We need more Wendys.

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I recently experienced one of the nicest flight attendants ever; I unfortunately did not get her name so we’ll call her Wendy.  She went through the normal routines that flight attendants go through, you know, smile, “welcome aboard,” check that seat belts are buckled, and all the safety messaging.  The difference was the way she made you feel like you were right at home.  She called people honey and sweetheart in a way that somehow wasn’t cheesy or sappy, it seemed genuine, and I simply don’t know how she did it.

The big game changer came when the woman next to me got sick, I mean really sick.  It was the kind of sick that made everyone around her feel queasy. Well, once we got airborne and up to cruising altitude, the flight attendants began their rounds and when Wendy came by my row she looked over at the woman next to me and immediately went into what I call “Mom” mode.  She said all the right words to make my row-mate feel at ease.  She told her that she was fine and that it happens a lot (the sick woman was quite embarrassed and uncomfortable).  I was really surprised when Wendy told her to give her the sick-bag, the sick woman was very hesitant but Wendy insisted.  I would personally have had to garner latex gloves for such a thing as I am quite the barf-o-phobe.  From there, Wendy came back with a whole bevy of comforts, an ice bag, a can of ginger ale and two large sick-bags just in case.  In addition, every time Wendy passed my row, she would make sure the ill woman was okay.  Simply put, Wendy was great; she was in so many ways just like “Mom.”.

Anyway, why the story? Well, how many places do you go to where employees are confronted with things that are just normal human frailties but they don’t know what to do or don’t care so they ignore them?  Does this take training or is it just bad human wiring?  I don’t know the answer but empathy and caring are severely needed.  We live in a world that can be so cold and people can be so unconcerned with those around them.  Wendy cared.  She truly wanted to help.  She, at some basic human level, understood what my sick neighbor needed, at both an emotional and tangible level.

Do your employees care?  Can they empathize and provide what people need, not just what you sell but, more importantly, the human touch?  Do your employees and work partners get that from you?  Can you empathize and provide for them?  Does your workplace culture hold these things as values?  Are people important?  All good questions and things to think about if you want your customers to experience Wendy or just someone else who doesn’t care.

Making the world a better place is a tall order but it will never be if we don’t start making the workplace a place where people matter as much as they do when we’re not at work.  This starts with more of us having a service focus, and by that I mean a mindset that seeks to help those around us, yes, not just our friends and families but even our co-workers and maybe even a stranger from time to time.  Serving each other has been a necessary part of human survival but we seem to be losing that a lot these days and we need it back.  Let’s get to work.

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Go for Extraordinary

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A while back, I attended a Franklin Covey class called the Five Choices to Extraordinary Productivity.  While focused on getting more focused and efficient, it yielded many additional lessons.

Indeed, there are five Choices, 1) Act on the Important, 2) Go for Extraordinary, 3) Schedule the Big Rocks, 4) Rule Your Technology, and 5) Fuel Your Fire, and it may be hard to understand what each of these means exactly by their title, but suffice it to say that they all revolve around a different aspect of getting your life in order so that you can do more, enjoy more and perhaps get the focus to leave some sort of a meaningful, lasting legacy.

While each of these Choices has good points, one of them, Go for Extraordinary, really made an impression on me, and not strictly related to the efficiency objective of the class.  No, it made me think of a business topic, it made me think about the moniker of “world class” that gets thrown around so often, particularly with regard to service and customer experience.

What exactly does world class mean?  I get asked that quite a bit. Well, I think the answer is right there in the title, Go for Extraordinary.  When I think of world class, I think of something that is not ordinary, something extra-ordinary.  Ordinary is common, it’s what we experience on a regular basis, and when it comes to service, that could be anything from poor to average.  But extraordinary, that’s something different.  Extraordinary is uncommon, it’s not what we experience regularly, it is set apart.

To go for extraordinary means making a deliberate choice to be better and strive for the uncommon.  It is a conscious choice to do things that stand out as the best.  So when companies say, “we’re world class,” think about it, are they really?  Are they uncommon?  Are they providing an experience that stands out as excellent? Is your experience as a customer truly effortless, enjoyable and consistently successful?  Or is it simply common and like so many other experiences?

So, you may ask, what is the point here? I want to challenge businesses everywhere to examine their customers’ experience, look at things the way their customers see them.  Is the experience ordinary, is it common and just like so many others, or is it uncommon and extraordinary?  Are you easy to do business with?  Is interacting with your people enjoyable?  Is the long-term relationship with you and your product consistently one that makes them successful?  If you can’t say “Yes” without reservations, even in the corners of your mind, your business my friend, is not world class, nope, not.

So, what do you do? I say make the deliberate choice and go for it.  Go for extraordinary, decide to be uncommon.  Find everything in your business that makes it hard for customers and find ways to simplify.  Weed out every negative employee who can’t seem to find it in themselves to demonstrate a hospitality approach and either train them or send them packing.  And ensure that every customer is successful with whatever it is they came to you for, not just today, but for the long haul.  If you can get this done, you will be well on the way to being deemed uncommon, extraordinary, and yes, world class.

Not easy, no, not a bit, but well worth the effort and investment.  Businesses try all manner of things to stand out, but it typically seems to be all about product.  Well, I think customers are tired of product, product, product, they want service excellence, they want a relationship where they are cared for and pampered, they want extraordinary, uncommon…world class.

 

Get Aligned and Get Well

“If it weren’t for customers, I could get something done.”  How many times have you heard that or something like it?  Maybe you have, maybe you haven’t, but why do so many companies say it.  They may not say it in actual words but they do say it in their actions.

I am a customer experience professional (CXP) and belong to a professional organization that has a chat board where other CXPs ask questions and generally share information.  On this chat board I see queries regularly where CXPs are asking about ways to get their CEO to buy-in to the importance of customer experience.  How is it possible that a CEO doesn’t get the importance of customers?  How do these businesses survive?

Think about it. The only reason any business exists is because of customers.  Every business exists to help people do something, fix something, learn something, have something, etc.  There is no other reason for a business other than to help people accomplish things, yet so many, most in fact, don’t really get it.  Even when they sort of get it (“without customers we wouldn’t make money”) they don’t really get it.  Let’s make this brutally clear, WITHOUT CUSTOMERS YOU HAVE NO REASON FOR EXISTING, period, not making money or anything else, EXISTING.

To make that live in your organization, you have to get everyone aligned to that reality, not just frontline, customer-facing employees, it means everybody from the C-suite to accounting to marketing to shipping to HR to IT to sales to frontline…everybody.  Every employee needs to be aligned to the reality that making customers successful at whatever they come to you for is the only reason your organization exists.

From there, you need to make it clear to everyone that, regardless of role, their job is to help everyone else in the organization help your customers achieve that success in the best way possible.  This means everybody helping everybody help customers.  This is the absolute foundation of making and keeping your business well in every way from revenue to profitability to employee engagement to customer satisfaction and loyalty.  When everyone is on the same page and understands that helping customers is why you exist and that helping each other help customers is the way to make that happen, you have a smooth running machine.

How can you make this happen in your business?  Start with yourself by answering these questions:  1) what does your organization help people do, and 2) how do you help those around you to do that?  Once you have clarity, go ask your department those questions and make the answers the theme around which your department operates.  When things get bogged down in a meeting for example, make sure this theme stays central.  Remind people “we are here to help our customers __________, how does this objective we’re discussing help customers do that and /or how does this help us help them?” If you can’t tie things back to the only reason you exist, maybe you need to rethink it.  What you should see in this exercise is silos beginning to come down, more teamwork, more focus, a common bond, business wellness in action.

 

For Better Results, Turn Selling Into Serving

There is a current TV ad with Russell Wilson, quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks, playing with some children and they are picking teams for some sort of game (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F6dJEA1TeQA).  Each team captain begins picking players, and surprisingly, Wilson is last to be picked.  On first look, you wonder how someone so obviously advantaged could be last to be placed on a team for a kids game.  Wilson makes light of it when he tells one of the other kids waiting to be picked that he was 75th to be picked for the NFL (subtext: it’s no big deal being picked late).

Now all of this is cute and really all about getting kids out and into activity but right at the end there is a business lesson for us.  The final shot is of Wilson stuck in a tiny crawl tunnel as part of a children’s obstacle course.  You see, racing through an obstacle course was the game, and the kids knew this big football player would actually be a hindrance to winning.

So, you may be wondering, what’s the lesson?  In my business experience, I find many times where sales people miss the point of sales in the same way Wilson missed the point of being on the team. Much like Wilson, so many sales people get more worried about their needs, which for Wilson was getting picked and for sales people is making the sale, instead of the true objective, which for Wilson was how he could help the team win and for sales people is helping the customer succeed.  More simply put, many sales people are too worried about selling instead of serving because serving (helping customers reach their objectives) is really what selling should be all about.

Think about it, if Wilson knew about the game, he would have totally understood why he would be picked last and would have probably been thinking of ways where he could help the team win rather than being concerned with some damage to his ego.  Similarly, sales people should be consumed with ensuring customer success (team win) rather than making a sale (ego).

How can you change your sales perspective from selling to serving?  I’ve seen some sales people make this shift and it has resulted in much greater success than what they had previously experienced.  If you want to read a great book about how sales organizations can make this shift, I highly recommend Lisa Earle Mcleod’s Selling with Noble Purpose.  In this book she details how to go about this move and how it has benefited several organizations.  For a taster of Mcleod’s thinking, click on this link (https://nealwoodson.files.wordpress.com/2014/08/over_emphasis_on_profit_erodes_your_bottm_line_manifesto.pdf).

 

 

Make the Journey Easy

Making it easy to do business with you can be a key differentiator between you and your competitors. The following four tips have been pulled from the book, The Effortless Experience, an excellent book that goes into exhaustive detail on the subject of making service experiences easy.

  1. Help customers solve their problems in as few calls as possible. This is about making your process as one-stop-shop as you can and doing things in such a way that your customer doesn’t have to come back or call back.
  2. Keep repeating information to a minimum. We’ve all had the experience of calling a vendor about something and being asked to enter our account number only to be asked what our account number is by the first person we speak with.  It is so annoying and frustrating.  Make sure your systems are set up in such a way that customers only have to do things or relay things once.
  3. Use helpful language. When your employees use language that makes service sound difficult, it somehow becomes difficult in the mind of the customer.  Find language that is helpful, language that says “yes.”
  4. Don’t bounce customers around from person to person looking for answers. Direct people to the right person the first time.  Learn who does what in your organization and make a list of the key problem-solvers for the most common problems customers bring to you.  Make this information clear to everyone so they can direct customers to one person for answers.

Simple ideas to simplify your customers’ journey.