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.

HOW TO BALANCE SALES AND CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE & MORE FT. NICK DINARDO

In this episode, I sit down with VP of Salesforce Sales Nick DiNardo.

Here’s What You’ll Learn:

  1. How to Increase Employee Engagement Amongst Remote Teams
  2. Customer Experience and On-Boarding New Clients
  3. How To Balance Sales and Customer Experience

DON’T FORGET! I HAVE NOT BEEN PREPPED ON ANY OF THE QUESTIONS ON MY BREAKING IT DOWN EPISODES.

My answers are honest, genuine and true.

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.

5 Ways to Know When Your Boss Is Targeting to Fire You (And What to Do About It)

You can feel it. Something is not right.

Your boss is acting…um, weird! 

They’re not the same as when you first interviewed with them. Or, they seemed like a great leader during the interview process, you built rapport during onboarding, you were doing well but then, all of a sudden, their behaviour towards you changed.

I know how this story goes down, not because I’ve been the leader that has targeted someone. Since operating michelfalcon.com, writing blog posts and producing videos, I’ve had many people ask for advice on how to manage a relationship with their manager.

More often than not, after they describe their leader’s behaviours and actions I sense that they are on the path to getting fired. 

Who knows, it very well could be warranted. 

But, whether it’s warranted or not, there is a certain way to coach, uplift, and lead and then there are the following five ways that will tell you that you’re being targeted. 

Not all hope is lost. You can turn this around if you follow the recommendations outlined in this blog post.

Please note, that I believe the five ways I will outline below are a cowardly way of managing someone. After all, someone’s livelihood and career is being played with if you were to lead this way. 

I’ve invited my friend Rhys Green to contribute the “and what to do about it” part of the blog post that we will call The Response.

rhys green, trailblaze partners, small business consultant
Above: Rhys Green, CEO and Co-Founder of TrailBlaze Partners

Rhys is CEO of Trailblaze Partners, a service operations consulting company based out of Vancouver BC. Before that he spent 10 years with 1-800-Got-Junk? leading teams and working on the operational challenges that come from fast growth.

They Cancel (or Don’t Show Up For) Recurring Meetings

I’ve never met a great leader that didn’t regularly meet with their direct reports. A leadership tactic that I learned during my time at 1-800-GOT-JUNK? was something called Goal Setting & Review (GS&R).

Every week, there would be a recurring scheduled meeting on the leader and team member’s calendar in perpetuity. For example, I remember when I reported into someone named Simon, our GS&R was scheduled for Tuesday at 1:00 pm (this was ten years ago, don’t ever tell me something you want me to forget because my memory is undefeated). As the title of the meeting suggests, during this time together we would review our goals and how we were trending toward them with other dialogue to support the meeting too.

Whether it’s a GS&R or some other regularly scheduled meeting, if your manager is continuously canceling or rescheduling your meeting then something is not right. If your leader responds with, 

“Oh, sorry. I’m so busy.”

Remember that everyone has the same hours in the day and that you make time for things that are important to you. These meetings are for your professional development which is why, if I was your leader, my hair would literally have to be on fire for me to cancel our time together.

I will kick it over to Rhys to share his best practices on how to manage if this is happening to you.

Rhys’ Recommendation

Direct and honest communication wins the war here. The next time you are able to get a one on one meeting with your leader, give them a heads up in advance that you’d like to talk about your professional development and performance. Use an I statement like “I feel like my development and performance aren’t important (replace this with however you actually feel about it) when you change or cancel my one-on-one meetings.” This should open up the opportunity to have a really good conversation about where you stand. 

Their Demeanor Changes

It seems like ages ago when you and your manager interviewed each other, it appeared you shared the same values, you even shared a laugh or two. During your onboarding, they seem very invested in you, your development and, ultimately, your well-being. Yes, that seems like 100 years ago.

RELATED: How to Stop Hiring Toxic Employees (a Lesson For Every Company)

Today, you noticed they rolled their eyes after you suggested a solution to a challenge the company was faced with.

They completely ignored your commentary during the off-site team meeting and moved the conversation in another direction.

They used to respond with “Yes, Emily I have a few minutes” when you would ask him a question. Now, they respond with “What!?”

These verbal cues should have you wondering if you have done something wrong or something that upset your manager.

Rhys’ Recommendation

I’d hit this one with empathy. It may not actually be you that has caused the change, but if it is you definitely want to know. I’m a big fan of the heads up, so give your leader the heads up that you want to have a conversation about how you’re working together. Start the conversation out by highlighting the behaviour change you’ve noticed (use examples) and asking if there is something going on that you’re not seeing. Are they having a hard time at home, is their leader giving them the gears? You’ll pretty quickly figure out what’s going on with this approach and it will serve to build the relationship by trying to understand. 

They Abruptly Start Micro Managing 

I’ve actually heard this before, 

“We needed to expedite their exit, so we caught them doing things wrong quickly.”

Damn! That’s malicious. That’s poor leadership! Those are a lot of things I don’t like.

Remember when you would go home and speak to your spouse or tell your friend that one of the reasons you loved your new job was because your manager didn’t breathe down your neck? You had the freedom to do great work! Sure, you made a mistake here and there but your leader would coach you and you learned from missteps.

RELATED: How to Fire An Employee (With Integrity)

Yeah, those days are over. Now, it seems like everything you do is received with criticism. You even were blamed for something you didn’t do. Your manager recognized the mistake but never apologized.

If these things are happening then it’s likely that your manager is targeting you. 

Rhys’ Recommendation

What a terrible feeling! One minute you feel like you’re crushing and have so much autonomy the next you can’t do anything right. For this one I’d over-communicate. If your boss is asking for an update once a day I’d give them two. While this could be that you are being targeted, it may also be just that your boss is stressed now, where they weren’t before and so their more natural behaviours are showing. Either way, more documentation will help you if you do end up getting terminated. 

They Exclude You From Decisions, Meetings and More

You used to be included in key decisions and meetings that impacted your department and company. You felt a sense of pride that your manager was entrusting you and valued your opinion.

But, all of a sudden, you stopped being included in these meetings. One day, you walked to the office kitchen area to refill your cup of coffee and noticed that a meeting that you’re regularly invited to is being hosted. You check your calendar on your phone to see if you happened to miss something on your calendar but, no, there’s nothing scheduled.

This is something I wouldn’t immediately concern yourself with because these meetings may now have an agenda that is too sensitive to be discussed with you right now. However, I would make note of this.

Rhys’ Recommendation

At your next one-on-one (assuming they’re still happening) just ask the question. Hey Boss, I saw the weekly management meeting happened without me this week, has something changed that I should know about? As with all of these remember there is often not an ulterior motive behind this type of change. Your boss could very easily have been trying to get you some time back in your day and save you from an irrelevant meeting. 

Your Responsibilities Start to Diminish

As the newest member of your company’s sales team, you listened attentively during training and sooner than later you started receiving inbound sales leads to manage. You even closed a few leads and other team members started to congratulate you. The better you did the more leads you were closing. You were doing very well! Sure, there were others doing better but they had been at the company for much longer.

Suddenly, the inbound leads you were getting or the marketing tasks you were ordinarily responsible for weren’t being assigned to you. At first, you ignored it but made note but now it seems like your days aren’t filled with as many responsibilities as they use to.

Something’s not right.

You can feel it in the pit of your stomach…

Rhys’ Recommendation

You’ll notice I generally like the direct communication route. This one is no different. Talk to your leader and let them know how you’re feeling and why you’re feeling that way. If you don’t find their answer to be genuine and reassuring, speak to HR or ask for a skip level. Changing your job significantly without you agreeing to it is a big deal and one you should address as soon as you notice. Follow up on your conversations in writing. 

The best course of action is always open communication, however, you should also be keeping your options open. Make sure you know what the market is for your skillset, who the top employers are and take note of when they’re hiring for someone like you. The impact of all of these behaviours on your mental state can be really damaging and it can be amplified if you feel like you don’t have an option to go somewhere else. There is always an option, it’s on you if you don’t know what it is and how to get it.

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 SOCIAL MEDIA ERA (3/4)

My third installment of The Four Generations of Customer Experience is here!

THE SOCIAL MEDIA ERA.

Find out how social media enabled consumers to RECLAIM the power they lost during the internet era and how it changed the way companies and brands interact with their customers.

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 SET GOALS WITH EMPLOYEES (AND ACHIEVE THEM) FT. SUNNY VERMA

BREAKING IT DOWN EPISODE 2 FT. Sunny Verma the CEO of TutorBright.

In Breaking It Down, I sit down with entrepreneurs and business executives to help them solve company culture, employee engagement and customer experience challenges in their organization.

I HAVE NOT BEEN PREPPED. What does this mean? My answers and solutions are honest, authentic and TRUE.

On this episode of Breaking it Down, Sunny and I tackle:

1️⃣How To Measure Your Company’s Culture

2️⃣How To Manage Turbulence In An Organization

3️⃣How To Set Annual Goals With Your Team

CLICK HERE FOR APPLE PODCAST VERSION.

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.

Customer Service Skills, Strategies, and Mindset For 2020

Before the end of the year, we spend time building our marketing plans, setting our operating budgets and creating strategic plans to drive our business forward.

One thing that I believe our companies and the public are getting better at, is understanding the importance of customer experience. Just look at all the content that is being created for customer experience improvement after a simple Google search.

As leaders of our businesses we need to do the following habitually in order to improve our customer experiences:

  • Make improving customer experience a priority, instead of a thought or idea. This means that it needs to be a part of our quarterly strategic plans. EVERY. SINGLE. YEAR.
  • Invest in customer experience strategy just like we do in branding initiatives like marketing and PR.
  • Continuously provide superior customer service skills education/workshops to ALL employees.

In thinking about the year to come, I’ve identified three customer service skills that I believe your employees can learn from. These are the same three customer service skills that I will be sharing with my team in 2020.

Customer Service Skill #1

Adopt The “Everyone is a Customer” Mentality

Here’s something I like to do with my team. Walk around your place of business, visit different departments, speak to three different employees and ask them,

“Who is our customer?”

Make note of what responses you hear. I’m confident that you’re going to hear three different variations.

The answer I expect is, “Everyone who interacts with our brand is a customer.”

Being in hospitality, it’s easy for our team to consider the guest who orders the $300.00 bottle of wine to be our #1 priority. But, for me, that’s not an authentic People-First Culture business.

If we truly want to be People-First then everyone, literally everyone, who interacts with our business needs to be served like they just ordered a top-shelf bottle of wine.

Here are some individuals who interact with our brands, that sometimes are neglected:

  • Your future employees when you’re interviewing them.
  • Your business vendors like uniform and seafood suppliers and bank and insurance representatives.
  • Your investors
  • The media
  • The government

Now, consider who interacts with these individuals. Often, companies only provide customer service training for their frontline employees like customer care professionals and sales team members. 

However, doesn’t your Purchasing Manager manage the relationship with your suppliers? Doesn’t your Controller manage the relationship with your bank and investors?

They do!

With this in mind, every single person on your payroll must receive customer experience training to ensure that everyone that interacts with your brand is provided an exceptional experience.

Starting with the right mindset and mentality will propel the other two customer service skills forward.

Customer Service Skill #2

Defensive to Offensive Customer Service (Switching Gears According to Customer Personality Types)

In my 2019 customer service skills post, I outlined three customer personality types we need to train our teams on, in order to deliver personalized experiences based on their preferences.

When delivering experiences from customer to customer, you need to ensure you don’t deliver the same experience to everyone the exact same way. I call this “switching gears.”

We need to teach our team members how to switch gears and go from defensive to offensive customer service. Defensive customer service requires active listening to understand what the customer’s goals are. Once that’s understood, then we switch gears and move into offensive customer service and act on what it is our customer’s desires are.

Balancing the two can be challenging. I have found that when we are fatigued our defensive mindset can grow thin. We become too concentrated on offensive customer service and go through the motions of doing just the bare minimum. This paralyzes us from being able to deliver personalized experiences for each customer’s personality type.

Customer Service Skill #3

Role Reversal

“I really don’t have the time for that.”

This is what an entrepreneur said to me when I suggested that if he really wanted to build a People-First culture and get closer to his customers and employees, he needed to sit and listen to calls in his call center.

What I was recommending wasn’t an exorbitant amount of time. I said once every two weeks for an hour or two. 

I outlined that this was a small fraction of his time to which he continued to suggest he didn’t know how he’d “fit it in.”

You see, he did have the time, he was just choosing to spend it somewhere else. 

After all, entrepreneurs and leaders, I admire like Neil Blumenthal from Warby Parker make it a priority to do this. And, I’d suggest it’s working. Neil and his team are building a multi-billion-dollar brand in a very competitive market.

Co-Founder/Co-CEO, Neil Blumenthal from Warby Parker in one of his call centers taking the time to understand his employees and their roles in the organization.

There are only a few reasons why a leader wouldn’t do something like this to get closer to their customers and employees to better the experience for them:

  1. They’ve never spent the time to really get connected with their frontline employees. This might be a bit too much, too soon.
  2. They pay lip service to be a People-First Culture leader.
  3. They think they are above this (this is the worst category to fall into).

This isn’t just for senior leaders. I believe all leaders, across all departments, should spend time every month with their customer care and frontline employees. Not only will they gain valuable insights, you will notice a spike in morale and a deeper connection between “the higher-ups” (I despise this term but using it here because it’s what your frontlines may be calling you) and the frontlines.

Make 2020 a pivotal year for you and your company. Will it be the year that you invest more in customer experience to gain market share, increase sales and profit? Or, will it continue to get the smaller piece of your operating budget? Investing in your people is an investment in your business. Give them the tools, training and customer experience skills they need to thrive!

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.

What is the 3P Strategy?

PURPOSE, PROCESS, AND PROFIT.

My 3-P strategy was developed to ensure businesses (including my own) are not just successful for a few weeks, months or years, but that they are successful for DECADES to come.

Watch this short video if you want to learn how your businesses can THRIVE for decades as well.

Want more tips like this?

Check out one of my other quick videos like What is People First Culture for tips on company culture, employee engagement, and customer experience or follow me on LinkedIn for exclusive business insights.

How to Earn Customer Loyalty and Maximize Employee Retention With A Unique People-First Culture Strategy

Loyalty is hard to understand and even harder to achieve.

For me, I can only think of two brands I’m truly loyal to, Nike and SWAT Health (my gym). And, when I say loyal, I actually am. I don’t wear Adidas anymore. In fact, I gave away my Ultra Boosts because I only align myself with Nike. As for exercising, sure I go to the occasional Barry’s Bootcamp but I wouldn’t allow anyone else to train me other than the trainers at SWAT Health.

Other than these two brands, I can’t think of any brand I’m truly loyal to. Not my grocery store, not my dry cleaner…the only reason I’m loyal to my bank is because undoing that relationship seems too labour intensive for me. 

As for my employees, I would like to believe they know I’m loyal to them. I invest in our relationships and in their development just like I would invest in spending time with my mother or my girlfriend, Sophia. 

But, when and why does loyalty falter when doing business with our customers, employees, and suppliers?

I believe we have a mutually binding agreement when we go into business together:

Loyalty falters when one party isn’t meeting halfway. 

If our customers start behaving poorly then we may decline to service them. 

If our employees consistently call in sick to work when they aren’t, then we move to replace them.

If our suppliers start delivering their products, the same ones we use to operate our business, at a higher price, we shout “Bait and Switch!” and end our relationship.

I was recently listening to The Corp podcast which featured Mark Mastrov as their guest. 

Mark Mastrov (left) and Barstool Sport’s Dan Katz (right).

Mark built the globally recognized chain of gyms, 24 Hour Fitness. During the podcast, he mentioned something that made me go back and listen again. 

He said, “The purpose of loyalty is to earn and keep it. It’s not everlasting.”

I’ve seen companies front-load their loyalty efforts.

What I mean is that they will shower their new customers with attention and gifts. They will also onboard new employees exceptionally during the first few weeks of employment. But, then it ends…

Imagine if I courted Sophia, my girlfriend, secured the date, wooed her for weeks, won her over then everything stopped. I don’t need Sophia to tell you that I wouldn’t have her loyalty and our relationship would soon end.

This is exactly what’s happening in our businesses! We are treating them like transactions.

I want to erase the gap between how we behave in our personal lives and how we do in our professional lives to earn loyalty.

When our sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, siblings, best friends, or extended family need something from us, we go out of our way to give it to them. 

We don’t hesitate. 

Whether that’s hiring a tutor for our kids or picking up our friends from the airport when they need a ride. 

We do it because it’s a natural reflex for us to help people close to us.

On the contrary. When our team members need something we ask ourselves: “What’s the ROI?”

Try this on for size…

What’s the ROI of giving a crap about doing something for the people who actually grow our businesses??!! 

My partners and I have nearly 200 employees and most customers don’t know who we are, nor do they care.

They care about the people with who they are interacting with. 

Our team members on the frontline of our business. 

With this in mind, we should be doing everything possible to give them what they need to win over customers and pave a path for them.

An investment in your people is an investment in loyalty.

The Effects of Bad Customer Service and Why it’s Costing Your Company MILLIONS!

Sometime today or tomorrow you’re going to receive bad customer service from a company that you do business with. It could be a dry cleaner, auto mechanic, dentist, or any company. Immediately you will feel the effects of bad customer service.

I’m not being cynical, it’s just the fact of the matter.

After centuries of doing business, why is something as important as delivering great customer service to grow through referrals and repeat customers seem to get a short end of operating budgets?

Companies like Warby Parker and Starbucks are people-focused which allows them to deliver great experiences to customers, employees and their community.

The outcome is multi-billion dollar companies.

Most companies are either product, sales or marketing-centric. To put it another way, their engineering, business development, and brand teams are much larger than their customer service or HR teams and receive a larger piece of their operating budget.

These companies are focused on customer acquisition through PPC, Facebook ads, expensive sales seminars, influencer marketing and more. I’m not suggesting that any of this is wrong but I will advocate that keeping a customer is just as important, if not more important than inorganically acquiring them.

I don’t believe any company thinks, “I’m not interested in delivering great customer service.” I do believe that we lose focus on what’s most important. Publicly traded companies must grow each quarter at all costs and that could mean only investing in things that will help them grow in the short-term.

Companies like Warby Parker and Starbucks don’t do that. They invest in the long-term even if that means “willing to be misunderstood for long periods of time” as Jeff Bezos famously said many years ago.

Take Amazon, for example, I’d bet that you didn’t know that their tagline and slogan for the company is to be “earth’s most customer-centric company.” It’s not to be “earth’s biggest.” This is a testament to their seamless customer experience that has us buying more and more every year.

Amazon started off as a small, garage-operated website, they earned our trust by selling books. For years they created loyalty by selling one product and when the time was right, they started selling more products in different verticals. Today, they have Amazon Web Services (AWS), Amazon Basics and more.

I believe everything they did was calculated. They lost or broke even for years because they wanted to. They wanted to continuously reinvest in the business so they could create better experiences for us, the customers. When they knew they had our loyalty they created services – ones like AWS and Amazon Basics – that had much higher profits margins. Now, they are extremely profitable and one of the biggest companies on the planet.

How did they do this? Because of their investment in customer service and to be “earth’s most customer-centric.”

My question for all of us is – why aren’t we investing in the same philosophy?

I believe there are five things to consider to understand why your company is still delivering average or poor customer service which is impeding your growth.

1. You Aren’t Hiring Customer-Centric People

One of the things I’ve grown as a skill set to ensure my companies deliver a great customer experience is my ability to spot what I call “customer-centric pros.” These individuals know how to care about strangers.

After all, at the beginning of your relationship with new customers, they will be strangers. It takes a certain individual, or as I say, “one with customer-centric DNA” to deliver great customer service every single day.

Review the way you interview for, not just customer-facing roles, but every role in your company. What type of questions do you ask in the interview to probe for this skill set? Do they have soft skills? Are they humble? Are they kind? Start saying no to brilliant jerks.

To truly be customer-focused, every single person in your company must be devoted to delivering an amazing experience.

2. You’ve Grown Too Fast

Controlled growth is the way I like to expand a company. If you’re growing too fast without a customer-centric strategy to support this growth, then the seams of your company will start to unravel.

When our company added another venue and 50+ new team members I knew we would need help so I created a Culture Committee team. I appointed individuals from different venues and departments to form a team that came together to talk about our customer experience every single month. It also gave me half a dozen sets of eyes and ears on the ground floor to advocate our customer experience efforts.

If you expect to grow in 2020 and beyond, please do your company and customers a grand service by creating a Culture Committee and Voice of the Customer (VoC) program. If you’re already doing this, great! Keep going and consider doubling down on your efforts. Your customers will never complain about having too much service and you will be rewarded with more profit because of repeat customers and word of mouth marketing.

3. Determine Your Customer’s Pain Points

Customer journey mapping is an extraordinary exercise that hasn’t gone mainstream yet. In short, it’s when your team comes together to identify each interaction your customer experiences when doing business with you from beginning to end.

Take my industry, hospitality, as an example. If we were to host a customer journey mapping exercise we would be identifying customer touchpoints like booking a reservation on our mobile or desktop website, where our guests park their cards, cleanliness of our bathrooms and elevators, how long it takes for drinks to arrive at the table after being ordered and more.

After we’ve outlined each interaction, we start to discuss which touchpoints we’re excelling in and which ones are frustrating our customers and causing pain points for them. These pain points are when you have customers saying,

“Screw this restaurant! I’m never coming back.”

Maybe the pain point is that it takes too long to respond to guest’s emails inquiring about a reservation or it takes too long to receive your bill after dining. Regardless of the pain point or moment that it happens within the journey, it’s frustrating your customers and causing a lot of friction in the experience.

The effects of bad customer service are that they never come back, spread negative word of mouth and write bad Google reviews.

Before you move to the next point within this post, think of which touchpoint within your customer journey map is causing your customers frustration.

4. Legacy is Crushing You

I see this a lot in family runs businesses and companies that have been around for decades.

The people who started the business and did an exceptional job at growing it haven’t sharpened their skill sets over the years and neglected that behaviours – ones of customers and employees – have changed.

If you find yourself thinking, “But, this has worked in the past” to justify doing something the same way as you did ten years ago then it’s likely you’re on the wrong side of the fence.

Sometimes there needs to be a changing of the guard. I’m not suggesting that the leadership from yesterday needs to retire or move into the shadows but I am strongly advocating that they allow the leaders of tomorrow to have a say in how they operate. A fresh perspective can be very valuable to create great customer service strategies.

At the time of writing this blog post, I’m 33 years old. I wouldn’t suggest that legacy is crushing me and I don’t plan on that happen. To prevent this, I regularly meet with more youthful professionals, like Swish Goswami and Kieran Matthew, to advance my knowledge.

5. You’re Not Investing In The Right Areas Of The Business

I mentioned this earlier in the blog post, you may not be investing enough resources into your customer service efforts.

I’m often greeted with, “But, Michel, we can’t afford it.”

My response is always, “Yes, you can afford is. You’re just choosing to spend it elsewhere.”

There may be an opportunity to invest more without actually spending more. Consider this…

What if, next year, you take 10% of what you spend on marketing the year before and invest it into improving your customer service?

Now, before you think, “But, what about our marketing efforts to get new customers?!”

Remember what I said earlier, retaining customers is more important than acquiring new ones that are only going to buy off you once and never again because your customer service is bad.

Do you recall the Starbucks Superbowl ad from Superbowl LIII? No, you don’t because Starbucks doesn’t advertise traditionally.

As former Starbucks CEO said, Starbucks is not an advertiser; people think we are a great marketing company, but in fact, we spend very little money on marketing and more money on training our people than advertising.

That training produces a greater customer experience that allows them to go from four stores to 20,000+ and become a globally recognizable brand and worth billions of dollars.

Customer service training can be your greatest source of advertising, you just need to invest to reap the benefits. Trust me, the effects of bad customer service are not worth it!