Why I’ve Spent Months Building the Experience Academy

harvard university

Back when I was hustling to become a customer experience consultant and keynote speaker, I spent 1000′s of hours researching how companies become leaders in customer experience. I examined companies like Starbucks and Zappos in awe of how they grew  to become a world-renowned, customer focused organization. As I say in many of my keynote speeches, the primary reason I devoted my career to customer experience management is because it earns greater profits and revenue. Consider me a capitalist.

I’ve learned a lot about customer experience in my career. I know that if you want to improve your customer experience within your organization, you don’t start with the customer. Southwest Airlines taught me that you must first begin with your employee’s experience. It made sense to me; you can build all the systems in the world to improve your customer experience but if you don’t have the right people pushing those programs forward than it won’t truly bring you value.

I also know that onboarding employees (how your employees are welcomed to your organization once they’re hired) will increase employee retention and loyalty. It will also set an example of how they should treat your customers.

Now, what I learned next is where the dollars come into play. I believe most organizations try to increase their customer acquisition inorganically. Why do we focus so much of our resources (time and money) trying to create a relationship with customers who have no rapport with us at all? Instead, focus on the customers who currently love your company and entice them to reuse your services later this year or have them refer a family, friend or colleague to your businesses. Being able to do this requires a compelling customer experience.

These are just a few of the lessons I have learned along the way that I now pass along to my clients and audience to grow their profits, revenue and brand awareness.

If you know my back story, I once approached the university I was attending and asked how I could earn a degree in customer experience management. Back then, and even now, there really wasn’t a formal degree in customer experience, which I find absurd. Why aren’t we educating ourselves on what truly builds successful businesses? Look around you, the most profitable and admired companies obsess over their customer and employee experience.

With this in mind, I set off to create a new experience. Let me introduce you to the Experience Academy.

The Experience Academy is a six module online course that will give you EVERYTHING you need to become more focused on your customers and employees. I’ve condensed 7 years and 1000′s of hours of studying to create a comprehensive digital course that will show you how to create a successful customer experience.

If you aspire to increase your customer and employee loyalty, Experience Academy is your solution. If your company is good but you want to be great, this is your solution. If you are great but you want to become legendary, this is your solution.

The 6 module course will cover 6 essential topics to become more customer and employee focused:

  1. Recruiting, hiring and HR: You can not have an exceptional customer experience if you don’t have the right people on your team. In this module, I will give you hiring tips, interview templates, world class employee onboarding strategies, best practices on how to identify a “bad hire” and share the hiring secrets from admired companies
  2. World class employee training: After hiring your superstars, I will teach you what your training programs should look, feel and act like. If you believe you have a great training program now, you will still want to know my personal training secrets. After all, your employees must be the most educated people in your organization. In this module, I will give you unbranded training programs, workbooks and PowerPoint slide decks that you can use the very next day. Also, I will outline the common training mistakes that most organizations make. Lastly, I will give you some inside training information from companies you have grown to admire for their level of customer service.
  3. Voice of the Customer (customer surveys): I believe that most companies are using customer surveys inaccurately (even the best companies). In this module, I will introduce you to the Net Promoter Score (how to build, deploy and manage a comprehensive program), I will recommend software to use (regardless of the size of your company or industry), how to collect the information and share it across your organization and how to improve your operation based on the feedback you have received. Furthermore, I will give you an blueprint of how to handle customer feedback and why you MUST gather it.
  4. Employee Recognition: If you’re hiring correctly than your employees don’t want to be recognized by giving them cash or electronic incentives. There are much more affordable ways to increase employee morale and recognize your employees accomplishments in a way that truly resonates with them. In this module, I give examples, ideas and ways to increase your employee morale. If you want to improve employee morale and reduce employee turnover than this is the module for you.
  5. Customer Acquisition: Before you start trying to sell to a customer who you don’t have rapport with you must first look internally. Your business today might have 10, 100 or 1000′s of current customers who are happy and love you, you must leverage them to earn more repeat business referrals and grow organically. In this module, I will outline how to do this. I will give you a step-by-step guide on how to earn more customers, earn more profit and be more successful.
  6. Customer Retention: Whether you can identify them or not, you have customers today who are unhappy and spreading negative reviews by word of mouth. We must all be focused on increasing customer retention to grow our business or departments. In this module, I will give you a blueprint on how I helped a company reduce customer complaints by 33% in three months! I will give you all the tools you need to do this and understand your customer’s current behaviour to stop negative word of mouth being spread about your company.

FAQ:

What were the primary reasons why the Experience Academy was created?: This question is three fold:

  • I want to share my expertise with you: I’ve done all the heavy lifting. Allow me to share my expertise with you in an engaging, digital format.
  • I want you to be successful: I’m thankful that you follow my blog and write to me after I release a post. I believe many of us have established an amazing connection and have become friends. I want everyone around me to be successful and, by sharing my expertise, I believe I can help you
  • I want to reach a larger audience: I’m only one person and can only work with so many clients. Considering I can charge up to $500/hour for my consulting services and up to $20,000/speaking engagement, not everyone can afford to work with me and I want to change that. I want you to be successful at an affordable price

Who should enroll in Experience Academy? Any entrepreneur who wants to “hack” (find a more efficient means) their way to greater business success. Middle managers and department leaders who want resources that will grow their operations and bring new solutions to their organization. Professionals that want a competitive advantage against their peers to earn that next promotion and raise.

How much will it cost? After we have launched in private beta, we will finalize the price. As of today, the entire module course will be $999.99 or individual modules can be purchased for $199.99 each. There will also be a monthly subscription service to keep you up-to-date with the latest trends, observations and tools to ensure you are consistently refining your customer and employee experience operations.

What’s the ROI? This education and actionable resources will grow and improve your business. Plus, you will receive a certification after successfully completing the short exams at the end of each module that can be profiled on your LinkedIn account and resume. Lastly, this isn’t a theory type course. the program will give you tangible documents and templates that you can use within your business immediately.

When will it be released? January 2015

Will organizations be offered group rates? Yes, my team and I have considered this. If your company wants to buy several modules for different locations (ie. multi-location retail stores) we will coordinate an all-inclusive package.

The product is launching in January 2015. Do you want to be a part of the private beta trial before it is released to the public for free?

Sign up here http://www.experienceacademy.co/

If you have any question, feel free to email me at michel@michelfalcon.com. If the Experience Academy excites you, please share it with your colleagues and social networks.

There is more information to be released soon and I look forward to providing you with massive value.

How to Be a Ridiculously Successful Customer Service Employee

customer service derek

My first ever customer service job was working at McDonalds when I was 13 years old. My most recent customer service position began in 2007 when I was working in a contact centre answering 100 calls/day and speaking to customers with different personality types, motivations and aversions. For anyone who has ever worked in a contact centre, I empathize with the hard work you bring to your job every single day.

I know what it’s like to have to bring the same energy to the 100th customer of the day as you did the first (this is something I call “service endurance”). Because I have these recent customer service experiences, I’m asked to speak to organizations, employees, managers, and at conferences.

During my years of grinding and hustling to reach my goal of becoming a recognizable customer and employee experience consultant and keynote speaker, I obtained a few traits along the way. These traits are ones that I believe any employee, in any industry must adopt if they want to reach their goals, get promoted and earn a higher income.

40 hrs a week is a minimum

We have all had jobs or have worked with colleagues who are always “watching the clock” and as soon as their shift is over they sprint to leave their office. We need to understand that the amount of hours you are scheduled to work is the bare minimum.

To this day, I remember a former colleague of mine, Ryan Creamore, say,

“Forty hours a week is a minimum, not a maximum.”

As soon as he shared his thought, it immediately resonated with me. To become successful and increase the likelihood of reaching your goals you must be willing to work more than you are expected to.

Forty hours per week is good but good is no longer good enough

Be willing to work when you’re not being paid

During my first week of working at my contact centre job, I knew I wanted to be the best. I wanted to win, or be in contention to win the incentive prizes that were available. To do this, I would come in early and leave late so that I could listen to experienced contact centre employees and learn from them. I was doing this on my own time without being compensated.

My greatest professional trait is that I have trained myself to think long term. How I viewed each situation was by putting in “sweat equity” on my own time. Even though I might not earn a dollar today, my managers would see that I was putting forth all this effort and in time I would get promoted with a higher salary or wage.

The best way to be memorable in your workplace is to work hard in silence and let others observe from a distance.

Obsess over your education

I have spent 1000′s of hours studying customer and employee experience. When I was a customer service employee 9am-5pm was my time to execute. 6am-9am and 8pm-11pm was reserved for my own education.

If you know my back story, I have studied the operations of Amazon, Apple, Zappos, Westjet Airlines and Southwest Airlines because I recognized that they were all world-class examples of companies who were customer-centric. I set up my Google Alerts, Google Reader (now Feedly) and scoured the internet to learn more about these companies. I would take their strategies, analyze them and see how I could replicate their programs and bring them to the organization I was working for at the time.

Today is no different. Some people recognize or call me an “expert” or “guru” (a title I avoid) but even today I still study the same amount, if not more, because I’m scared that my knowledge will become irrelevant. I must be at the forefront of my trade to share this education with my clients and audiences’ or else I’m good to no one.

I find that once someone graduates from university it’s often thought of as the end of their education. To be recognized as a successful customer service employee and get promoted we must invest in our own education and take that learning to contribute to the organizations we are working for.

The fastest way to become irrelevant is to stop educating yourself

Think long term

Thinking long term isn’t easy. I believe we have been trained to think short term to secure our livelihoods. That’s a nice way of saying that, as employees, we often make decisions to ensure we don’t get our butts fired. Having the ability to think long term will test our patience and our courage to make unpopular decisions that others aren’t willing to make.

Before becoming an entrepreneur, I was offered many positions at organizations at a salary much higher than I was earning. I turned down these offers because, although it made sense in the short term (higher income), it didn’t align with my long term goals (to become an entrepreneur). I was willing to make these tough decisions because I had a laser like focus on what I wanted my life to look like before I turned 30.

Anyone can make short term decisions. It takes a tremendous amount of courage to think long term

You can’t simply rely on your managers to develop you

Companies have middle management to manage areas of the organization and help grow employees. An employee who will one day grow to be promoted or start their own company understands that they must take the initiative to develop themselves.

In my experience as an employee and a manager, the common theme I find is that successful customer service employees own the responsibility of teaching themselves and ask their managers for help when they are “stuck.”

It’s too easy to ask put the onus on our managers and point the finger when we aren’t hitting our own goals. Derek Jeter became one of the best baseball players to ever play the game because he put in the work and used Joe Torre (and other managers) as a mentor. He didn’t simply just show up for scheduled practices’ and games on time and expect Mr. Torre to develop his skill set. He “owned” his personal development and became very successful.

We must take ownership of our own development and become our greatest assets.

As an employee, you need to be able to have an honest conversation with yourself and ask yourself the following questions.

“Have I completely devoted myself to my own development?”

“Have I unquestionably contributed to the success of the organization I work for?”

“Have I developed my own five-year plan?”

If you can’t say “yes” to these questions you must spend time to reevaluate your current motivations.

Tell me. What has worked for you to help you get promoted and be recognized as a “ridiculously successful customer service employee”?

 

My 3 Crucial Lessons from These Customer Experience Entrepreneurs

 customer experience lessons

It was in 2007 that I set a goal to become a customer experience consultant and keynote speaker. I recognized that the companies we admire have made a premeditated effort to put their customers at the core of their business. I also realized that companies who continuously improve their customer experience can grow to become billion dollar companies.

I knew that I needed to first cut my teeth before I became a consultant and keynote speaker. I recognized that it wasn’t enough to learn from just one company and that I needed to learn from those that had come before me.

I can say, without exaggeration, I have devoted 1000′s of hours studying customer experience management and how it will grow a business. Being a capitalist, I focus my attention on customer experience because of revenue and profits. As I say to my clients,

“I don’t help companies deliver amazing service because it will put a smile on your customers face. I do it because it makes money. Lots of it!”

The lessons I have learned from the following entrepreneurs have helped me go from earning $10.00/hour working in a call centre to charging up to $20,000 per speaking engagement and consult for several recognizable and admired companies.

Brian Scudamore

Brian-Scudamore_0

“It’s all about the people.”

As you may be familiar, I got my start with a company called 1-800-GOT-JUNK?. The Vancouver-based franchisor is a case study for the Net Promoter Score, company culture and their employee development.

If you were to visit “The Junktion”, the appropriately named head quarters of 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, you will see a decal that reads “It’s All About the People” with Brian’s name written underneath.

During my time at 1-800-GOT-JUNK? I learned that if you want to improve your customer experience you shouldn’t start with the customer. You must first enhance your employee experience.

I’m frequently challenged on this by colleagues. You see, you can build all the systems in the world or buy the latest software to improve your customer experience but if you don’t have the right team pushing your efforts forward you will never maximize your results.

If you are going to reserve resources in 2015 to improve your customer experience look at your employee engagement first. How are you hiring? What is your interview process like? How are you onboarding your newest employees? What is your training program like? Does your recognition and incentive programs motivate your team?

Jeff Bezos

Amazon chief Jeff Bezos

“Earth’s most customer-centric company.”

I spend a dozen hours a week studying online retailers and user experience. When Jeff Bezos started Amazon in Seattle, Washington one might think that his motivation would be to become the world’s largest online retailer. However, if you have studied the operations of Amazon, their slogan is to be “earth’s most customer-centric company.” This mantra led the company to organically become one of the largest retailers in the world. Amazon is a world class example of putting their customers before any self-serving initiatives.

What Jeff Bezos taught me was that you shouldn’t obsess over competitors. Instead, you must obsess over your customers and the experience they have with you each and every time. It’s not enough to simply create a slogan and hope that it resonates with your employees and customers.

Unfortunately, “customer-centric” has become a buzzword and many organizations are putting lip stick on a pig and claiming to be customer focused.

Howard Schultz (Starbucks, CEO)

howard s

“Compromise anything but your core values.”

Does your company have core values? I mean, ones that actually represent your brand.

If you simply created them to be like Starbucks then you must reevaluate them. Core values are in place to represent what your brand means to you, your employees, your customers and vendors. These guiding principles help your customers feel emotions that your logo can’t produce.

One of Starbucks mission statement reads,

When we are fully engaged, we connect with, laugh with, and uplift the lives of our customers – even if just for a few moments. Sure, it starts with the promise of a perfectly made beverage, but our work goes far beyond that. It’s really about human connection.

What I learned from Howard Schultz is that you must use your core principles as the foundation of your business. These statements remind your employees why they are dedicating part of their lives to your company.

Even to this day, I still spend 4 hours per day studying my craft. When I find that I haven’t reserved time for my personal education I begin to feel anxious. I feel this anxiety because I believe that if I stop learning then I’m one step closer to becoming irrelevant and not useful to my community of email subscribers, followers and clients.

What customer experience leaders have you learned from? What did they teach you?

Have you seen my video compilation video yet? Why Customer Experience is Top Priority for These CEO’s

 

Customer Experience Isn’t Your Swimming Pool

customer experience swimming pool

When I meet with companies to improve their customer experience I’m often greeted with,

“Michel, we are very conservative. I don’t know how much we can invest to improve our customer experience.”

I understand operating budgets are reviewed with strict attention, however, what I have a hard time understanding is when a company will “double down” on traditional media and say they don’t have the budget to increase their customer loyalty.

You see, we have trained ourselves to invest in initiatives we can see, touch and hear similar to how you can see a swimming pool in your backyard.

When speaking at conferences, I often tell my audience that customer experience is like the foundation of a home. If the foundation of your home is weak then your home will inevitably collapse; your business is no different.

I compare traditional media to a swimming pool. When you build a home you dream of constructing your pool to show your family and friends. Purchasing high profile items is glamourous and it represents accomplishment. I’m not a very blue collar person but I know enough to understand that your contractor would not allow you to begin making plans for your swimming pool before the structure of the home was created. Customer experience is the structure of all great and admired companies.

Think about your business.

Creating “swimming pool initiatives” like a radio or tv ad buys you notoriety. Designing complaint resolution systems to increase customer retention or creating a voice of the customer program to understand your customers behaviour isn’t as high profile but it will produce a greater ROI.

As smart business professionals, we must be willing to do the least glamourous things before we buy our swimming pool.

3 Ways Customer Experience Will Crush Your Company’s Silos

customer experience silos

Silos within organizations are caused by the lack of a centralized team who brings everyone together. Customer experience is the solution to silos existing within your company.

To genuinely become a company that is focused on creating a world class customer experience you must have an individual – or team depending on the size of your company – who oversees customer experience.

As a customer experience executive coach and keynote speaker, I’ve helped many companies increase their customer centricity. A common theme I find in organizations is the absence of a team who leads the design and management of the customer experience in collaboration with other department leaders.

See alsoIs Your Company Customer-Centric or Ego-Centric?

After suggesting that companies must have a single point of accountability (SPA) to improve the customer experience, I’m often asked,

Isn’t it everyone’s responsibility to deliver an exceptional customer experience?

I won’t argue that it is a collective effort to create a world class customer experience. However, customers must have a ‘seat at the table’ and a SPA responsible for ensuring that customer experience has a flag bearer.

The outcome of appointing a CCO or Operations Manager, Customer Experience is a reduction of silos within an organization. Jeanne Bliss, advocates that the Chief Customer Officer (CCO) should be an executive that leads the customer experience. I’ve seen customer experience professionals bring departments together to strategically improve the customer experience and break down silos while doing so.

I believe customer experience will remove silos within your company in three ways.

Internal community

‘Community’ is often used to describe our relationship with customers but what about our internal teams of employees? When we create strategies to improve our customer experience we come together as a team to build our internal community. This community of employees will provide valuable insight from their interactions with customers and offering different perspectives on the customer experience.

Customer Advisory Board (CAB’s) is a fantastic example of how to create an internal community. CAB’s are workshops with existing customers to intimately understand their motivations, challenges and aversions. When hosting a CAB it is recommended that a representative from each department within your company is present. Having this intimate understanding of your customers behaviours will bring your company’s departments together and make you more of a ‘customer company.’

Centralized intelligence

Your marketing team has a close relationship with your customers. The PR professionals at your organization know what will increase brand awareness. Your IT team builds the technology that your customers use to seamlessly navigate through your customer corridor.

Collectively, each department holds valuable intelligence of what makes your customers tick and what ticks them off. These efforts can’t live within silos, as the intelligence becomes paralyzed and less likely to go viral within your company.

Having a customer experience team that is able to bring together all the data and information about a customer is a massive competitive advantage. Organizations that have silos between departments often don’t know who to turn to when they are looking for customer intelligence.

Are your departments hoarding intelligence?

Collective decision making

How many times have you caught wind of a neighbouring department making a decision that affected your team without your consent? I’m sure the team that made the decision didn’t maliciously intend to ‘step on your toes.’

Whether directly or indirectly, all decisions within a company affects the customer experience. You will find that having a representative who oversees customer experience will ensure you are not creating initiatives that negatively affects a department or the customer experience.

Take a moment to think about your company.

Is your company living in silos and making decisions in isolation from other stakeholders? Having a customer experience leader is a solution to overcoming the silos living within your company.

4 Non-Negotiable Traits of Customer Focused CEO’s

customer focused ceo

To be customer focused, a CEO must pay great attention to past, present and future customer behaviours, motivations and aversions.

 

Take a moment to think. Do you work with a customer focused CEO? I mean, not one who says he is but one who backs up their word with action.

Does he invest to improve the company’s customer experience on a consistent basis?

Does she spend time every month connecting with customers?

Does she reach out to frontline employees to understand the customer’s challenges?

This post was inspired by an email I received from one of my email subscribers who asked,

“How do I get my CEO to focus more on the customer?’

Well, it’s not easy. CEO’s either have customer centricity in their DNA or they don’t. It’s difficult to train experienced executives to pivot and genuinely want to invest to improve their customer experience. These leaders may be accustomed to operating a certain way and asking them to change is difficult.

My newsletter subscriber continued by asking,

“How can I tell if my CEO is customer-centric?”

Being focused on the customer requires certain traits to be organic and genuine. They are traits you must possess naturally.

They support their management team with a respectable operating budget

I recently hosted a keynote speaking engagement for customer experience management professionals. When I asked the audience,

“How many people believe they have a sufficient budget to improve their company’s customer experience?”

Only three out of nearly one hundred attendees raised their hand. This tells me that companies have acknowledged that they need someone to lead their customer experience programs but they haven’t effectively given them an adequate budget.

Think of how much your organization invests in marketing, sales and pr initiatives. Is the investment in customer experience equal to or greater than these other strategies? Customer focused CEO’s will ensure that their operational management teams are equipped with a budget that will help drive growth.

Tony Hsieh (Founder, CEO – Zappos) advocates spending more on improving the customer experience over traditional marketing. After all, the best way to grow a business is organically through referrals and repeat business. Zappos is a case study on how to do this.

They think long term

The ROI of some customer experience initiatives can take 6, 12 or 24 months to come to surface. This is why Jeff Bezos says he is “willing to be misunderstood for long periods of time.” I find that CEO’s of publicly traded companies are less likely to invest to become more customer-centric because they have to answer to Wall Street which demands a ROI immediately. For companies who are privately owned, they have the advantage of being able to grow slow.

An investment in customer experience isn’t tangible like investing in radio, television or direct-mail. We must be patient and grow long lasting businesses slowly. Remember, Groupon? They grew very fast, lost their customer focus and are now a shell of what they use to be.

They genuinely want to engage with customers

I once met a CEO who said,

“Michel, I don’t have the time to sit in my call centre and listen to live calls.”

I’m very confident in my expertise but not even I can help professionals who believe their schedules are too busy to listen to customers and speak with employees. As I mentioned earlier, CEO’s either ‘get it’ or they don’t. There are many affordable ways to engage with customers: host Customer Advisory Board meetings, listen to live calls with your contact centre team or monitor your social media feeds.

My recommendation for any professional who wants to become customer focused is to set a recurring meeting on your calendar for 30 minutes each week. During this time, chose a practice that will help you become closer to your customers motivations, challenges and aversions.

Good Enough is No Longer Good Enough

Whether your NPS score is 85 or you are consistently voted as a top customer service company in your industry, customer focused CEO’s aren’t ever satisfied with the level of service their company delivers to their customers.

If a customer-centric CEO sees that the companies level of service has flat lined they motivate their team to build new strategies to revitalize their service.

Many companies run to the opportunity to invest in operational strategies that will increase their profile. As I mentioned in last week’s post, investing in a Super Bowl ad is glamourous. Investing to improve your contact centres training program isn’t so attractive but will pay a higher ROI.

What other traits do you believe customer focused CEO’s possess?

UPDATE: Five minutes after I published this post, Richard Branson announced a massive investment in Virgin Trains to improve the customer experience. Read the article here. It’s not a coincidence I chose a picture of Richard Branson for the image of this post.

To learn how to earn higher customer and employee loyalty, download my ebook The 28 Traits of Organizations Who Are Customer Experience Titans below.

Is Your Company Customer-Centric or Ego-Centric?

customer centric commercials

Being customer centric requires you to be able to operate from the viewpoint of the customer.

 

In other words, can you remove yourself as a professional and make operational decisions based on how you would react if you were the customer? Too many companies claim to be focused on their customers but continue to pay lip service to genuinely becoming a ‘customer company.’

Video: What is a Customer Company?

I’ve worked with several customer centric corganizations and spoken at conferences with executives from companies such as McDonald’s and Kroger in the audience. With this experience, I’ve recognized that genuine customer centric companies invest into improving their customer experience continuously not just as a strategic initiative that will last one or two quarters.

Being ego centric is investing in marketing campaigns that profiles your brand on a grand stage. For example, investing in a Super Bowl ad can be an ego centric effort. With a 30 second spot going for $4,000,000 I question the thought process and decision making within these companies. Last year, Hyundai had a memorable Super Bowl ad. I’ve watched it a few times and it’s pretty funny. I’m sure it created some ‘water cooler’ conversations immediately after the Seattle Seahawks destroyed the Denver Broncos.

See also: Why customer experience is still being neglected by companies of all sizes

Last year, Hyundai ranked 8 out of 19 mass market brands on the JD Power Customer Service Index. I wonder what the $4,000,000 investment that went into the Super Bowl ad would have done for their brand if it was to have gone toward improving their customer service. Would they have ranked 6th and increased their customer acquisition through referrals by 10%? Would they have increased customer retention by 5%.

I’m not suggesting Hyundai doesn’t invest into becoming customer centric or that traditional marketing doesn’t work.

The fact of the matter is that high profile marketing is more glamourous than an investment into improving your customer service. I don’t hear customers say to their colleagues,

“Did you know that Hyundai improved their customer retention by 5%?

What I do hear is,

“Did you watch the Hyundai Super Bowl commercial? It was hilarious!”

Both have business results but which one adds directly to the bottom line?

According to the Harvard Business School, increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases profits by 25% to 95%. That is a direct result of being customer centric.

 

I believe traditional marketing budgets are being threatened. If you look around you, executives like Tony Hsieh are advocating investing a company’s time and money into increasing their customer centric efforts. As I mentioned in last weeks post, word of mouth marketing campaigns is a form of marketing but it’s fueled by a superior customer experience.

Take a look around your company. How much does your organization invest to increase brand awareness vs becoming more customer centric?

Let me know: Why do you think companies run to invest in marketing before customer experience?

To learn how to earn higher customer and employee loyalty, download my ebook The 28 Traits of Organizations Who Are Customer Experience Titans below.

3 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Build a Word of Mouth Marketing Campaign

word of mouth marketing

Customer experience is what powers your word of mouth marketing campaign.

 

Remember, your customers enthusiastically talk about their experience with your service or product not your logo or fancy business card. I’ve seen some businesses spend more time designing their business cards than they do growing their company organically through referrals and repeat business.

As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, growing organically is the holy grail of business growth. We covet organic growth because the cost of acquisition is very low when we earn a customer through a referral or repeat business. This is why you see companies like Uber and Zappos not spend their budgets on marketing but instead invest into a superior customer experience.

You must ask yourself these three questions before you build your word of mouth marketing campaign.

 

How will we define a successful campaign?

At the very beginning, you and your team are going to be very excited at the thought of earning new customers organically. It’s fun, I’ve been there. Before you jump into the deep end, ask yourself,

“Why are we doing this?”

Is it to earn 100 new customers this quarter?

Is it to increase revenue this month?

Is it to grow your unaided brand awareness from 15% to 20%?

The main focus of your campaign should be to grow your business internally from your existing customers who love your service or product. Having internal growth is what companies who are admired have in common. Admired companies are ones who remain relevant for decades.

See also: 10 Customer Experience Laws to Become an Admired Brand

As Jeff Bezos says, “If you do build a great experience, customers tell each other about that. Word of mouth is powerful.” A simple quote from an extraordinary businessman.

Have we humanized the experience?

Does your word of mouth marketing campaign have character? Is it engaging? It is authentic?

Airbnb has created a world class word of mouth marketing campaign. As mentioned in step 3 within this Airbnb blog post, they included personalized referral codes within their program. The Airbnb team humanized the interaction with a unique code and picture of the recommendee. Instead of simply having a computer generated code, they were able to put a face to the offer which I believe gives them an opportunity to increase conversion and engagement.

airbnb word of mouth 2

This subtle touch point is something I call a micro customer experience. A micro customer experience is a small, subtle, affordable and memorable interaction a brand has with their customers.

See also: 12 Simple Ways Marketers Can Humanize Their Brand

Will this be fun for our customers?

A few months ago, I learned how Harry’s, an online retailer for men’s shaving products, collected 100,000 email addresses before they launched their business (read the entire post here).

Harry’s used gamification very well to increase awareness of their company and recruit their future customers. Similar to Airbnb, Harry’s gave each visitor a unique code to share with their family and friends. This alone isn’t what made the campaign world class.

harrys word of mouth marketing

They created a tiered incentive program to earn free products. For example, if 5 of your friends used your unique code you earned free shaving cream. 10 friends? You won a handle with blade. 25 friends? You earned a shave set. 50 friends? One year free blades.

Harry’s is smart. They captured early adopters and consumers who take pride in introducing their friends and family to new services or products. Gathering 100,000 email addresses before they launched their service gave them a platform most companies can only dream of. I’ve seen a lot of word of mouth marketing campaigns and Harry’s might be the best.

Whether you are a small, medium or large sized business, take a look at how you are spreading word of mouth. Have you defined what a successful program looks like? Is your campaign engaging and fun?

Share with me: what does a company need to do to earn a referral from you?

To learn how to earn higher customer and employee loyalty, download my ebook The 28 Traits of Organizations Who Are Customer Experience Titans below.

 

Is it the Consumer’s Fault Customer Service is Vanilla?

our fault customer service sucks

We run to complain but move like snails when given the opportunity to recognize exceptional customer service.

 

I’ve studied customer experience management for nearly a decade and have recognized a few trends. First, I believe customer service is improving. Organizations are slowly beginning to invest more into improving their customer experience to avoid paying customer service lip service. Secondly, we are educating ourselves more on what customer experience actually means. It’s no longer recognized as simply being polite because customer experience is the nucleus of every admired brand. Lastly, we are understanding that customer experience encompasses everything. Our marketing, PR and tech efforts must work in harmony to improve the customer experience and grow organically.

One thing that hasn’t changed is our behavior toward customer service as consumers.

 

Our expectations as customers of Amazon, Westjet or our local coffee shop is higher than ever. We recognize that we have a lot of influence and power because our voices have been scaled. When a company fails us we quickly pull the Twitter trigger or yell on Yelp. If you do a twitter search of the keyword customer service you’ll see evidence that this is true.

Let’s ensure our customer service expectations as consumers are aligned with what we deliver as a professional.

 

If we want customer service to improve we need to empower frontline employees ourselves. When was the last time you contacted the manager of an employee who gave you amazing customer service? How often do you run to Twitter, Facebook or Yelp when a company provides you peace of mind? Did you share your positive testimonial on your personal Facebook page for your friends and family to see?

Think about what empowers the best customer service employees.

 

The most customer centric employees are begging for you to call their manager and tell them they delivered an amazing experience. The greatest team members would love to see something on Yelp that highlights their efforts. It’s human nature to want to have our strengths and efforts acknowledged.

How do I know this? I know this because I was that employee.

I began my customer experience career working within the contact centre of 1-800-GOT-JUNK? I know what it’s like to take 100 calls/day and have to balance efficiency and superior customer service. The company would regularly host incentive programs that I would win.  However, what I really wanted was to be recognized externally by customers. My motivation was to have a customer email my boss, mention my name within their NPS comments or call to speak to management. When it happened, that was my gratification which motivated me to do it again and again and again.

The companies around us are getting better. I know this because I coach them and speak at events with 100′s in the audience. They recognize that customer experience must be a focus to become an admired company and that it is the foundation of all great businesses.

See also: 10 Customer Experience Laws to Become an Admired Brand

Ultimately, it’s the organizations responsibility to improve their customer service but let’s ensure we give credit when credit is due.

We need to become the tipping point. We must habitually alert companies and employees when they deliver exceptional service. No tweet, comment, share or update is too small to motivate a company or employee.

Tell me. Do you think we need to become the tipping point to inspire companies and employees to deliver better customer service?

To learn how to earn higher customer and employee loyalty, download my ebook The 28 Traits of Organizations Who Are Customer Experience Titans below.

Are We Doing Employee Onboarding All Wrong?

employee onboarding huddle

Employee onboarding is the design of what your employees feel, see and hear after they have been hired.

 

Often, companies confuse onboarding with training. While training does have a role within onboarding it doesn’t represent the entire scope of the process.

Say yes or nod your head if you felt lost during your first few days with your past or current company. Better yet, say yes or nod your head if you operate a business or manage people and feel that your employees are lost during their first week.

I’d imagine that many of you said yes or nodded your head. The reason is because employee onboarding doesn’t receive the attention it deserves. Similar to customer experience, we would prefer to invest in more glamourous initiatives like marketing.

Related post: This is Why We Love to Invest in Marketing Before Customer Experience

Employee onboarding is like exercising. We have enough evidence to show that we must spend a considerable amount of time doing it to improve our health but for whatever reason we don’t. Or, we do it, just not very well or as consistent as we should.

I recently read a fantastic New York Times article which highlighted the employee onboarding best practices from admired brands such as: Warby Parker, Bonobos, ZocDoc, Birchbox and Thrillist.

Consider these facts from a study conducted by the Center for American Progress on how much it costs to recruit and train a single employee:

  • $3,328 for an employee earning $10.00/hour
  • $8,000 for a manager earning $40,000/year
  • $210,000 for a C-suite executive earning $100,000/year

 

After understanding these statistics you may approach employee onboarding differently. If you follow my blog or are subscribed to my email list (free ebook available on my homepage), you’ll know that I don’t just quote statistics and that I’m not theoretical. With that being said, let’s outline the things all businesses, regardless of size or industry, must do to have a world class employee onboarding experience.

Design your employee onboarding experience

 

It’s not enough to simply say, “we have a full time trainer, that’s the experience.” As I mentioned earlier, a successful employee onboarding experience is what your employee feels, sees and hears after they have been hired. Similar to how a company will map out and design their customer experience, you must do the same for your employees.

This process isn’t led by a single department or person, it takes an entire company to contribute to the success of it. Ask your current employees what they liked and didn’t like about their onboarding experience. Take the feedback you receive and use it to recreate the employee onboarding process.

Failure to prepare is preparing to fail

 

This step is crucial and I see many businesses fail to execute on this. You must ensure that your new employee is set up for success. Is their work station prepared? Has their email address and phone line been set up? How about access to shared folders and calendars? Have you set aside their welcome package and employee handbook?

Warby Parker does this very well. They send their employees a digital company handbook and welcome packet the day before their first day. If this employee shows up having read all the information that’s a sign of a great hire.

Be different, sincere…and weird

 

In order to build an admired company we must be admired by our employees first. What are some ways we can do this with onboarding?

During the interview process, ask your candidates, “What’s one thing under $10.00 you can’t live without?”

Let’s assume they say their indulgence is a Mars bar. On their first day, have a handwritten card from the CEO or you entire team welcoming them to the company. Accompany this card with a Mars bar. I’ve coached companies to do this and the ROI of this practice is unmeasurable.

See also (video): 4 Customer Service Questions You Must Be Asking When Hiring

Email to the masses

 

Have you ever been to a party or networking event and the person you arrived with did a poor job at introducing you to their friends and family? Well, that awkward experience is what your employees feel as well.

If you’re a small business, walk your new employee to the desks or work areas of every team member and personally introduce them. If you’re a medium or large business, send an email to the entire company or post on your internal online portal introducing your newest team member. You can make it engaging by including their picture and some obscure questions.

Bonobos includes something they call “Two Truths and a Lie.” The new employee shares two things which are true about themselves and one that is a lie. The first employee within the company that determines which are true and which is false receives a $25 gift card for their website.

1-800-GOT-JUNK? hosts a company-wide stand up meeting at 10:55am called Huddle. During this time, if there are new employees in attendance they are introduced in front of the company.

Cross departmental training

 

Of course, you can’t have a world class employee onboarding experience without training. I’ve seen training programs from companies of all sizes and industries which underwhelm me.

Most people think training can be boring but it doesn’t need to be this way. Training can genuinely be fun if you include employees from all departments. Have your CEO come in and say hi and all other department leaders to explain what their team does and how they contribute to the success of the company.

If you’re a small business, think of creative ways to allow employees to lend a hand in training. You’ll be surprised how many of your current employees would be willing to assist in the success of your employee onboarding program if you present the opportunity.

Job shadowing

 

Before becoming an executive coach and keynote speaker, the most fun I had as an employee was while job shadowing. It may be because of the way I learn but I was always very engaged when I would watch how others performed their jobs so that I could replicate success. For me, job shadowing gave me the opportunity to learn from those that have come before me which I believe provided me a springboard to success.

Take a look around your company, are there high performers that you can ask to become mentors for your new employees? This practice will save you time, money and energy.

Employee onboarding is in the DNA of admired companies

 

I advocate that customer experience is the foundation of every successful business. Employee experience must also become a top priority for your company if you want to become an admired brand.

Ensure that your employees are given the tools, education and motivation to succeed, take a step back and watch them contribute to the success of your business.

Here’s an honest questions. Why do you think companies don’t properly invest into employee onboarding? Leave your comments below.

For 28 more tips like these, download my ebook below and get instant access for free.

 

 
The 28 Traits of Organizations Who Are Customer Experience Titans

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