It’s not easy running a business today. A single customer complaint, handled improperly, can send your business into a tailspin. At the same time, if you respond to every single customer complaint, you end up wasting time and money chasing an unsolvable problem.
You say that, “The customer is not always right. In fact, the customer is often blatantly wrong.” Share your perspective on this. How did “the customer is always right” develop and where did it go wrong?
All of your readers will have their own favorite “unreasonable or crazy customer stories.” In our experience, after complaining about accountants and management, it’s in most salespeople’s top five favorite cocktail party conversation topics.
We start our book with a list of completely clueless, hilarious, and real customer complaints.
Our favorites are:
“I think it should be explained in the brochure that the local convenience store does not sell proper biscuits, like custard creams or ginger nuts.”
“Although the brochure said there was a ‘fully equipped kitchen,’ there was no egg slicer in the drawers.”
“We went on holiday to Spain and had a problem with the taxi drivers, as they were all Spanish.”
Funny when you read them, but scary when you hear that these are 100% real complaints left by real customers. Is the customer right to be upset that the local store doesn’t sell proper biscuits like custard creams or ginger nuts? Or a customer who complains of too many Spanish people in Spain? Of course not. In these examples, the customers are blatantly nuts.
This idea that “the customer is always right” is one of those things that’s easy for management to tell their frontline employees; it sounds good in practice, and it leads to tremendous wasted time, effort, and often burnout. Because, sometimes, you really do have to fire customers – one of the things we talk about at length in the book. Telling your people that the customer is always right is asking them to close their eyes to reality, and when you ask them to do that, it hurts your ability to ask them to do anything else. After all, with some of the complaints above, how could those customers be right? What does it mean to treat the customer as if they’re right?
What are Transformational Consumers? How is this changing company strategy?
Transformational Consumers are a massive and growing group of people who see all of life as a series of projects to change their own behavior for the healthier, wealthier and wiser. They know that this behavior change will be hard, but they believe with all their hearts that it’s possible, and they believe that they can change anything about their lives if they can master their own habits and behavior.
So they are constantly on the lookout for products, services and content they think might help. They are early adopters, and they tend to have great influence on the buying behavior of the people around them.
I like to joke that if you have ever been vegan and paleo at different times in your life, you’re probably a Transformational Consumer. Most entrepreneurs are Transformational Consumers. The head of product for Airbnb once told me that they see both their hosts and their guests as Transformational Consumers.
One important takeaway here is that this is not a niche: over 50% of US adult customers we surveyed said that they use digital or real world products several times a week, or more often, in an effort to reach their healthy, wealthy, wise goals.
The power of this framework is that it offers businesses a lens through which to more powerfully understand the real-world journeys their customers are taking as they aspire to live better lives. And that shows you how to increase customer engagement, brand love, loyalty and repeat business, as well as reach new audiences. Once you understand your real-life customers’ real-world journeys, that surfaces limitless opportunities to innovate new products, features, services and even marketing messages and content that remove resistance points and trigger progress along customers’ paths.
Rethink Your Customer
How do companies go about rethinking their customer?
Your customers are not just the people who currently buy your product or your current social media followers. I urge companies to shift to the point of view that their customers are all the people out there who are struggling with the high-level, human problems that the company exists to solve.
Go out into the real world, do customer research, watch how people operate in real life. You can even start this process by just doing some online listening on the blogs and social media sites (not your owned channels) that your audiences frequent online (reddit, etc.).
Your goal is to understand and, ideally, visually map out your customers’ real-world journeys of going from having the problem you exist to solve to no longer having that problem. You need to know what stages they go through along their journey, what gets them stuck and unstuck, where they go to do research when they need to know or find something and what words and phrases they naturally use as they try to reach their goals.
Tell us more about resistance. How do you remove it?
Think about it: Anytime you try to level-up your life, whether it’s trying to reach a weight loss goal, to work out more, or to start a side business or meditate every day, there’s a force that pops up in all of us that Steven Pressfield and Freud both call Resistance. It’s the same force that creates procrastination, causes us to get distracted or to sabotage ourselves. It’s generally the force that makes it really, really hard to make behavior changes stick.
In your customers’ journeys toward their healthy, wealthy and wise goals, Resistance includes any sort of quit point, obstacle, friction or common point of failure. These are the things that get people stuck. There are tons of spiritual, emotional, psychological and neurological root causes of Resistance, but suffice it to say that people often know what changes they need to make; they just find it very difficult to actually make them.
This creates a major opportunity for companies to win the love of the people they serve by focusing on removing Resistance.
You can remove Resistance from your customers’ journeys by creating features and products that take friction out of their path, by reducing the difficulty or cost or number of brain cycles they have to go through to create the habits or changes they want, or by inserting progress triggers into their real-world journey.
For example, at MyFitnessPal, we learned during customer research that one of the biggest obstacles (points of Resistance) that people experience along their journey from living an unhealthy life to living a healthy one is the cost of eating healthy food and the difficulty and time involved in cooking healthfully. So every team in the company explored how they might help remove those Resistance points. When it came to content, for example, we created all sorts of recipes and meal plans for feeding a family healthy, home-cooked food on the same budget we learned people were spending on a fast food family dinner ($20). We also created all sorts of video, recipe and meal-planning content to reduce the time and increase the ease and deliciousness of our customers’ home cooked meals.
“If we can keep our competitors focused on us while we stay focused on the customer, ultimately we’ll turn out all right.” -Jeff Bezos
We think of a kaleidoscope as a creator of colorful images—like great service. But, the images are created by the way jewels are mirrored. Innovative service that is profoundly remarkable has character—core values reflected or mirrored in its delivery. The images produced may change, but the jewels never change. We do not open up a kaleidoscope and put in more gems or jewels.
“Try to be the rainbow in someone’s cloud.” -Maya Angelou
Give us an example of “innovative service that sparkles”?
It is the diner waitress who places a bouquet of flowers on your table and tells you they were sent to her the day before by her husband for their anniversary, “…and, I just wanted to share them with you.” It is a service tech in an auto dealership who programs in the radio stations into a customer’s new car from her trade-in and just lets the customer discover it. It is the flight attendant on a flight who writes you a personal handwritten note thanking you for your loyalty.
“Customer loyalty comes from making the experience unique and special.” -Chip Bell
What are some of the leadership values that are essential to creating an authentic, powerful service experience?
First, it is leaders creating a clear, compelling purpose, vision or mission—in terms that both instruct and inspire. Second, it is leaders who demonstrate (by their actions) that they have complete trust in their employees. Third, it is leaders who treat employees with the same care and attention they expect those employees to demonstrate to customers. Finally, it is leaders who constantly look for ways to more effectively resource their front line (support, training, authority, guidance, etc.).
What makes a customer loyal?
Loyalty comes from many practices. It starts with a demonstration of respect and gratitude. Customers have many options; we should thank them for choosing us. It is about promise keeping—always being worthy of the customer’s trust. It includes looking for ways to involve customers—people care when they share. It also involves helping customers get smarter. And, loyalty can also come from making the experience unique and special.
“Loyalty starts with a demonstration of respect and gratitude.” -Chip Bell
What are some of the ways the best organizations stand out and sparkle?
The best organizations decorate as many customers’ experiences as they can. Making experiences special signals you care. They care about long term relationships far more than short-term transactions. They are community-centered and work to be great citizens in the space where they do business. They promote growth—for associates and customers. And, they go out of their way to celebrate greatness (and goodness).
“Neglect is more dangerous than strife; apathy costlier than error.” -Chip Bell
This is a guest post by Monika Götzmann. Monika is the EMEA Marketing Director of Miller Heiman Group, a global sales training and customer experience company. It specializes in customer service coaching.
Customer service can have a decisive role in the success or failure of a business. In fact, an American Express survey found that 59 percent of people would try a new brand for a better customer service experience, while 70 percent are willing to spend more with companies who provide a great service.
59% of people would try a new brand for a better service experience.
Unconventional Yet Effective Customer Service Training Tactics
Here, we look at three unconventional customer service training tactics to help your business stand out:
1. Customer Service Training for Everyone
One highly-effective, yet unconventional, tactic is to insist that everybody in a company undergoes customer service training, even if their role is not directly linked to delivering customer service.
Perhaps the most notable example of this is Zappos, who insist that every recruit goes through four weeks of customer service training. The result is that all staff members, even in corporate positions, have first-hand experience of dealing with customers and can better understand their needs.
“Customer service is not a department. It’s everyone’s job.” -Unknown
Another unorthodox customer service training method is to focus on consumer psychology. Although people are all different, there are a number of behaviors and thought processes that are fairly typical for all consumers. According to Harsh Vardhan, writing for “YFS Magazine,” some of the fundamental customer traits are as follows:
When given a choice, customers generally pick the easier way
Customers want reassurance or solutions as quickly as possible
Pricing is not so important to loyal customers
Teaching your reps these basic concepts can allow them to deliver more satisfactory customer service.
“The customer’s perception is your reality.” -Kate Kabriskie
This is a guest post by Dr. Tracy Maylett, Ed.D.. Dr. Maylett is the Chief Executive Officer of DecisionWise, an HR management and consulting firm specializing in employee engagement. He offers an intriguing viewpoint on providing great customer experience.
Want a Great Customer Experience?
Is your organization’s success dependent upon creating an extraordinary Customer Experience? Then start by ignoring your customer. No, really.
“If you want a successful customer experience, start by ignoring your customer.” -Tracy Maylett
Throwing resources at your customer experience does not guarantee a transformative one. You can redesign stores, roll out cool new products, and engage customers on social media. You can implement every form of customer satisfaction measurement known to man. There’s nothing wrong with those steps. But without employees who care, a beautiful store is just a pretty shell. A sparkly new product is just another new release with a limited lifespan—if it even makes it out of the production room.
Without people engaged in their work, where are those cool innovations coming from? Where are the people who care about the superlative customer experience? Don’t get me started on the dangers of having jaded staffers interacting with customers on social media.
“Throwing resources at your customer experience does not guarantee a transformative one.” -Tracy Maylett
Creating a strong customer experience is like gardening: hoping and measuring won’t give you the results you want. Gardening requires tending to the components that create the desired outcome: using soil amendments, watering, and weeding. The gardener can’t do much more than that. But, assuming it’s done well, the odds of a solid harvest are high.
Growing a successful organization works in the same way. Success comes through quality products, stellar customer support, prudent financial decisions, great leadership, and employees who personally care about delivering an extraordinary customer experience. When an organization can create a top-notch Employee Experience, the likelihood of delivering a superior customer experience increases exponentially.
The opposite is also true: When employee experience is poor, the customer experience will reflect it. We call this the “Law of Congruent Experience.”
“When employee experience is poor, the customer experience will reflect it.” -Tracy Maylett