Tag Archives: customer culture

What happens when you don’t have a corporate culture obsessed with customers – Lessons from United

united_man_removed

A man is forcibly removed after not giving up is pre-paid seat on a United Flight

We witnessed one of the most extreme examples of what can go wrong in a business that has truly lost sight of its purpose.

As a former United Global Services member (United’s top tier for frequent fliers) I was appalled at how badly United handled a relative routine situation that probably happens multiple times a day in various cities across the US. What on first pass looked like the removal of a potential terrorist happened to be a paying passenger who was also practicing physician.

United sometimes over sells airline tickets in order to make sure they fill their flights and remain profitable. I am not against this practice, it makes business sense. However when this impacts customers, (and it inevitably will) this becomes a true test of an organization’s customer centric culture. Will it do what’s best for the customer? (A customer centric view) or will it protect a short term myopic view of its profits for that particular flight (a transactional view).

In this case United choose its policy and procedures over doing the right thing for its customers. Clearly there was an upper limit on what was available to be offered to make this situation right for their customers. United claims they offered $1000 to passengers to take another flight so that crew members for another flight could board to go to another plane – there were no takers. Instead of upping the compensation to a point that passengers felt like it was a fair deal, they decided to pick passengers based on their frequent flier status and other connecting flights. Three left peacefully although clearly unhappy and one refused resulting in the social media and traditional media storm that came after a video showed the passenger being forcefully removed.

Company Centric CEO Reaction – Oscar Munoz

Those of us that work in the culture space know that the CEO and top team set the tone and shape organizational culture.

Oscar’s initial response was to apologize for having to “re-accommodate these customers”. While externally he made attempts to diffuse the anger at the situation internally he sent a memo to employees that defended the crew’s actions, calling the passenger ‘disruptive and belligerent’ and praising his staff for going ‘above and beyond‘.

united_comment_twitter

I understand he wants to stand behind his employees, support them and not throw them under the bus for this incident but really he was trying to “protect” the company and the United Brand. This message also reinforces poorly thought out policies that do not get to the heart of what great companies do – they have a culture that puts the customer first.

Finally, two days later Mr Munoz has accepted responsibility for the disgraceful incident:

“I continue to be disturbed by what happened on this flight, and I deeply apologize to the customer forcibly removed and to all the customers aboard………. “No one should ever be mistreated this way.”

A colleague of mine recently relaid an experience he had in a very similar situation on an Emirates flight. He said they just kept increasing the enticement to get of the plane. Eventually enough people took up the offer. They ended up giving away 2 business class return tickets from Australia to Dubai  as well as accommodation plus $US600.

This price was small compared to what United will now go through…..

United takes a $255 million dollar bath.

The value of United has fallen by $255 million as a result of this one incident and the bad press and social media storm surrounding it. How much were they offering passengers to deplane again?

Eric Schiffer, CEO of Reputation Management Consultants, termed United’s handling of the incident “brand suicide.”

“When you go onto a United flight, you shouldn’t have to be concerned there will be blood or you will get slammed in the face,” Schiffer said. “I think you will see an effect on sales from those who are disgusted by the gruesome action. And it’s catastrophic for a brand’s trust.”

No doubt United will lose customers and it deserves to, what comes next is a question of leadership and culture.

If all employees have a customer centric mindset and are empowered to do what is right by the customer this would not have happened.

That’s what we do at MarketCulture. We help companies understand the importance of putting the customer at the centre of the organization – a mindset that establishes the idea that “What’s best for the customer is best for the business”

What do customer centric companies do? Create Advocates for Life.

corso281In my travels in recent weeks I have experienced two examples of how a customer-centric attitude and behavior produce memorable customer experiences. Both of these were in hotels in different countries.

In Rome my wife and I stayed at Hotel Corso 281. We planned to go south for a few days by train and wanted to leave a large case at the hotel and pick it up again on our way from the Amalfi coast via Rome to Venice. Even though there would only be a 45 minute time between our change of trains in Rome, Delia, the front office manager assured me that they would send a taxi with my bag to the station as soon as my train arrived in Rome. So we took the chance. When I nervously called the hotel on the morning of our journey and spoke to the hotel front desk a different person was fully aware of my situation. As we pulled into Rome station I called again and another front desk person was fully aware and organized a taxi to send the bag. When the taxi arrived at the station it had a large sign with my name in the side window and I gratefully took my bag. Soon after I received a call from Delia to tell me the taxi driver reported to her that the bag had been delivered. We made the train connection all because of a display of team collaboration embedded in the belief that the customer’s needs must be met. When next in Rome we are going back to stay at Corso 281.

In Dubai I checked in to the Rihab Rotana hotel after a 7 hour flight from London. The front office manager gave me his card and also the card of the other front office manager who was off duty. He assured me to call them any time if there was a problem or something they could do. This gentleman, Mazen, was gracious, attentive and carefully explained all hotel services. This manner of care could be seen from all staff in the hotel – from housekeeping to concierge to the gym and pool deck.. Soon after checking into my room a bowl of fruit was delivered. Each day in my week long stay I was greeted by the smile of Daryl, a young lady in the restaurant who seemed to be there for all seven days of my stay. She told me that their team of five often had to work long hours and 7 days because when the hotel was very busy they had to make sure all guests received a great experience. Sometimes at the end of the day even though she had already been there 12 hours her greeting and smile never diminished. I will go back and stay at Rotana in Dubai.

While these things are small for service people with the right attitude and attention to customer needs, they are huge for the customer.

Bottom line – I am an advocate of both these hotels, they stick in my mind, I will go back and I will recommend anyone that asks to try them as well.

Do you attract the right talent to your organization? People that focus on the reason their job exists? Does the leadership of your organization focus its attention on delivering a great experience?

You can learn more in our book the Customer Culture Imperative

Customer Centric Leadership in Action – A lesson from Elon Musk

tesla_charging_station

One of the central tenets of being a customer centric leader is listening to customer feedback and responding with action.

There is no better recent example than Elon Musk’s response to a customer complaining about the Tesla charging stations being used simply as car spaces.

The Tesla customer complaining happens to be Loic Le Meur, a fellow entrepreneur and major tech influencer, with 130k followers on twitter. You could argue that probably holds more weight than just your average customer but clearly the issue was one bubbling up and on Elon’s mind.

Here is the interchange from the two on twitter below:

elon_musk_twitter_response

Loic’s tweet was responded to within 20 minutes and within 7 days the press announced “Tesla to begin charging idle fees to those remaining on the charger beyond a full charge”

As the team at OfficeChai reported:

“Tesla was going to charge $0.40 for every minute a fully charged Tesla would stand at its parking stations after a five minute grace period. This simple change would ensure that people wouldn’t leave their cars at parking stations, preventing others from using them.

And what’s incredible is the pace at which the product change was implemented. Tesla might still call itself a startup, but it hardly is one – it has over 30,000 employees, and large engineering teams. To have a product feature conceptualized, implemented and shipped in a week is nothing short of miraculous.”

Now this might not be the perfect solution but Tesla will listen to customers and refine further as needed.

This is what customer centric leadership looks like in action, in this case led from the top. Elon’s expectation is that everyone in Tesla is listening to customers and responding to continually refine and improve the experience and value being offered.

Are you are customer centric leader? Find out more in our book, the Customer Culture Imperative

 

What is the kryptonite for disruptors?

Established businesses everywhere are under attack. The headlines are full of stories of business disruption. Entrepreneurs everywhere are building companies to unseat the entrenched firms.

While many think the answer is to invest in more technology, lobby government or follow their competitors actually the answer is right in front of them.

Our team in Sydney recently had the chance to sit down with Luke Jecks, the Global CEO of Naked Wines for his perspective. Listen to Luke talk about what he describes as the Kryptonite for disruptors, its a great lesson for anyone in business today:

So what’s the Kryptonite for disruptors? A Customer Culture or as Luke puts it:

“Love your customers”

If you spend time understanding and acting on your customers needs you will create loyalty that will keep you as immune as you can be to disruption.

So how did Naked Wines disrupt the wine industry?

Before Luke setup Naked Wines four years ago he was looking for an industry where customers felt disenfranchised. He found it in the Australian wine industry – a market dominated by two large retail chains owned by Coles and Woolworths that between them shared almost 70% of wine sales nationally. Not only did he find wine lovers who felt little connection with the vast array of brands but also boutique vineyards that were being squeezed out of the market by ever narrowing margins and an inability to finance the next vintage.

Luke knew that if he could create a personal connection between wine growers and consumers and a financial model that could provide more stability and certainty for wine growers he could build a new business.

He realized that he needed wine consumers as repeat customers and he came up with the idea of “angels’ – that is consumers as angel investors who would pay $40 per month and build up a credit in their account to be used to buy the boutique wines of their choice.

Four years after launch Naked Wines in Australia has more than 50,000 sustained angels, more than 35 boutique winery suppliers with an online communication and ordering system that connects them.

Annual Australian revenue of $30 million and more than $200 million globally is testament to the fact that the whole Naked Wines team have a culture that enables them to “love” their customers.

Isn’t it time to create a customerculture in your business and build up your disruptor defenses?

If you are interested in creating this type of culture in your organization why not attend one of our MRI Accreditation Workshops held all around the world!

 

How one person can make a difference role modeling customer centricity

tarpys

Tarpy’s Roadhouse just outside of Monterey, California is renowned for its good food, friendly hospitality and fast service. One person, Niranjan (“Nick”) Subedi, a native of Nepal, shines out as a role model in serving guests at the restaurant since 2000. A phrase known to every Nepali translates to “guests equal god” and offering all you have to a guest is considered a moral duty. Nick remembers every guest and their preferences even when they have not been back to Tarpy’s in a long time. Clint Eastwood, who lives in the area, is a big fan and he like many guests requests to be seated in the area where “Nick” is serving. Nick’s belief is that service is a duty and a pleasure and he shows this in his wide grin and attention to customers’ needs. But more than that he says: “I try to bring the human element to dining, to show that I love the guests”. He lives nearby with his wife in a house he owns “ because of my customers. I owe everything to them,” he said.

“Guests equal god”

It only takes one person like “Nick” Subedi to act as a powerful role model in a business reflecting strong customer-centric behaviors to lead others to do the same. If enough people in your organization follow this example you will have a strong customer culture – and a sustainable thriving business.

Lessons from REI: Aligning your People

We have just completed one of the busiest weeks in retail in the United States, with Black Friday for the physical stores and Cyber Monday for the online retailers. This week now blends together with doorbuster deals bombarding us constantly online and instore in the week leading up to Thanksgiving as well as weekend afterwards.

What is different this year is that some major stores have decided to stay closed during this period. In the land of the consumer this a really big deal!

One chain in particular stands out, REI, the outdoor recreation retailer with more than 12,000 employees and 140 stores around the US decided to close this past Black Friday. See below, their CEO, Jerry Stritzke’s 30 second announcement:

 

“We believe that being outside makes our lives better. And Black Friday is the perfect time to remind ourselves of this essential truth.” – REI CEO, Jerry Stritzke

So what is behind this decision? I believe it is to better align REI’s core values with its actions in the market. REI’s core mission is “to inspire, educate and outfit for a lifetime of outdoor adventure and stewardship.”

What better way to live that mission and align all of their people around it than closing on a day that allows their own people get outside and live the company’s mission.

Now that all sounds great but how does that help their customers? No doubt some customers may be inconvenienced by their physical stores being closed. However they will still have a small number of staff manning their website so they are not completely close for business.

REI are reacting to growing concerns by their customers and others that retail in general is overshadowing the core purpose of thanksgiving which is to celebrate with family and friends. They are betting that this decision will pay off over the longer term by aligning their people with their mission while also meeting the changing expectations of their customers.

Ultimately if you want your people and customers to really buy-in to what your company is about you must walk the talk, for me this is strategic alignment in action!

Interested in what it takes to be truly customer centric? Learn more here

Customer Experience is a Team Sport – How a no tipping policy is changing the New York dining world

unionsquarehospitalitygroup

Tipping in restaurants has always been a strange experience for me, being an Australian who has spent the last decade in the US. In Australia it is optional while in the US it is mandatory.

So it came as a huge surprise to learn that a very successful restaurant owner, Danny Meyer, in New York was going to change things in a big way by introducing a “no tipping” policy at his restaurants. Now these are not just run of the mill restaurants, they are some of the most successful in the hyper competitive Manhattan dining scene. Take the Modern for example, which was just elevated to 2 Stars by Michelin for 2016.

What can we learn about this significant policy move by Danny Meyer? Well in his words:

“We believe hospitality is a team sport, and that it takes an entire team to provide you with the experiences you have come to expect from us.”

Danny goes on to describe the crucial role all members of the team have in executing a brilliant customer experience. However, due to regulations on how tips are distributed not all members of the team are able to share in the generosity of guests. The bottom line was the way the rewards of success were being distributed had become unfair and had to change.

Now Danny did not arrive at this decision on his own, he solicited feedback from people across his organization. They discussed and debated it internally and once they gained alignment decided they would make it happen.

Think about your own experiences at a restaurant. How you feel about your experience is impacted not only by the server, but by whether the dishes and glasses are clean, whether the food is prepared just right, how you are greeted when you enter. Everything matters as each element can make or break your experience.

By raising the wages of employees that are behind the scenes and providing consistent wages to the front line servers (who often have customers that short change them on their tip), Danny aims to create a higher level of engagement and team orientation.

What will happen to the prices at their restaurants? They will go up to cover the existing tip percentage, so customers will effectively not pay more and will not have the pressure to decide how much to tip. Instead they can relax and just enjoy the experience.

Time will tell if this bold decision works for Danny and his Union Square Hospitality Group. I for one am betting it will and look forward to visiting the Modern next time I am in New York!

For more ideas on how to create a customer centric culture check out our award winning book, The Customer Culture Imperative.