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!

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“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

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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.

Click to follow: YouTube | Facebook | Twitter | Linkedin | Instagram

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.”

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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

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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?

Peer Cross Training: What Is It And How Will It Improve Your Customer Experience and Employee Engagement?

Does the thought of aligning your entire company, improving your customer experience and increasing employee engagement interest you?

If so, this post is for you – I want to introduce you to peer cross-training as a way to improve alignment, customer experience and employee engagement in the next 30 days.

In this post I will outline what peer cross-training is, explain the benefits and provide you with a step-by-step guide on how to host it for your company.

Receive a 7-Step Peer Cross-Training infographic to visualize the process and share with your team. Click here to get it delivered to your inbox.

But first, I want to share a few statistics on employee training and engagement that shows the positive ROI that organizations can experience when they take these concerns seriously:

  • 40% of employees who receive poor job training leave their position within the first year. – Go2HR
  • Companies with engaged employees outperform those without by 202%. – Gallup
  • 69% of employees report engagement is a problem in their organization. – Psychometrics

What is peer cross-training?

Peer cross-training is the practice of having one representative from each department host a presentation to their neighbouring departments. During these presentations the representative describes a day in the life of their team, as well as provides detailed descriptions of their motivations, challenges, measures of success/KPIs and goals.

Imagine you were to ask your marketing department:

“Can you describe what our call center agents do?” 

Would they have a detailed answer, one that adequately describes the ebbs and flows of a typical day in the department? Would they even be able to recite the service-level agreements or workforce management protocols of the call center? Or would they simply reply with:

“They answer calls from new and existing customers.”

You see, often our teams have a general idea of what their colleagues experience, but seldom do they have an in-depth understanding of what their neighbouring departments do to help customers and achieve their goals.

As a consultant, advisor and keynote speaker, my career is built on helping companies improve their customer experience and increase employee engagement. It was nearly a decade ago that I recognized that no company will ever reach their maximum potential in creating a world-class customer experience if their organization isn’t truly aligned.

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Why peer cross-training?

By appointing one member from each department (or more if you’re a large company) and asking them to build and host a presentation describing their department’s motivations and challenges, your company will experience the following benefits:

  • Employee engagement: It’s likely that your team has never hosted such an event before in their career and, if you’re hiring the right people, they will jump at the opportunity to describe what their department does to their neighbouring departments. Peer cross-training provides your team the ability to share how their department contributes to the overall success of the company.
  • Organization alignment: After hosting the workshops, each member of your company will walk away with an in-depth understanding of each department and clearly understand the end-to-end customer experience. How can you possibly achieve alignment if your departments don’t know what each other do?
  • Peer empathy: You will experience an increase in empathy after hosting peer cross-training. You will often here employees say, “I had no idea that’s what your monthly sales goals are!” or, “Oh, that’s why you need three days to complete that task.” This greater understanding only stands to benefit your employees’ intra-organizational relationships.
  • New initiatives: Sometimes asking someone who has an unbiased, unemotional opinion will lead to new, cutting-edge initiatives. Often we can become so entrenched in our day-to-day professional lives that we neglect to identify new opportunities to improve. Neighbouring departments, once they are exposed to every facet of what your team does, may be able to offer great ideas that your department can adopt.
  • Better customer experience: Your customers won’t truly experience a seamless customer experience until your company is aligned. By hosting peer cross-training, you will be one step closer to creating a fluid and frictionless customer experience for your customers.

FREE infographic that outlines the 7-Step Peer Cross-Training process. Receive it instantly by clicking here.

How to host peer cross-training?

I want to provide you with a step-by-step guide so that you can host peer cross-training for your company.

Step 1: Set goals for the initiative

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How will you measure success?

When creating an initiative for your company, always outline the goals before you start building to ensure your team understands what success looks like. Your goals when hosting peer cross-training may include the following:

– Have attendees walk away with a deep understanding of other departments’ operations and customer experience. This can be measured by sending a short survey after the training sessions have been hosted.

– Improve your team’s presentation skills. The person or small team that hosts the presentations will walk away from the workshops with a newfound or improved skill set for presentations.

– Build and deploy a high-impact, medium-effort initiative within the next 30 days.

Before you go into ‘solution mode’ you must first outline the goals for your initiative.

Step 2: Outline follow-up plan

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Like any initiative, you want to create a follow-up plan that will ensure the program is successful long after deployment, and in such a way that it builds off the momentum you have created. After you have hosted the workshops, I recommend that you do the following:

– Create awareness for the fact that the individuals who hosted the workshops are now the main point of contact for other departments when they have questions or commentary for the respective department

– Form an advisory council. In an earlier post I outlined how to create a Customer Advisory Board (CAB). The people who hosted the presentations will be each department’s representatives within this advisory board. This team should meet regularly; I recommend that they meet weekly or bi-weekly.

– Produce quarterly department reports, company-wide, that share each department’s initiatives and goals. By doing so, your entire company will be able to receive a snapshot of each department.

Following these three steps will increase the likelihood that the program is successful long after you host the initial peer cross-training sessions.

Step 3: Outline the education you want attendees to walk away with

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What type of knowledge from each department do you want your company to walk away with? Before you begin hosting your peer cross-training workshops you must outline exactly what you want your company to learn.

For example, you may want your entire organization to understand:
– What your sales team’s targets are
– What your service-level agreements are for your call center
– How your marketing team measures success for the content they produce

It’s highly recommended that you understand how each department contributes to the top and bottom line and communicate these metrics. Whatever is measured should be shared during peer cross-training.

Step 4: Select your single point of accountability (SPA)

 SPA 2

Who will be each department’s representative during cross-training? There are two ways to determine this. Please note that I’m not partial to either way; the choice really depends on how your company prefers to move forward with Step 4.

– Your leadership team can identify an individual from each department who would be a great fit to represent their team and offer this individual the opportunity. This person should exemplify leadership qualities and a strong desire to grow within the company. Often this person is someone that management is grooming for a leadership role or future promotion.

– You may follow a democratic approach by presenting the opportunity to each department and allow individuals to volunteer their services. After you have selected the SPA, be prepared to explain your decision to the individuals who were not selected. To ensure that your decision doesn’t negatively impact anyone’s morale, invite these individuals to help the SPA build their presentation and offer feedback.

When determining your SPA, it’s advised that the chosen person has the experience and tenure to effectively represent their department and that they feel comfortable presenting to their peers.

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Step 5: Build presentations

presentations

Your SPAs will need time to build their presentations. Don’t ask them to do this on their own time. Instead, reserve a day to allow the peer cross-training team to get together and work in coordination to build their presentations.

I’ve hosted peer cross-training sessions with companies on-site, at their office, and even off-site at a hotel conference room. Later this year I will be hosting a peer cross-training session with a company that has rented out an entire home through Airbnb, which will host the team for the duration of the session.

The following content should be included within each presentation:

  • Department overview: What does the department do? What does a day in the life look like? How does the department measure success (i.e. KPIs, etc.)?
  • Customer success: How does the customer define success? What does the department do to achieve this success?
  • Barriers to success: What barriers does the department face in delivering a world-class experience? How does the department avoid or overcome these barriers?
  • Department collaboration: What departments do they regularly interact with? What’s the dynamic of these relationships?
  • Q&A: Reserve time for the SPA to answer any questions the audience may have.

Ensure that your SPAs are very specific. For example, you want them to communicate specific service-level agreements and key performance indicators in their presentation.

Step 6: Host presentations

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Now that all the preparatory work has been completed, it’s time to have your SPAs host their presentations! There isn’t a one-size-fits-all for scheduling presentations because each company has a different bandwidth.

For small and medium-sized companies, I recommend that the audience size for each presentation does not exceed 24 people. Presentations may be held over a few days, or longer, but don’t allow it to exceed two weeks as you may lose momentum.

For large-sized companies, it will be virtually impossible to schedule presentations due to the sheer number of people involved. In lieu of in-person presentations, consider having the SPA record videos that outline their presentation, which can then be shared system-wide.

Step 7: Debrief with team

Image of smart business people looking at their leader while he explaining something on whiteboard during seminar

As you would with any initiative or new program, you will want to debrief with your peer cross-training team after presentations have occurred. During your debrief period, it is the leadership team’s responsibility to understand the following:

  • What did the peer cross-training team enjoy about presenting to their peers?
  • Do they believe that the training material resonated with the audience?
  • Allow them to provide feedback on the process and approach that was designed to host the peer training program

You may also consider surveying the audience to understand the effectiveness of the program. I recommend using survey tools like TINYpulse or Survey Gizmo (both have free options).

Regardless of your company’s size or industry, peer cross-training is a high-value, medium-effort initiative that can align your company, improve your customer experience and increase employee engagement. The positive results you will achieve when hosting peer cross-training far exceeds the cost of resources that the initiative requires.

Last chance. Receive a 7-Step Peer Cross-Training infographic to get started today. Delivered, for free, to your inbox instantly. Click here.

VIDEO: What is Customer Experience?

If you were to walk around your workplace tomorrow and ask five employees,

“What is customer experience?”

What would happen? Would you:

a) Receive five identical answers

b) Listen to a debate amongst your team without an aligned response

c) Have your employees staring at you blankly

It might sound elementary but you would be surprised how many companies don’t know what customer experience actually is. If that’s the case, how are they suppose to create a world-class customer experience?

In this 3 minute episode you will learn:

  • A Gartner study statistic that predicts customer experience innovation
  • My personal customer experience definition
  • A real-world example of customer experience that we can all relate to

Be sure to watch until the end of the episode as I ask my “Question of the Episode.” If you like the video, I would greatly appreciate if you did the following (it will only take you a moment):

  • Subscribe to my YouTube channel. There are many more videos coming very soon
  • Comment on the video. Let me know your thoughts, comments and questions.
  • “Like” the video by clicking the thumbs up icon

Marello-Webinar-Testimonial

How Any Company Can Increase Employee Engagement to Drive Big Results with Their Customers

*This post originally appeared on Theartof.com*

How does your company acquire customers?

Sales, marketing, and business development teams are provided with the internal resources needed to succeed. Companies use traditional methods, such as radio, television, and print advertising, to increase their chances of converting new customers.

But none of the aforementioned tactics are where the greatest opportunity lies. To grow our businesses, we must look internally before we try to expand externally.

As a management consultant and keynote speaker, I’m trusted by companies of all sizes to look into their strategies and find new opportunities. Whether it’s a small business, or a billion-dollar brand with international recognition, the story is often the same: they want to grow their business or increase their profitability.

After looking at their yearly plans, I tend to see the same thing – traditional programs are given a lion’s share of the company’s operating budget, which produce good results that achieve quarter-over-quarter success. However, living quarter-over-quarter isn’t an advantageous position; the greatest companies in the world build programs to secure their livelihood for the next ten years, not the next ten weeks.

When I work with a company that is trying to grow their business, I NEVER start with customer acquisition or loyalty strategies. Instead, I respectfully challenge the company to build a stronger relationship with their employees before trying to influence something that is external to their business.

But how can companies of all sizes achieve this? There are three essential ways for any company to increase employee engagement.

Efficiently survey your employees

The world’s greatest athletes ask for feedback from their coaches and mentors to better themselves and make necessary adjustments. The same approach can be taken with your employees with great results. Despite the importance of asking employees for feedback, a lot of companies don’t actually gather it. A company called Critical Metrics found that around 90% of companies believe that gathering feedback from employees is important, yet only 30% have the processes in place to actually gather this feedback.

I highly recommend surveying employees to understand what makes them tick (and what ticks them off), so that you can embrace their feedback to drive change in your organization. The word ‘survey’ can have a negative connotation for some; we picture a long, outdated, and inefficient survey that takes employees forever to complete. In this day and age you can’t survey employees like this if you want to truly understand their motivations and challenges.

Whoever is responsible for gathering the feedback must take the next steps, which include:

  • Finding trends within the data and deciding what you are going to do with it
  • Quickly delivering the results back to the entire organization, with full transparency. Don’t let this data live within the C-Suite or management team
  • Surveying employees more than once a year. You must keep your finger on the pulse of your employee culture at all times.

Create meaning over delivering money

While it would be naive to assume that employees don’t want a competitive salary or monetary incentives, if you’re hiring correctly your employees will sacrifice a higher salary for a meaningful relationship with their company or boss. The idea that employee engagement is determined by financial incentives has long been disproven. A 2012 Aon Hewitt study, for example, found that the top engagement drivers for employees are career opportunities, recognition, and organization reputation.

When I got my start at 1-800-GOT-JUNK? I worked within the call centre. I was earning a fair wage, but nothing worth glamourizing. Why did I enjoy my time with the company? For me, I really liked the culture of the company and the opportunities for growth.

Companies allocate incentive budgets and bonus programs for their sales teams to achieve greater results, which has been proven to work, but these incentives don’t tend to resonate with employees for very long. Why? The incentive they receive, be it cash, iPads, or vacations, can be spent very quickly, which erases the memory of their achievement. To genuinely create stronger relationships with our employees, and achieve greater business results, we must pull at their heart strings and make them emotional.

Whether you are the CEO, a sales manager, or customer service team lead, I recommend “hacking” your leadership style to find cost-effective ways to inspire your team. My recommended strategy is to block off 30 minutes a week on your calendar and set it as a recurring, non-negotiable meeting. For example, you may choose every Tuesday from 11:30am to 12:00pm. During this time you only have one responsibility: to identify someone on your team (or within another department) and acknowledge them for a personal achievement or for helping you achieve an outcome. This conversation can be done over coffee or lunch, sticking with the theme of being cost-effective. While hosting this conversation, there are a few rules that you should apply to make it a success for both parties:

  • Keep the “business talk” to a limit
  • Get to know them as an individual and not as an employee
  • Using Simon Sinek as inspiration, understand their “why”
  • Close the loop. Ask them outright, “Can I help you?” and deliver on any promises you make

If you hire correctly, this is what will inspire your salespeople to sell more, your PR professionals to pitch more effectively, your developers to code more efficiently, or your customer service staff to deliver better service.

Michael Schneider inline

Understand that employee relationships are a long-term investment

Similar to our personal relationships, building memorable relationships with our employees takes time, but will ultimately create greater business results. After all, lifelong relationships with our friends or family aren’t cemented by successfully dropping someone off at the airport one time or helping them move. Rather, it takes many instances of goodwill to build strong relationships.

Too many organizations believe employee engagement is a campaign. For it to be truly successful it must be part of the DNA of the business. In addition, it takes a champion within the organization to advocate for the strategy and rally the organization by continuously talking about the subject, not just creating an initiative that happens once.

When thinking about how your company is going to sell more, market better, or deliver better service, consider what’s happening inside your organization before you look externally. It’s not a coincidence that companies like Airbnb, Starbucks, or ZenPayroll are achieving massive success. They are successful because they hold their employee engagement in high regard, becoming admired brands in the process.

Leave a comment below. Do you think these three tactics are achievable for all companies?

If you liked this post and learned a thing or two, I guarantee you will love my FREE ebook. Download it by filling out the form below.

5 Things Your Customer Experience Strategy Needs to be Successful

If you want your customers to truly become loyal to your service or product then your customer experience needs a strategy.

This blueprint needs the same methodical thought and processes that goes into a marketing or sales strategy.

It’s common for me to open my keynote speaking engagements by asking the audience two questions, so I can gain context around where they are at in their customer experience development plans. The first question is:

“Please raise your hand if you have created a marketing plan in your career to attract new customers.”

It’s typical for at least 75% of the room to raise their hands proudly.

The second question is as follows:

“Now, raise your hand if you have ever created a customer experience plan to acquire and retain new customers.”

I would estimate that only 2 to 5% of my audience has ever raised their hand.

You see, we are beginning to understand that customer experience must be a pillar in our business to become successful. What I’m hearing executives say when I work with companies is:

“What do we do next to improve our customer experience?”

Recognizing that this is a common question for many business professionals, from around the world, I hosted a webinar on this very topic on October 6th titled “5 Things Your Customer Experience Strategy Needs to be Successful.” You can download the recording of the webinar by clicking here. With 175 professionals from around the world having registered, I knew that this was a very important topic and needed answers.

Do you want the five steps outlined in a PowerPoint presentation? Click here to sign up and receive my slide deck, free of charge.


 

#1 – An Operational Flag-Bearer

You’ve heard it before: the CEO of the organization must lead the company’s customer experience. Let’s look for some evidence. Richard Branson visibly advocates customer experience at Virgin, Tony Hsieh promotes the experience at Zappos and Howard Schultz proudly defends Starbucks’ efforts.

RELATED VIDEOWhy the Best CEOs Invest in Customer Experience

While these CEOs are often in the media, talking about the company’s customer experience, they usually aren’t doing the work. That is why I included the word “operational” in this point. If an organization is going to have a strategic plan, it needs a leader that will get in the trenches, lead operational teams, and work on the strategy and deployment of the program.

To be successful, this leader needs a customer experience background or a burning desire to learn and lead. When my customer experience career began at 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, I didn’t have a formal background in customer experience. However, I compensated for this lack of formal education by self-educating myself for thousands of hours, learning from other organizations and discovering best practices.

This single point of accountability (SPA) must attend industry events to learn from others and continuously educate themselves. Here is a short list of great customer experience events from around the world. 

  • The IQPC hosts several premium customer experience and customer service events around the world.
  • CXPA is a leading association for customer experience professionals, hosting events for both members and non-members.
  • You may recognize Salesforce for their massive event, Dreamforce, but did you know that they also host events focused on customer service? Check the lists of their events here.
  • Aspect, a leading contact/call centre software provider, host an event titled ACE. While the date and location have yet to be announced, be sure to keep your eyes open for when it is.
  • Frost & Sullivan host contact centre and customer experience events in cities around the world.
  • Clarabridge hosts a yearly event in London called ‘Customer Connections’ that I’ve heard great things about.

Note: I would like to put together an exhaustive list of yearly customer experience events to share with my clients and email subscribers. Please email me (michel@michelfalcon.com) to let me know of your annual event.

RELATED POST – 4 Non-Negotiable Traits of Customer-Focused CEOs 

The CEO doesn’t have to lead, but they do have to believe in the influence customer experience has on the success of a business. Similar to marketing, sales, or business development, customer experience needs an operating budget, and it must be respectful enough to influence positive change. Your operational leader is going to need a budget to hire her team, purchase SaaS software, and cover other operational needs like an employee engagement budget.

#2 – Vision

If I wanted to drive from Vancouver (where I’m based) to Miami, Florida, I could do one of two things:

a) Get in my car and head southeast, hoping I get there in a decent amount of time and without spending too much on gas.

OR

b) I could build a plan before I start my trip and well before I start driving. By doing so, I will get there faster and I’ll be well-rested (because I would have planned what states I would stay overnight in a hotel), all without spending too much on gas.

Ultimately, planning and having a vision for how you’re going to accomplish something helps you actually accomplish the goal rather than flying by the seat of your pants. Building a customer experience strategy is no different – you need a plan!

To build your vision, one that will help you succeed, you must ask yourself the following five questions:

  1. What is your strategy’s definition of success?
  2. How will you measure success?
  3. Who is a part of the customer experience team?
  4. Who will do what by when?
  5. What is the operating budget?

Nearly ten years ago, when I first started my career in customer experience, I selected five companies that had a world-class focus on customer experience and I committed to studying the inner workings of their organizations. I did this because it helped me understand how a company goes from vision to execution. When building your customer experience strategy, I highly recommend selecting three companies and study everything about them: read everything you can online (i.e. research papers, articles, etc.), watch YouTube videos where their CEOs are interviewed, and even go as far as calling them and asking if you can visit their headquarters to ask questions. Even to this day, I still study as much as I did in the early days so I can understand what world-class companies are doing.

Want to learn the three companies I’m studying today? Download my PowerPoint slide deck and go to slide 18 to find out.

#3 – Alignment

Nearly all companies believe they are aligned; after all, admitting that you’re not is not something you want to showcase. Not being aligned will prevent you from having a customer experience that will rival the best. In fact, I believe it’s impossible to have an exceptional customer experience without true alignment.

I was recently working with a bank and one of their executives told me a story that showed him that his team wasn’t aligned. The story goes something like this.

His marketing team created a campaign that, on the surface, was a success. It increased the amount of savings accounts that their target customers opened with his bank by 15%. While the marketing team was literally pouring champagne, the company’s call centre was singing a different tune.

You see, the marketing team neglected to inform the call centre management team that this initiative was being created. The influx of calls, which was generated by the marketing campaign, increased call volume by 30%, which the call centre wasn’t properly staffed for.

(As an aside, call centre workforce management teams don’t receive enough recognition for the important work they do. They are the glue that holds the machine together!)

While the marketing department was celebrating, the call centre and customers, particularly the ones who had to wait for 15 to 30 minutes to get through, were regretting their efforts and misalignment.

You see, these are some of the things that can happen within ANY organization. It may have even happened to you.

To create alignment, the first step I recommend is for your company to host a Customer Journey Mapping (CJM) workshop. If you’re not familiar, a CJM session is where your company comes together (with at least one person representing each department) and collectively map out the entire customer journey. To have you think differently, break the group up into smaller teams and have every group outline each customer touch point. At the end of the session, each group should present their findings. It’s very common that this will be where you find that your team isn’t aligned, as each group outlines a different customer experience.

Note: There are many other steps that go into hosting a CJM workshop, but, for sake of brevity, I’ve highlighted a few key steps.

This session isn’t run to simply show misalignment. Rather, the purpose is to bring awareness to an opportunity that can be resolved as a team. Whether it’s your organization, or a professional sports team, company alignment matters, particularly when it comes to creating a customer experience strategy.

#4 – Measure Through Metrics

I’m a fan of Net Promoter Score (NPS) because I’ve had success with it for years! I understand there are NPS naysayers, but the ones I meet tend to have weak arguments. Do I believe that NPS is the be-all-end-all? Not at all. But I do recommend that it be integrated as part of your customer experience strategy.

RELATED POSTHow to Influence Your Boss to Adopt Net Promoter Score Without Pushback

If you’re motivated to look and feel better, you would workout and eat healthy. To measure success, you may weigh yourself or have a body fat percentage test done.

Customer experience is no different, in that you must measure your success. NPS is a great way to do so. The reasons I recommend my clients use NPS is for the following reasons:

  • It has a low barrier of deployment and doesn’t take too much effort to begin using it within your company.
  • All team members, regardless of business acumen, can understand it.
  • It’s very actionable (when you do it right).
  • It’s easy to find trends (when you categorize verbatim comments properly).

Whether you’re using NPS today or not, I would highly recommend you look into bringing it into your organization to listen to your customers’ needs, wants, and aversions better.

#5 – Invest in Education

My team built Experience Academy, my online customer experience course, for a few reasons. One of them was that we didn’t believe there was premium customer experience education available online for people around the world.

Earlier I told you that I still spend hours, roughly 2 to 4 hours each day, studying and investing in my education, even after I have achieved success.

Why?

Because my biggest concern is that I will become irrelevant to my clients and audience when I speak at an event. I don’t want to be that guy who tells the same old stories and becomes forgettable. I take pride in knowing about the latest software or companies who are customer experience leaders before my competition.

If you want your company’s customer experience strategy to be the best then you must invest in your own education. There are several affordable ways to invest in your education:

  • Read books
  • Attend conferences
  • Join LinkedIn groups and engage on social media
  • Join associations

But, by far, the best resource to invest in your education is online courses. According to Forbes, the online course market hit $57 billion in 2014 – and it’s expected to DOUBLE in 2015. Statistics like these are not why I believe in online courses though. The primary reason why I recommend using online courses to invest in your education is because, if the course is built correctly, then you are able to take action on the education. It’s often more valuable than simply reading a book because, in most cases, the course will allow you to watch videos, download resources, and take end-of-module quizzes to ensure you retained the knowledge.

Extra – Learn How to Properly Survey Your Customers

To create a customer experience strategy that will support the growth of your company and make you an admired brand you absolutely MUST have a well-thought out plan. Without a plan, you simply have a desire; regardless of how badly you want to achieve your goal, it won’t happen unless you take a methodical approach.

On November 3rd, I will be hosting another webinar titled Why Your Customers Aren’t Filling Out Your Survey (and How to Fix That). Click here to register (it’s free)! Be sure to share the link with your colleagues who you believe should attend.

You can download my PowerPoint presentation that outlines all five steps covered in this post so you can share with your colleagues. Click here to sign up.

The Executive’s Playbook: 3 Affordable Ways to Improve Your Company’s Customer Experience

 

Are we asking the right question?

Do you want to know the number one question I’m hearing today from executives, professionals just like you, that want to improve their company’s customer experience?

“Michel, where do we start?!”

Customer experience is a growth strategy. I firmly believe that most of us now understand this. We are now trying to determine the best foot to put forward to bring us closer to creating a customer experience that not only delights our customers, but that also helps us financially.

If a superior customer experience has worked for companies like Starbucks and ZenPayroll Gusto can it also work for your organization? Of course!

[bctt tweet=”Customer experience isn’t agnostic to a specific industry or size of company. It’s for every company!”]

But first we need to reevaluate how we are spending our operating budgets.

I see it every day: companies from around the world claim to be customer-centric, but their operations don’t show it. If they are truly customer-focused then why is their call centre understaffed? Why are customers waiting on-hold for 60 minutes to speak to an employee? Why aren’t their social media channels monitored 24/7 like their phone lines are?

Ready to start learning right away? Learn 28 strategies for improving your company’s customer experience today by reading my free ebook. Download it for free by clicking here.



I believe we would rather invest in traditional marketing before we invest in improving our customer experience for two key reasons.

Marketing is tangible

We can touch print marketing. We can see television ads. We can hear radio campaigns.

Being able to touch, see, or hear our investments provides us with a sense of immediacy and allows us to show our boss that, yes, we did manage to create value out of our operating budget. After all, I don’t disagree with traditional marketing. I still believe it can help your business; I just think there is a time and place for it. That time and place isn’t before improving your customer experience.

If you’ve ever invested in improving your customer experience (for example, by hiring someone to facilitate training for your frontline employees), you know that the ROI isn’t instantaneous. Often, you can’t touch, see, or hear the immediate impact of hiring an exceptional trainer for your team, other than your employees saying that the training was valuable. But, for the executive who is able to think long-term, you know that an investment in the development of people is always a winning bet.

Is it all we know how to do?

This reason is unfortunate. I know of companies that neglect to improve their customer experience because they don’t know where to start.

A recent conversation I had with a Vice President who works for a large, recognizable company humbly said:

“What keeps me up at night is that I don’t have the answers to improve our customer experience.”

He had recently attended a conference and all the rage, at the event, was to invest heavily in social media. While I won’t argue that a social media strategy isn’t important (it’s terribly important), it might not be the greatest priority for his company.

To create a world-class customer experience, we must be willing to let our guard down and admit that we don’t have the answers and need help.

This is why I’m writing this post.

After studying and being a practitioner of customer experience for nearly ten years, I believe I know the first three steps to improve a company’s customer experience.

Before I get to that, let’s review the research my team compiled after surveying 1,000 entrepreneurs and executives from small, medium, and large-sized companies from industries such as manufacturing, retail, hospitality, and professional services. I encourage you to share these statistics with your team.

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We asked these executives five questions.

  1. How do you define customer experience?
  2. How important is a superior customer experience to the success of your company?
  3. Does your organization have a customer experience strategy?
  4. How likely are you to invest to improve your customer experience within the next 12 months?
  5. What would you be more likely to invest in to improve your organization’s customer experience?

The results were both shocking and optimistic.

How do you define customer experience?

cx defined
Only 3% of the executives we surveyed were accurately able to explain what customer experience is, according to our definition. This took us by surprise. How are we supposed to begin to improve something if we don’t know what it is? That’s like an untrained mechanic trying to fix a car when he has no experience.

Our definition of customer experience goes like this:

“Customer experience is the design of the interactions your customers have with you from beginning to end.”

It emcompasses everything. From the moment they recognize they have a need or desire to purchase your service or product, to receiving your customer survey after the purchase has taken place, and everything in between.

How important is a superior customer experience to the success of your company?

CX importance

74% of executives we surveyed said that customer experience was “very important.” After all, whether it’s in your personal or professional life, isn’t taking care of people “very important”?

These responses told us what we already knew: that we tend to understand that customer experience must be a top priority.

Does your organization have a customer experience strategy?

CX strategyOur hearts sunk a little bit after reviewing the data for this question – we may have even cried a little bit.

82% of responded said “no.”

Ouch!

While it hurt to hear this, it did validate what we believed was true. As I mentioned earlier in the post, and our data confirmed, we, as executives, know that customer experience is important. What we don’t know is where to start, which, in turn, leaves us without a strategy.

How likely are you to invest to improve your customer experience within the next 12 months?

CX investmentI was more optimistic after seeing the responses to this question. 78% of executives replied, “very likely”! You see, we know that we need to do so, we just need some guidance along the way. The business world doesn’t need another marketer or salesperson; it desperately needs more customer experience professionals. Together, we will make our businesses stronger. We must be willing to take action and not simply acknowledge this need from the sidelines.

What would you be more likely to invest in to improve your organization’s customer experience?

For this question, I provided respondents with three options:

  1. Train better
  2. Hire effectively
  3. Survey customers efficiently

The results were as follows:

CX improvement

I’ve met some executives that want to run straight to surveying their customers. I would never say that is a bad idea. However, I do believe that there are some other subtle refinements that can be made to improve your customer experience first. Actually, there are three affordable ways to do so.

 

Want to become a customer experience pro? Download my free ebook and learn 28 tangible strategies for improving your company’s customer experience today. Quickly access your free download by clicking here.

 


And now, what you came here for.

Based on my experience with coaching companies of all sizes, across many industries, there are three ways for a company to improve their customer experience (almost instantly).

Michael Schneider inline

Affordable Strategy #1 – Build a Bulletproof Hiring Strategy

Here’s an exercise for you to complete. Locate the hiring template your company uses to host interviews. Take the questions and copy and paste them into Google. After clicking search, if you are able to find the answer to your question, guess what your candidate is doing 24 hours before their interview with you?

We must make the way we hire bulletproof and make it difficult to earn employment with our company. If we are going to trust our employees to deliver a world-class customer experience that will grow our business or department, we must ensure that we are inviting the right candidates into our business, similar to how we meticulously analyze who will attend our wedding or housewarming party.

Stop asking the predictable questions like:

“What are your strengths and weaknesses?” and “Where do you see yourself in five years?”

Instead, consider asking these two questions:

“How would you explain the difference between customer service and customer experience?” and “What is the temperature of the sun?”

To understand why I recommend asking these two questions, email me at michel@michelfalcon.com and I will tell you.

For those who may be asking themselves:

“I want to improve my company’s customer experience, but where do I start?”

The answer is clear: you must start by evaluating the way you are hiring customer-focused employees before you pursue anything else.

Affordable Strategy #2 – Training Isn’t Expensive; Bad Training is Expensive

I charge clients in the five-figures to host training programs. I command a high price because the value of the training I provide exceeds the cost of hiring me.

In 2014, I was hired by an auto group that owns four franchises (Toyota, Lexus, Volkswagen, and Scion) to host customer-focused training for an entire year. What did this make me think?

“This company gets it!”

The company got it right from when they made the decision to have every single employee on their payroll go through the same training. The training wasn’t only reserved for their receptionists or customer service team. We welcomed sales staff, the finance team, technicians, general managers… everyone! They understood what I preach: in order to deliver a seamless customer experience, every department must receive the same education.

[bctt tweet=”Customer experience training isn’t only reserved for customer-facing employees.”]

My first job, if you were to exclude the paper route I had when I was seven years old, was at McDonald’s, which has a fantastic training program. They taught me to be efficient, be friendly, and to make eye contact with customers. While these training tactics are still important today, they can’t be the only thing we teach our employees to do.

Our employees, the people who will speak to more customers in one day than the CEO will in an entire year, must be the most educated people in our business.

Take a moment to review your current training program. What type of material does it include? If it doesn’t include the following two pieces of content, then you have an opportunity to improve.

  • What is organic growth?

Organic growth is defined as the revenue that a company earns through referrals and repeat purchases from existing customers. Ask any CFO about the importance of organic growth to the bottom line. She will tell you that organic growth is vitally important to the success of the business because the cost of acquiring these customers is low, if anything at all. You see, if a customer returns or refers a friend or family member to your business, you didn’t have to spend any money on traditional or digital marketing to acquire that new, highly profitable customer.

Organic growth is powered by customer experience. Sure, your product might be fantastic, but if your customer experience is subpar then the success of your business will be in jeopardy. Imagine if Apple had the same great products but was supported by poorly trained Apple Geniuses in their stores. They might not be the most valuable company in the world, as they are now. It’s the Apple Geniuses that provide that memorable customer experience.

Your employees must understand that it’s their efforts that contribute to the success of the bottom line through organic growth.

  • The Three Customer Personality Types

You know that your employees can’t deliver the same type of customer service to every customer, right?

Some customers react differently to certain conversations, while others have different definitions of a successful customer experience. You’ve probably overheard a conversation that one of your employees was having with a customer. He may have said:

“Hi, terrific weather we’re having, don’t you think?” and the customer abruptly said, “Yes,” and didn’t engage further.

If this same question was asked to another customer, one who is willingly converse with employees in off-topic conversation, then perhaps that conversation may have been more successful and meaningful.

The three customer personality types are:

  1. The Director – this customer has shorter conversations, is direct with their desires, won’t willingly engage in off-topic conversations, and appreciates efficiency.
  2. The Socializer – this customer loves engaging in off-topic conversations, can be easier to build rapport with, and appreciates employees who will take the time to ask them about their day before conducting business.
  3. The Passive – this customer may seem guarded, unwilling to divulge much information about their motivations in doing business with you, and seem unenthusiastic. But, keep in mind, that this personality type may be doing this as a way to not be sold to.

Review your training program today and see if you can implement these tactics to improve your training program tomorrow!

Affordable Strategy #3 – Does Your Employee Engagement Strategy Create Meaning?

If you’re hiring correctly, and getting the right people into your organization, then they don’t always want to be recognized through money or electronics, like free TVs or iPads.

Don’t get me wrong, your employees do need money to secure their livelihoods, but if they are focused on growing within your company then they will sacrifice a small wage increase to have a stronger relationship with the organization.

Some of the best ways to keep your employees engaged and have them continuously delivering a memorable customer experience doesn’t involve money or incentives. As a practitioner, someone who takes what he knows and applies it, I have found that the following two strategies work exceptionally well.

  • Lunch & Learns

Your employees want to learn. Some of them may want to grow a business of their own one day, while others may want to rise through the ranks of your organization. Whatever their motivation is, help expedite their growth by providing them with education. Lunch & Learns are monthly, 60 to 90 minute workshops hosted by the organization around specific topics. For example, the Lunch & Learn in September may be focused on digital marketing, hosted by a marketing manager within your company. The following month, your finance team may host a workshop on how to read financial statements.

Not everyone is going to volunteer their time to attend Lunch & Learns, but that’s not the goal. Pay specific attention to the ones who do reserve their time and attend because they are your rising stars. These individuals will be the ones who may replace you as the next leaders.

  • 30 Minute Recognition Sessions

Every executive should reserve 30 minutes a week on their calendar as recurring meetings that don’t get cancelled. During this time your only responsibility is to find an employee, in your department or a neighbouring department, and thank them for their service to the company.

The reason that you are recognizing them could be for a number of reasons:

  • An outstanding accomplishment (i.e. delivering amazing customer service or setting a sales record)
  • Helping your department with a special project
  • A work anniversary

During this 30 minutes, take the employee out for coffee or lunch (keeping with the theme of affordability), but limit the amount of ‘business talk’ that takes place. Of course, you want to outline why you have invited them for lunch, but then turn the conversation over to them. Get to know them an individuals, not as an employee. Ask them questions about their passions outside of work and what their hobbies are. You will find that the employee will willingly share information with you once you begin talking about what makes them excited.

At the end of the conversation, ask this:

“What can I do to help you grow within the company?”

Record what they respond with and deliver on it!

I want to hear from you…

We know that customer experience is important. It’s not going to become unimportant… ever! Part of the reason why we don’t know what to do next to improve our company’s customer experience is because business school never taught us how to develop customer experience management strategies.

Knowing this, my team and I set out to build an online course we called Experience Academy. We didn’t feel that the business world has been given the opportunity to learn the strategies that go into building a world-class customer experience, so we built a six module online certification course. You can learn your first eight lessons, for free, by clicking here.

I believe this post has given you some things to think about and look into (i.e. hiring, training, employee recognition).

Do you agree with my three suggested strategies?

Is there a better way?

Have I missed something?

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Let me know in the comments below.

Don’t forget! You can also download my FREE ebook, “28 Actionable Strategies to Grow Any Company Through Customer Experience,” to learn other unique tips to improve your company’s customer experience.