One of My First (and Most Memorable) Business Lessons

Shortly after leaving university and joining 1-800-GOT-JUNK? the company welcomed a new leader to my department, the call centre.

This leader’s name was Patrick Louis.

Michel Falcon (Left) & Patrick Louis (Right) in Toronto, ON

The 1-800-GOT-JUNK? call centre consisted of a team of 100 call centre agents (not all scheduled at the same time) answering 1,000,000 calls per year (if my memory serves me correctly). 

The Scenario

When Patrick came into the company he inherited a team of young individuals. A few people were making $100,000 per year as call centre professionals. If you know anything about the call centre industry, this is extraordinarily unusual.

The company was and still is great! This description isn’t a bash on the organization, it’s a description of the reality at the time. This is likely why Patrick, a seasoned professional was brought into the company.

During my first year, many of my peers and I called in sick regularly. We performed well as a team but we often operated outside of the guidelines put forth to us, and likely made the life of our Workforce Management Team (WFM) very difficult. The WFM team is responsible for scheduling agents in the call center to ensure there was enough coverage to answer 80%+ of calls within 20 seconds.

To summarize, Patrick had a few challenges ahead of him:

  • The profit and loss statement of the call centre was likely in the red because wages weren’t sustainable.
  • Some (maybe most) of his inherited team didn’t have many responsibilities outside of paying rent and earning money for the bar.
  • He needed to find a solution, fast. This key department within a recognizable company couldn’t keep operating this way. 

Patrick’s Solution

Now, let me tell you something…I was one of those agents that called in sick when I wasn’t. 

Sorry, Patrick! I hadn’t fully matured yet.

But, aside from that, I think I was one of the better agents (this was before transitioning to the operations side of the company). I paid attention to the changes that were happening and when I didn’t understand why changes were happening, I’d ask Patrick to tell me directly so I could learn.

Since I left business school to learn how to grow a company and make operational decisions – this was my real-world MBA. I knew I had to pay attention and acquire wisdom.

These are some of the changes I witnessed and their cause and effect:

He Changed The Pay Structure 

Before his arrival, we were largely (and generously) paid on commission with a modest hourly rate. Receiving a loan from the bank with this proof of income wasn’t very likely. He changed the compensation plan so that our commissions were dissolved but had an opportunity to earn a very nice hourly wage, which financial institutions would favour for loans. There were other opportunities to earn more income by way of sales contests but not direct commissions. Not only did this save the company money, but we also performed better as a department!

He Changed the Employee Profile

Before Patrick’s leadership, we were largely a team of 20-25 year-olds. He had the experience to recognize that the company needed a team of people with true responsibilities other than buying beer. These individuals needed to come to work every day to pay their mortgage, support their children and other things that held high value. This new demographic of team members rid the call centre of the absenteeism issue it previously struggled with.

I can’t tell you firsthand how long Patrick conceptualized the plan but it appeared to happen after attentively observing then following up swiftly. Naturally, there was an objection from tenured employees.

Mostly from the individuals who were used to making six figures (or close to). I remember peers of mine requesting one-on-one meetings with Patrick to voice their displeasure. 

Although Patrick’s decision was unpopular, he always stood by it. 

I shared this story with my girlfriend, Sophia. She hung onto every word because she was fascinated by the example of leadership and making tough decisions. As I shared this story with Sophia it reminded me of something I’ve always known…

…1-800-GOT-JUNK? really was my real-world MBA. Scenarios and case studies like this may be taught in business school but it’s not comparable to watching it play out right before your eyes.

The Lesson

Patrick must have known that this major change, one that would impact individuals’ bank accounts (a sensitive topic), would cause some of his team members to quit. But, the decision needed to be made.

I learned to measure risk, think of contingency plans, how to make swift decisions and stay the course.

Are you interested in improving your company culture, employee engagement, and customer experience? If so, my online course, Team Operating System, may be your solution.

Click this link to book a call with me directly to learn if the course is right for you and your company.

THE FOUR GENERATIONS OF CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE: THE INTERNET ERA (2/4)

The internet era has HURT customer experience. Find out WHY in my second installment of my four-part series that explores the best practices of “The 4 Generations of Customer Experience.”

Are you interested in improving your company culture, employee engagement, and customer experience?

Are you interested in improving your company culture, employee engagement, and customer experience? If so, my online course, Team Operating System, may be your solution.

Click this link to book a call with me directly to learn if the course is right for you and your company.

How To Build Your Customer Experience Strategy By Asking Yourself These Three Questions [2020 Edition]

I’ve leveraged customer experience strategies within my career for more than ten years now. 

I’ve seen companies thrive (some of which I’ve advised), some commit but not fully exhaust the benefits and others that say customer experience matters but do nothing at all. 

The latter is paying lip service to actually building a customer experience strategy that will grow your business, build an admired brand and have a competitive advantage against your competition.

Something my friend, Brian Mazza, says rings true in business (and other areas of your life). He says,

“Nothing changes if nothing changes.”

He’s right!

If you want your company to grow in 2020 you have a myriad of different options:

  • You can optimize your SEO to rank first for your respective search queries. 
  • You can hire a PR firm and increase brand awareness.
  • And/or you can host a sales contest within your sales team to increase top-line revenue.

All of these strategies have a time and a place in your company. 

But, there is only one strategy that will organically (which happens to be the most profitable to grow a business) help you achieve more profit and other great things…

… that’s having a customer experience strategy!

And, guess what?! It’s going to require an investment of time and money, just like the three bullet points above.

Let’s use an example we’re all familiar with as consumers. Have you ever called a company and have heard the voice recording say,

“Your call is important to us. We are experiencing higher than normal call volume…”

It’s not “higher than normal call volume” when you call repeatedly on different days and hear the same message. This company’s leadership team has made a conscious decision that is negatively impacting their customer experience.

What they should be doing is allocating a higher labour budget to afford more call center agents to ensure 80% of calls are answered within 20 seconds or less (this is a common call center service level agreement). 

However, the conscious decision they’ve made or what they say to themselves is,

“We can’t afford that!”

This simply isn’t true.

They can afford it, they’re choosing not to by spending that budget somewhere else.

If this is happening at your company, be honest with yourself, you don’t genuinely care about customer experience. You say you do but you don’t. That’s the honest truth!

Why Doesn’t Every Company Have a Customer Experience Strategy?

Just like any financial endeavor, when you invest in customer experience strategies to improve your customer service, user experience, call center and more, the results take time.

If you want to earn more customers quickly you could launch a Facebook ad campaign tomorrow, send people to a landing page and begin converting some of them into customers (not as easy as that but fairly close).

So, what’s the issue with this? You become too focused on customer acquisition and neglect customer retention which is the primary reason why we want new customers in the first place!

To create your customer experience strategy you could do a number of things (three of which are listed later in this post).

The thing with both of these options is that it will take some time to see the positive results of your efforts but, I promise, I’ve been doing this for over a decade, the results will come. And, they will be SUSTAINABLE, which will lead you to success for years and decades to come.

Still Need More Evidence?

You may have heard the name Danny Meyers before. If not, he’s one of the most recognizable hospitality entrepreneurs, owns Shake Shack, bestselling author and more!

Above: Danny Meyers, the Chief Executive Officer of the Union Square Hospitality Group.

He knows what he’s doing when it comes to building a business. Not only that, he’s doing so in hospitality (the same industry that I’m in) which is renowned for being one of the most competitive.

Listen to this Entrepreneur podcast where he says that customer experience has always been his secret sauce.

3 Customer Experience Strategy Questions

As the year gets rolling, I’d suggest asking yourself three questions to identify what customer experience strategies you have the opportunity to create for your business and serve your customers exceptionally.

  1. Do you have plans to host a customer journey mapping workshop this year?
  2. Is it taking your customers too long to get in touch with your company which negatively impacts sales?
  3. When was the last time you updated your company’s customer service training material?

Customer Journey Mapping

If you said no to this question then I would highly recommend exploring this option. If you’re not familiar with customer journey mapping then I’d suggest watching this short video.

The video highlights what customer journey mapping is, it’s value and shares highlights from a workshop I hosted for a dental practice outside of Toronto, Canada. 

Customer Service: Service Level Agreements

When I was building my career in my early 20’s one of my first roles was working within the call center of 1-800-GOT-JUNK? I learned that we had a couple of key organizational goals that positively impacted the company’s customer experience: 80% of calls (they received 1,000,000 calls per year) had to be answered within 20 seconds and ALL system-wide customer complaints needed to be resolved within one business day, MAXIMUM.

MY RECOMMENDATION: have a family member or friend contact your company, whether by phone, email, social media or whichever channel you want to improve this year, and see how long it takes for your team to respond to a sales inquiry. 

Customer Service Training

If professional athletes and artists must habitually learn new techniques to get better at their craft. So why are our customer-facing employee’s customer service training program static and rarely evolving?

MY RECOMMENDATION: My rule of thumb is to introduce AT LEAST one new module of customer service training and techniques to your employees every three months.

2020 and Beyond

2020 can, and hopefully will be, the year that your company will become more profitable, attain high sales and admiration by developing a comprehensive customer experience strategy.

I know you can do it! You just need to create the plan, after all, nothing changes, if nothing changes. 

At the beginning of 2019, nearly one year ago, I had a company called SentriLock reach out to me to host customer service training for their management team. Below is a screenshot of what an attendee had to say about the impact the training had on the company and results!

Are you interested in improving your company culture, employee engagement, and customer experience? If so, my online course, Team Operating System, may be your solution.

Click this link to book a call with me directly to learn if the course is right for you and your company.