Tag Archives: Customer Experience

You can’t fake customer-centric culture

Woman holding mask of her happy face

We hear a lot about fake news these days – what’s real and what’s fake is sometimes hard to know. That’s not the case when it comes to customers “reading” your culture.

Let me recount my experience with 3 upmarket restaurants in Sydney, Australia.

Sydney has many fine restaurants. I will compare my experience at two of these – Aria is at Circular Quay looking at the opera house and the Sydney Harbor Bridge and Jonah’s is on a cliffside on Sydney’s northern beaches overlooking Whale Beach and the Pacific Ocean. Both serve fine dining at expensive prices with excellent food.

I decided to book Jonah’s for my wife’s birthday and asked for a table next to the window overlooking the ocean. I was told this was not possible and when I asked why, I was told by the manager that there are many factors that they use to decide who have the window tables – when the booking was made, how many people are in the party, what the booking levels are for that particular day. I was making the booking more than a week in advance and on a weekday at the earliest lunchtime sitting, but still could not be told whether I would get a window table. Choices were 12 noon or 1.30pm. He said, “ we are very busy, we get tours and we decide on the day where people sit.” There was an arrogant tone in his voice so I decided to try Aria.

The call to Aria was a totally different experience. “Yes, we can give you a window table, would you like a surprise cake for your wife’s birthday?” You can choose your time of arrival – “12.30pm is fine and you can stay the whole afternoon.” Aria is just as busy as Jonah’s but you have a completely different mindset. At Jonah’s it is all about their convenience, their operational procedures, their rules for organizing tables. At Aria, it is about what the customer wants and how can they be satisfied. You cannot fake it. The customer mindset exists or it doesn’t. The customer knows this with a simple phone call.

Then there is the dining experience. My wife and I went to Pilu, a Sardinian specialty restaurant at Freshwater beach on Sydney’s northern beaches. This too is an upmarket restaurant. What impressed us about this restaurant was the staff. The sommelier knew every detail possible about the wines, the server knew exactly what was in each dish and could explain it. Both established a relationship with us by telling us about their hometown in Italy. They were not rushed, were patient with our questions, answered them fully and made suggestions. At the time of payment, the manager told us how much of a team effort was involved and how his team worked together to make a memorable experience for their guests. At the end of the evening, they asked if we would like to give them information on our birthdays and we would be offered a 5-course degustation meal free at that time. We happily signed up and provided the information they wanted.

A customer culture only exists when it is authentic and all employees are part of a happy, collaborative team, knowing that it is the customer that is the center of their world. It can’t be faked. It’s the difference between getting the business and creating advocates and not getting the business and getting bad reviews.

How do you get it? You will find many of the answers in our book: The Customer Culture Imperative.

Adapting to change by putting Customers at the center of everything: Lessons from Macquarie Telecom

Transforming Unhappy Customers into Happy Customers

“The Only Thing That Is Constant Is Change” – Heraclitus 500BC

It’s hard to believe this quote is from more than 2000 years ago… I can’t think of a more relevant quote to describe the times we are living in right now!

From a business context the change we are experiencing is the rapid shifts occurring in customer expectations and behavior. The companies that are embracing this are the ones that are winning and will continue to win in the future.

The question is how do we adapt to this changing customer environment, stay ahead and stay relevant?

Many forward thinking organizations are using increasingly sophisticated customer experience metrics to stay in touch with what their existing customers are experiencing. Specifically they have embedded these processes in a manner that makes it part of their organizational culture – we call this a “Customer Culture”. A great example comes from the work being done at Macquarie Telecom, a leading Telecommunications firm in Australia.

Macquarie’s CEO, David Tudehope, has taken a personal interest in leveraging the Net Promoter Score (NPS) methodology to help drive a customer centric culture. NPS is essentially a simple way to measure customer advocacy. It is based on answering the question – “How likely are you to recommend us?” on a 0-10 point scale. While a great methodology, it is not the right one for every business. What’s more important than the metric is the fact there is a focal point at which all employees can focus on and work together to improve.

For Macquarie, leveraging this methodology has been transformational. It has raised the visibility of the importance of customer experience on customer retention and ultimately business performance. It has also served as a goal that aligns everyone and drives collaboration across the firm.

What have Macquarie learned from their transformational journey that you can apply in your organization?

  1. Engage everyone in the journey – measure every significant touch-point as everyone has an impact on how customer’s experience the company
  2. Be Transparent – display results for everyone to see so teams can see how others are performing and compare results
  3. Celebrate individuals and teams – share great customer stories and celebrate teams with high NPS scores
  4. Integrate into hiring processes – hire people with a desire to create great experiences for others
  5. Customer Success gives employees meaning and purpose – connecting people’s roles with the impact they have on customers provides meaning, inspiration and purpose and will derive up engagement levels and ultimately people’s performance

What are the results?

Macquarie’s NPS is 60+ which means they have many more promoters than detractors (see this post to compare Macquarie’s NPS with the most customer centric companies in the world). While they are not the best in the world (they can still improve), they significantly outperform their competitors in the space they play in.

To read more about how to begin the journey to a customer centric culture, get a copy of our book, the Customer Culture Imperative or learn about the Market Responsiveness Index.

How a Customer Centric Culture can save lives

virgin-trains_driver

The team at MarketCulture recently ran a one day leadership workshop in Sydney, as is often the case we get to hear some incredible stories of the power of customer thinking.

One that really stood out was the story of a driver for Virgin Trains.

Virgin Trains is a great story of a business that is always trying to improve the customer experience, Richard Branson is well known for saying “there is always another way to delight a customer.”

Many people would think why would you include train drivers in a program designed to improve the customer experience? They just need to drive the train, they are hidden away at the front with little interaction with actual customers.

Virgin did not believe this, their philosophy was that everyone matters when it comes to delivering a great customer experience. As a result the train drivers were included in workshops designed to help each employee think about their role in delivering great experiences.

A week or two after one of the sessions, a veteran train driver was taking the normal route he had taken for many years and as he rounded the bend on a bridge he noticed a slight bump on the tracks. It was not particularly unusual, small bits of debris can often end up on the tracks. However this time, with the recent customer thinking training on his mind, it made him think more deeply about the bump. More specifically he thought about the passengers on the train and his responsibility for keeping them safe.

He wondered whether passengers had noticed the bump? At the next stop he decided to radio the maintenance crews and report it. In the past it was not something he would normally do as it would mean an investigation of something that was in his 30+ years experience probably nothing.

He continued to the end of his journey for the day. As he pulled up to his last stop his shift manager was there waiting.

“That bump you radioed through”… the train driver winced thinking he wasted a bunch of people’s time… the Shift manager continued “our engineers were just out on that part of the track, it seems a strut supporting the bridge has failed. If we kept running trains over that section we would have had a derailment and hundreds of people could have died. I am so glad you noticed it, you have helped us all avoid a catastrophe. Even if it was nothing, I am glad you reported it, customer safety really is our number 1 priority.” The train driver was relieved, not only had he averted disaster but he had been empowered to do the right thing for customers even if it had consequences for the train’s operations.

The driver was later awarded outstanding employee of the year and celebrated at the annual Virgin Conference in the UK.

This is a powerful story about how customer thinking can help people connect their work to the bigger picture and their responsibilities in creating a great customer experience.

For more stories on Virgin Trains and other great customer centric companies you can check out our book, The Customer Culture Imperative

 

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.

3 Traits a Company Culture must have to create great customer experiences

warning-you-are-being-watched The way customers are treated by your company is a direct reflection of your company culture. If you have a culture based on fear and mistrust, customers will experience the ramifications. Have you ever felt like you were being treated like a criminal for returning a product or complaining about a service? It is highly likely that employees are punished for not following the rules, as a result customers are also punished for mistakes or speaking up.

Company culture can be a difficult thing to define, but just about everyone that works for a company can feel it or describe it in some way.

Software Advice, an online reviewer of HR technology, recently conducted some interesting research that demonstrates the wide range of views from employees on what makes for an attractive company culture. The most cited cultural trait that would attract employees? Honesty and Transparency.

Source: Software Advise

Source: Software Advice

Transparency

This leads us to the first of 3 must have traits, Transparency. Employees want to know where they stand, if the leadership is opaque and vague about performance expectations or what success looks like this is a recipe for low morale and poor customer experiences.

Empathy

The second must have trait is empathy. Empathy is about understanding the other person’s position, in this case understanding the customer’s point of view. What do customer’s experience? What are they trying to achieve? What are their frustrations and how can we eliminate them? A culture of empathy extends to how employees work with each other, what are the other department’s goals and how do we help them achieve their goals as well as our own. Companies that lack empathy end up with unhappy customers that leave.

Trust

The final must have trait is Trust. This relates back to my opening point, a culture of fear results in employees not trusting customers. The customer is out to get them, scam them, take advantage of them just like everyone else in this place! Low levels of trust narrows our thinking, employees go into a survival mode that results in short term wins at the expense of long term relationships.

Have you ever had the feeling you are not welcome when you walk into a retail store? (See the image at the top of this post) Unfortunately in retail, theft is a major problem, however, as with most major problems it is subject to the 80/20 rule. In other words most people are not thieves but the signage and the retail staff’s attitude can make everyone feel that way – not good for business…

Are these cultural traits present in your company?