Why You Can’t Convince Your CEO to Focus on Your Customers

Have you ever had to convince your CEO or department leader of the importance of customer experience?

How about having to justify the investment in designing, developing, and deploying your company’s customer experience?

If you have said “yes” to either of these questions, I have some good news! But I also have a bit of bad news.

Good News

The good news is that your skillset, as a customer experience management pro, is in short supply. The business world doesn’t need more marketers or PR people. We desperately need more people, like you, who know how to audit and improve an organization’s customer experience to increase customer loyalty and retention (among other things).

My clients, and the professionals I speak to, are all beginning to recruit for Customer Experience Managers, all the way up to the Chief Customer Officer (CCO). These individuals will be given the resources they need, just like Marketing and PR receive, to contribute to the success of the business. This isn’t me looking through rose-tinted glasses. The forward-thinking organizations, who are making the connection between customer experience and growth before it’s too late, are the ones recruiting for these positions.

Just last week, I was in Philadelphia keynoting an executive conference (watch full keynote here), when someone in the audience asked me during Q&A,

“My company is hiring for a Customer Experience Manager right now. Where do we find this person?”

I first asked him how it’s been going so far. He responded with,

“Not well.”

You see, if you need to hire a salesperson, there is an abundance of those and we know where to find them.

Customer Experience professionals are unicorns. We’ve heard of them, but where do we find them? Do they even exist? This post wasn’t reserved to teach you where to find a Customer Experience Manager or CCO. But, if you want to know, email me directly and I will tell you.

If you’ve built a career in customer experience management, or aspire to, then you will be highly coveted by companies of all sizes and industries very soon.

Bad News

And now for the bad news. Your CEO probably isn’t customer-centric. If so, your motivation and efforts will likely go unnoticed or without regard.

You might be thinking,

“But, Michel, I will convince her…”

My response to you, every time, will be,

“It’s going to be very difficult.”

I’m not a pessimist.

I have been there before and it’s nearly impossible. You see, you’re not trying to convince; you are asking them to fundamentally change the way they view business. Your CEO or department head may have been operating a certain way for 10, 20, or even 30 years. Do you really think your 30 minute “pitch” is going to erase their memory of what makes sense to themselves? It’s similar to how you can’t teach a jerk to genuinely be nice and compassionate.

As an employee, I had to convince, beg, and plead. Remember, I’ve been in your shoes before – fighting for what’s right for the customer. While I did gain some traction and momentum, the investment in helping the organization become more customer-centric paled in comparison to what marketing, PR, and business development received. But, have faith that this is going to change. I’m not suggesting that all marketing budgets are going to go to customer experience-related initiatives; that would be silly to think that. What will happen is that marketers are going to go from a “spray and pray” mentality to a “give and nurture” mentality, which will ultimately improve the customer experience. They are going to need you, the customer experience leader, to make this happen because marketers are just beginning to understand customer experience. Someone who I believe understands the intersection between marketing and customer experience is Augie Ray.

As a consultant, I meet with companies all the time that want to become more customer-focused – both small and large companies, across many different industries. I’m happy to report that the majority of the people I meet “get it” and I don’t need to do any convincing. For me, it’s all about helping them understand how to design, develop, and deploy strategies to improve their customer experience. You will get there too.

The CEO Conundrum 

Why is it that some CEOs won’t become customer-centric? Or, even worse, why will they say they are when truly, deep down, they aren’t? Well, let me add on to what I have already mentioned.

I believe most CEOs prefer to be ego-centric rather than customer-centric. Let’s admit it: we all have an ego that either fills a void in ourselves or drives us to inflate our personal brand. I do it. You do it. We ALL do it in one form or another.

Let’s take two real-life examples and examine them together.

Example #1 – The Ego-Centric CEO

Your company is pitched by a media company that promises to secure them coverage in all the top newspapers in your country. Each profile will include a headshot of the CEO, a story about recent news, and it will be distributed to millions of people.

Your high school sweetheart is going to see it. Your best friend is going to see it. Your former boss, who fired you, is going to see it. Everyone is going to see how successful you’ve become. The enthusiasm and excitement of this gets us swept off our feet and we quickly secure the $100,000 investment with the media company. Plus, it’s something tangible – something we can touch and see, which makes us feel nice. It’s something that we can mount on our wall after it’s been published, so that all of our office visitors can see it. Once again, we want to show off how successful we are.

Please understand this: I believe in all sorts of marketing – both traditional and digital. What I don’t agree with is spending countless amounts of resources trying to inflate our brands and acquire customers when our customer experience has been neglected, and we don’t have the resources required to retain those same customers we may have acquired through marketing strategies.

I’m going to be optimistic and assume that your marketing strategy went off without a hitch. Now comes the time to calculate the ROI. After your campaign, you saw an increase in revenue. Fantastic! But how can we definitively know that it’s because of our media efforts that our revenue spiked? Our frontline employees and salespeople aren’t even asking your customers,

“How did you hear about us?”

It amazes me how many companies aren’t asking this question to understand where they are acquiring their customers from – both offline and online. Can we be so sure that this spike in revenue can’t be attributed to other initiatives that we created last quarter?

This CEO understands marketing, he has been doing it for decades with results, but he doesn’t understand customer experience. I mean, he knows what it means, and he might even understand the value, but like many others he doesn’t understand how to design, develop, and deploy strategies. He might not even know where to start. After all, business school didn’t teach him.

Example #2 – The Customer-Centric CEO

This CEO keeps her ear to the street, and I don’t mean that she’s aware of that Lil’ Wayne track that just leaked. I mean that she regularly speaks to her customers and employees and understands their motivations and challenges. The CEO of Tangerine Bank, Peter Aceto, is a master black belt at doing this, which is why he’s admired.

Through conversation with her employees, this CEO recognizes that her customers aren’t happy. She “y-jacks” (listens to live calls) and hears, verbatim, what her customers are saying about their aversions to doing business with her company. She says to herself,

“Holy crap! We aren’t as good as we think we are.”

With this motivation, she speaks with her executive team to understand why this is happening. They conclude,

“Team, we have a customer retention problem. For all these years we have been focused on customer acquisition, and don’t have the resources to actually serve our customers after they have purchased.”

One solution to this problem is to build a formal Complaint Resolution System that will resolve all customer complaints within one business day. The outcome of such a system will be an increase in customer retention.

Now this is where most CEOs will stop their investment or decide to “put it off for a while.” You see, I can’t promise you when your financial ROI will come to surface. It might come in the same quarter. It might take 6 months. It might even take a year.

Don’t you plan on being in business for the next twelve months? Why not make the investment now? Personally, as a consumer, aren’t you loyal to companies who resolve all complaints within one business day? Don’t you become increasingly frustrated with companies that neglect their customers.

Let’s say the same amount of $100,000 is invested to build or buy software to increase customer retention and have all complaints resolved within one business day. Your frontline employees are also given world-class training to ensure they know how to effectively speak to customers. As I’ve said before,

“Your frontline employees must be the smartest people in the room. We must put others before ourselves if we truly want to become successful.”

For the ego-centric CEO, this isn’t a glamorous investment. It’s not tangible. It’s not sexy.

But, believe me, this will grow your business for the next 100 years far better than any media campaign ever will.

[bctt tweet=”A 5% increase in customer retention can equate to a 75% increase in profits – Bain & Co. @michelfalcon”]

Last year, I wrote a post about 4 Non-Negotiable Traits of Customer-Focused CEOs that was shared a few hundred times.

The traits include:

  • They support their management team with a respectable operating budget
  • They think long-term
  • They genuinely want to engage with customers
  • They believe that good enough is no longer good enough

How many of these traits does your current CEO or department leader possess? Here’s a hint: they need to have all of them. One can’t live without the other.

If your CEO doesn’t naturally possess customer-centric qualities, does that mean all hope is lost? Not necessarily. I know I said earlier that it’s nearly impossible to fundamentally change the way an executive thinks, but I have seen it happen with clients, speaking at executive forums, and in the media. The thing to remember is that they must come to these realizations on their own first and not be “pitched” on the idea. As soon as they fundamentally understand the value of designing, developing, and deploying customer experience initiatives, that is the optimal time to approach her with new systems and processes.

I want to hear from you.

What is your single biggest challenge in getting your company to focus more on your customers? Email me at michel@michelfalcon.com and let me know.

How to Design an Effortless Customer Experience that Your Customers Will Obsess Over

How is your company making your customer experience effortless for your customers?

What features, products, or systems are you creating to make doing business with your company as easy as ordering a pizza from Domino’s?

A few years ago, it was mentioned that customer experience was the new battleground for businesses. Today, I believe the fight to gain a competitive advantage isn’t directly related to our competition; rather, it’s an internal competition to make our own experience as effortless as possible for our customers.

I believe that customer experience has already survived three eras, and we are currently living in the fourth. I call this the 4 Eras of Customer Experience.

Pre-Internet Era

As a millennial entrepreneur, I am not personally familiar with operating a business within this era because I grew up with the internet. However, my grandfather’s principles taught me what it was like to successfully grow a business that your customers obsess over.

Prior to the adoption of the Internet, the primary way you grew a business was by genuinely serving your customers; you couldn’t fake being genuine. I’m paraphrasing him here, but Gary Vaynerchuk said it well when he noted that, through this genuine care, entrepreneurs were better business people than we are today. I agree.

Internet Adoption Era

When the Internet became a recognized tool for helping businesses increase customer leads, I believe it made us disingenuous. We viewed the Internet as a means of acquiring 5, 50, even 500 new customers through campaigns that were, in comparison to original practices, almost instantaneous.

Because of the success of our online programs and campaigns, we invested more into inorganic customer acquisition strategies. Where did this investment come from? We diverted our investments away from our customer retention and customer service programs to “double down” on inorganic strategies. This is the era when some companies viewed their contact centre as a “cost centre.” That notion, today, is laughable.

Social Media Evolution Era

When Sally Johnson, your loyal customer of 20 years, complained during the Internet Adoption era, companies had little motivation, and few resources, to retain her. Why would they? They had the opportunity to replace her by spending a few dollars on a PPC program.

With the evolution of social media, Sally Johnson actually had a platform to tell 2,000 of her friends about her concerns, rather than simply telling her closest friends while playing bridge. Social media exposed companies to greater scrutiny. I believe the airline industry took it on the chin the hardest during this era.

Technology Revolution Era

Today’s greatest opportunity for businesses of all sizes, across all industries, is to leverage the technology available to them to make their experience effortless. How I define effortless, in the context of customer experience is,

An effortless customer experience is one that is extremely efficient, seamlessly allowing customers to achieve their desired outcome with greater speed and precision.

Think of the companies around you that are doing this to create billion dollar brands, yet didn’t even exist five years ago. Shyp’s experience is effortless. The banking industry developed photo cheque depositing through mobile apps. The co-founder of Uber is working on Operator, currently in stealth mode, because his team recognizes that consumers don’t want to lift a finger unless they have to.

The common theme with these experiences is that it makes their customers more efficient. For me, if you save me time and make me more efficient, you are improving my life. This is what will make me loyal to your brand. My great grandparents lived within the Industrial Revolution. One day, we will be able to tell our children that we lived within the Technology Revolution Era.

Last week, when I needed to pick up my dry cleaning, I realized there were a lot of steps to this seemingly simple process: I had to get into my car, drive 15 minutes each way, and pay for the service with my debit card. That’s a pretty rudimentary experience. This experience will soon become an effortless experience. If I want my dry cleaning picked up, I will double tap an app on my phone, a self-driving car, powered by Google or Uber, will be directed to the address of the dry cleaner, and the employee will take my cloths and place them in the driverless car. When the car arrives, it will park in my driveway and, because I have a “smart home”, which will be operated by Nest or a comparable company, the driverless car will be able to ring my door bell. I will then get off my couch, open the car door, and take my clothing. No money exchanged (though, keep in mind, I will pay a premium for this service because I value my time). No headaches. An effortless experience will be created.

So, this begs a question.

[bctt tweet=”What is your company doing to make your customer experience effortless? “]

It’s very easy for companies to say, “We are an innovative company because…” But what is, in reality, is a refinement of the current process. Innovation is creating a revolutionary experience that the world has never seen before.

To create an effortless customer experience, that will fundamentally change an industry, you must include three key traits.

Make it seamless

For the majority of industries, there shouldn’t be a reason to make a phone call to order a product or service. Take the appropriately named Seamless food delivery app. Why would I want to spend five minutes on the phone ordering when I could simply tap my phone a few times and voila!

As a consumer, you don’t want to have to work to make a purchase. We value our time and, if we are providing a solution that is more efficient, we will pay a premium for it – similar to how we pay a premium for Seamless. I recently read this great article about how Millennials don’t want to have to call into a customer service line, and would rather find a solution for themselves. Rather than having to search for a solution, I will become more loyal to an app or company that creates the solution for me.

Provide immediacy

I recently surveyed 100 customers, from several different age demographics, and found that what we want most is immediacy. Netflix gives us the gift of immediacy by being able to accomplish a task, like watching a movie, immediately. Remember when we had to drive to Blockbuster and hope that our favourite movie was in-stock? That experience now gives me the chills.

As I was writing this post I made myself a protein shake. As I opened my pantry, I realized that I was almost out of protein powder. I thought to myself,

“Why should I have to go to the nearest retailer and buy directly from them? That could take me up to 30 minutes!” I wish I could simply take a picture of my pantry and send the picture to my nearest retailer, who would then deliver my products to me within one business day. I would pay $10 for that service, any day, because saving 30 minutes of my time is worth more than $10 to me.

Invent needs

Innovation isn’t about creating an experience your customers want. I’m sure you’re familiar with the saying that, if Henry Ford asked us what we wanted before the car was invented, we would have said “faster horses.”

As Jeff Bezos says, “You must invent on behalf of your customers.” This is what innovation is all about, at its most pure form.

Creating an experience your customers need is difficult because your customers don’t know what they need until you present it to them. I didn’t know that I needed a scroll wheel on my music player to enhance my user experience before the iPod was invented.

We spend a lot of resources – time and money – on marketing to increase our brand awareness and grow our business. Why do we continuously neglect that the greatest way to grow a business is organically, by creating an effortless experience that is innovative and worth talking about?

You will lose your business if your company doesn’t create an effortless experience within the next five years. There are people out there, myself included, that are putting industries under a microscope and looking for ways to disrupt the status quo by leveraging technology and customer experience.

Is your company prepared for this inevitable change?

Did you like this post? You might also like my 28 Traits of Customer Experience Titans ebook. Sign up below. It’s FREE!

The Parallels Between Customer Experience and a Rolls Royce

Has your company designed your customer experience in a similar fashion to how you mapped out this year’s marketing efforts?

In 2013, BC Business, a leading business publication in Vancouver, published a study that my team and I had produced.

The study revealed that 87% of executives believed that their company was delivering an exceptional customer experience. However, only 12% of their customers agreed that they provided a strong customer experience.

How can there be such a large disconnect between your perspective and what your customers themselves perceive? I believe the answer is simple: most companies lack the strategic approach necessary to build, design, and deploy their customer experience efforts.

We don’t take the same methodical approach to customer experience as we do to marketing. As a marketing team, we collectively build campaigns, determine what type of digital and traditional programs we will use to deploy them, and allocate the portion of the budget that each will receive.

Customer experience needs the same methodical approach to be successful. However, customer experience doesn’t live within a single department like marketing does. To build a successful end-to-end customer experience program, you must include every single department within the company, from Marketing and PR to Operations and IT. Heck, even Accounts Payable has a role in delivering a seamless customer experience that will help make you an admired brand.

I’m often asked,

“If you want to improve your customer experience, where should you start?”

I don’t believe there is a one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as many companies have unique challenges. A great starting point is to host a customer journey mapping workshop with your Customer Advisory Board. My friend, Annette Franz, is the best in the world at doing this.

Building your customer experience plan is like designing a Rolls Royce. For the assembly of the car, a Rolls Royce is nearly all handmade; everything is tailor-made and personalized, from every single stitch down to the last screw. To build this machine, individuals from different areas of the business must seamlessly work together to bring this vehicle to life. The cost of the product speaks for itself.

Today, companies still believe that customer experience is customer service. They associate customer experience with more training. You can’t improve the customer experience simply by providing more training, although that is an element of it. Rather, it’s a structural design across all platforms and touchpoints.

RELATED: This is the difference between customer experience and customer service (video)

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Companies such as Ritz-Carlton and Disney have methodically designed their customer experience, just like building a luxury car, and charge a premium for it. Customer experience pays!

If you want to improve your end-to-end customer experience, you must receive the same amount of attention and, dare I say, budget as your PR and marketing functions do. It’s insane to me that companies pay thousands of dollars to hire  PR or digital marketing agencies to create awareness of a service or product, when it will likely fail their customers because the experience hasn’t been designed to retain new customers.

As I mentioned in this post and this one, we love to invest in marketing because it’s tangible. Not only can we can see, hear, and touch it, but we would also rather be ego-centric than customer-centric.

I get it. We like to do things that are high profile, like run Super Bowl ads or create flashy billboards. Customer retention isn’t as sexy, on the surface, as being able to show your friends how successful your company has become by profiling your logo on page 37 of a magazine or buying radio ads for them all to hear.

But if your company is going to last for the next 100 years, you must get your entire company aligned behind customer experience: design your program and strategically deploy the same experience you would want if you were the end customer of your business.

Have you checked out Experience Academy? My team and I have built a six module online certification course that gives your company the education and tangible assets (templates, blueprints, proven strategies, infographics, videos) to continuously improve your customer and employee experience. 

5 Traits of Customer-Focused Companies

How do you personally define a customer-focused company?

I’m not talking about a company that claims to be customer-focused but one that genuinely obsesses over improving their customer experience.

Year after year, we hear of companies of all sizes wanting to focus more on their customer experience. While some actually use the appropriate resources to be more connected to their customers, others continue to give lip-service to it. After all, it’s very easy to say you are customer-focused when, in reality, you’re not.

For nearly a decade, I’ve studied the operations of companies across dozens of industries to make sense of it all. I believe that genuine customer-centric companies exhibit the following five traits.

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The CEO is the Flag Bearer

No customer experience program will be sustainable if your CEO isn’t your greatest flag bearer. I’ve seen it time and time again, an executive claims to be customer-focused but when push comes to shove they allow sales and marketing to reign supreme.

I’m a HUGE fan of Westjet airlines, based in Canada, for several reasons. A key reason why I’m bullish on their success is because of their leader, CEO, Gregg Saretsky. I’m a fan of his because he has humanized the way he leads his team. Perhaps, it’s because he use to be a flight attendant before his climb to being the CEO of the second largest airlines in Canada. I have a friend who works at Westjet’s HQ who speak very admirably of him. I mean, it’s very rare for me to go to a party and have someone talk to me about their CEO for 30 minutes, while I drink my scotch, but this happened to be earlier this year when one of his team members did so. The CEO, entrepreneur or business leader within your company can’t just wake up one day and care about the company’s customers. They must have it within their DNA as a person because caring about strangers isn’t something that comes natural to most of us.

It’s very easy to gain media attention and claim to be customer-focused but does your organization continue these efforts at the end of the quarter when you must hit your numbers? Does your company sacrifice the customer experience to save the numbers?

You Must be Willing to Think Long-Term

An organization must understand that if customer experience is going to be at the core of their company then they must be patient.The ROI of customer experience doesn’t develop overnight and is a long term play.

Your customer experience is a collection of events your customer experiences when doing business with you from beginning to end. For example, if you go to a movie theatre, the experience may begin with you visiting their mobile website to see what movies are playing. When you arrive at the theatre, you will purchase your ticket, visit the bathroom and buy popcorn at the concession stand. Even before you have watched the movie you already have experienced four customer touchpoints that involves marketing, operations and sales departments. To be able to recreate or refine your customer experience you must include all departments. This takes time. For some companies, this won’t ever happen because of silos that exist within the organization.

See also: How Customer Experience Will Crush Your Company’s Silos 

Now, think about how long it takes to develop a marketing campaign, a part of your business that is given a far larger budget than your customer experience efforts. I believe traditional marketing, such as radio, tv and print, has trained us to be impatient because we can have a marketing campaign up and running in a month or two. If you work with an agency, you can have your radio campaign aired in no time. If you’re a small business, you can have your direct-mail sent out next month.

My argument is this: you will never be customer-focused if you don’t practice patience. Customer experience WILL grow your business, however, you must be in it for the long haul.

Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, says it best,

“We are willing to be misunderstood for long periods of time.”

What he means is that he will invest to improve Amazon’s customer experience even if the ROI is 12-24 months away.

Are we going to argue with his success?

Understand Creating Micro Customer Experiences is Worth the Investment

When I was invited to speak at Tangerine Bank’s executive retreat earlier this year, I introduced them to what I call micro customer experiences. How I define a micro customer experience is a small, subtle, memorable and affordable gesture that will resonate with your customers for years.

Starbucks understands micro customer experiences by writing your name on your cup. A local small business practices micro customer experiences by writing their customers hand written cards that include personalized messages.

When I introduce this concept to my clients or audience, I can always plan on someone asking,

“How do you scale this?”

The answer to this question is quite simple: How much do you care? If you care enough you will find the resources or workflow to scale it.

I’m sure the Starbucks operations team questioned how this would scale as I guess it adds 3-5 seconds to each customer interaction. For the most part, they were able to figure it out.

A small business owner may think,

“I can’t afford to pay someone to write hand written cards to every customer!”

You can afford to pay someone to do this! After all, don’t you spend 5-15% of your top-line revenue on marketing? You can allocate a percentage of your marketing spend and reinvest it into becoming memorable, which will bring you organic revenue through repeat business and referrals.

For a company to be successful in 2015, customer experience and marketing teams must work together to improve the customer experience and increase customer acquisition through organic marketing such as word of mouth.

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Recognize that Customer Experience is Marketing

Take a moment to answer this question to yourself before you move forward.

What comes to mind when you see Zappos’ logo?

Do you think of their customer experience or what font they used?

Do you smile because of the call centre employee you spoke to when you ordered your pair of sandals, or do you think of what hue of blue was used to create the footprint in their logo?

Forward-thinking marketing pros understand that customer experience is marketing. You may have heard this before, and agree or disagree, whatever your opinion is, allow me to help you think differently.

The Next Web, one of my favourite tech and business websites, published a post titled, “Why I’d Rather Email than Pay for Ads.” If you have a moment to read it, please do. The columnist explains that as an entrepreneur, she’d rather focus on building a double opt-in email list  to provide value to her community by producing exceptional content; we know this to be content marketing. Before she pushes a ‘buy from me’ email she first provides value through content on several different occasions, and then asks for a sale.

Seth Godin refers to this approach of marketing as “permission marketing.” Gary Vaynerchuk, wrote an entire book on this approach called Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook.

Providing valuable content to make your customers smarter or more efficient can also be considered customer experience. If you can educate your customers through the content you create, isn’t that providing a better customer experience?

One of my clients, one of Vancouver’s largest auto dealership groups, is doubling down on their content marketing this year to better educate their customers on their industry. The auto industry has a massive opportunity to make their customers smarter. Personally, I don’t know much about my SUV other than that the right pedal is for go, the left pedal is to stop and that my SiriusXM radio has more than one pre-recorded hip hop channel. As a consumer, when I receive an email from them about “5 Things Your Car Needs to Prepare for Winter” I will read it and become a smarter customer. For me, this is a better customer experience than seeing one of their competitors ads on the back of the bus.

See also: How Zendesk, ZenPayroll and Tangerine Bank Make Their Customers Smarter, Efficient and Successful

Content marketing is powered by producing educational content that enriches your customer’s lives. 

Does your marketing team understand that customer experience is marketing? If not, please share this post with them.

You Must Continuously Invest in Employee Experience

I come from a very traditional family, and I still go to my family home once a week to have dinner with my parents and sister. A few weeks ago, my father admitted that he doesn’t fully understand what I do. He knows my subject but didn’t understand what steps I take when I consult for a company to improve their customer experience.

I began to explain to him that I first audit the company’s employee experience. Where do they recruit their employees? What questions do they ask during the interview process? What’s their on-boarding experience like? How do they motivate and reward their team?

I chose to explain this to him first because it’s what I do with my clients. It’s typical for me to receive an email from an entrepreneur or executive who says,

“Help us increase our customer loyalty.”

I never start with the customer. Ever!

The most successful companies understand to be successful you must: find great people, give them the tools and education they need to succeed and then get out of the way to allow them to navigate the customer experience.

The other day, I read this Business Insider article about Nordstrom’s. The article explains “how Nordstrom’s became the most successful retailer.” The number one reason was because of their dedication to customer service. Within this point, the columnist outlines that they hire “nice, capable people.”

This is exactly why I always start with the employee experience. How on earth are you suppose to deliver a memorable customer experience, one that your customers obsess over, if you don’t have the right team to push your effort forward? Company’s that are customer-focused first become employee-focused.

Does your company focus on your employee experience to improve the customer experience?

We make business complicated.

Business is as hard as we want to make it for ourselves. Many of you are familiar with my story about how I learned my greatest business practices from my grandfather and his fish market in Lima, Peru. If we truly want to be successful, we must be able to take a step back, analyze what is not working in our business or department and trim the fat. After you have done so, review these five traits and ask yourself if you are truly customer-focused.

Now, here’s a tough question. What one trait is the most important to become customer-focused? Tweet me @michelfalcon to tell me your answer.

4 Customer Experience Pitfalls Within the Franchise Industry

I’ve spent years studying the franchise business model; it’s complex. Ensuring that you have a seamless customer experience across the entire brand is key to success.

One of the primary reasons that someone may invest in buying a franchise is because of it’s proven operating systems. If you follow the established blueprint created by the franchisor you can reap the financial benefits. This attracts professionals to the franchise business model, however, it’s not as simple as it may seem.

With my customer experience and franchise background, I have recognized many customer experience operating pitfalls. However, there are ways to avoid these pitfalls. If you are able to secure the following four areas within your franchise model, you will increase the likelihood of your success.

Consistency across the board

For the franchisor, one of the biggest opportunities and threats is the consistency of the customer experience across the entire brand. Customers expect consistency. It’s what builds ‘customer trust.’ If you buy a pizza from Domino’s you expect the same level of service in Vancouver, Canada as you would in Sydney, Australia. If the customer experience is fragmented then the customer’s loyalty is in jeopardy.

I can do it better

I’ve witnessed franchisees who believe that they can do it better, which goes against why they bought into the model in the first place. I recognize that entrepreneurs are always going to try to “hack” their way to success but their motivation may actually hurt their performance. Part of the reason the world’s greatest franchise systems work is because their customer experience strategies are proven. If you’re going to “colour outside the lines” you must ensure that what makes sense to you, as the entrepreneur, may not make sense for the customer experience.

Your focus on HR is poor

I believe you must hire your employees exactly like you would plan a wedding (if we want your customer experience to be superior). Think about how meticulous you become when you are deciding who will be invited to your wedding. You analyze from many different angles on who will attend; that’s how you need to behave when you are going to welcome individuals into your business.

“When hiring in either our franchise or the sales centre we hire for personality first. Our business has the systems and training in place to support people. This allows us the freedom to hire regardless of skill set, for our frontline roles and ensures we can deliver a fantastic customer experience. Skill set allows your employees to check the service delivered box, their personality will deliver the WOW” says Rhys Green, Operations Manager (Sales Centre) – 1-800-GOT-JUNK?.

Related: 4 Customer Service Questions You Must Ask When Hiring Customer Service Employees

One poor hire can spoil the bunch and threaten the customer experience that is delivered to customers. And despite all of the HR strategies and resources that you provide to franchisees, your customer experience may still be at risk.

Not having world-class training

My first job was working at McDonald’s when I was thirteen years old. The training that I received was impeccable. The exceptional training that I received enabled me to contribute to the success of the franchise from day one. Simply having training systems that are created by the franchisor may not effectively impact your employees. An effective training program is part of a superior onboarding experience for your new hires and employees. If you deliver a world-class experience to your employees they will do the same for your customers. It’s that simple.

Buying into a franchise system is a fantastic way to experience entrepreneurial success. However, ensuring that everything you do contributes to the success of the franchisor’s customer experience, will yield more success in the long run.

What are your thoughts? What are some other pitfalls?

Want more customer experience knowledge? Download my free ebook below.

10 Customer Experience Laws to Become an Admired Company

Having a strict focus on customer experience will lead to your company becoming an admired brand.

More often than not, an admired brand can also lead to financial success. Companies such as Westjet, Airbnb and Zappos make customer experience a top priority and reap the benefits in all aspects of their business. Regardless of the size of your business, you can use these laws to your advantage to beat your competition.

In this post, I outline 10 laws you can use as a check list to evaluate the state of your company’s customer experience.

For the entire list of 28 traits, receive it here.

Law #1: Executives and managers want to uncover the good as much as they want to discover the bad.

Customer focused companies don’t hide when poor service is delivered; they run to understand why.

Law #2: Inspect what you expect to ensure uninterrupted service is being delivered.

Customer experience driven organizations are always evaluating the current state of their customer experience through voice of the customer programs, customer advisory boards and mystery shopping.

Law #3: Have your management team rub shoulders with your frontlines.

The CEO’s of customer centric companies aren’t arrogant or feel that they are above their frontline employees.

Law #4: Never say “that’s the way we’ve always done it.”

Be willing to embrace change to improve.

Law #5: Part with customers who are demeaning your employees.

A customer centric company will stand behind their employees when a customer is being irrational. They will sacrifice the numbers to save a relationship with their employees.

Law #6: “What’s the ROI of customer experience?” isn’t asked, it’s understood.

Customer centric organizations never question the power of a superior customer experience strategy.

Law #7: Customer related initiatives and strategies are always on yearly strategic plans.

They give customer experience the same attention that marketing receives. The majority of companies invest more in marketing than customer experience.

Law #8: Believe that organizational silos are the poison to create customer experience strategies.

The departments of these company’s all work together to create a seamless customer experience.

Law #9: Customer experience is the foundation of a superior sales strategy.

Customer centric companies enjoy high repeat purchases and referrals from existing customers which gives them an organic sales lead generation.

Law #10: Long term investments in customer experience strategies are accepted, even when the ROI is years away.

Customer centric companies are patient.

Companies such as Apple, Zappos and Disney have a reputation of being admired and can be found on Fortune magazines Most Admired list. I believe companies like Bevel and Zendesk will be on that list one day.

SEE ALSO: How Zendesk, ZenPayroll and Tangerine Make Their Customers Smarter, Efficient and Successful.

For the entire list of 28 traits, receive it here.

How Creating Micro Customer Experiences Can Be Your Greatest Competitive Advantage

On a flight back from Boston, I took my seat next to a man who I later found out was the CEO of a recognizable quick service restaurant (QSR).

I was exhausted and just wanted to sleep on the flight home after hosting a customer experience workshop. I couldn’t, however, give up the opportunity to talk to this CEO about the importance of customer experience within his company’s industry.

After a quaint introduction of ourselves and our lines of work, we began talking about customer experience and its impact on growth and brand reputation.

The conversation started with the understood “customer experience has to be your number one priority” maxim, but that’s when our discussion moved into another direction.

He mentioned that the effort of his team was focused on “creating service experiences that will propel us into the future.” In other words, his company was working to create initiatives that I call “home runs.” These initiatives are closely aligned with innovation which can have your competition thinking “why didn’t we think of that?!”

He continued discussing his “home run strategies” without sharing too much information. As he began to hold his cards close, I interrupted by asking, “What are you doing to create micro experiences?”

I caught him off guard.

“What are micro experiences?” he asked.

How I define micro experiences are small, subtle, affordable and memorable touches that resonate with your customers for years. They are the simple things that we neglect to do because they are so small we don’t believe that it can have too much impact; but they do!

Uber understands micro experiences.

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After you use Uber, they send you an email with the route the driver took to show you that the most efficient route was taken. What this small touch point does is build “consumer confidence.”

Marello-Webinar-Testimonial

Of course, micro customer experiences can also work against you. Starbucks understands micro experiences and their intentions are in the right place. However, you know it’s working against you when there’s a tumblr site dedicated to your employees misspelling your customers’ names.

Companies that create micro customer experiences become brands that are admired, trusted and ones that have a business model that are difficult to replicate.

Let me compare micro experiences to something personal. I love my parents because they showed me love in micro ways. Sure, I loved it when they bought me a Big Wheels or Nerf gun, which is the equivalent to a “home run” strategy for your customers. But, after a month I was bored of the big gift and inevitably wanted something else. The micro love my parents gave me by telling me I was handsome when I got a bad haircut or when they said that my big ears gave me character is what resonated with me forever. It’s the unconditional love that they consistently showed me that has lasted a life time.

The challenge with creating micro experiences is that it needs to be genuine, and let’s face it, not many companies are genuine. Another challenge to be considered is how you scale these genuine moments that connects you with your customers? It’s difficult which is why I laugh when someone says “customer experience is easy.”

What companies are you loyal to because of their micro customer experiences?

How to Build a Customer Advisory Board to Improve Your Customer Experience

Let me begin by explaining that a Customer Advisory Board (CAB) is not a boring focus group. The fact that organizations would stand behind a pane of glass and watch how customers interact frankly gives me the chills.

A CAB is an internal team of customers who help grow your business by providing genuine and actionable insights on your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Regardless of size or industry, all businesses must assemble a CAB.

Over the past 18 months, I’ve worked with several organizations who want to create a CAB for their business. In this post, I will explain how I have found success in building teams of customers to help improve your customer experience.

  • Craft your desired outcome and vision. Before you begin assembling your team and establishing the logistics of your meeting, you need to determine how your company is going to define success and what you’re trying to accomplish. I’ve seen organizations create a CAB simply to say that they have hosted one and to cross it off their “strategic plan.” Needless to say, this should not be your goal. A company I previously worked with stated that each quarter they wanted to create one strategic initiative to improve their customer experience based on what they learned from their CAB. Another company’s marketing team defined success by improving their landing pages from direct feedback from their CAB (in combination with doing A/B testing). The long term goal should always be to have a more intimate relationship with your customers and an opportunity to refine your customer experience.
  • Build your external and internal team. The amount of customers you welcome to your CAB team depends on the size of your business. If you’re a small business, you may want to invite 2-5 customers. For a medium or large sized business, this could grow to 6-12 customers. When it comes to what type of customers you should invite, have a mix of “promoters” and “detractors.” The problem with only welcoming promoters is that they will provide feedback with rose-tinted glasses. You need to have tough, challenging conversations which your detractor customers can provide. What employees should be involved? A CAB should be hosted by your executive team (middle and large sized businesses) or owner and managers (small businesses). For middle and large sized businesses, have each of your department heads attend and then disseminate the knowledge to the entire organization.

  • Establish the logistics. How often will the meetings take place (quarterly or yearly)? Where will they take place (your office or off site)? I recommend that you host them quarterly and at an offsite location. Make the meetings fun! Have the event catered and in a relaxed environment. I was recently invited to a CAB workshop hosted by my client in Whistler, it was a blast and everyone genuinely seemed to enjoy themselves.
  • Develop the meeting structure. You have a fantastic opportunity to get to know your customers intimately; don’t waste their time. Your “customer task force” should meet at least one month prior to the event to finalize the content and delivery. What type of questions are we going to ask? Are we going to showcase prototypes? Who will be moderating? Who will be recording minutes? Ensure that you consider every minor detail to host a seamless meeting.

  • Compensation. I have seen companies not need to compensate their CAB members, as having a catered event was enough in exchange for their time. However, I’ve witnessed other companies compensate their members $25-$100/hour. I have found that the organizations that have genuine customer loyalty don’t need to compensate their members. I work with a small coffee shop in Vancouver who I am undoubtedly loyal to and want to see succeed; I do not charge them to give insight into their business.

  • Follow up. After you have gathered feedback, close the loop with your CAB members. Let them know what they can expect to come as a result of their feedback to reassure them that their time was well served and appreciated. Don’t simply send an email. Follow up in a professional and formal way by distributing a one or two page document (CAB at a Glance) that outlines all that was discussed and your next steps.

CAB meetings aren’t meant to replace VoC programs. They are there to support all other initiatives to improve the customer experience. Plus, it’s fun, educational and a sign that your company is genuinely customer centric.

Have you had success with a CAB program?

This Is Why We Love To Invest In Marketing Before Customer Experience

This post was originally created as a guest post for CX Journey.

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

Earlier this year I contributed to a TIME magazine post, “Could 2013 Be the Year Customer Service Gets Better?

My short answer to this question is: not until we all learn to become more patient.

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


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

What he means is that he is willing to invest in long-term strategies that may not pay a return for months or even years. If you’ve followed, or purchased from, Amazon before, you know that the majority of Bezos’ investments are focused on strengthening their customer experience to drive organic growth while Amazon investors remain patient.

In fact, the Business Week article “Amazon Investors Give CEO Bezos Room to Run” underlines the notion that he receives plenty of latitude when it comes to executing his business strategies, no doubt with good reason: at the time the article was written earlier this year, Amazon stock was up 40% over the last 12 months and traded at 700 times the last 12 months’ earnings!It is very rare for a publicly-traded company to have such composed investors who aren’t calling for the CEO’s head when margins remain razor thin. Should we doubt his decisions?  You decide: Amazon began operations out of a garage and is now a successful behemoth and world-class benchmark for companies in all industries.

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

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

I have a love-hate relationship with the internet. I love it because it allows me to deliver this blog post to you. I hate it because it has negatively changed the way we invest in customer acquisition.“When can we expect to see a ROI?” says your boss.

If you’ve ever been responsible for managing an operating budget, you’ve heard this after you presented your strategic plan.This is what happens with 99% of companies: we stick with strategies that will save us from getting fired. We invest in programs that are tangible, ones that you can hear, touch, and see because they offer an instant sense of accomplishment.

When your boss says, “Show me what you did with your budget,” you confidently say:“Do you hear that radio ad? That’s what we spent the budget on.”

[HEARING] Turn to page 37; we purchased a full page ad.”

[TOUCH] 
At 3:00pm, we will have a 30-second spot on channel 23.

[SIGHT] Let’s do this again, but with a customer experience focus.Your boss says, “Show me what you did with your budget.

You reply with:

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

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

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

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

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

The easiest sale we will make today is one from repeat or referred customers because often they are already sold on our service or product before they arrive. The only way to grow organically is by delivering a world-class customer experience. I’m sorry, but that logo you spent a month critiquing or that 30-second spot you spent three months producing isn’t going to grow your business.Be patient, my friends. Let’s operate our businesses like it’s 1975 all over again.