I worked in an HR Department, we started from a lot of "broken windows" in the systems and processes that were being used. As a consequence, there were many people trying to get around these systems, generate one-off solutions to complicated compensation and selection questions, and generally display a lot of hostility and disrespect for the function. 

Luckily, some very good managers were hired who understood the principle clearly. We started with little stuff, clearing up the application process, making life easier and more consistent for managers, collaborating with employees on setting new policies -- essentially repairing those windows one at a time. And how-about-that, pretty soon the efforts to subvert the system dissipated. No more last-minute attempts by managers to fire somebody late Friday or efforts to pay someone inequitably because they'd become a favorite. Broken Windows Theory applies in many interesting ways!

I think his solution to Broken Windows exemplifies the Butterfly Effect. Fixing the little things kept the big things from happening. Fixing the little things showed that neither the little things nor the bigger things are acceptable. More importantly, hiring some good managers led to decisions and actions that resulted in future improvements.

My response:

One of my next posts is on the Butterfly Effect, and I think it's what you describe and an excellent way to fix the windows. Start small, let others see how those small things can make a big difference, which helps to create buy-in, and as a result, starts to get everyone excited about doing things to improve processes, etc.

The interesting thing about the Butterfly Effect, too, is that there is a component of it that refers to going back in time to change or correct something so that, in modern times, it is no longer an issue. Well, Marty McFly, since we don't have any time machines, perhaps we can just figure out how to fix things now so that they don't continue into the future.

What's a good place to start? I think it depends on the issue(s). Regardless of the issue, though, there are some fundamentals we can work from:
  • Strong, honest, transparent, and trustworthy leadership is necessary.
  • Hire the right people. Put the right people in place. Look at Dan's story. It took the right people to effect change in that organization.
  • Hiring is important but so is the onboarding process.
  • Create employee and customer journey maps.
  • And just as important, create process maps. Understand the underlying processes, rules, policies, systems - anything else that could contribute to the root cause.
  • Since I've mentioned it, root cause analysis is a must.
  • Get your facts straight. Listen to employees and customers. In order to do that, you must make sure your VOC program is designed and executed on properly.
Those are all big things, but when the foundation is solid, it's easier to identify those things that can have a greater impact down the line or in the future.

The list could go on and on, but you start to see how one thing leads to another leads to another. You can start to see how the Butterfly Effect applies just in the fundamentals. For example, by hiring the right person today, you could avert a customer experience disaster tomorrow. It's really pretty powerful stuff and makes you sit back a moment and think: What am I doing today that will have a negative or positive impact on my business in the future?

Each smallest act of kindness reverberates across great distances and spans of time, affecting lives unknown to the one whose generous spirit was the source of this good echo. Because kindness is passed on and grows each time it’s passed until a simple courtesy becomes an act of selfless courage, years later, and far away. Likewise, each small meanness, each expression of hatred, each act of evil. -Dean Koontz, From the Corner of His Eye