Customer Experience Strategies: 5 Tips for Profit and Growth (2018)

 

In this video, I’m going to share five customer experience strategies, that will grow your profit, and help you build a successful company.

I know that these strategies work, because I use them within my business on a daily basis. My company does over eight figures a year in revenue, and has over 100 employees. I’ve also used these strategies when consulting for companies like McDonald’s, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and Lexus.

Regardless of your industry, these strategies will work for you as well too. No matter how many employees, or how many customers you actually have.

These strategies aren’t going to be for beginners, so get ready to use them in your business, and get super strategic on how you apply them to start growing your business.

My name is Michel Falcon, and for nearly 10 years, I’ve been using customer experience strategies to grow successful companies.

Before we start trying to improve our customer experience, we all have to be on the same page of what it actually is. Customer experience is not customer service.

Customer service are actions. When you go to the grocery store, and purchase milk, bread, and bananas, the employee helping you pay is delivering customer service to you.

Customer experience is the design of the interactions that your customer experiences with your company from beginning to end. Again, before you try to improve your customer experience, everyone on your team must understand what it actually is.

A quote on customer experience that I absolute love, comes from Jeff Bezos, the CEO and Founder of Amazon. “Focusing on the customer makes a company more resilient.”

If you’re a resilient company, then you have the opportunity to bounce back from some frustrations that you might be experiencing. Such as high customer turn over, and bad online or offline reviews.

These strategies are going to help you with all those things, so let’s get right into it.

The number one strategy that you have to have in your business, if you want to improve your customer experience, is that your leadership team must exemplify the type of customer experience that you want your employees to roll out to your customers.

In my business, we have a program called The Partner Shift, where every single business partner will work a full shift once per quarter, so that we can have a better understanding of the inner workings of our business, so that we can go back and build some systems and processes to improve the customer experience.

Steve Jobs has a perfect quote that aligns with this strategy. “Get closer than ever to your customers. So close that you tell them what they need well before they realize it themselves.”

Leaders in companies, I challenge you, once a month or once a quarter, get into your business, and act like a front line employee. Work in your retail store. Take some calls in your call center. Respond to customers on social media, get in the trenches, learn what’s happening on a daily basis, and use that data to build better systems and processes, to build your customer experience.

The second strategy is developing premium customer experience training material. I told you earlier that I have advised and consulted for some of the biggest companies in the world. So, I’ve seen training programs, from small companies and multi-billion dollar organizations. And I can say, that I think every company has the opportunity to build better content.

Now, what does this content entail? You have to teach every single employee the difference between customer experience and customer service. You have to teach them about different customer personality types, and let them know what organic growth means.

These are just a few of many modules that should be included in your customer experience training program. Now everyone, regardless of their position, regardless of the tenure that they have with their company, should go through this training so that you have an aligned organization. For me, this is a non-negotiable. According to Gallup, “1 out of 3 employees say that uninspiring content is the barrier to their learning.”

My recommendation to all entrepreneurs and leader, is to audit your current training program. Do you feel that you’re providing premium content. If you do, how can you continuously refine it, to set your employees up for success. And don’t forget to make it inspiring, and entertaining.

For the third strategy, I want to introduce you to something that I call micro customer experiences, and are implemented with every single business that I own.

A Micro Customer Experience is a small, memorable and affordable gesture that you do for your customer, that resonates with them for years.

Let me give you a real world example of a micro customer experience. In one of my businesses, which is a restaurant, I had an employee named Yasmin have a conversation with one of the tables that she was serving. She learned that one of the guests was celebrating a pregnancy announcement.

Immediately after learning this, Yasmin went to her experienced coordinator who manages our micro customer experience program. She went across the street to a local pharmacy, and purchased a $25 gift certificate to Toys”R”Us. They put the Toys”R”Us gift certificate in the billfold when they presented the bill to the customer, to be able to create an experience that the customer’s never seen before.

To be able to have this happen within your business, you need a single point of accountability. You need a budget to be able to make this happen, but you have to give your employees the autonomy to actually bring it to surface, and deliver these experiences to your customers.

This is exactly what a micro customer experience is. It’s a small, memorable and affordable gesture that you do for your customers that they’re going to talk about with their friends, family members, and hopefully write a Facebook or Google review about.

I’m often asked, “How much should I budget?” Well, to give you an example, and it’s completely up to you, the business that I just described does $10 million a year in revenue, and our monthly budget for this program is only $250.00. Every single company on this planet can afford to make this program work.

Don’t just take it from me the entrepreneur, I want you to listen to Yasmin herself describe exactly why she loves the micro customer experience program.

Yasmin: I enjoy the program because it gives me an opportunity to get to know my guests, step out of my comfort zone, and do something to surprise them and make them happy.

The fourth strategy is increasing your customer intelligence by surveying your customer. Regardless of your industry, or the size of your company, every organization must be surveying their customers to gather customer insights, so that you can celebrate great customer service, and build operational improvement plans if you get bad reviews, and bad feedback.

Now, some of the pitfalls in surveying your customers is that your survey is too long, and you’re sending the survey to the customer at the wrong time. You must overcome these barriers to gather this intelligence to continuously improve your customer experience, to grow your profit, and grow admired organizations.

To successfully survey your customers, you must have a single point of accountability. An individual within your business managing the voice of the customer program. Now, if you’re a large organization, maybe there’s a few people managing this program. But, this team must report on the data on a weekly basis, and share this intelligence with people within the company that are able to influence change.

It’s up to those individuals to commit to building operational improvement plans to ensure that strategies and processes are being built within the company to increase customer loyalty.

You may be familiar with this legendary quote from Bill Gates where he says, “Your must unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning,” and that remains true today.

Go out, survey your customers, take the feedback, and build operational improvement plans to secure customer loyalty.

The fifth strategy that I use within my business to build a legendary customer experience is have a complaint resolution system. What this entails, is having a single point of accountability, or multiple people if you’re a big company, to ensure that every single customer complaint, across email, social media, phone, and all channels, is resolved within one business day maximum. This is going to help you manage your customer retention rates, and secure that customer loyalty that you want to influence your profit.

To be able to do this, your single point of accountability is going to need to report on the data that they’ve received to the same group that receive the customer survey results, so that they can build operational strategies to build the business. This single point of accountability needs a budget for reimbursements and discounts just in case you delivered poor service.

There you have it, those are the five strategies that I use within my business to improve my company’s customer experience, to influence profit and growth. If you learned something by watching this video, stop what you’re doing and click the Like button on my Facebook page, so that you can be made aware when I release my next video.

Visit michelfalcon.com to learn other systems and processes to improve your customer experience, increase your employee engagement, and build your company culture. And leave a comment below, and let me know what strategy you are looking forward to implementing within your business, and let me know how I can help you.

Thank you for watching. Have a great day.

5 Ways to Increase Your Net Promoter Score Response Rate

I take it that you clicked on this video because your company is using Net Promoter Score.

I’m also going to assume that you spent a considerable amount of time and resources building the program, launching it and then heard crickets after you sent the survey to your customers because your response rate was low?

I’m Michel Falcon and in this video, I’m going to share 5 ways to increase your response rates to 60% or greater.

Welcome to my YouTube channel where I teach you how to use customer experience and

employee engagement strategies to build your business.

Today I’m going to share how to increase your Net Promoter Score response rate to get even more customer data to better your business.

For those note familiar, Net Promoter Score is a customer survey system that companies like Apple, American Express and Proctor and Gamble use that asks two simple questions:

“On a scale from 0 – 10, where 10 is absolutely and 0 is absolutely not, how likely are you to recommend company ABC to friend or colleague?”

The second question is based on the score your received in the first question.

If you received a 0-8, customers that are known as your Detractors and Passives, the second question you’d ask is,

“What is it that company ABC would need to do to earn a higher recommendation?”

If the customer rated you a 9 or 10, also known as your Promoter customers, you’d ask,

“What is it that company ABC does well to earn your recommendation?”

I was first introduced to Net Promoter Score in 2008 when I was working for 1-800-GOT-JUNK? – a company that had a NPS of 84.

After learning about the system, I immediately bought two books on Net Promoter Score and started reading. The two books were:

  • The Ultimate Question: Driving Good Profits and True Growth
  • And Answering the Ultimate Question: How Net Promoter Can Transform Your Business

After reading the books, speaking to other companies that use it and seeing first hand how it can operationally and profitably improve a business I was hooked.

I understand that there are many naysayers of Net Promoter Score and that’s fine. Like anything, the program is only as good as how well you understand and implement it within your business.

Throughout my career, I’ve helped dozens of companies, including my own, launch Net Promoter Score programs.

One of the main questions I receive when I speak at events on Net Promoter Score or customer experience is how to increase email survey response rates.

Most organizations receive a 5-20% response rate to their customer surveys. By using the five tactics that I share in this video, I have helped companies increase their response rates to over 60%.

The #1 recommendation to increase your email survey response rate is to evaluate your email subject line.

Let’s use Rogers Communications as an example. Rogers is Canada’s largest telecomm company and my service provider.

I like the company. But, I believe they could be doing a better job with their email subject line.

As of June 2017, their email subject line is “Your feedback is requested.”

These emails have swiftly made it to my trash folder because it doesn’t capture my attention. For me, the subject line doesn’t feel authentic or engage me to want to open the email and complete the survey.

A subject line that I prefer would read like this,

“How was your customer experience? Tell us in 2 minutes.”

The reason this email subject line works is because it asks an interesting question and it tells the customer how long it will take to complete the survey.

By asking this question you instill curiosity in the customer. The second part shows respect to their time rather than sending them down a rabbit hole.

I don’t recommend blindly changing your email subject lines. A/B test a few, evaluate the results for three months and then make an informed decision on which subject line will yield the greatest results.

The second tactic I use is similar to the first. However, with this approach, you want to evaluate the copy within the email.

Having your customer open the email is the first task. The next is equally as important to ensure they click through to the actual complete the survey.

Let’s use Airbnb as an example. Here’s a screenshot of an email they send to their customers.

It reads,

“Hi Customer,

Thank you for using Airbnb. We really appreciate you choosing Airbnb for your travel plans.

To help us improve, we’d like to ask you a few questions about your experience so far. It’ll only take 3 minutes, and your answers will help us make Airbnb even better for you and other guests.

Thanks. The Airbnb Team.

You’ll notice a few things:

  • There are only four sentences within the copy
  • Within the four sentences they:
  • Thank you for your patronage
  • Thank you for helping them improve
  • And outline how long the survey will take. In this case, only 3 minutes

This is masterful copying writing and I’m sure contributes to a high survey response rate.

Take a look at the body of your emails that you send to your customers requesting feedback. Is it short and to the point or long-winded and indirect? Also, does it read well or does it sound robotic?

The third tactic I use to increase email survey response rates is to genuinely ask yourself,

“Do I really need to be asking this many questions?”

The reason Net Promoter Score is so valuable is because it allows the customer to tell you directly what’s important to them rather than you force feeding them questions that might not be important to them.

My rule of thumb is to ask no more than five questions at a time. By doing so, you will stop customers from having survey fatigue.

Survey fatigue is when a customer accepts your proposal to complete a survey but doesn’t complete it because it’s too long.

Take a look at how many questions you’re asking your customers to complete and ask yourself if they are all necessary.

Step #4 is to provide your customers a visual tracker of where they are within the survey process.

Most software these days will provide a progress tracker like this one here. Notice how it clearly displays what step the customer is on within the survey. A tool as small as this will help increase your survey response rates because it helps guide the customer through the process.

Step #5 is to leverage your employees to plant a seed with your customers to expect to receive a survey in their inbox.

Whether you speak to your customers in-person, by phone, live chat, social media or another channel, leverage your team members to say something like this after they have served your customers,

“Mrs. Johnson, thank you for being a customer of company ABC. To continuously improve our customer experience we heavily rely on your feedback. Within 48 hours you’re going to receive an email survey. It will only take you two minutes to complete. Would you be able to allocate two minutes of your time to help us get better?”

The reason that this type of script works is because:

  • You’ve thanked the customer for their business
  • You’ve made it about them and their experience with your company
  • You’ve told them it will only take a short amount of their time
  • And you asked a question at the end to get their commitment

I’m not a huge fan of scripts. Instead, provide your team with a framework and key points to mention to the customer and let them develop their own communication.

It’s also important to remind the customer to check their spam folder.

Your employees are valuable assets when asking your customers to participate in your survey program. You’ll be surprised how much this can positively impact your response rate.

There you have it, my top 5 tactics to receive a 60% of greater customer survey response rate.

I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below and tell why or why you don’t like the Net Promoter Score. I’ve heard many reasons and want to hear what you think.

If you learned something by watching this video:

  • Subscribe to my YouTube channel to be alerted when I release my next video
  • Like this video
  • Share it with your friends and on social media
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Have a great day and I’ll see you next time!

3 Ways to Collect Customer Data to Deliver a Better Customer Experience (Without Violating Privacy)

Companies of all sizes collect information on their customers. Whether it’s contact information or tracking buying behaviours, we are constantly collecting data purposely or indirectly.

Sometimes these intended motivations can be used harmfully to violate privacy. Take Uber’s “God View” as an example.

But, what about the companies who use their data collection to better their customer’s experience without harm?

Being an entrepreneur myself, I obsess over collecting what I call “customer intelligence” to use the information, when appropriate, to deliver an experience my customers have never seen before.

The three affordable ways I collect customer intelligence is for these three purposes:

  1. Continuously increase the value delivered to customers which increases loyalty.
  2. Empower my team members to have fun, overdeliver and challenge themselves.
  3. Build an admired brand.

Tactic #1: Create a Customer Advisory Board (CAB)

At Baro, my 16,000 sq.ft. restaurant and venue in Toronto, we have created a Customer Advisory Board; consider it a new-age focus group without executives peering behind a pane of glass.

A CAB is a mix of selected customers who volunteer their time to provide you feedback by way of having intimate conversations with them. These customers aren’t just your most loyal customers, I recommend inviting customers you have wronged in the pass to ensure you are given multiple perspectives.

The meetings take place monthly or quarterly and are round table conversations where your members share positive and negative feedback. I also recommend sharing new products or procedures to these guests. For example, if my restaurant has new food or bar menu items rolling out I would first share it with our CAB members to gather their feedback. If you’re a B2B company, you may want to share your new invoicing system and process with your customers. You should leave each meeting with more knowledge on the current state of your customer experience then before you started.

I don’t recommend monetarily compensating your CAB members with cash because you want to have your members genuinely want to be there to better your business. However, you can compensate them in other ways. What I do in my business is give our members exclusive access to events, allow them to try food and drinks before anyone else and, on occasion, give them gift cards. You’d be surprised how many of your guests would jump at the opportunity to work with you if you simply ask.

Outcome: CAB’s have provided me massive success in my career because it’s the intimate conversations we have during meetings that can’t be found in traditional customer surveys.

Tactic #2: Social Media Stalking (with Integrity)

Pardon the title of tactic number two but after all, isn’t following someone, whether it’s online or offline, a form of stalking?

Appoint someone in your business to search your customers online channels and funnel the information to the person responsible for managing the customer experience.

As an advisor to companies, I train their team to create a Single Point of Accountability (SPA) within the business (this person could do this full-time or part-time depending on the size of the business, affordability and bandwidth) to leverage information found online to create never-seen-before customer experiences.

If I managed a moving company and noticed that my customer, who I was helping move in a week (finding the information well in advance is imperative), constantly tweeted that he loved Canadian Ice Wine after a trip to the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia, what do you think I would arrive with in hand?

Now, this is where most companies go wrong. You can’t approach your customers with:

“Mrs. Anderson, I saw that you on Tuesday you tweeted that you liked Canadian Ice Wine. I picked you up a bottle to show you my appreciation.”

The approach must be more subtle to influence the positive experience. This is how I train my team and clients:

“Mrs. Anderson, I appreciate you giving us the opportunity to help you move to your new home. My team and I can’t wait to make this a hassle-free experience. Please accept this bottle of Canadian Ice Wine as a token of my appreciation.”

You can expect the following things to occur for your business by leveraging this customer intelligence:

  • Your customers will become loyal because no service provider has ever done this before.
  • Your customers will refer more business to you because of the experience.
  • Your employee’s morale will increase because your customers will be a pleasure to work with.

Outcome: These are the affordable things companies of all sizes must be doing to leverage their customer intelligence and deliver storytelling experiences to customers and guests.

Tactic #3: Leverage Your Employees (They Harness More Data Than You May Expect)

As an entrepreneur or business leader, your frontline employees may speak to more customers in one day than you might in a month, quarter or even a year.

After this has been acknowledge, it may propel you to create an Employee Advisory Board (EAB). Like the aforementioned CAB, the EAB is also a form of listening by way of in-person conversation. During these monthly conversations, ask your team members to share ways that they believe you can improve the customer experience. After all, they are the trusted team members who live within the systems and processes you have built – I guarantee a great customer loyalty strategy will come from this meeting.

After each meeting, it’s vitally important that you close the loop with your team members to ensure that you have followed up with their suggestions. Some of their ideas will be deployed while others may be too costly or not the right time. Either way, to continuously motivate your team to bring forth new processes, you must make them feel that their voices are not only being heard, but acted upon.

Tip: I don’t recommend inviting managers to these meetings. Why? Because they have already been labelled as leadership. You want to dig one layer deeper and grow your next layer of leadership. One thing I know very well is that customer-focused companies build massive companies. Take Airbnb, Amazon and Warby Parker as case studies.

Outcome: If you devote your company to becoming customer-obsessed you will grow which means you will need more leaders; EAB’s are a surefire way to collect customer intelligence to grow your business and develop leaders for the future.

Conclusion

Your CRM software is full of data whether it’s email addresses or the last time your customer purchased, but what else can it be used for? I recommend that you devote a section within each customer file and label it “customer intelligence.” It’s the area where you train your team members to record appropriate information about your customers to deliver an experience your customers have never seen before.

Do this and expect your customers to become more loyal which will help you sell more products and services.

To follow my entrepreneurial journey and learn more strategies like these, follow me on social media.

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3 Customer Service Skills Your Employees Need to Create Customer Loyalty

Welcome to this week’s video where I teach you how to use customer experience and employee engagement strategies to grow your business and create customer loyalty.

Today’s video is solely focused on your customer service employees – whether you’re in hospitality, operating a call center, retail, real estate, trades or whatever – your customer service employees are the face of your company. We can all agree to that, right?

With this understanding, we must invest in their education to ensure they are equipped with the knowledge to deliver an experience our customers have never seen before. Let’s consider these statistics:

This gives us even more evidence that we must recruit and train our employees with premium education.

Okay. Let’s get into it…The first skill your customer service employees must have is what I call Service Endurance.

SERVICE ENDURANCE

Service endurance is a term I use that describes how employees can deliver amazing customer service to the 100th customer of the day as they did the first.

We should all have empathy for what our frontline team members go through. Speaking to customers all-day can be exhausting, regardless of how great your team member might be, we should find ways to help them break through even when it’s been a long day.

When I was a call center agent in my early 20’s I would take 100 calls a day and even though I was good, there were times when I didn’t want to take another call. Some ways I would combat exhaustion was by:

  • Having a stress ball at my desk that I would squeeze during tough times because it helps to release a bit of stress.
  • I would post a motivational quote to help me keep going even when I didn’t want to take another call, in fact, I still do this. Here’s a picture of a shelf in my office that has a quote of Kobe Bryan on it.
  • Before a stress ball or motivational quotes are posted near your work area, going for a brief walk outside is the best way to disconnect for a moment. Leaders of companies must acknowledge that the extra break won’t be a cost, it will be an investment because you will have peace of mind that your team members are physically and mentally prepared to deliver amazing service to every customer, every time.

FORESIGHT

The second imperative skill your team members must have is foresight. The reason that this is a vital skill set is because you want to ensure that your employees have the foresight to anticipate customers needs and to assist their peers and colleagues who are inundated with too many tasks.

At Baro, one of my restaurants, one of our core values is foresight. We want our team members to have the awareness to act on customer needs by offering suggestions before they are asked – this helps create an experience customers have never seen before. In my business, an example of this could be a waitress recognizing that the family of four who has a toddler with them will need a high chair. Our guests shouldn’t have to ask for this, we should anticipate this to create an effortless experience for our guests.

When it comes to employees, do your team members have the foresight to recognize that Sally, your office manager, who just received three phone calls at once and has a FedEx employee waiting for a package to be signed needs help? Do your team members have the foresight to recognize that Sally is getting slammed and needs help without her having to ask?

Team members with the foresight skill set not only earn higher customer loyalty by delivering a better experience but they create comradery with their peers. If this comradery is created they are more likely to work together to deliver a seamless customer experience which also increases loyalty.

EMPATHY

The third customer service skill set was first introduced to me when I worked at 1-800-GOT-JUNK?’s corporate office. Their core values are Passion, Integrity, Professionalism and Empathy, or PIPE for short.

Do your current team members show genuine empathy for your customers? If your customer happens to mention that there was a death in their family or they have upcoming surgery, will they acknowledge what has been mentioned and show empathy for the situation?

HOW CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE EARNED WARBY PARKER FREE PR

Often, your customers, share information with you that require empathy that you can use to build a stronger relationship. Take this Warby Parker story as an example.

A customer of Warby Parker in Atlanta shows up to pick up her glasses and after the employee asked her how her day was going she responded with:

“Not well. I had my car stolen yesterday…I’m here to pick up the glasses that I ordered.”

Side note: these glasses I’m wearing are from Warby Parker – I love them and their company – they are actually the company I’m learning from the most from right now.

The Warby Parker employee could have simply said:

“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. Here are your glasses…”

but it’s what they did next that’s separates them from their competition and is something I’m preaching within my businesses and clients…they are creating micro customer experiences. A micro customer experience is a subtle, affordable and memorable gesture you do for your customers that resonates with them for years.

The Warby Parker team sent this hand-written card to the customer shortly after:

Hey Tess,

We were so sorry to hear about your car. Since you probably won’t be the designated driver anytime soon, here’s a round on us! Love your friends at Warby Parker. PS. Your Durand frames look amazing!”

Within the envelop was a gift certificate to a local micro brewery so the customer could get that beer she said she needed in passing.

This Warby Parker employee listened, showed empathy and took action on what she had heard to create a memorable experience.

Now, not any employee could do something like this. Only truly empathetic people could do this genuinely. I don’t know the Warby Parker customer personally but I’d bet that this customer is never buying prescription sun glasses from another company again in her life, which is true customer loyalty.

Oh, not to mention, this customer experience earned Warby Parker free PR in Forbes, Business Insider and Mashable. As the saying goes, Customer experience is marketing!

In my next video, I’m going to share what questions to ask during the interview process to identify if your candidates have these customer service skill sets. To be automatically alerted when I release this video, subscribe to my YouTube channel right now!

I want to hear from you. What other skill sets do you look for when hiring customer service employees? Leave a comment below to share what you think is most important customer service skill set.

I’ll see you next week.

Video: How Real Estate Brokerages Can Deliver a Premium Customer Experience

 

In December 2016, I went on a 3-city speaking tour with LJ Hooker (Australia’s largest real estate company). This video shares the strategies and tactics that I believe real estate brokerages and agents could use to improve their company’s customer experience.

If you require a keynote speaker for an event, conference or workshop, I would love to be considered. Please contact me directly by clicking here.

5 Customer Experience and Employee Engagement Tactics I Used to Open a Business with 100 Employees

 

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I’ve been advising companies on customer experience, employee engagement and company culture for six years helping entrepreneurs learn the systems I leverage to build stronger and profitable relationships with customers and employees.

It has been very rewarding for both my clients and I. However, I knew it was time to begin doing it for myself more frequently.

This blog post outlines the key steps my partners and I took (I can’t share everything as I wouldn’t want to share all our tactics with our competitors) to open a very complex business with nearly 100 employees, three kitchens, three bars sprawled over 16,000sqf and four floors. This venture was a Latin-themed restaurant called Baro.

Does this sound like your business? One with many team members and moving parts? If so, I will share some tips you can use in your business. Keep reading to learn how we:

  • Created our mission statement and core values
  • Recruited and built our interview process
  • Onboarded all employees
  • Trained and developed our team
  • Ensured that we continuously refine our systems and processes

Mission Statement & Core Values

Baro opened on December 7th, 2016. About six months before we opened our doors we knew it was imperative to create our mission statement and core values. Now, I understand that some readers may have just rolled their eyes as mission statements and core values can sound like a fluffy platitude, but they aren’t if you live and breath them each and every day. They were created to act as our “north star” (something I learned from Gary Vaynerchuk) and guide our decision making – from hiring and firing to delivering our service to our customers –  we used them to dictate how the business would operate from day one.

Ultimately, your mission statement and core values should shape the type of company culture you want to build for the legacy of your business.

After about 16 hours of discussion and a handful of revisions, the following mission statement and five core values were created by my four partners and I.

Our mission at Baro is simple: to consistently deliver seamless experiences. We do this by creating a series of inspired moments which turn into lasting memories for our guests. We celebrate each day and every guest with enthusiasm, energy, and fun in true Latin style. It’s white glove service, without the white gloves.

CELEBRATION

Whether it’s a birthday, an anniversary, or a Tuesday; our guests are here to celebrate, and we are here to celebrate them, with energy, fun and passion. We make each guest feel special through our words and actions and they love us for this.

OWNERSHIP

We are one team. Each of us individually is a part of the greater whole, and we come together enthusiastically each day for one reason: to create lasting memories for our guests, and for each other.

FORESIGHT

Our guests anticipate a fantastic experience with a positive vibe; we anticipate their needs, and the actions we must take to make it happen. We take pride in being aware of the needs of our guests, our team members, and ourselves at all times.

HUMILITY

We will make mistakes. When we do, everything will be done in our power to fix them with no ego; we will own them, we will share them, and we will learn from them.

INTEGRITY

We are honest communicators with an unwavering moral compass. Doing the right thing – particularly when no one’s looking – is our expectation of everyone.

After the mission statement and core values had been created we knew that our job wasn’t done; we needed to create a plan to continuously promote it within the business to create alignment with nearly 100 team members.

One thing we did to create unity and serve as a constant reminder of our “north star” was to have the first sentence of our mission statement stitched on the inside of our Face of House and Heart of House (notice how we don’t called it Front of House or Back of House?) uniforms.

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A Baro apron.

Now that we had created the mission statement and core values, we needed to build our team to deliver a memorable customer experience to our guests.

Recruiting Plan & Interview Guide

I’ve seen the recruiting plans and interview guides of dozens of companies across every industry imaginable… we all have the opportunity to revitalize our programs. When we opened Baro, we relied on several traditional and new age methods of recruiting such as posting on job boards and social media platforms which produced leads. However, it was our job fair that we hosted that began to promote our company culture to the city and painted a picture of the type of atmosphere we were setting out to build.

Take a peek at the shortened video of our highlight reel from our job fair.

Simultaneously, while we rolled out our recruiting strategy, we developed our interview process. While I’m not willing to share our “secret sauce” I can tell you that we follow a six-step process for every single position within the business. This process spans multiple days with numerous interviews.

Regardless, of whether you’re applying for a General Manager position, Hostess or Dishwasher, everyone goes through the exact same format. Yes, the questions may change depending on the position but the format stays consistent each and every time.

I can share that we meticulously developed our interview questions to ensure we stayed away from asking questions like:

“What are your strengths and weaknesses?”

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Our actual interview and recruitment playbook.

We developed the interview questions which reverted back to our core values and created questions around them to increase the likelihood that we would find individuals who would align with them. The most challenging thing you will face during an interview process that focuses on company culture is not losing the integrity of your values.

You will meet very talented individuals who are skilled but don’t fit into your culture. These people, according to Reed Hastings, the Founder and CEO of Netflix, are referred to as “brilliant jerks.” You must have the courage to say no to individuals who will pay a dividend in the short-term, but long-term will become cancerous to your company culture.

I can report that this process has worked better than I could have ever imagined. We are well on our way to building an organization recognized for their company culture and courageously defending it.

I wanted to share some words from Cristian, one of our bartenders and quite possibly the most genuine human-being I have ever met, describing what he experienced at our job fair and interview. If you’re ever in Toronto, be sure to visit Cristian at the bar and ask him to make a cocktail for you; he’s brilliant!

christian headshot

“My interview process at Baro was carefully tailored to stand in a category of it’s own. In my 10 years of seeing almost every angle and approach to recruitment in the hospitality industry, I was pleasantly surprised and impressed by the process. I was able to engage in conversation with operating partners, management and future co-workers during one of the most intriguing job fairs I’ve been a part of. The in-depth interviews that followed gave me a glimpse of Baro’s vision and goals. The importance of their pursuit to find the best of the best was very clear.”

Here’s a simple reminder that I share with my clients:

If a fisherman wants to catch a particular type of fish they must target the right body of water; recruiting and interviewing is no different.

Employee Onboarding

If your expectations are that your employees will give themselves to your customers then you must be willing to give yourself, as a leader, to them. This is why creating a memorable employee onboarding experience is crucial to setting the tone on the type of experience you want your customers to receive.

I define employee onboarding as:

What your employees see, hear and feel after they have been hired.

Related: Are We Doing Employee Onboarding All Wrong?

At Baro, we follow a 3-step model to welcome our team members to our business:

  • Mentor: each employee is partnered with a mentor for the first 30 days of employment. This mentor is not their manager or anyone in their department.
  • Memorability: we have several ways that are secret to the business that genuinely captures the hearts of our team members on day one of joining us.
  • Training & Development: More on this in a moment but we slaved over building our training and development program and spent a notable amount of time and money to facilitate it. Why wouldn’t we? The livelihood of our business depends on customer loyalty and, to achieve customer loyalty, our team members must be set up for success. For me and my partners, this is a non-negotiable.

Each of these steps are outlined in our Employee Onboarding Playbooks that were designed to document the process and create a straight forward guide for management. After all, your team is only as good as the tools you provide them with.

Training & Development

cx TRAINING

Your customer experience begins and ends with how you train your team and goes hand-in-hand with hiring great people. Exceptional team members, ones who will contribute to the success of your business, expect and deserve highly educational training programs.

At Baro, we separate our training in two parts: customer-centric (i.e. how to identify different personality types etc.) and skill-based (table maintenance etc.). Every employee, regardless of position, must go through customer-centric training to ensure we are creating a system-wide, customer-focused culture. For us, it doesn’t matter whether you’re customer-facing or not, everyone in the business must understand our culture-centric philosophies and beliefs.

When I advise companies on building their employee training programs I often hear:

“Training is expensive.”

Training isn’t expensive. Bad training is expensive!

Our training program is designed to deliver an incomparable, industry-leading customer experience to our guests that will earn customer loyalty; that is how we earn our return on investment.

As entrepreneurs and leaders of our businesses, we need to stop cost cutting in the areas that matter the most. Let me ask you this, if you were an employee of your business would you expect exceptional training to do your job remarkably? Of course you would. Why do we approach this any different when we are put in positions of influence?

Spend more on training and development and I guarantee you will build a lasting business with exceptional financial benefits.

The “You’re Never Done” Mindset

At this point, when we opened the doors on December 7th, we had created our culture and many systems to support it.

Our reservation books have been filled for weeks; you literally couldn’t get a table (even me, an owner), without booking well in advance. Recognizing that we were generating hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue each week, we could have rested on our laurels because we were the hottest restaurant in Toronto. However, unless you believe that customer and employee expectations will never change than you don’t ever have to refine your systems; we knew better.

After we opened, we took a couple of days to celebrate with our family and friends – I was actually in Australia keynote speaking for a real estate company on their customer experience during our opening week – but, then we got back to work and started discussing strategies for Q1 of 2017.

You see, you’re never done developing your company culture, customer experience and employee engagement programs. You must always refine them to continuously improve your business. Is it challenging? Of course, but nothing worth having is easy. Some of the things we will do in the future are kept behind closed doors, for now. But, I can tell you firsthand that we, as partners, are 100% committed to our culture, customer and employees.

Conclusion

Whether you’re getting a business started this year or currently operating one that has 100 team members, I highly recommend the strategy I have outlined here. I’ve advised companies as big as Verizon Wireless and as small as a five-person start-up in Los Angeles; regardless of the industry or size of your company, these strategies are proven to work. They have never failed me and they too will work for you.

If you’ve made it this far, thank you for reading. I hope you learned a thing or two. Be sure to leave a comment below if I can answer a questions for you.

To follow my entrepreneurial journey and learn more strategies like these, follow me on social media.

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How Marketing Can Become Customer-Centric in the Auto (or Any) Industry

I believe marketing can improve your company’s customer experience. Keep reading this blog post to learn why I believe this and how to do it.

I’m writing this post while on a plane returning to Toronto from New Orleans (I’ve spent the last three weeks here working with a premium auto manufacturer).

While working with this company I had the pleasure to meet their Dealer Principals (their franchise owners) and General Managers who would be responsible for bringing the brand and beautiful product back to North America.

I was hired to share customer experience and company culture strategies (the title of my engagement was How to Deliver an Experience Your Customers Have Never Seen Before) and I spent a considerable amount of time learning from these professionals. I was just as eager to learn from them to help my businesses as much as, I hope, they were eager to learn from me.

One thing I began to think about was how the industry (or any industry) markets their products and services. These thoughts came to me after someone in the audience asked me about marketing while in the hotel lobby bar,

“Do you have any marketing tips?”

Not being short on thoughts I shared three tactics that I would use to sell more product, generate greater brand awareness and earn customer loyalty.

Educational Marketing

Too often consumers are inundated with marketing messages that are crafted in a way that shouts, “Look at us!” that doesn’t convert as well as it may have use it (not to mention it’s very difficult to track the ROI of traditional media). While traditional methods of advertising still builds brand or product awareness it doesn’t provide value to the audience.

What provides value is content that shares education to current or prospective customers. By simply doing some keyword searches using Google’s Keyword Planner, a tool that tells you how many people are searching specific keywords or phrases every month, I could create high value education.

For example, I would be more inclined to click on a Facebook ad (one that was sponsored by the auto manufacturer or local car dealership and targeted to the right audience) that promoted a blog post titled,

“How to Fix a Flat Tire.”

flat tire

You will notice in the search results that between 1k-10k people go to Google and search the phrase “how to fix a flat tire” with a low competition, meaning that not many other people have created ads or content around this phrase. By doing a small amount of research, you can target exactly what your current or prospective customers are researching and build content to serve them.

I believe that if you educate your customers on your industry it will make them smarter and provide a better customer experience. Not to mention, they won’t forget it which creates a stronger relationship.

I may not remember your ad on page 57 of that magazine I quickly skimmed but I will absolutely remember that blog post that prevented me from looking like a jerk when I was roadside with my girlfriend and a flat tire.

Tutorial Videos

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Video. Video. Video.

Sometimes I like to read and other times I prefer to pull out my phone and watch videos. It really depends on my mood. If brands are able to recognize this it will put them in an advantageous position because we can’t market to a single denominator. Our marketing mix must scale a variety of different platforms to serve our audiences in the way they want to receive your message.

Let’s say I was a customer of a premium brand like Ferrari or Alfa Romeo or Maserati, would I click through to the ad that taught me how to fix a flat tire? Probably not. However, would I click through to an ad titled,

“The Best Shirt to Wear to Match Your Red Ferrari”?

Absolutely!

If I paid $250,000 for a car of course I would want to exhaust all opportunities to look my best in it. The brand or dealership could form a partnership with Hermes or Gucci and have one of their Product Specialists film a short video with the dealerships Product Advisor talking about the different colours that match the car.

Now this post wouldn’t be shared on a social network because, after all, how many people on Facebook (or other social platforms) would care about that topic? Probably not many. However, you could pull your customer list and segment them by the colour of the Ferrari they bought and send them a video tailored specifically to them i.e. The Best shirt to Wear to Match Your Black Ferrari etc.

Customer Testimonial Videos

Yes, video again. After all, YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world (this stuff matters…A LOT!).

When I buy something, especially something in the premium market, I need evidence that the product is what it is…but I don’t want to only hear it from you.

Customer testimonials (actual customers, not actors) can make a great short video that you can share on your website, social media and send by email to customers who are in your sales pipeline. This video can and will act as a sales tool.

Here are 11 examples of powerful customer testimonial videos from different industries that these companies used to increase sales and customer loyalty.

If you’ve delivered a story-worthy customer experience and your product is world-class then your customers will be willing to help your business.

The other day I bought a pair of Adidas Ultraboost. If Adidas asked me to be a part of their customer testimonial video I would emphatically say yes. Not only because I love the product and am a brand advocate but also because it’s flattering to be invited by a recognizable brand – I believe your customers will feel the same way too.

Marello-Webinar-Testimonial

Conclusion

Another reason why these three marketing tactics work is because, not only does it enrich in the lives of your customers and help you sell, it’s very cost-friendly.

Traditional advertising isn’t going anywhere. In fact, it still works on me (I noticed an Alfa Romeo sponsored ad while watching NCAA basketball). As Gary Vaynerchuk, someone I greatly admire, says,

“Market in the year that you live in.”

What he means is that if eye balls and attention are on social channels like Facebook and YouTube and reading a book isn’t as common (my opinion only) as reading blog posts then we must pay attention to the shift in attention

My 3 Favourite Customer Service Stories (and What Your Business Can Learn From Them)

Companies, across many different industries and sizes, all have marketing budgets. Most of these businesses allocate a considerable amount of their budget to traditional marketing efforts and, as of recently, have been investing in digital strategies.

But what about investing in customer service stories? Or, as some may refer to it as, storytelling marketing. You may have heard the saying,

“Customer service is the new marketing.”

In many respects, it is. After all, word-of-mouth marketing has the word “marketing” in it. But let’s take a moment to think about why people passionately refer or market your service or product.

Is it because your company has been in business since 1945? No.

Is it because your website has a perfect hue of blue? No.

Is it because you have the lowest price? Maybe. For me, though, playing the “cheapest price in town” card isn’t a sustainable strategy.

The primary reason that people will refer your service or product, and why the media will cover your company, is because you have a story to tell. Memorable customer service stories are much more attractive to readers of publications like Forbes, Inc, Fast Company and The Huffington Post compared to paid media.

These three stories from Warby Parker, Lego and Ritz Carlton are my favourite customer service stories. I encourage you to read the stories and consider the key takeaways, as there are lessons that you can apply within your business, regardless of your industry, budget or company size.

Marello-Webinar-Testimonial

Lego

The Customer Service Story: Luka’s dad cautioned him against bringing his Christmas present with him while shopping. Sure enough, the toy falls out of his pocket and is lost.

Luka decides to write Lego a letter explaining the situation:

o-LOST-LEGO-REPLY-570

Pretty great story, right?

I have long said that customer experience can be a reliable source of organic revenue and branding through word-of-mouth marketing, customer loyalty and free PR. This Lego story is a perfect example.

The Takeaway For Your Business: Build a company culture that recruits, hires and motivates team members to manage opportunities (like this customer retention opportunity), similar to what Richard has done for Lego.

Too often, companies would simply think,

“Tough luck, kid.”

It’s clear that Lego has built a customer-centric company culture that is committed to making stories like these a reality.

warby

The Customer Service Story: In one of their retail locations, a Warby Parker customer named Tess arrived to pick up her newly-ordered frames. An alert team member, recognizing that Tess wasn’t having a good day, chatted with her and learned that her car had been stolen earlier. The team member also learned about Tess’ favourite local bar during their conversation.

This is what Tess received in the mail shortly after leaving the store.

warby car

Again, similar to the Lego customer service story, this all came together because of an alert employee, but also consider something else…

The Takeaway For Your Business: For nearly a decade, I’ve said that building a world-class customer experience requires you to first design your employee engagement strategy. I don’t know for sure, but I’d imagine that Warby Parker has an operating budget that allows situations like this to happen. Furthermore, their employees most likely don’t have to build a ROI case to be able to have a small budget approved to make these organic customer interactions happen.

Can your company afford to allocate a budget for these types of gestures? Of course you can. After all, consider the ROI of this gesture. This story was picked up by Business Insider, Huffington Post, Consumerist and Reddit, websites that all receive millions and millions of page views.

This is why customer experience can be considered the new marketing and PR.

Michael Schneider inline

RitzCarlton.svg

The Customer Service Story: A waiter at a restaurant at the Ritz Carlton in Dubai overheard a guest admiring the beach with his wife, who was in a wheelchair. Recognizing that the couple wasn’t able to enjoy the beach, he connected with the hotel’s maintenance team, and by the next day a wooden ramp was built so the couple could have dinner together on the beach.

The Takeaway For Your Business: In this particular story, the General Manager wasn’t made aware of the above-and-beyond customer experience until after the ramp was complete. Often, most business owners and professionals will want to approve such gestures. However, at Ritz Carlton, all employees have the green light to do so.

Conclusion

If your greatest concern is that you’re worried what your employees will do… well, then you have a much greater problem: you don’t trust your team.

All of these customer service stories have common themes:

  • All companies have reserved an operating budget to deliver memorable customer service gestures
  • All companies have given their employees autonomy
  • All companies have received free PR because of their efforts. Surely, your business can afford $20 (the amount I estimate that Warby Parker spent) to potentially land a story in Business Insider
  • All companies are admired because of their customer experience
  • All companies are industry leaders
  • All companies are massively successful

I want to hear your favourite customer service stories in the comment section below. What companies have delivered memorable customer service and what have you learned from them?