People-First Culture™: Why Some Teams Win Together and Others Don’t.

People-First Culture™: Build a business your employees and customers will admire.

Customer experience, employee engagement, company culture and leadership are all extremely important factors in building an admired company/brand. The People-First Culture™ is a combination of all of these factors to assist businesses on the going down the path of becoming that admired brand in the eyes of both their employees and their customers.

It is extremely important to make your employees just as happy as your customers. I’m in the business of making my employees cry…. good tears of course! You need to show them that you care, and once you show  your employees that you care, that you respect them and that you appreciate them, they will deliver an experience to your customers that they have never seen before!

This video was shot in one take without a script. It’s just a real talk. It’s everything I believe captured in a short(ish) message.
I highlight the following in the video:
  • My People-First Culture and 3P Strategy concept.
  • I share stories from companies and leaders you may not have heard of like The Beautiful People Company (nearly half their workforce is disabled), Howard Behar (a legendary leader) and Warby Parker (a million to a billion in a few short years).
  • A diagram to share with your company and team.
If you watch the video and like the message, please consider sharing it on social media and TAG someone you think needs to hear the message.

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for watching. Have a great day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tactic #2: Social Media Stalking (with Integrity)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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3 Customer Service Skills Your Employees Need to Create Customer Loyalty

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

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

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

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

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

SERVICE ENDURANCE

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

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

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

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

FORESIGHT

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

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

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

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

EMPATHY

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

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

HOW CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE EARNED WARBY PARKER FREE PR

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

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

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

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

The Warby Parker employee could have simply said:

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

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

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

Hey Tess,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ll see you next week.

Airbnb’s New Brand: Why Branding is at the Forefront of Customer Experience

Your company’s brand is what your customers see, feel and are attracted to (or not). Whether they are able to vividly express themselves, or struggle to, after seeing your brand it will give them a sudden feeling that will either make them gravitate to you or retract.

Today, Airbnb launched their new brand (read the full Fast Company article here) and I absolutely love it! I’ve read the article and watched the video five times…in one day! I’ve been bullish on Airbnb for years now and have stayed with them several times so I’m not an inexperienced promoter. Nor do I hold stock (I wish I did).

Customer experience and branding go hand in hand. Similar to how an employee will make you feel warm and fuzzy (or not) your brand will do the same thing. For me, Airbnb’s new brand has a purpose far greater than driving revenue.

As Brian Chesky (Co-founder & CEO) describes,”The brand shouldn’t say we’re about community, or our international [reach], or renting homes–it’s about belonging.

Branding isn’t only about what font you use or what hue of green your branding expert suggests; it’s about bridging the gap between what your company represents, stands for and its meaning.

Customers are attracted to brands with a mission of taking care of people. After reading this article, I’m far more bullish on Airbnb than I am on Uber. This is solely because I feel that Airbnb’s purpose is to genuinely take care of people more so than Uber’s. Don’t get me wrong, Uber’s focus on logistics and innovation will put them in a position to succeed but I question whether their CEO (Travis Kalanick) obsesses over the people who help grow the business (drivers and users).

If a company has a mission that is more than self serving agendas then the revenue and market share will follow. Airbnb’s new brand exemplifies where their priorities stand; the challenge is now executing on that vision. Their new appearance will allow them to enter new markets that the founders of Airbnb hold close to their chest which will ultimately increase market value. It’s a win, win.

Whether you are a small business or fortune 500 company, take a look at your brand, share it with friends and family and ask them, “how does this make you feel?

What brands make you feel something?

Here are some other exerts from the Fast Company post:

  • “This new branding changes the whole identity and expression of the company.”
  • On the logo: “It’s a symbol anyone can create, whether drawn on a mirror or etched in the sand”…”Every single person can have their own impression of the brand.”
  • “Most brands would send you a cease-and-desist letter if you tried to recreate their brand”…”We wanted to do the opposite.”

Watch the video here:

How Zendesk, ZenPayroll and Tangerine Make their Customers Smarter, Efficient and Successful

The business world has always understood that hiring friendly employees is an effective way to deliver great service. While this remains true, I don’t believe it will make your customers loyal, largely because it’s an easy mantra to replicate and your customers expect more.

The three ingredients to increasing customer loyalty in today’s technology driven business landscape are: make your customers smarter, make them more efficient and make them successful.

If you have a look around you, the companies who are leading their industries are ones who are making their customers smarter, efficient and successful. These three companies have the aforementioned ingredients in the DNA of their brand.

zendesk

You may have heard of Zendesk before. I have a massive “corporate crush” on this brand, company and its people. They are a living case study of making their customers smarter by perfecting content marketing. If you’ve ever visited their website, you will notice their Resource page, which I call their “home of education.” They work tirelessly to provide education to their customers through webinars, white papers and infographics. Their customers and prospective customers can visit their website and can, for free of charge, consume education to help them become more astute business professionals.

Why do you think we admire elementary and high school teachers?

It’s because they are educators; business is no different. If you put yourself in a position to educate your customers they will have an emotional connection to you and your brand.

On another note, I really admire Zendesk because they are making business fun. I feel that their Buddha logo and risqué video on their homepage gives them a competitive advantage because it’s what I call memorable marketing.

zenpayroll-logo-300x120

ZenPayroll is a world class example of how to make your customers more efficient. I can only speak for myself, but after having examined the payroll processing industry, it seems clunky, boring and out dated. I have had the pleasure of connecting with one of ZenPayroll’s co-founders and team members on the PR side of their business.

After seeing their product in action, I thought, “Wow! That’s very easy.”

What they have done has taken a process in business that most businesses struggle with and made it easier and fun. If you’re familiar with user experience you’ll notice that they have done an exceptional job at making it engaging. Here are a few tweets coming directly from their customers.

zentweet

zentweet2

zentweet3

tangerine

I was recently invited to keynote Tangerine banks executive strategy meeting in Toronto. In preparation, I turned the internet inside and out to understand their brand identity, motivations and customer base. Furthermore, I studied the individuals who were going to be in the room. All the C-suites were there and after researching their backgrounds and business philosophies I immediately connected with them. Simply put, they “get” it.

Tangerine bank is a perfect example of making your customers more successful. To fully understand their operation, I opened a chequing account with them to better familiarize myself with their customer experience. My first thought was, “There isn’t a need to go to a retail location anymore.” Keep in mind, I have banked with my institution, a competitor of theirs, for twenty years and don’t know any better. After reflecting on my past banking experience, the only time I visited the bank was to deposit cheques. With Tangerine’s Cheque-In™ feature, I can do that same action from my bathrobe on my couch.

For me, if a company is saving me time then I equate that to me being more successful. If I have more hours in the day to spend with my friends, family and clients rather than visiting a bank, then I consider that a success. I’m sure that in the eyes of Tangerine, if their customers are more successful, than so are they. It’s the ultimate win-win scenario.

Having employees who are friendly is still a critical part of customer loyalty, the emphasis on technology has however shifted our priorities as consumers. Personally, I will take a more efficient customer experience than a friendly one, but that may be because I’m technologically driven.

What are your thoughts? What other companies are making their customers more efficient, smarter and successful?

How Creating Micro Customer Experiences Can Be Your Greatest Competitive Advantage

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

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

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

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

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

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

I caught him off guard.

“What are micro experiences?” he asked.

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

Uber understands micro experiences.

photo (3)

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

Marello-Webinar-Testimonial

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have you had success with a CAB program?

Build What Your Customers Need (Not What They Want)

Ask your customers what they want and you’ll receive hundreds of different answers that will frustrate and confuse you. Put them in a focus group and watch them debate over what’s most important to them as individuals.

I advocate hosting Customer Advisory Boards (if you do them right) but you need to be careful with what you do with this new found customer intelligence. You see, your customers will say they want one thing today and something different tomorrow.

We need to balance what our customers want and what they need. The difficulty in doing this is that our customers don’t oftenknow what they need. This means we must invent on behalf of our customers.

Apple is at the forefront of doing this correctly. Case in point, the iPod. If Steve Jobs and the Apple team had asked us,

“What do you want?” we would have said,

“A MP3 player that holds 1000′s of songs” because it’s what we wanted.

Instead, Apple built a device that could not only hold thousands of songs but also get us from song one to two-hundred in a matter of seconds. We didn’t know we needed the scroll wheel to improve the user experience. If Apple had listened to what we wanted then they wouldn’t be the brand they are today.

Netflix is no different than Apple. They didn’t simply build stores to compete with Blockbuster. They created an on-demand internet streaming experience by inventing on our behalf. As we know, Blockbuster is no more and Netflix is an admired and celebrated brand.

The best way to make your business vulnerable to competition is to simply remain happy with the status quo or only make minor improvements.

Think differently! Host strategy meetings with your team, share crazy ideas and see what sticks. Companies that invent on behalf of customers win!

Are you building based on what your customers want or inventing on their behalf?

How These Two Companies Will Disrupt Their Industries With Tech and Customer Experience

I love seeing industries get disrupted. I believe that there are no longer any barriers of entry to any industry. If you combined better technology and a superior customer experience you can compete.

Business is a competitive landscape and isn’t reserved for the weak or passive. For the past six years, I’ve studied Amazon, Apple, Zappos, Southwest and Westjet to understand how they have leveraged customer experience to become billion dollar brands.

Now, it’s time to uncover the next great brands that are going to disrupt industries that have stagnated for far too long.

I’m bullish and betting my chips on ZenPayroll and Silvercar.

The common theme with these companies are that they are leveraging two things to enter their industries: technology and a superior customer experience.

It’s also worth noting that their competitors are massive companies that have owned their markets for decades.

I’m a huge advocate in the belief that there are no longer any barriers of entry into any industry. If you develop a better customer experience and combine it with advanced technology you can compete.

ZenPayroll:

zenpayroll-logo-300x120

 

Founders: Joshua Reeves (Founder, CEO & Co-Founder), Edward Kim (CTO & Co-Founder), Tomer London (CPO & Co-Founder).

Industry they are disrupting: payroll processing.

Why I’m bullish: I’ve had the opportunity to connect with some members of their team and have seen their product. Both their team and product are amazing! Plus, they are just as passionate about customer and employee experience as I am.

I have personally done business with their competitors and can confidently say that their process is much more superior. They are turning a system in business that isn’t the most sexy or glamorous and making it more efficient.

They have also gained the financial backing of Google Ventures, Salesforce, Aaron Levie (Box), Drew Houston (Dropbox), Jeremy Stoppelman (Yelp) and others investors.

Recent news: They announced a partnership and integration with Freshbooks. They also recently raised another round of $20M from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and General Catalyst Ventures.

SilverCar:

silvercar

 

Founders: led by Austin Ventures

 

Industry they are disrupting: rental car industry.

Why I’m bullish: Have you ever rented a car before? It can be an awful customer experience. By downloading the Silvercar app, you are a few clicks away from driving away in a silver Audi A4 (which is the model of car they supply). They are well on their way to reinventing the rental car experience. The rental car industry was due for disruption and I’m confident that Silvercar will capture market share.

How good are they? They are one of the few companies that bring value to the QR code.

Recent news: they completed a $6M round in financing.

Who else has my attention?

  1. Shyp: Shyp is an app that allows you to snap a picture of a parcel you want shipped. One of their “Shyp Heros” arrives and takes care of the shipping process for you. My only concern with Shyp is the amount of volume they must do to have favourable shipping rates and influence margins. The reason they have caught my eye is because they are providing a solution to a headache. I mean, who genuinely likes visiting Fedex? To date, Shyp has raised $2.1M in funding and is led by Joshua Scott and Kevin Gibbon.
  2. Oscar: Based in New York, Oscar is setting out to disrupt the healthcare industry. For me, I don’t get excited to sign up, pay or renew my healthcare because it’s a very mundane process. If Oscar, led by Josh Kushner, can simplify this process they will be in a position to take market share away from other industry leaders. They have raised $40M in investments and poached talent from Google and Tumblr.

 

What companies do you think will start disrupting their industries because of technology and customer experience?