QUI QUOTE: Nobody raves about a company that meets customer expectations.
When you are working in customer service, you have been happy that your customers leave satisfied. You have sold them a product or service that meets their wants or needs. Or you solved their problem for them. You were happy because, in the end, you met their expectations and they were satisfied.
But that’s not good enough. Satisfied customers feel service is good, not better, just average. Nobody raves about average. And satisfied customers will leave when they find something better or less expensive.
So don’t serve to satisfy customers. Don’t treat customers as they would have expected. Instead, treat them a little better than they want to be treated. Serve to WOW them.
We don’t offer customer service training. Training is top-down, one-way “I know everything, you know nothing” instruction. Training is the “how” of service. Training is to develop THE BUSINESS. Training is for a job. And the job of employees is to serve to satisfy the customer. In the end, training instructs students on how to TAKE CARE of the customer.
Instead, enroll in Customer CARE University. We don’t have trainers or instructors. We have mentors and coaches. Our education classes are interactive. Our education is the “how” and “why” of Customer CARE excellence. As mentors, we educate you with customer CARE actions to practice your interpersonal skills. You will learn and appreciate the value of telephone etiquette, service recovery, and customer CARE. After graduation, as coaches, we remind you with our customer CARE excellence strategies. With suggestions, recommendations, and encouragement, we empower you and your colleagues to develop YOURSELVES. Ideally, all of you will be enthused and energized to engage customers. You and your colleagues will create an emotional connection with your customers. The more emotional the connections, the more memorable the experiences, the more loyal the customers. And everyone’s lives will be enriched.
In Customer CARE 101, our passion is to CARE for you and your colleagues.
COMMUNICATE openly, transparently, interactively, and frequently any customer CARE information that you and your colleagues need or want to know. We will listen empathetically to your suggestions, concerns, and complaints.
APPRECIATE your role, responsibilities, and actions, and your suggestions and recommendations.
RECOGNIZE, honor, and offer accolades for you and your colleagues’ role-playing acts of customer CARE.
EMPOWER you to act on your own to do what is right for you, your colleagues, your customers, and your business.
In Customer CARE 102, we will educate you on how to CARE for your customers:
COMMUNICATE with each customer with a smile, eye contact, and polite interaction. Inform each customer transparently and interactively of the product’s or service’s function, liabilities, and advantages to the customer. Listen empathetically to understand the customer’s questions and concerns.
ACKNOWLEDGE each customer’s presence and value to you and your business.
RESPOND compassionately to each customer’s questions, concerns, and complaints.
ENRICH the experiences of every customer.
And, yes, we educate everyone. If we’re not caring for customer CARE representatives, we better be caring for your colleagues who are.
When we create a great experience for you as much as we do for your colleagues, you will earn the loyalty of both colleagues and customers. And soon, without your focus on profits, profits will grow, for you and your business, literally and figuratively.
Enrollment starts now. Tuition is free. But you must attend to learn each of the classes of the two courses or you will fail.
Enroll today. You won’t be sorry. And neither will your customers.
DISCLAIMER: Customer CARE University classes are my posts for either Customer CARE strategies for customer service people or Customer CARE actions for customers. You are always invited to “attend” the classes. Our discussions have been very interactive with open and honest opinions and complaints from some who have disagreed with me. With each interaction, I hope we can agree to disagree or agree. Whether you have the opportunity to “attend” regularly or can only “attend” when you can, I encourage you to remind yourself or your colleagues who interact with customers, when you say, “Let’s be GREAT out there!”
Happiest of birthdays to the greatest of the great hospitality leaders!
I agree with Marriott International when they say that Mr. Marriott’s “impact on the hospitality industry is only exceeded by his kindness”. On his birthday, I wanted to express my admiration and appreciation for the example Mr. Marriott gave me as a leader and how it has formed my management style.
While still in college, I joined Marriott in 1976 as a charter member of Marriott’s Great America in Santa Clara. On opening day, Mr. Marriott welcomed all of us. And just 5 years later, I was fortunate to serve as the opening director of services for Marriott’s 100th property, the Maui Marriott Resort, the first in the state of Hawaii. What I remember to this day was how Mr. Marriott would walk the backstage areas and greet everyone with a smile and a handshake. He didn’t wait for someone to approach him. He initiated the interaction. “Take good care of your employees and they’ll take good care of the customers.” And in the gesture of Mr. Marriott walking around to introduce himself to all of us, it was obvious the mantra wasn’t simply a slogan, but really something that drove the leadership philosophy of the company. While I left Marriott shortly thereafter I always remembered that example.
Thirty-five years after my first day at Great America, I was the charter general manager of The Henry – Autograph Collection which for 21 years stood as the Ritz-Carlton Dearborn. Mr. Marriott came through on a tour of the property. Since The Henry was a franchise, he did not have to do that during his two-day tour as there are many Marriott-managed properties in Detroit. But he did. Serving many years as a Board member of General Motors, he had visited often when it was a Ritz-Carlton. Many of the same associates were there to greet him on his first visit to The Henry. We had the line of associates upon his arrival and he took the time to shake everyone’s hand. But what I remember was that on our tour of the property, he made it a point to acknowledge every associate as he had done in Maui.
I can tell you that the genuine appreciation that Mr. Marriott shows on every visit to every associate just doesn’t happen in other hotel companies. The lesson here: It all starts at the top. A handshake and a smile from the Executive Chairman may seem to him like a very small thing, but it certainly made an impact on all of us. From day one, I understood you simply can’t lead from the corner office.
“Customers perceive service in their own unique, idiosyncratic, emotional, irrational, end-of-the-day, and totally human terms. Perception is all there is!” Tom Peters.
Customers are paying for their experience, not your product or service. They buy with emotion and justify that decision with reason. And customers seek the best emotional value for their experience, not your logical best price.
Your value to the customer is in the interaction, not the transaction. So think RELATIONSHIPS or Go Broke. Don’t serve to sell to customers. Don’t serve to satisfy customers. Serve to WOW them. Serve to CARE.
COMMUNICATE with each customer with eye contact, a smile, and polite interaction. Inform each customer transparently and interactively of the product’s or service’s function, liabilities, and advantages to them. Listen empathetically to understand the customer’s questions and concerns.
ACKNOWLEDGE each customer’s presence and value to your business.
RESPOND compassionately to customer questions, concerns, and complaints.
ENRICH the experiences of every customer.
And when you CARE, each customer is wowed and happy, intent on returning, raving to others.
“People need to be reminded more often than they need to be instructed.” Samuel Johnson.
In the 1980s TV police drama series, Sgt. Phil Esterhaus, portrayed by Michael Conrad, cautioned his officers at the end of roll call with “Let’s be careful out there”.
When I was GM at The Henry Dearborn-Autograph Collection, Dearborn, MI, one of our senior sales managers ended their daily morning stand-up meeting with “Let’s be safe out there”. But I told them we should change it to “Let’s be GREAT out there!”. And in each hoteI since then, I reminded every team to end their daily standups with it.
As customer service professionals, we are all onstage with customers, happy to serve. There are some who say that they believe they are “acting”. They claim they can never “be the part” to be happy to serve. Here is what I say:
Any movie or theatrical audience has customers. “Customers perceive service in their own unique, idiosyncratic, emotional, irrational, end-of-the-day, and totally human terms. Perception is all there is!” Tom Peters. Customers are paying for their experience. It’s ALL about them, NEVER about us. To them, perception is reality. Image is everything. Feelings are facts. And they buy with emotion and justify that decision with reason.
Movie actors like Scarlett Johansson, Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, and Jack Nicholson act to be happy, sad, scary, or angry. Yet, we, as the audience, believe they are genuinely real. The actors may “act their part”, but they are so good that we, as the audience, BELIEVE they are real. Whether actors are acting the part or believe they are real is not important. It is never about the actors. It is always about the audience. The audience is paying for their experience. And the audience seeks the best value in their experience. So actors have to deliver.
The best TV and movie actors have rehearsed before they are watched by their audience. Even theatrical actors rehearse before a live audience. We, as customer service professionals, whether new or experienced, can train and rehearse before we connect with our customers, our live audience. But, more often, we are interacting as we go. So we need to be better than actors who rehearse. We need to be so good that our customers believe we really ARE happy to serve. So we have to deliver.
As customer service professionals, we are happy to serve our customers so much that they believe we are genuinely happy to serve. It doesn’t matter if we act it or not. What matters is if our customers BELIEVE we are genuine. When it comes to customers and customer service, it’s NEVER about us. It’s ALWAYS about them. So be onstage with your audience of customers. And be GREAT out there!
When we are not together, that’s when I say, “Be GREAT out there!” I hope you have an educational legacy for everyone who interacts with customers. So, I encourage you to remind them when you say,
“Customers perceive service in their own unique, idiosyncratic, emotional, irrational, end-of-the-day, and totally human terms. Perception is all there is!” Tom Peters. Customers are paying for their experience. It’s ALL about them, NEVER about us. To them, perception is reality. Image is everything. Feelings are facts. And they buy with emotion and justify that decision with reason.
Some customer service people will believe that customers will understand and be empathetic to the new employee. I get it. Customers will get it, too, but many are not going to like it. Customers are paying for THEIR experience. And they seek the best value in their experience, so, someone saying, “I’m in training” is, bluntly, a poor one. When someone new doesn’t say anything, the customer feels that the person must be knowledgeable and the problem is difficult. But that’s OK because the problem is the problem. But when someone says, “I’m new here,” that’s not OK, in fact, dissatisfying because the problem is not the problem. The problem is the person. They will leave and rant to others via social media. Customers thinking about coming to your company will decide otherwise because of his rants. It doesn’t have to be a customer they know. If you say you’re great, that’s advertising, but on social media, if they say you’re poor, that’s the truth. People are talking about you, whether you like it or not, whether you know it or not. You can give them a story that “We’re new here,” or be new here but not tell them. You decide.
The customer is paying for his experience, not your company’s service. Customers don’t care how many new people you have hired. They don’t care if self-service works for you or not. And customers don’t care if you think scripting will or will not work. What they care about is how big you care about them. New employees or not, self-service or not, scripting or not. To a complaining customer, you are not a representative of the company. You ARE the company. So own it. Be the CEO of the moment. DO take it personally. DO take it professionally. Just DON’T take it home. Simply apologize. DON’T offer an explanation. Customers feel that your explanation is an excuse. Customers want action, not excuses. Just do whatever it takes to fix it fast.
And when all alternatives don’t work, DON’T fire the customer. Simply ask him to resign. “I’m sorry but we aren’t able to resolve your problem. Could I recommend Brand X for your solution? I could contact them if you like.” Both are happy. And both will remember. The customer is happy because he has a fix. He has an emotional connection with you. The more emotional the connection, the more memorable the experience, the more loyal the customer. And loyal customers will return. Ideally, he will come back to you. The competitor is happy because you recommended them. Later when one of them cannot resolve the problem for the customer, they will recommend you. A Mutual Admiration Society of Sorts.
So you decide. Are you telling customers you are or have people who are in training? Or do you simply not say anything and do whatever it takes to fix the problem, even if it means going to a competitor? Whatever you decide, customers will decide, too.
In the past, businesses served to sell products or services to customers. Recently businesses served to satisfy customers. No more. Satisfied customers feel service is good, not better, just average. Nobody raves about average. And satisfied customers will leave when they find something better or less expensive. Today’s customers are paying for their experience, not a business’ service or product. And they have high expectations. Customers want the best value for their experience, not the best price for your service or product. So what are you supposed to do? Annette Franz, CCXP, founder and CEO of CX Journey Inc.has the answer. Read on to find out how you can be “Built to Win” customers. And be sure to read her book, Built to Win. Details of the book are linked at the end of this post.
As I was writing my latest book, Built to Win, I wanted to be sure to incorporate the notion that it’s important to design a customer-centric culture because there are clear outcomes to doing so. Culture (and certainly not one that puts the customer at the center of the business) isn’t just fluff. It’s tangible. It’s measurable. It’s critical. It’s the foundation of the business and of business success.
Because culture is defined as core values plus behaviors, I needed a statement that nicely summarized the fact that the culture drives value – for employees, for customers, and for the business. After all, the sub-title of the book is: Designing a Customer-Centric Culture That Drives Value for Your Business. When I saw Marc Lore’s (founder of Jet.com) quote that “the values create the value,” I said, “Yes, that’s what I’m looking for.” Short and sweet – and right to the point.
Culture is a driving force in creating value for customers and for the business. Yes, values do create value. First, when your values drive a customer-centric culture, you’re putting customers at the center of all you do – again, no discussions, decisions, or designs without thinking about the customer. Solving problems for customers creates value for them – and ultimately creates value for the business. (That assumes you’ve done the work to understand your customers and focus on those customers that will create the greatest value for the business, too.) Second, when customers’ values align with the brand’s values, when customers are aligned with a brand’s purpose, they are more likely to prefer, purchase from, and recommend the brand to others than those who are not.
How do we know? Well, as with any other work you do within your organization, shining the spotlight on culture is also all about the outcomes! Not all outcomes are financial, but what I’ll call “intermediary outcomes” that ultimately lead to the business outcomes you desire. Let’s move to drawing a very clear line from culture to business outcomes, starting with this graphic below.
While the graphic may be self-explanatory, let’s walk through it briefly.
The foundation of a winning organization is leadership and culture. Leaders must deliberately design the culture they desire, or else allow the culture they get. Rather the former than the latter! To do so, leaders must care about their people, create a culture that puts people first, and ensure that employees have a great experience. As a result, employees are enabled to do good work, and they feel a sense of purpose and belonging; they’ll feel appreciated and valued; and they’ll feel energy and enthusiasm about their work and the workplace. All of that leads to employee happiness and engagement; a more creative, innovative, and productive workforce that puts out quality work; and employee loyalty.
With that as their foundation, employees can deliver an experience for customers that leaves customers feeling valued; helps them to achieve value; solves their problems and helps them do some job: and culminates in engagement, happiness, and loyalty.
When all of that is aligned, the business benefits include both strong employer and talent branding, shorter and less costly recruiting cycles, increased customer lifetime value, revenue growth, profitability, and a host of competitive advantages that perpetuate all of these outcomes.
Let’s get to some real hard data about the connection between your culture and the bottom line. In the past, executives have used the excuse that there’s no data on this connection, but it exists.
McKinsey’s conducted some research that points to culture correlating with performance. They looked at more than 1,000 companies, and those with cultures in the top quartile of McKinsey’s Organizational Health Index had shareholder returns that were not only 60 percent higher than median companies but also 200 percent higher than companies landing in the bottom quartile.
John Kotter and James Heskett conducted research years ago, culminating in a 1992 book titled Corporate Culture and Performance, and they have continued to build on that research over the years. They discovered that leaders who use culture as a strategic tool (versus those who don’t) do so quite successfully; these leaders saw, over an extended period of time…
Revenue growth: 4x
Job creation/workforce growth: 8x
Stock price growth: 12x
Profits: 750 percent higher
Net income growth: 700 percent
Customer satisfaction: doubled
In 2019, Grant Thornton LLC and Oxford Economics published a report titled Return on Culture. In it, they highlighted several statistics about culture, performance, employee engagement, loyalty, and more. A few noteworthy findings with regards to culture and performance include:
“Public companies with extremely healthy cultures are 2.5 times more likely to report significant stock price increases over the past year.
Companies with extremely healthy cultures are 1.5 times more likely to report average revenue growth over 15 percent for the past three years.
The average S&P 500 company would see savings of $156M in turnover costs annually if employees were to describe its culture as healthy.”
Culture and the impact of having a healthy culture is powerful. There’s a lot of other research out there about that. For example, I’ve seen research from Gallup and from Aon Hewitt that extolled the virtues of an engaged culture. Culture is the foundation. Design and nurture a great culture and watch employees thrive.
You know the old adage that people don’t leave companies, they leave managers. Well, there’s an updated – and probably equally, if not more, accurate – version of that, that people don’t leave companies, they leave cultures.
In their research, Grant Thornton LLC also found that respondents with extremely healthy cultures are more likely (45 percent) to retain employees for more than six years versus respondents overall (29 percent). But here’s the real proof for the updated adage: half (49 percent) of employees would leave their jobs for a lower-paying job in exchange for a better organizational culture. (We may even be witnessing this with the Great Resignation.)
The importance of culture is real. It makes a huge difference all around!
I’ll wrap up with this quote from Danny Meyer, CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group: “It’s the job of any business owner to be clear about the company’s non-negotiable core values. They’re the riverbanks that help guide us as we refine and improve on performance and excellence. A lack of riverbanks creates estuaries and cloudy waters that are confusing to navigate. I want a crystal-clear, swiftly-flowing stream.”
Good customer service means you answered all your customers’ questions. It means you resolved your service problems. Good customer service means you efficiently processed your customers’ waiting lines. It’s all about you.
Great customer service means that one of your customers felt you had all his questions answered. It means that a customer felt you had all his problems resolved. Great customer service means your customer felt they did not have to go through a long waiting line. It means that each customer was happy that you cared about their situation and did just a bit more than they expected. It’s all about them.
Great customer service is never about what you think you did. It’s about your customers feeling happy because of what you did. It’s never about you. It’s always about them.
QUI QUOTE: Good customer service means putting a smile on your face. Great customer service is about putting a smile on your customers’ faces.
For many years, there has been a stranglehold of the “Profits over People” mentality for business leaders. These “Profits over People” traditionalists care about revenue dollars, market share, the stock price, bottom-line profits, even their competitors, more than their people. Listening to the sweet cha-ching sound of profits, these traditionalists do not hear their grumbling employees and complaining customers many hierarchical rungs below. Even if the traditionalists could hear, they would wear noise-canceling headphones, oblivious to the employees’ concerns and customer complaints. These traditionalists cared more about profits and didn’t care much about employees or customers.
To paraphrase John DiJulius’ battle cry, it’s time for a Customer CARE Revolution! Let’s be revolutionary to improve the customer experience. This revolution “is a radical overthrow of conventional business mentality, designed to transform what customers and employees experience. This shift produces a culture that permeates into people’s personal lives, at home, and in the community, which provides the business with higher sales, morale, and brand loyalty, thus making price irrelevant.” John DiJulius.
We will CARE for each customer.
COMMUNICATE with each customer with a smile, eye contact, and polite interaction. We inform each customer transparently and interactively of the product’s or service’s function, liabilities, and advantages to them.
ACKNOWLEDGE each customer’s presence and value to us.
RESPOND empathetically and compassionately to each customer’s questions, concerns, and complaints.
ENRICH the experiences of every customer.
And when we CARE, each customer is wowed and happy, intent on returning again and again, raving to others along the way.
So let’s be revolutionary to improve the customer experience and CARE. When our people are energized and engaged to enthuse our customers, everyone’s lives will be enriched.
This is our time. Let’s be loud and proud. Let’s be revolutionary! And let’s Be GREAT out there!