5 New Customer Service Skills Your Employees Need (and How to Train Them Properly in 2019)

There are many customer service skills that employees must possess to contribute to the success of a company.

Things such as friendly, proactive, going above-and-beyond all come to mind.

It’s likely that you clicked through to read this post because you want new customer service ideas, not the same old run of the mill concepts that have been suggested by everyone else online…am I right?

The five customer service training skills I’m going to share with you are ones that my management teams are currently training my employees with.

Across our venues, restaurants and bars, we have 150 team members operating within one of Canada’s most competitive hospitality districts (King West, Downtown Toronto); the far majority of these team members are customer-facing.

My business partners and I have built a reputation in the city and industry for having a next-level customer experience and it’s largely because of how we train our team on their customer service skills.

Related: What is Customer Experience

I share this information with you to give you some background information if you’re not familiar with me. However, the primary reasons is because I want you to know that this information is tried, tested and true.

I’m an operator, just like you!

I have a team I must support, just like you!

I’m looking for a competitive advantage with proven strategies, not advice from someone who just recites what they read online.

Before we get into the 5 Customer Service Skills, make sure to connect with me on LinkedIn and let me know which Customer Service Skill you like the most – I’d be happy to answer any further questions you may have after reading the article!

Without further adieu, I present you the five new customer service skills your employees need:

Customer Service Skill #1: Understand the 3 Customer Personality Types

You can’t deliver the same experience to every single customer and have great customer service skills.


Because some gestures – whether it’s your tone, the questions you ask the customer or your dialogue – will engage some customers and alienate others.

A decade ago, when I was working within a call centre as a customer service agent in Vancouver, I started to document different customer traits and behaviours.

Why was it that customers in different regions reacted differently to how I answered the phone?

Why did some customers not care to talk about the local sports team?

Why did some customers want to talk about the weather?

I was interested in the answers to these questions…so I investigated further.

After months of taking notes, I recognized that each customer has a different definition of success when doing business with a company.

Eventually, I created something I now refer to as The 3 Common Customer Personality Types.

I’ve trained hundreds of people on these customer personality types, such as customer service team members from Verizon Wireless and sales professionals from Lexus

The Director Style Personality Type

Customer Service Skills #1

Let’s pretend James Bond was your customer.

What attributes does he have?

He’s reserved, to the point in his conversation and conducts very little chit chat.

Now, think of this customer in your business. What do they value the most and how are they defining a great customer experience? I’d suggest:

  • Team members with high product knowledge
  • They want to lead the customer experience
  • Time efficiency matters to them
  • Their questions get answered quickly

The director style customer personality is a great customer to have because often their experience with your company is an efficient one. This is particularly great for retail and call centre experiences.

The Socializer Style Personality Type

Customer Service Skills #2

I don’t know Ellen Degeneres personally but based on her show I’m going to assume she’s kind, speaks at length and is a great listener.

Does this remind you of one of your customers?

I bet it does! Now, how does the socializer define a successfully customer experience?

  • Employees engaging in off-topic conversations
  • They find transactional customer experiences rude
  • A company that cares about their customers as a human being, not just a customer or a number

Here’s a tip! There is a big threat in doing business with the socializer personality type.

What do you think it is?

Time! They are the type of customer that will talk about this, that and everything while you have a line up of other customers in your queue. If your employees have the right customer service skills they will be able to effectively serve this personality type without cutting them off or be rude.

Continue reading below to see which skills your employees must have to provide a positive, efficient customer experience for Socializers.

The Passive Style Personality Type

Customer Service Skills #3

Have you enthusiastically ever asked a customer,

“How’s your day going!”

And they replied with, “Good” without asking in return how your day is going?

I introduce you to the passive personality type. Some employees may label these customers as “boring” “low energy” or “not engaging.” For me, I think they are misunderstood.

Their attributes are defined as guarded, timid with expression.

But, I believe that for the most part this behaviour is likely because your company or industry have failed them before which is causing this demeanour of uncertainty. I suggest that your employees don’t write these customers off because they can become some of your most loyal customers! They are simply looking for a company that they can trust.

Each customer personality type may exhibit great company customer loyalty for different reasons. It’s your responsibility as a leader to train your team members on their customer service skills to elevate the customer experience.

Customer Service Skill #2: Patience
 Customer Service Skills #4

You may be thinking:

“Michel, you promised NEW customer service skills! Patience isn’t new to me!”

I know, I know. But, what I’m going to share with you is how to identify if your prospective employees have this customer service skill BEFORE you hire them. I don’t believe you can train patience very well as it’s a human behaviour that takes years to accomplish.

I train companies how to build customer-centric teams and ask the right customer service interview questions. Here are a few you can use to identify if the person you’re interviewing is patient:

  • What are some nuisances that really bother you in your personal life?
  • How do you react to something frustrating you?
  • What’s the most irritating thing that has happened to you this week?

These questions are asked to identify how the candidate is in their everyday life. You can make some sound assumptions on how they will behave as a team member of yours based on their responses.

If they respond with great detail on how things easily bother them then I’d be on guard as they may exhibit very little patience with your customers.

However, if the candidate appears to genuinely struggle to think of answers then you may have an all-star on your hands.

You can’t predict customer behaviours within your business but you can help your company by hiring team members who exhibit patience with your customers.

Customer Service Skill #3: Capture ideas and share them

Customer Service Skills #5

Wouldn’t it be amazing if your employees regularly came to you with ideas on how to better the customer experience and help the company grow?

I’m so fortunate that this is what’s happening in my business. We constantly have team members, ones from different departments, sharing concepts with our management team.

The most valuable way that my company gathers ideas from our team is through our Employee Advisory Board (EAB). The EAB is a group of team members who represent each department across the company. They meet with me once per month for 2-4 hours to discuss the current state of the business. During my keynote speeches and workshops, I help companies understand the value of having an EAB and many companies have implemented one…I think you should too.

Do all of them get put into action? Not all, but many do! We are in this advantageous position as a company because we:

  • Hire individuals who are inventive
  • Have fostered a company culture where we promote new ideas
  • Are willing to think differently and try new things
  • Celebrate team member creativity
  • Have created a framework and meeting structure where employees can share their concepts

I’ve always said, “you never know where your next great idea is going to come from.” I find that the best ideas come from the individuals who are the most customer-facing.

Who do you think invented Starbucks’ multi-billion dollar Frappuccino? You guessed it…frontline employees.

Customer Service Skill #4: Collect Customer Intelligence

Customer Experience Skills #6

Within my business, customer intelligence is the subtle details that your customers share with you or that you’re able to learn when serving them.

These details can be leveraged to create a never-before-seen customer experience which will increase customer loyalty.

If I was your customer, at one point or another you would learn the following about me:

  • I have a dog named Maggy
  • I’m a Vancouver Canucks fan
  • I love tequila
  • I’m a boxer and play ice hockey
  • I own restaurants, bars and venues in Toronto
  • My favourite two foods are pizza and burgers
  • My mother is the sweetest angel in the world and her name is Rosa

All of this information needs to habitually be captured for every customer within your CRM to be used to create a personalized experience at any time during their lifecycle with your company. Before you can start training your employees on gathering this information you must first create the repository within your CRM.

In theory, this makes sense, right? However, most companies struggle in doing this well because they don’t reinforce it with their team members on a weekly basis.

How to train them to use this information is in customer service skill #5…

Customer Service Skill #5: Listen and Take Action!

Customer Service Skill #7

For decades we’ve been telling our employees:

“Listen to your customers…”

We don’t tell our employees to listen because listening is a cheap skill set. Instead, we tell them to:

“Listen and take action on what you’ve learned!”

In step 4, I mentioned many things that I’d likely share with your team members. How are you going to leverage this information? Will your employee simply say, ‘I’m a Vancouver Canucks fan too!” Or, will they record that information and share it with a manager to create what I call a micro customer experience.

A micro customer experience, or MCE, is a subtle, memorable and affordable gesture that you do for your customers that resonates with them for years.

I’d be blown away if I was your customer, purchased a service or product and received a Vancouver Canucks hockey puck with my purchase accompanied by a hand written card that said:

“Michel, thank you for trusting us to be your service provider. It means the world to us! We thought of you…Go, Canucks, Go!”

You would have created such a strong bond with me that would heavily influence my customer loyalty. Listening and taking action on what your employees have learned is a non-negotiable when creating a micro customer experience program for your company. It must happen!

Related: Customer Experience Strategies: 5 Tips for Profit and Growth

Within my company, each venue has a micro customer experience program that’s only $250/month. Everyone can afford to do this! However, it first starts with training your employees with the highest customer service skills possible.

Did you notice that many of the customer service skills I outlined were cost-friendly? I don’t like spending a lot of money to find solutions unless the value greatly exceeds the cost. I’d going to assume you’d like to achieve the same.

I do believe that technology will replace some human interaction but I don’t believe the human element of great customer service skills will be replaced.

Question: what customer service skill do you believe you can implement within the next 90 days? Connect with me on LinkedIn and let me know what your biggest take away from this article was by leaving a comment below!  I’ll respond with some commentary too.

If you’re interested in me helping your company with customer experience, employee engagement and/or company culture strategies, click this link and fill out the contact form so I can share some keynote presentation and private workshop information with you.

From Call Center to Consultant: 6 Steps I Followed to Build My Customer Experience Career

If you’re reading this, you most likely have a career in customer experience.

Or perhaps the headline caught your eye because you manage a customer experience or customer support department and want to elevate your team.

Regardless of whether you’re new to the profession, or a Chief Customer Officer for a major brand, I believe the six steps I took to advance my career – going from being a 21 year old call center agent to being hired by recognizable companies like Verizon Wireless, BlueCross BlueShield, Electronic Arts and others before the age of 30 – will help you take your career to the next level. It’s this same strategy that has allowed me to travel the world, work with great companies, start an online course, invest in a couple startups and keynote speak at events with 100’s of people in the audience.

If this strategy worked for me, surely it will work for you too!

[bctt tweet=” If you’re going to have a successful career as a customer experience professional you need a strategy.”] I remember the day when I first recognized that customer experience management would be “my thing.” It was the niche that I would hitch my wagon to in order to build a career that I could have never imagined. I recognized that my peers were focused on sales, marketing and PR – you know, the traditional things. I wanted to be different. I wanted to follow a path that few had traveled because I knew that this niche would quickly become a hot topic for all organizations.

In this post, I will share the exact step-by-step strategy I created to grow my customer experience career as an employee of a medium-sized business called 1-800-GOT-JUNK?


Step 1: Be a Practitioner, Not a Guru or Expert 

The most enlightening and valuable conversations I have had in my career have been with people who have done the work that they advocate. These are the individuals who have been in the trenches, built the systems and have the experience of doing the work – someone like my friend, Annette Franz. During our phone calls, ones that always seem to go over the allotted time, I always learn something after speaking with her and trust what she tells me because I know she’s done the work. These types of conversations are extremely valuable, especially for individuals who want to grow their customer experience career.

Could I have advanced my career in my 20’s faster by spending less time building and more time promoting, by writing a book and positioning myself on social media as an expert? Maybe. But I knew that I needed to cut my teeth and earn experience if I wanted a smooth transition between being an employee and being an entrepreneur, consultant and keynote speaker. I recognized that by immersing myself in the work I would have real-world experience to share with my clients and audience – not ones that were simply borrowed from other organizations.

Today, because I put my head down to earn recognition as a practitioner, I’m able to earn clients because they know that I have a proven record doing the work that I discuss. By doing this work successfully (and even unsuccessfully sometimes, using the lessons as a learning experience), your personal brand becomes stronger. I’m thankful that, due to this, reputable professionals, like Cameron Herold, will introduce me to his network and trusts me to help people he knows who want to improve their customer experience.

Key take away: build strategies and don’t concern yourself with being labelled an expert.

Step 2: Create Your Personal Brand

When I first recognized that my career would be in customer experience management, I immediately started thinking of my five-year plan. If you know me well, you know that I can’t only live in the present and must always be working toward something else. I envisioned that, one day, I would become a consultant to some of the biggest companies in the world and a reputable keynote speaker that would travel the world speaking at conferences.

To accomplish this, I recognized that I must create a personal brand early, while I was with the company I was working at. By doing this, when I was ready to take my next step – becoming an entrepreneur – I would already have an established personal brand. Here is a list of the things I did to build my personal brand when I first got started:

  • Bought my first and last name domain and started blogging once per week. Remember, it’s not the quantity of the posts you produce, but rather the quality of the posts (particularly through long-form posts like this one). Be willing to share your best strategies with your audience, don’t hoard them.
  • Marketed and shared my writings. Derek Halpern, a recognized digital marketer, suggests that you should spend 20% of your time producing your content and 80% promoting it. By doing this, it will help you drive more visitors. The more visitors you have, the more brand impressions you earn. Here is a link to his suggested strategy.
  • Updated my LinkedIn profile and included customer experience within my tagline and bio so that I came up more frequently in search results. Just like Google picks up on keywords, so does LinkedIn. Be generous with the amount of times you mention customer experience in your LinkedIn bio, but don’t keyword stuff.
  • Hosted free webinars. Even to this day, webinars has been a key avenue for me to give away education that helps serve others.
  • Joined LinkedIn groups related to customer experience and customer service and engaged with the group regularly by sharing other people’s content and commenting on threads.
  • Created streams in Hootsuite to track keywords and hashtags, like #CX, customer service, customer experience, Net Promoter Score and many other relevant search terms.

Key take away: create association between your name and customer experience by building a personal brand.

Step 3: Invest in Yourself

While I was able to learn a lot through free methods, like reading online articles on customer experience, and leveraged other affordable options by buying books, I knew it wasn’t enough.

I’m a very curious person and I ask a lot of questions. When I was getting my career started, Zappos was fast becoming a recognized company for their customer-focused culture. I wanted to visit them, ask questions and learn. Like most companies, yearly budgets are determined in Q4 of the previous year, so an impromptu trip to Henderson, Nevada for a call center agent wasn’t going to be an easy ask from my boss.

Rather than having an “aw shucks” mentality, I thought, “F*** it! I’m going to fund this myself.” I live in Vancouver, a city where you can easily spend $200 at a bar in a single night, especially when you’re in your early 20s and trying to meet girls. I did some quick math and realized that, if I stayed in for an entire month, I would save enough money to buy a plane ticket, ground transportation and a one night stay in a cheap hotel off the Las Vegas strip. I’m ever so thankful to Patrick Louis, someone who always provided me with direction and motivation to pursue my career in customer experience, as well as the Founder and CEO of 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, Brian Scudamore, who made the call to Tony Hsieh to get me the invite (as this was before the organized Zappos tours).

The reason I’m able to live a career of my dreams is because I personally invested in my career and made short-term sacrifices for long-term gain. I have an innate ability to think long-term, even to this day. I don’t think:

“How can I earn as much revenue off this client as possible?”

Rather, I ask myself:

“How can I serve the client today to create a long-term relationship?”

Key take away: Your career is your livelihood; invest in it.

Michael Schneider inline

Step 4: Take Ownership of Your Career – No Freebies 

Here’s something that might shock and awe you – I don’t believe managers are entirely responsible for growing the people on their team. In 2014, I wrote a post titled, “Employees Need to Be Responsible for Their Own Development” on LinkedIn that received nearly 10,000 views.

The thesis of my post was that, to be successful, you must take ownership over your desired outcome, whether it’s with your career, sports or, well, anything. I recognized this when I was starting to develop my career in customer experience. How did I go about doing this? Here’s a list of things I did every day, in both the morning and evening:

  • I set up a Feedly account to easily find and read other customer experience content. Feedly is an aggregator of publications that allows you to track when your favourite business publications publish posts in real-time. I recommend upgrading to Feedly Pro, which is only $5/month, to get access to additional features such as the search ability. With the upgrade you can search terms, like “customer experience,” and any link within your Feedly account that contains those search terms will appear – it’s great!
  • Remember how I told you earlier to build your personal brand online? Well setting up a Buffer account will make sharing customer experience-related articles much easier. Eventually people will start associated your name with customer experience after you consistently shared related articles.
  • I set up Google Alerts to track keywords, like customer experience, customer service, customer centricity, Net Promoter Score, employee engagement and many others. Again, this will help you build your personal brand by sharing valuable content to your followers and connections. Eventually people will begin to immediately associate your name with customer experience.
  • I bought books related to customer experience and read them all the first day that I bought them. I bought books like: The Ultimate Question, The Ultimate Question 2.0, Answer the Ultimate Question and The No Asshole Rule. I also read the book you see below, What’s the Secret?, which was bought for me by Brian Scudamore, the Founder and CEO of 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, who also included a thoughtful and inspiring message for me.

Brian book

Greatness isn’t reserved for people who have a mediocre work ethic. The saying, “Work smarter, not harder” has never resonated with me. Maybe it’s because of my South American ethnicity (we’re a hard working bunch), but I believe you must do both.

Key take away: Take ownership over your career – there are no freebies when it comes to building your future.

Step 5: Do More Than the Minimum

I remember a colleague of mine, Ryan Creamore, once said:

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

I’ve always agreed with him. Whether that’s before or after your shift, or typical 9 to 5, you must be willing to do more than just the bare minimum to accomplish epic achievements in your career. The primary reason I’ve been able to accomplish things reserved for people that are twice my age is because I did more than the minimum when I was building my career. I made short-term sacrifices so I could earn long-term gains.

I use Gary Vaynerchuk as a source of inspiration for creating my own success. The reason his message resonates with me so much, and has ever since I first read his book “Crush It”, is because I appreciate his work ethic. It’s the same work ethic I’ve had since I was 7 years old: waking up at 5am for hockey practice, going to school, doing chores, playing hockey from 9AM to 11AM on Saturday or Sunday mornings, then delivering newspapers in the pouring rain in Vancouver immediately after, so I could earn $100 a month.

Now, please keep in mind I recognize that working 50, 60 or 70 hours per week isn’t for everyone and isn’t promoted by all companies. I’m suggesting it because it’s what I know and what has helped me. If you take a look at the greatest athletes or business people they all have a common principle; they work harder than others.

Key take away: Whether you’re building a career in customer experience, you must do more than just the bare minimum.

MF-banner-ad-blog-gofourth-final (1)

Step 6: Pick Five Companies and Study Them Intensely 

Zappos, Southwest Airlines, Apple, Amazon and WestJet. These are the five companies I chose to study intensely. What are your five?

When I say “study” I don’t mean that I just read things about them online – even though I did read literally every article about them related to customer experience and company culture. I took it one step further. I went to LinkedIn and used the search function to find people who worked within these companies, particularly the customer service departments, and connected with them.

Linkedin 3

Assuming they accepted my connection request, I would DM them and ask to book a call with them to learn more about their customer experience practices. This was a similar script that I would use to move the online connection to a call – feel free to use it yourself.

Hi <NAME>,

The customer experience community is small, so I always jump at the opportunity to connect with professionals like yourself. I noticed that you work with <THEIR COMPANY> – you’re very fortunate to work with such a great company. <If available, include a complimentary and recent story about the company that you found online>.

I wanted to ask if you were able to reserve time on <CHOOSE SPECIFIC DATE & TIME> to chat by phone to hear of some of the customer experience strategies we are using at <YOUR COMPANY> and share best practices. As mentioned, the customer experience community is small, albeit growing, and it would be great to learn from each other.

Are you available on <REITERATE SUGGESTED DATE & TIME>? If not, is there another date and time that would work for you?

Thank you,

Early in my career someone told me:

“R&D doesn’t stand for research and development; it stands for ripoff and duplicate.”

I don’t entirely endorse this because it impedes innovation. But I do HIGHLY recommend learning from other companies to spark ideas for your own company. Use other companies and their strategies for inspiration to create your own programs. Choosing five companies is the perfect size – it’s not too large of a sample size that you’ll dilute your learning and it’s not too small that you won’t learn enough – to generate ideas and connect with people from these companies.

If I was starting my career today, the five companies I would recommend studying (these are the ones I’m learning from today) would be Warby Parker, Gusto, Bonobos, Operator and Bellhops.

Pay specific attention to how they are leveraging technology, customer experience and employee engagement to grow their companies. Reach out to them, take notes and build conversations among your team.

Key take away: study, study, study!

The Worldwide Customer Experience Career Opportunity

014 - World Needs CX Pros

Take a look around you. It’s 2016 and best-selling business authors – ones who started off as marketers – are now writing books on customer experience because we are all recognizing it’s value to the bottom line. The community is growing fast and the CXPA is a well-established organization helping facilitate this growth. Heck, I’m (very slowly) starting to see post-secondary schools teach customer experience management and conferences are starting to invite customer experience speakers just as much as they are sales and marketing speakers.

For those that have been “in the game” for years before customer experience became a hot topic, I salute you.

If you’re just starting your career in customer experience, you’re going to be in extremely high demand. Great days are ahead!

I’d love to hear you from.

What are you doing to build your career in customer experience?

Leave a comment below.

Necessary Steps to Build Your Company’s 2016 Customer Experience Plan

As 2016 nears, have you started to map out your customer experience strategy for next year?

Will 2016 be the year that you fully commit to improving your customer experience?

I don’t mean that you continue to tell your customers, employees and business partners (i.e. vendors) that you’re customer-focused. I mean, will you actually invest, in dollars and time, to create a customer experience that is worth seeing again and again?

This year, my team and I surveyed one thousand CEOs and determined that only 7% of their companies had a customer experience strategy – a strategy that is meticulously designed, discussed and ready to be deployed across the organization.

Know that your customer experience is only going to get better with action and it deserves the exact same attention that marketing and sales receives. Assuming that your customer experience strategy will develop on its own is wishful thinking.

There are three key questions that you must answer before building your 2016 customer experience strategy.

  1. What is the current state of your customer experience?

Before you can heal or improve something, first you must diagnosis it. Doctors do it to heal an injury. Relationship therapists do it to mend struggling relationship. And, likewise, you must do it to understand which actions to take for steps 2 and 3.

So how do you audit your customer experience?

Anecdotally assuming that you know the current state of your customer experience is wrong. Speaking only with your executive team about it is wrong. Going with your gut instinct is wrong as well.

You must look internally AND externally to properly audit your customer experience.

Voice of the Customer (VoC)

If you’re familiar with customer experience and its strategies and processes then you are familiar with VoC. But what if you’re not? VoC is a way to better understand your customer experience directly from your customers. This can include both customer surveys and customer advisory boards.

Your company’s management team should review year-over-year customer survey results and be able to identify trends. To begin, identity the top 3 reasons, or categories, why your customers say they are loyal to your company or would recommend you. To serve as an example, let’s say you operate a chain of grocery stores. Your top 3 promoter reasons might be competitive prices, clean stores and accessible parking. The next part is the tougher part of this exercise: understanding why your customers wouldn’t recommend your service or product. If you are in banking, you top 3 detractor reasons might include inflexible banking hours, high monthly fees and long lines.

Whatever your “top 3s” are, your entire management team must understand them and be able to recite them like their telephone numbers.

Have macro and micro conversations with your employees

Your customers get a voice, right? How about your employees?

The voice of the employee is an intimate way for you to receive feedback from your team. Now, I would never suggest a roundabout way for surveying your employees (i.e. sending a long list of questions). I’ve seen employee surveys done well and, more often, done poorly. But that’s okay (for now). Today is the day that you learn how to properly do it to build your 2016 customer experience strategy. After all, your employees may speak to more customers in one day than the CEO might in a year. It’s only fitting that we learn from them too.

Macro employee listening

The macro way to listen to your employees is to survey them. But doing so is slightly different than surveying your customers. Not only do you want to understand what customers are saying about your service or product, to your employees, but you also want to understand how they trust team members and feel in their roles as employees.

  • Do they have the tools they need to succeed?
  • Do they need more education on how to perform their job well?
  • Are they consistently motivated to excel? If not, why?
  • Can your company be doing anything more to help them improve the customer experience?

There is plenty of light, affordable software to help you survey your customers. In fact, many of the VoC software programs will allow you to survey your employees as well. A company called TinyPulse, software that I recommend in my online course, Experience Academy, allows you to ask your employees one question at a time. Employees love it because it’s simple and submitted anonymously.

Before you decide to purchase software, or sign up for a free trail, determine what questions you’re going to ask and what you will do with the feedback.

Micro employee listening

During my time as a call centre team member at 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, before I moved into Operations, Patrick Louis (someone that I’m still in touch with today) created a new layer of management. These employees were known as Team Captains and they reported directly into call centre management.

What this new layer of employees were responsible for, amongst other things, was to keep a close ear to what customers and employees were saying about the current state of the customer experience. I can tell you, firsthand, that it worked magically! Not only were Team Captains able to provide useful information that the management team could use to better the business, but it also gave them a sense of accomplishment, pride and promotion (as this new designation came along with a modest raise). Team Captains and management would come together weekly to discuss the current state of the customer experience. This form of micro employee listening works extremely well and I highly advocate it within medium and large-sized businesses. If you’re a small business, but plan on growing, start building the blueprint for this to happen now.

  1. Who will do what by when?

In my last post, I outlined that your customer experience needs a Single Point of Accountability (SPA). Who within your business will lead your company’s customer experience? I outlined in that post that the CEO can’t do it. While your CEO must be a proponent of your efforts, she can’t be doing the work. Your company must appoint someone to lead the strategy, build the team and execute on the plan.

An emerging role within companies of all sizes and industries is the Chief Customer Officer. Munchery, the ventured-back delivery company, recently recruited Pascal Rigo to become their Chief Customer Experience Officer after he sold his company La Boulange to Starbucks for $100 million. When I read the article, I was elated because I, and many others, have been promoting the need for this role within companies for years.

Whether you’re a venture-back company, valued at a billion dollars, or a $25M company, your customer experience needs a SPA. One of my clients, one of Las Vegas’ largest HVAC companies, recently appointed their customer experience SPA. This company, in an industry not immediately recognized for their customer experience strategy, understood that their customer experience needs a leader within the organization with me even having to make a case for it.

Do you have a customer experience SPA within your company today? Do they have everything they need to succeed, including the education, the budget and the software required to thrive?

If you don’t have a SPA, do you know someone in your company that could take on that role and succeed? If not, do you know how you will recruit this individual?

  1. What role will you play?

your role
What do you do for a living?

You could be the CEO of a recognizable company. Maybe you’re an executive or manager for a multi-million or billion dollar brand. Or you could be the entrepreneur that is looking for new ways to grow their business. Whatever it is that you do, you’re going to need to assist in creating your company’s 2016 customer experience strategy.

I remember being 23 years old and being asked to sit in on my company’s strategic planning meeting to give my thoughts on the organization’s customer experience initiatives that were being deployed the following quarter. It was during these type of meetings that I was able to support the company’s customer experience strategy before I even had the authority to lead.

If you’ve follow my blog, visited my YouTube channel or follow me on social media, you know that I spend 3 to 4 hours each day studying the inner workings of customer-focused companies. When I was developing my career in customer experience, I would regularly share articles, case studies and interviews with colleagues to continuously remind them of how important customer experience was to the livelihood of the company. This was another role I played early in my career that yielded value and one you can do as well.

If you’re a CEO or executive, the role you must play is twofold:

  1. Champion the customer experience à la Richard Branson – talk to the media about your customer experience, preach it in every meeting, and include it in your company’s internal newsletter
  2. Allocate the necessary resources (i.e. time and budget) to always improve your company’s customer experience. Your customer experience won’t improve unless you invest in it. Believe me, I’ve seen it firsthand: an investment in customer experience always pays a favourable ROI.

As I make plans for 2016 (I’m working on something REALLY exciting and I can’t wait to share it with you) some things I’m asking myself are:

  • “How will my customer experience improve in 2016?”
  • “Where did I fail last year in delivering a customer experience that my customers would want to see again?”
  • “What do I need to do to take it to the next level?”

Yes, customer experience consultants and keynote speakers also need to survey their customers, conduct customer journey maps, and identify strengths and areas to improve.

We probably haven’t met in-person before, but allow me to make a personal challenge, perhaps even a plea: go out and give your customer experience a 2016 strategy. Start now! Don’t wait because it will not build itself.

Have you downloaded my free ebook yet? Learn 28 customer and employee experience strategies that will help you become a world-class company. You can download it by filling in the form directly below this post.

5 Secrets Entrepreneurs Can Use to Achieve Consistent Growth (Regardless of Budget or Industry)

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.

Disclaimer: Just a heads up. This is a 2,500 word article with statistics, best practices, and tangible learning. If you’re not serious about growing your business, then this article isn’t for you. But, if you are, I guarantee the words that follow will steer you in the right direction and help you grow your business like you could never have imagined. If you don’t learn at least five solid takeaways, please tweet me @michelfalcon and say “Michel, you jerk, you wasted my time!” And if you do like it? I encourage you to follow me on Twitter for more insights and send me a tweet about what you learned.

So you want to grow your company?


Say yes if any of these have happened to you while trying to grow your business:
  • Paying the high cost of running print advertising
  • Investing in social media, only to see “nothing happen”
  • Working hard to acquire customers, but having these new customers never buy again or refer anyone

These can look like good ways to grow your business—and some might eventually work if you spend enough—but none of them are the best way.

Good news… today is the day that you learn the secrets of some of the world’s greatest entrepreneurs and how they grow businesses that last for decadesand enjoy profits that until now you’ve only dreamed of.

Today is the day that you learn how to grow differently, in a more profitable and sustainable manner… by improving your customer experience.

But first…

I’m going to show you five things you need to do to grow your company. But first we need to learn what customer experience is—as well as what it isn’t—and discover why organic growth is a must.

Keynote: Verizon Wireless Retail Summit

Keynote: Verizon Wireless Retail Summit


And here’s why I want to teach you: for nearly a decade, customer experience has been my niche. It’s the foundation that I’ve built a profitable company from. And doing that work—whether travelling around the world speaking at events, consulting with billion dollar companies, or founding Experience Academy—I’ve come to recognize that entrepreneurs don’t even really know what customer experience (CX) is.

Most people often confuse it with customer service, which is a problem. Because while the two seem similar, they are in fact very different.

What is customer service?

Customer service is about actions. When you go to the grocery store and pay for your bananas and milk, the person at the till is giving you customer service. When you file your insurance papers for your car, you are receiving customer service. When you visit the bank, and the teller helps you pay your bills… customer service.

When I was first introduced to the idea of customer experience, I thought it was just another word for customer service. I considered customer service something that helps operate a business, not something that helps grow it.

I now know much better—customer service is just one of the parts that go into a much larger strategy.

[bctt tweet=”Customer service are the nuts and bolts that go into a much larger strategy that we call #cx.”]
How is customer experience different from customer service?

Customer experience is the design of the interactions your customers have with you—from the beginning of their relationship with you to the end of it.

Here’s an example. When was the last time you went to the movie theatre? Let’s review that customer experience.

If you were asked what the experience is like at a movie theatre, you might describe it this way:

  1. Arrive at the movie theatre
  2. Pay for your ticket, either at a self-serve kiosk or at a cash register with an employee
  3. Have your ticket validated by another employee
  4. Buy your popcorn from a third employee
  5. Watch the movie
  6. Leave the theatre

While all of these interactions—often called customer touch points—are in fact part of the customer experience, there are a couple of key points of engagement missing from this list.

Here’s my personal movie theatre experience:

  1. Review what movie I want to watch, and find which theatre is showing it, on my mobile phone, tablet, or desktop computer
  2. To avoid the possibility of a long line, purchase tickets through the theatre’s mobile app
  3. Arrive at the movie theatre and park my car
  4. Present my virtual ticket to a theatre employee
  5. Buy popcorn from another employee
  6. Visit the restroom before the movie begins
  7. Watch the movie
  8. Leave the theatre
  9. Receive a survey through an app or email

Points 1, 2, 3 and 6 (and 9, if the movie theatre offers a survey) are missing from the first description—and vital to the overall experience.

What would your impression be of the company that operated the theatre if the parking lot was littered with garbage? What if the restrooms were filthy? I’m sure it would hurt the experience for you, not to mention make you think twice about spending money to watch a movie at that theatre again.

Whether your own company’s customer experience has 4, 8, or even 10 touchpoints doesn’t matter. What matters is that you realize they all work together to create your customer experience.

Was I able to clearly define customer service and customer experience for you? If so, I guarantee you will learn 28 other customer experience strategies for your business in this FREE ebook.

Why customer experience matters

Now that we understand the difference between customer service and customer experience, we must understand why we should do any of this.

Creating positive change within companies with customer experience is what I do for a living. I help companies outline their entire customer experience, and build the right systems and processes to improve their customer experience and help grow their business.

But I didn’t commit my career to customer experience management because delivering great service makes people smile. While I appreciate the warmth of delivering and receiving great customer service, the primary reason I do what I do is because I’m a capitalist—I want to grow businesses.

Customer experience is the greatest way to grow your business, hands down. It’s better than any marketing campaign and better than any sales strategy—and it’s definitely better than PR.

Put simply,

[bctt tweet=”Customer experience is the engine that drives organic growth.”]

Organic growth: the Holy Grail
If you need a refresher, organic growth is the revenue earned through 1) repeat purchases from existing customers, and 2) customers referring your company to other customers.

It’s so important because earning business organically is more profitable than anything else you can do.

Why? The largest cost associated with growing any customer base is acquisition. But once a customer is acquired, it’s a lot more cost-effective to retain that customer instead of going out and finding a second one. Because when that retained customer generates additional business—either through repeat purchases or referrals to family and friends—you’re paying very little to get that new business.

Consider the following statistics:
  • The probability of converting a new customer is 5% to 20% (Marketing Metrics)
  • The probability of converting an existing customer is 60% to 70% (Marketing Metrics)
  • Increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases profits by 25% to 95% (Harvard Business Review)
  • A 10% rise in customer retention yields a 30% increase in the value of the company (Bain and Company)

And now consider these case studies in massive success:

  • Amazon – Grew from operating in a garage to having a market cap over $100 Billion
  • Zappos – Grew from $1 Million to $1 Billion in revenue in ten years
  • Starbucks – Grew from one store in Seattle to over 22,000 stores worldwide

What do they all have in common?

All of them have the necessary systems and processes in place in order to make their customer experience predictable, memorable, and addictive.

The aforementioned companies have all grown organically as well.

Coincidence? I think not.

Do you want to grow your business and operate like Amazon, Zappos and Starbucks? If so, click the button below to learn 28 strategies to improve your company’s customer experience by reading ‘28 Traits of Organizations Who Are Customer Experience Titans’.


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The 5 secrets of customer experience

How can you start to develop a stronger customer experience?

Well, the time has come—I’d like to share with you five rules that you can use to improve your company’s customer experience.

Secret #1 – You’re in this for the long haul

There will always be a positive ROI when you invest in your customer experience. Always. When you invest in building the right systems and processes to improve the customer experience, it will strengthen the relationship you have with your customers and make them more loyal. That, in turn, will lead to organic growth.

But you need to be patient if you want to see that pay-off. Building stronger relationships with your customers, like you do with your best friends, takes time.

You can’t just wake up one day, do something nice for a customer, and all of a sudden expect them to start spending more money and referring all of their family and friends. It’s like how driving a friend to the airport so they can catch their flight will help build a stronger bond between the two of you, but isn’t the sole ingredient in establishing a long-term friendship that will last for decades.

The most customer-focused entrepreneurs in the world know how to think long-term.

Secret #2 – You have the budget—you just need to find it

I hear this all the time:

“Michel, we don’t have the budget to do this and [insert additional lame excuse here].”

You do have the budget to improve your customer experience, but you might need to reallocate your existing budgets. Here’s how to do it: reduce the amount you spend on marketing, PR, and other customer acquisition strategies that aim to acquire customers inorganically. After all, why are you trying to recruit new customers when you aren’t prepared to retain them? That’s like spending money on invitations to a housewarming party at a million dollar home, but then hosting the party in a dilapidated shack. You must build, protect, and decorate the home first.

The best entrepreneurs grow their businesses by making the right investments and ensuring that the customer experience has a distinct budget.

Secret #3 – Customer experience starts with your employees

When I work with an entrepreneur who aspires to improve his or her company’s customer experience I NEVER start by focusing on the customer. I always audit the employee experience first.

You see, you can build all the systems in the world, and buy the most expensive software to improve your customer experience, but if your employee experience is weak then your customer experience will be weak as well. Sure, you might make some improvements to your customer experience, but you won’t maximize your opportunity.

Think about it… It’s rare to be greeted by unfriendly WestJet, Virgin, or FedEx employees. While I’m not going to suggest that superior companies don’t have a single employee who isn’t operating at a high standard, I’m confident when I say that the vast majority of their teams love the company and deliver an experience that represents the brand well.

Yes, companies that have customers who love them have something else in common: their employees love the company too.

And it’s not just large corporations. Think about small businesses in your city that deliver an amazing customer experience. I bet the employees at these businesses are happy to work there, consistently have smiles on their faces, and have sacrificed opportunities that might have paid more in order to enjoy working for a company that values the employee experience.

One of my favourite companies to use as an example is Timbertrain Coffee Roasters in Vancouver, Canada, where I am based. Every time I visit their shop, each employee is happy and, in turn, makes me loyal because I enjoy doing business with them. (Of course, it doesn’t hurt that their coffee is amazing as well.)

The results speak for themselves; Timbertrain is always busy and the company can afford rent in a trendy area of downtown Vancouver that is typically reserved for the Starbucks of the world. In short, they are successful and continue to thrive because their employees love their jobs, and the company itself.

Remember… You might have a great product that your customers love, but if they are greeted by employees who aren’t representing your business properly, those customers can easily be lured away by your competitors.

To audit your employee experience, consider doing the following:

  • Review the kind of questions you ask during the candidate interviews. Are they standard questions that an interviewee can find on the web in advance and heavily prepare for? If so, you need to create better questions.
  • What is the first day on the job like for new hires? If it’s rudimentary and standard, then you have an opportunity to make it more dynamic to capture the hearts of your employees.
  • How do you recognize employees for providing exceptional service? If you’re simply giving them extra cash, you are not creating memorable experiences. If money is the key motivator for your employees, it might mean you are hiring incorrectly or creating a culture motivated solely by extrinsic rewards.

The world’s greatest entrepreneurs, no matter what size of business they run, spend the time necessary to evaluate their employee experience and make it a magnet for exceptional employees to thrive in.

Secret #4 – You need to create your own education

I’m starting to recognize an increase in awareness around customer experience as a growth strategy. The next question I often hear is:

“Michel, what do we do next?”

Business school doesn’t teach you how to recruit and hire customer-centric professionals, nor does it help you build customer-focused training materials or create surveys that will properly gather feedback from our customers.

That the educational system doesn’t teach aspiring entrepreneurs how to build companies that grow through customer experience is a huge missed opportunity—so you need to take it on yourself.

To build my own career in customer experience management, I had to study the inner workings of successful companies like Zappos, Starbucks, Apple, and Amazon. To this day, I still spend 2 to 4 hours studying every day.

(As an aside, I built Experience Academy, my online training course, because I recognized that there isn’t a lot of premium content available to people serious about improving their knowledge of customer experience management. Yes, you can read books, but many of them are filled with jargon and theory, not actionable strategies and tangible learning like Experience Academy offers.)

Wherever you find your education, make sure you prioritize it. The most respected entrepreneurs develop a culture of learning within their companies, which helps them to continuously improve the customer experience.

Secret #5 – It’s not a cliché… Improve constantly or die

In the same way that you don’t stop improving the relationships you have with your family members or friends, you have to ensure that you never stop improving the experience that your customers have with your company.

Building systems and processes to improve the customer experience isn’t something that happens once; it must become a part of your company’s DNA. Yes, the improvements must start somewhere, but you need to keep refining and “inspecting what we expect” to ensure you are always delivering an experience your customers will obsess over.

Only by doing so will customers be proud to frequent your business and refer you to their family members and friends.

The most admired entrepreneurs are always refining their customer experience to grow their business.

Now it’s your turn… to be the leader of your customer experience

If delivering amazing service is important to the growth and security of a business, why do some entrepreneurs struggle to improve it or give it the attention it deserves?

Don’t be one of the ones who doesn’t prioritize the way customers experience your company. As an entrepreneur and leader, you must be the flag-bearer of your customer experience.

Look to people like Richard Branson of Virgin, Zappos’ Tony Hsieh, and Jamie Clarke from Live Out There for inspiration. They’re all visible leaders of their customer experience—and they ensure the approval of the budgets and resources necessary to grow the business.

I’m not asking you to do the work entirely on your own; rather, I’m suggesting that you take the lead as the person who spearheads change within your organization and act as the visible advocate of improving the customer experience to grow the business.

And don’t forget… You’ve got a resource in me.

Open up to me if you’d like. Let me know what you are struggling with regarding your customer and employee loyalty.

What challenges are you faced with?

What do you need to change the status quo?

Leave a comment below and I promise to respond to every single one of them.

And when you’re done, be sure to download my FREE ebook by using the form below to learn 28 actionable strategies to improve the relationships you have with your customers and employees.

Thanks for reading this far. I wish you the best of success with your customer experience.

How LinkedIn’s CEO Leveraged Feedback to Improve Their User Experience

When was the last time your customers gave you feedback and you leveraged that to create change?

If you’re reading this, I’m going to assume you have a LinkedIn account. After all, not having a LinkedIn profile today is like not having a resume in 1999.

In my opinion, LinkedIn has opportunities to improve their user experience. Today, we began to see that change.

While watching TV, and scrolling through Twitter, I noticed the following conversation between @MikeIsaac, a New York Times tech report, and @JeffWeiner, LinkedIn’s CEO.

Here was Jeff’s response.


Mike responded with a small jab.

Jeff responded with flattery.


Personally, I receive 5 to 10 LinkedIn requests every day, which doesn’t really bother me. Perhaps Mike’s connection requests have reached a point where each email is a small paper cut that ruins LinkedIn’s user experience for him.

Clearly LinkedIn’s user experience team are paying close attention to user behaviour and leveraging their feedback to create change that will improve the user experience.

Whether you are a small business, or a tech company valued at billions of dollars with hundreds of millions of users, you should be asking for customer feedback and using it to improve your customer’s experience.

So what can you learn from this short Twitter interaction?

Ask for feedback and use it to create change

As a consultant and keynote speaker, I tell companies not to survey their customers if they aren’t going to use it to “continue the good and reduce the bad.” Surveying customers does take resources to do effectively. If you are going to use these resources, then you must leverage the resulting data to improve your business.

I’m not certain how LinkedIn monitors user feedback (I’ve sent them some emails to find out), but they are monitoring it. Not only that, but they are using this as a gift, returning the favour to their users by creating a better experience for them. After all, if the users aren’t happy, then the platform is vulnerable to competitors.

The CEO should have an intimate understanding of customer feedback

Clearly the CEO of LinkedIn is hyper-connected to his user experience team and is made aware of user feedback on a regular basis. When a CEO is this engaged, they become the flag bearer of their customer experience and give their team the green light to create positive change. I can’t begin to tell you how reassuring this is for employees when they see that their CEO is engaged in their customer experience.

This could be part of the reason why Jeff was voted the most beloved CEO in America by Glassdoor. My recommendation to CEOs is to follow Jeff’s lead by having a close relationship with the team that gathers customer feedback, meeting with them on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.

RELATED: 4 Non-Negotiable Traits of Customer-Focused CEOs

Close the loop (in a public or private setting)

It doesn’t hurt that Jeff responded to Mike, someone with a massive social following, on Twitter so that the public can retweet and favourite their interaction. What this does, for me at least, is make LinkedIn a more admirable brand. It humanized a billion-dollar company by simply closing the loop online with a customer (though closing the loop offline is just as effective).

I’ve experienced this myself through a phone call a couple of years ago with Gregg Saretsky, the CEO of WestJet. Read the story on my agent’s website by clicking here.

What I’m hearing from entrepreneurs around the world, when it comes to improving their company’s customer experience, is:

“What do we do next?”

You see, I believe that awareness of the importance of customer experience is increasing. We see its value. But now we need to know what to do next.

If we are isolating customer feedback, this is my advice.

If you are going to ask for customer feedback, don’t put all your energy into determining what software you are going to buy; that is only a spoke in the wheel. Your organization must be prepared to create change by using your feedback to create greater customer loyalty.

Just like LinkedIn has done here.

Have you downloaded my free ebook yet? Learn 28 customer and employee experience strategies that will help you become a world-class company. You can download it by filling in the form directly below this post.

3 Pro Tips for Using Twitter Ads Without Hurting Your Customer Experience

Do you still get upset when you see an in-stream ad on Twitter?

On Tuesday, I was glued to my TV watching Game 6 of the NBA Finals. The outcome of the game didn’t matter much to me; I just wanted to watch some great basketball. For those of you who watched, I’m sure you would agree that it was a good game.

However, it wasn’t the game that captured my attention, but rather a Twitter ad from the Golden State Warriors (@warriors) that got me thinking about Twitter ads, social commerce, and user experience.

After the game was over, the trophies were awarded and the Golden State Warriors received their championship hats. I took this opportunity to go on Twitter and see what the reaction was from NBA fans. After scrolling through my feed, I came across this ad:

Screen Shot 2015-06-18 at 12.57.17 PM

I thought this was the perfect display of how to properly leverage social ads, and a great example of why I’m bullish on Twitter ads specifically. I’m excited about the possibilities that these ads represent for three reasons.

There were Golden State Warrior fans around the world that were in a euphoric state after the win, and who would gladly pay $40 to be a part of this (often) once-in-a-lifetime moment. Clearly, the Warriors’ social team was on top of their game and not just popping champagne after this huge victory for their franchise. This must have been planned in advance by their social team, in the likelihood that they would win the championship on this night.

For the company that’s wanting to advertise, creating a Twitter ad takes a fraction of the time that it would take to create in-store advertisements, like posters or display ads, to promote the same hat. Plus, let’s be honest, who goes cruising through the mall to purchase these types of items anymore? I haven’t done that since I was 15 years old. Don’t just take it from me: read this Business Insider post, which outlines how traffic to shopping malls across North America is declining.

Could Warriors fans have waited until the next day, when the team store opened, and purchased the hat in-person? Probably. Could I have bought it in a couple of weeks for a cheaper price? Most likely.

We know that social media breaks news, around the world, at an increasingly fast pace, giving us the ability to acquire information immediately (and much faster than traditional news networks). Commerce is no different. I have personally recognized that, when I want a service or good, I want to make the purchase now, not tomorrow. And, to do so, I will pay a premium for it. Twitter ads provide this immediacy that so many people desire.

I recognize that Warriors fans could buy the hat in-person and actually receive the hat faster, since those who purchased through the Twitter ad will have to wait for delivery, but, for me, securing the purchase is enough to satisfy my desires while giving me peace of mind that the item is on the way.

Above all, it was the effortlessness of buying through the Twitter ad that makes purchasing through social media make sense for me and why I don’t mind in-stream ads.

After clicking the first buy button, this is what I experienced:

Screen Shot 2015-06-18 at 12.57.26 PM
Screen Shot 2015-06-18 at 12.57.32 PM

Two clicks and, after entering my credit card information, I was done. It was painless.

Within 3 minutes, I had made the purchase. It would take me much longer than that to get into my car, drive to the nearest retailer, and buy the same hat, not to mention finding parking, speaking to an employee, and then returning home. That entire experience could take me 45 minutes to an hour. For me, as a consumer, you will earn my wallet if you provide an effortless customer experience, even if you charge more.

I think it’s unjust when people complain about ads on Twitter, or any social platform for that matter. These companies, at the end of the day, are a business; of course they are going to advertise at some point! We experienced Twitter ad-free for years, enjoying everything about the platform rent-free. So let’s stop complaining when we see an ad. Personally, I love Twitter and I want it to survive. Seeing the occasional ad is a small price to pay for continued access to the service.

A disclaimer, though, for companies thinking of advertising through Twitter: please do it right. Last year, I saw an ad for a medium-sized business, which promoted on Twitter that it was celebrating its 25th anniversary. That’s great. Congratulations! Surviving for 25 years is difficult in any industry. However, this type of ad doesn’t do anything for me as the consumer. It doesn’t enrich my life. It doesn’t get the company’s product into my hands to enjoy. If this ad I saw followed the Golden State Warriors model and promoted their success while providing me with a $25 discount, and I genuinely needed their service, I would most likely have purchased or retweeted it.

Twitter ads don’t suck; we just suck at creating them, which I think is a MASSIVE opportunity for Twitter. They have the opportunity to teach businesses how to properly use their ads platform through tutorials, videos, case studies (i.e. dos and don’ts), and by being willing to say no to crappy ads.

Is your company using Twitter ads within your marketing mix? If not, do you plan on pursuing them in the near future?

If you liked what you read, follow me on Twitter.

Featured image credit: Simon Owens

3 Reasons Why Customer Experience Fails

Customer experience is like the pretty woman at the party. The idea of speaking with her sounds amazing, but what’s the best way to approach her?

As a consultant and keynote speaker, I’ve seen first-hand that organizations want to better their customer experience and design a strategy that will support this improvement, which makes me optimistic for the future. However, having good intentions doesn’t always translate to successful deployment of these initiatives.

On a flight home from Philadelphia, earlier this year, my inbox flooded with emails from people in the audience motivated to better their customer experience. This got me thinking:

Why is it that some companies’ customer experience intentions will succeed, while others will fail?”

I believe there are three key reasons why customer experience fails at a company.

There is No Executive Sponsor

A customer experience program that succeeds always has an executive sponsor, a senior-ranking executive that is the champion of the program. She has the authority, budget and motivation to make this program a success and will stop at nothing to have the initiative become an integral part of the company.

Personally, I won’t work with a client on a consulting engagement if it doesn’t have an executive sponsor, because we will face inevitable barriers that can only be overcome by someone with signing authority. When an internal battle for budget and resources ensues during strategic planning meetings, customer experience needs to have a flag bearer that will fight tooth and nail for its attention.

Does your company’s customer experience have an executive sponsor? Tweet at me to let me know.

There is a Lack of Education

Part of the motivation behind building Experience Academy, the online customer experience learning platform that my team and I created, was because we felt there was a HUGE gap in where professionals go to obtain education on customer experience. After all, business schools around the world are doing such a poor job at teaching this to aspiring business leaders, and rarely even include it in the curriculum.

If your company needed to improve its approach to digital marketing, there are a plethora of education options which you can pursue to help develop a successful program. You can often rely on this education to give you a step-by-step strategy to follow and provide direction. With customer experience, most companies are still trying to answer the primary questions such as:

  • What is customer experience management?
  • Where do we start?
  • How do we measure success?

Where does your company go to further its customer experience education? Share your thoughts with me on Twitter; I would love to know.

It’s a Rallying Point with No Strategy

If I was to hire anyone to improve an organization’s customer experience, Annette Franz would be on my shortlist. Last year, she wrote a post titled ‘Customer Service or Lip Service?‘ that depicts this point very well. Most companies splash their walls with motivational quotes or create shameless taglines that say, “Providing world-class customer service since 1981.”

For them, say this makes them feel customer-focused, when both you and I know that it’s merely lip service.

During my latest keynote speech, I opened the keynote to a group of 300 CEOs by asking the audience two questions:

  • “Please stand if your company created a marketing plan for 2015.” At this prompt, around two-thirds of the room stood up.
  • “Stay standing if your company also created a customer experience plan for 2015.” Sadly, only one person remained standing.

Note: You can watch the full-length keynote engagement here.

You see, we spend so much time and effort building strategies for things that we are familiar with, such as marketing, and neglect that customer experience needs the same strategic approach to be successful. Imagine if your CMO or Director of Marketing told your CEO that he was going to approach marketing in the same way that most companies currently approach customer experience. Needless to say, he would be fired.

When your company released their quarterly or yearly strategic plan, did it include initiatives that will improve the customer experience? Hit me up on Twitter and let me know with a simple yes or no.

I’ve worked with small companies, and I’ve worked with large companies, ranging in industries from automotive to finance, and hospitality to transportation. The three traits I mentioned are relevant to all industries. To succeed you must have an executive sponsor, the proper education, and a strategic plan.

As the end of Q2 approaches, what is your company doing to ensure that customer experience is given the attention it deserves to succeed?

Have you downloaded my FREE ebook yet? Fill out the form below to instantly get a download of 28 Traits of Customer Experience Titans and learn how to better your company’s customer experience strategy. 

KLM and the Profitable Social Customer Service Agent

Is your company still busy wondering about the ROI of social customer service?

Venture Beat published an awesome post on KLM, the European airline, on how their 150 social media customer service agents have generated annual revenue of $25 million through social media. For many social media pioneers this doesn’t come as a surprise. People like Chris Brogan and Ryan Holmes, pros who put their name next to social media several years ago, have been preaching this for years. In typical fashion, we like to wait until others prove successful until we jump in.

Will your company go all in now?

The article interviews KLM’s social media manager, Gert Wim ter Haar. He mentions how each social agent generates $170,000 in annual revenue, the airline manages 70,000 queries each week, and that their social efforts have helped the company become more customer-centric.

RELATED: Is Your Company Customer-Centric or Ego-Centric

The ROI of Social Customer Service

Let’s do some simple math to try and understand the hard costs of operating a program like this and calculate the ROI.

According to CIO.com, a social media professional will each earn $43,400 per year. With KLM having 150 social media customer service agents, let’s assume that KLM’s operating cost for their efforts, just in people, is $6.5 million. Of course, these agents will need managers. Again, let’s assume that, for every 15 social customer service team members, KLM allocates one manager. Glassdoor’s national average for a social media manager is listed at $51,613, which equates to $260,000 (rounded up). For a team of this size, KLM will need some high-end software, like Sprinklr. I don’t know the cost of Sprinklr, but let’s guess that KLM would need to pay $100,000 each year to power their social listening program. I’m sure there are other costs, like an incentive budget, but let’s not get too granular. All-in, let’s assume that the cost of operating KLM’s social program is $6.9 million when rounded up. That’s a 3.5x ROI! Can traditional media, like TV, radio or print do that for your company?

I think far too many professionals today, who are responsible for approving operating budgets, make decisions to secure their own livelihood. In other words, they make easy decisions so that they don’t get fired. After all, it’s not too often that you will get fired for buying TV ads… unless, of course, you are Matt Jauchius, the guy responsible for producing the infamous Nationwide Super Bowl ad.

KLM is different. As discussed in this article, on Convince and Convert, KLM has developed a very comprehensive social media program that is world-class. I can only imagine that, early on, someone in KLM’s boardroom thought that this social media thing wasn’t going to be a fad.

Within the Venture Beat article, Gert Wim ter Haar says it beautifully:

It’s first about service, then brand and reputation, but also about commerce … we have to make money.”

Long-Term Mentality

KLM has been active on social media for several years now, and we can see that they are now able to report back very strong, even enviable, business metrics. Unlike other marketing initiatives, the ROI of social isn’t instantaneous, just like customer experience. You can’t predict when your customers are going to spend that next dollar with you, but if you’re patient they will come.

Last year, I wrote a post about social selling (which you can read here). Within the post, I outlined that Zappos was able to experience the following:

  • Their Facebook status updates from November 20, 2012 to January 20, 2013 led to 85,000 website visits
  • 42% of those website visits led to purchases
  • The other 58% that didn’t lead to sales converted into likes, shares, and comments
  • Each status update had a conversion rate of 1.75%.

That is another example of a company producing strong metrics from social but, again, this doesn’t happen overnight.

I’m perplexed that some companies, who should be operating around the clock, aren’t. KLM operates their social channels 24/7 because it makes sense for their business, with their customers traveling at all times. But why isn’t this the status quo for all major brands? The other day, I tweeted at my telecommunications company, a multi-billion dollar company that can afford to do so, yet I didn’t get a response until later the next day. Maybe it’s because I’m a millennial, but I want a response almost immediately. After all, you manage your phone 24/7  and wouldn’t let a customer wait a full day before responding by phone, so why don’t you hold your social channels to the same standard?

What is it going to take for companies to allocate the appropriate resources to ensure our customers receive the same customer experience on social media as they do in-person or by phone? Will your boss need to see more positive examples, like with KLM? Do we need better education to show us how to do it? Will it require your current leadership to retire or exit your company and be replaced with more forward-thinking executives?

Don’t wait to make this a reality within your company; the advent of social customer service is here. You don’t have time to waste in making this part of your overall customer experience strategy, or else you will be left behind by more responsive companies in your industry.

Is Your Customer Experience Layered Before It’s Consistent?

Does your company try to do too much when you lack a consistent customer experience?

When I consult with a company, one of the first things I look for is their level of consistency in delivering a predictable customer experience. More often than not, they are trying to do too much before getting the consistency of their service right.

Take building a home as an example. A home builder is always going to construct the foundation of the home first, before helping you design your dream kitchen. He understands the foundation is what will help your home stand for the next 100 years, just like you want your business to survive for the next century.

If you follow basketball, you probably recognize Stephen Curry for his no-look passes, as well as his seemingly effortless three pointers that he throws up (and makes). But he’s proven himself as a consistently reliable point guard, earning him the right to add elements to his game that ordinary players shouldn’t. Your business is no different.

Now, just because you are consistent, does that mean you should add “layers” to your business to make it more sexy? Not necessarily. Look at Costco as a prime example. For me, I’m loyal to Costco because their shopping experience is consistent, even though they run out of products at times due to the challenges of supply chain and product management. The experience is so consistent that it allows me to navigate their massive store with ease, being in and out in under 30 minutes.

If you’re looking to add “layers” to your business to make it more like a Warby Parker experience, first stop and think to yourself: “Are we consistent enough to do so?”

Your Customer Experience Must Save Your Customers Time

If you want to deliver a strong, effortless customer experience, you should ensure that it saves your customers time.

Sounds obvious, right?

If so, why is it that some companies still deliver a rudimentary customer experience, and not a “blink and you’re done” process?

Customer experience isn’t just about making our customers happy, although that is a part of it. To make our customers loyal, we can’t just provide nice touches throughout their experience; we must save our customers time. Ultimately, this is something a customer wants, as they value their time and it will make them more efficient.

Netflix’s customer experience can be navigated in a fraction of the time it used to take us to go to Blockbuster’s retail store and pick up a movie.

A few pushes of a button and our mode of transportation arrives through Uber.

Shyp allows us to accomplish a painful task, going to the post office, in a quick and easy manner by simply taking a picture of what we want couriered.

ZenPayroll saves payroll professionals and small business entrepreneurs countless hours through their slick UI and UX.

These four companies are winning because they are saving their customers time, an irreplaceable resource, and making their experience effortless. Now, maybe you’re not a big technology company with millions of dollars in funding. Regardless, that doesn’t mean you can’t create processes to make your experience more fluid. If you don’t, it’s only a matter of time until an entrepreneur will sniff out your industry’s rudimentary experience, reinvents the wheel, and starts taking market share from you. It’s not a matter of if this will happen; it’s a matter of when.

Your business’ customer experience must save your customer time if you want to create a competitive advantage for the long-term. Your competitors may try to copy your strategy, but your customers will always remember who was the first to save them time.

So how do you go about creating systems to save your customers time? You must first create a customer journey map with your executive team. If you are a small business owner, you can do this on your own. Map out each and every customer touch point, then identify the rudimentary interactions your customers are having with your company. From there, you can start building operational improvement strategies to “increase the good and reduce the bad.”

If you don’t know how to host a customer journey mapping sessions, email me and I will send you a one page document to help you complete one.