Create Elated Customers for Life by Delivering Surprise & Delight Customer Service

Surprise & Delight Customer Service

Surprise & Delight Customer Service

The following is what you will learn by reading this blog:

  1. The main business capabilities for a company to possess to deliver superb and legendary customer service

  2. The most critical capabilities to develop in order to enable your front-line employees to be able to deliver excellent customer service

  3. The introduction of the concept and definition of Surprise & Delight Customer Service and how the world’s top customer service companies deliver this consistently

  4. Examples of the best Surprise & Delight Customer Service that I have personally encountered and how they are linked to the critical components listed in #2 above

  5. Top customer service companies considered to be world-class in delivering Surprise & Delight Customer Service

  6. The programs you need to implement so that your company can deliver consistent Surprise & Delight Customer Service to your customers

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SECTION 1: Benefits of having elated, “surprised and delighted”, customers:

The research I have conducted indicates that truly elated customers, who are consistently surprised by the level of service they receive from your company, go on to tell multiple friends, relatives, acquaintances, co-workers about your company, products/services and stories of their great experiences interacting with your company. This grass roots customer advocacy transforms your customers from just your customers into infectious and 24×7 adjunct company sales and marketing agents, convincing people they interact with to buy from your company.

Additional research also shows that this customer transformation does not come when they rate your company and service as merely “Satisfied” but rather only when a customer is elated and rates your customer service with a 7 , or “Extremely satisfied”, rating as shown here:

Sample Customer Service Ratings

Sample Customer Service Ratings

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The following graph illustrates the correlation between the rating provided by a customer on their customer service and the strength of their company advocacy and likeliness to recommend a company.

Correlation between Customer Satisfaction Ratings and the Likeliness to Recommend/Advocate for a Company

Correlation between Customer Satisfaction Ratings and the Likeliness to Recommend/Advocate for a Company

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SECTION 2: Capabilities required to deliver exceptional “surprise and delight” customer service:

There are more than 10 dimensions in developing and delivering customer service excellence including the following:

  1. Development of a customer-oriented vision and strategy.

  2. Development of service excellence standards that are institutionalized across the enterprise.

  3. Development and maintenance of a company culture that drives team unity and focus as well as customer service excellence and a mindset of customers first.

  4. Implementation of a customer errors, omissions and anomaly recovery processes.

  5. Implementation of a customer experience and customer service excellence measurement system.

  6. Inclusion of customers in helping define and develop the final customer management capabilities, content, methods, etc.

  7. Implementation of a customer bill of rights and non-negotiable customer standards.

  8. Development of customer emotional connection points based on customer journeys.

  9. Development of a set of hiring criteria and standards to be able to identify and source employees who have a predisposition for delivering exceptional customer service (friendly, outgoing, personable, believes in helping others, rates high on empathy, etc.)

  10. Deployment of training that ensures front-line employees are customer service excellence certified so that they can deliver world-class customer first service.

  11. Delivery of surprise and delight (S&D) customer service & experience through the development of S&D customer processes.

While all of the above are important I feel that the last three are of critical importance in making customers consistently extremely satisfied.  In the next section we will cover the definition of surprise and delight customer service and share real examples of its delivery across many service-related industries.

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SECTION 3 – Surprise & Delight definition, examples:

Surprise and delight customer service is consistently going well above and beyond customer expectations such that customers feel both surprised and delighted by their treatment & level of service by your company.

Surprise & Delight Customer Service

Surprise & Delight Customer Service

Here are some examples of where I have personally encountered surprise & delight customer service:

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1) Hotels:

A) High Peaks Resort, Lake Placid, NY: I recently checked into the High Peaks Resort in the Adirondack Mountains during the time of my birthday.  The front desk has a champagne reception for all incoming guests. When we were offered champagne, my wife told them that we were celebrating my birthday.  The attendant responded by saying, “we will take care of it” and took the glasses away. I said to my wife, “that was confusing as they said we will take care of it” and then promptly took our glasses from us.   We got to our room shortly thereafter and heard a knock on the door. It was a service attendant with a bottle of champagne and a personalized birthday card signed by the front desk staff. Talk about surprise and delight customer service!! We were so impressed! Obviously, this resort embraces and understands the importance of S&DCS as described in #11 below.

  1. Delivery of surprise and delight (S&D) customer service & experience through the development of S&D customer processes

Here are the thoughts and emotions I recorded just after this superb treatment by the High Peaks Resort:

  1. They really care about their customers.

  2. This hotel really goes out of their way to make their customer’s stay memorable.

  3. They know how to make a customer smile.

  4. That just made my day.

Bottom line, I felt emotionally connected to the hotel and its employees following this treatment and felt like it was in business to make their customers happy vs. merely making $$$.

High Peaks Resort, Lake Placid NY

High Peaks Resort, Lake Placid NY

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As a global consultant I have had my share of extended stays at Marriott hotels. Here are a couple of surprise and delight stories that I have always remembered:

B) Marriott Shelton, CT.   I stayed at the Shelton, CT Marriott for nearly 8 months, typically staying from Sunday to Friday. When the hotel wasn’t busy for the weekend, they blocked out my room for reservations and let me keep many of my belongings in my room so I didn’t have to pack & unpack each week and could feel at home upon returning.  While away, they would gather all my dirty clothes for dry cleaning and have them hanging in my room closet upon my return.  On my last evening at the hotel the hotel staff threw me a surprise farewell party! They paid for everything – dinner, drinks, etc.  Talk about taking care of the customer with true surprise and delight service! I am willing to bet this instance of the delivery of S&DCS came as a result of both 9 & 10 on our list of needed customer service excellence capabilities:

  1. Development of a set of hiring criteria and standards to be able to identify and source employees who have a predisposition for delivering exceptional customer service (friendly, outgoing, personable, believes in helping others, rates high on empathy, etc.)

  2. Deployment of training that ensures front-line employees are customer service excellence certified so that they can deliver world-class customer first service.

Here are the thoughts and emotions I recorded just after this superb treatment by the Shelton Marriott:

  1. I’d recommend this hotel to anybody.

  2. They really appreciate a customer’s business.

  3. I have never been treated so well by a hotel.

  4. What a welcoming place to stay – they made me feel at home!

C) Marriott Princeton, Princeton NJ: Another extended stay required me to stay at the Princeton, NJ Marriott for 7 months.  One evening I was entertaining clients at the bar after a day of numerous long meetings. One client was fond of Remy Martin King Louis XIII cognac which sold for about $145 per shot at the time. A tradition of Marriott was, that if you had the last shot from the bottle, they give you the bottle, made from Baccarat crystal.   My client ordered three shots over the course of several hours which emptied the bottle. The bartender, being new, said he never heard of giving such an expensive bottle away and refused to provide the bottle to my client. I complained to no avail as the bartender refused to budge. The next morning while dressing, I heard a knock at the door, and it was the hotel GM with the empty bottle of King Louis XIII as well an additional half full bottle. He asked me to accept his sincere apology for a relatively new and untrained bartender who was filling in the previous evening and promptly gave me the two bottles. Needless to say, my client was thrilled by this surprise and delight turn of customer service events!! I am willing to bet this instance of the delivery of S&DCS also came as a result of both 9 & 10 on our list of needed customer service excellence capabilities:

  1. Development of a set of hiring criteria and standards to be able to identify and source employees who have a predisposition for delivering exceptional customer service (friendly, outgoing, personable, believes in helping others, rates high on empathy, etc.)

  2. Deployment of training that ensures front-line employees are customer service excellence certified so that they can deliver world-class customer first service

Here are the thoughts and emotions I recorded just after this superb treatment by the Princeton Marriott at Forrestal Village:

  1. That general manager is a class act and knows how to run a hotel.

  2. I was shocked that my disappointment wasn’t the end of the story and it turned into a positive event I will talk about for years.

  3. It was refreshing that they admitted a mistake and then went above and beyond to make it right.

  4. Wow! Talk about doing a 360 and turning a disgruntled customer into a surprised and delighted one!

Marriott Hotel, Princeton, NJ

Marriott Hotel, Princeton, NJ

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C) Marriott Philadelphia West, Conshohocken, PA (Philadelphia suburb): I was a senior executive at a consulting company in Conshohocken and traveled into the area frequently. The first several times in the area I stayed in several different hotels trying to find one that I liked. Since I was previously a Marriott top tier rewards member, I decided to give the Marriott Philadelphia West in Conshohocken, PA a try. The first time I stayed, I didn’t use the concierge lounge.  On my second visit, I did use the lounge in the evening and I fell in love with the place because of one incredible (a 1 in 1,000,000 person) great human being and Marriott employee.

The person’s name is Luigi and he not only manages the concierge lounge, he IS the concierge lounge and is the epitome of what a customer should experience at every concierge lounge across the globe. Luigi has been the manager of the lounge for many years and when possible, I go out of my way to stay at this hotel due because of his level of exceptional service.  Luigi always remembers my name, my wife’s name (even though he never met her), my favorite drink, food likes, dislikes, etc. I could be away from the hotel for many months and yet he always provides a warm friendly welcome” “Hello Mr. Jeffes – so nice to see you again!!” as he gives me a hug. He will tell you about all the appetizers and desserts being served that evening and then suggests some favorites. He entertains his guests by playing movies during movie night in the lounge. When he first introduced movie nights, he used his own money to provide the DVDs. Luigi clearly goes above and beyond and I can recall many surprise and delight moments where Luigi delivered superb customer service to me and many other guests. When you’re a road warrior like I was at the time, it’s the little things that make all the difference.  Seeing Luigi who makes a Marriott feel like your home and provides a relaxing haven when traveling, always puts a smile on my face. Luigi has surprise and delight customer service ingrained in his DNA and I have lost count of the number of times I have encountered this from him. One occasion stands out more than others in that I had an unusually dreadful day with many things not going as planned. I started early this day and worked unusually longer into the evening. I hadn’t slept much the night before and I was tired, hungry and feeling the pressure of the awful day I just had. When I went into Luigi’s concierge lounge, Luigi immediately picked up on my unusually sour mood as I must not have greeted him in the usual upbeat manner. He immediately sprung into gear, taking the following actions:

  1. Unsolicited, inquired of the front desk if there were any upgrades to a suite for me that evening.

  2. Asked if he could order my dinner to have it sent right to the lounge or my room.

  3. Handed me my favorite drink without asking.

  4. Since the lounge was very empty that night, asked me what I wanted on the television so I could unwind.

  5. Got me a hot towel to wipe my face and relax.

As a result, I started to immediately forget about the crappy day I had just had and started to feel myself relax. After about 30-45 minutes I was back to my old happy self with the experience of a bad day a distant memory.

What would happen to your service-oriented business if you had a Luigi? Your business volume and customer following would explode! Your customer loyalty would increase and customer service would become a distinct and immeasurable competitive advantage.

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Luigi is a natural at delivering exceptional customer service and this 1 in 1,000,000 person and service comes as a result of Marriott getting lucky enough to hire someone so exceptional. How do I know? I have stayed at Marriott properties and other hotels across the US and have not met anyone that even comes close to delivering the level of service that Luigi does.

By implementing #9 on our customer service excellence capability list, you will have much better odds of hiring someone comparable to Luigi:

  1. Development of a set of hiring criteria and standards to be able to identify and source employees who have a predisposition for delivering exceptional customer service (friendly, outgoing, personable, believes in helping others, rates high on empathy, etc.)

Here are the thoughts and emotions I recorded when it comes to Luigi and his level of service:

  1. I’d drive a long distance out of my way to spend a relaxing evening with Luigi.

  2. Luigi is a 1 in a 1,000,000 in terms of delivering exceptional customer service.

  3. Marriott is so lucky to have Luigi working for them.

  4. If Luigi were to become the head of training for all Marriott service employees, Marriott would blow away their competition in terms of delivering exceptional S&D customer service.

I won’t list the thoughts and emotions for the remainder of my S&D examples, but the point is that delivering exceptional customer service delivers a lasting and positive emotional connection between the brand, product/service and with the customer.

Luigi, Concierge Manager at the Marriott Philadelphia West Hotel

Luigi, Concierge Manager at the Marriott Philadelphia West Hotel

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  1. Ritz-Carlton, Battery Park, NYC. Ritz-Carlton is one of the top models for superior customer service world-wide and was a client in the past. Ritz-Carlton trains all of its employees to spot a customer opportunity in that they are trained to listen to and record each customer’s individual needs, issues, preferences, wants, wishes, etc. Employees are then empowered to deliver the type of service the customer wants without having to ask.

 

A great example is upon arriving at the Ritz-Carlton Battery Park, NYC a number of years ago, I remember casually saying to the bellman, among other topics, that I loved the view of lower Manhattan and that I didn’t eat on the plane.  I had just flown in from San Francisco. Upon checking in, the woman at the front desk smiled and called me by name before I mentioned it, told me that she arranged a high room with a beautiful view of lower Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty and said she arranged for a snack to be waiting for me free of charge when I arrived at my room.  She said, “I heard that you didn’t have a chance to eat on your way here”. All of this was noted by the bellman and passed onto the front desk without my knowledge to deliver Surprise and Delight Customer Service upon check-in, something Ritz-Carlton is legendary at providing. I would consider Ritz-Carlton the platinum standard for delivering S&DCS as they possess and effectively deploy all 11 of the customer service excellence capabilities listed above. Their excellent service is not by luck or chance; it is ingrained in their culture and at the center of Ritz-Carton’s core values, policies and processes.

 

2) Restaurants:

A) Water’ s Edge Lighthouse, Schenectady, NY:

Water’s Edge Light House on the Mohawk River, Schenectady NY

Water’s Edge Light House on the Mohawk River, Schenectady NY

There are two local restaurants that my wife and I have frequented that have world-class professionals working at them. The first is the Water’s Edge Lighthouse in Schenectady, NY who employs a gentleman named Greg.  We had originally met Greg at another restaurant that sadly closed. Greg is the type of individual that remembers your name when you arrive, makes you feel at home when he is serving you, makes conversation about you and your family and takes every chance to ensure you are having a great experience. He gets to know his all of his many 100’s of customers by name and goes out of his way to anticipate and suggest my next need as I am in the process of thinking about it. My wife and I now call this level of customer service “the Greg standard”.  One time, we arrived on a Saturday night, having made a reservation earlier in the week.  Somehow the reservation had been misplaced and the restaurant was full.  When Greg learned of the situation, he said to me, “don’t worry we have you covered” and then made room for us in very short order when the place was absolutely packed. Talk about surprise and delight customer service. There was zero questioning of me about whether I had forgotten to make a reservation, which I hadn’t since I recorded the name of the person who confirmed and the time of day when I called).  Greg and the team just made it right.

Like Luigi, you would be lucky to hire someone like Greg, but you’ll need a lot of luck as he too, is one in a million.  By implementing #9 on our customer service excellence capability list, you will have much better odds of hiring someone comparable to Greg:

  1. Development of a set of hiring criteria and standards to be able to identify and source employees who have a predisposition for delivering exceptional customer service (friendly, outgoing, personable, believes in helping others, rates high on empathy, etc.)

Greg with the Manager of Waters Edge Lighthouse, Joey

Greg (left) with the Manager of Waters Edge Lighthouse, Joey

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B) Mario’s New Lebanon, NY:

Mario’s Restaurant, New Lebanon, NY

Mario’s Restaurant, New Lebanon, NY

Sarah from Mario’s in New Lebanon, NY is another person who stands out as meeting “the Greg Standard” with her warmth, professionalism and exceptional service.  Sarah gets to know each of her customer’s names, likes, food and drink preferences.  She remembers the new wine that you tasted the last time you were in and makes everyone feel special.  We sometimes don’t even have to look at the menu as she will recommend a special that she thinks we will like or asks if we are ordering one of our known favorites.  At peak hours, Sarah handles customer requests with a sense of calm and professionalism. When she is serving numerous drinks, dinners and taking orders in person and via phone, she always finds time to smile and accommodate requests, chat, ask questions, etc.

My surprise and delight example from Sarah came when I atypically came in without a reservation due to a change in schedule.  Sarah looked at me and said they were full and then said, if you can wait a minute, I’ll see what I can do. Sarah did her magic and creatively asked the customers if they could move down to accommodate another guest which they all surprisingly and enthusiastically did.  Sarah has a “following” that enjoy dining at the bar when she is working.  Due to her pleasant demeanor and professionalism, I was able to get a spot for dinner, and even though the bar had squeezed in one more person, Sarah handled everything without a hitch and made me feel welcome.  Over the years, customers have shared with me that one of the main reasons they go to Mario’s is because of Sarah and the great food. Just like Luigi does for the Marriott Philadelphia West and Greg does for the Water’s Edge Lighthouse, Sarah’s presence adds to the overall experience of enjoying a delicious meal in a great atmosphere at Mario’s. Luigi, Greg and Sarah are all 1 in a 1,000,000 service professionals who are naturals at surprise and delight customer service and you’d be extremely lucky to hire someone like them.

Sarah from Mario’s Restaurant

Sarah from Mario’s Restaurant

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3) Retail:

 A) Amazon:

Amazon
Amazon

There is a now famous story brought to light by the New York Times titled “Put Buyers First? What a Concept”. It details how a customer, by no fault of their own, didn’t receive a shipment of a PlayStation for his son just before the holidays. Here is an excerpt from this article and a potentially disastrous situation was turned into a surprise and delight customer service moment: “It was early in the morning, and I had awoken with the sudden, sinking realization that a present I had bought for one of my sons hadn’t yet arrived. It wasn’t just any present either; it was a PlayStation 3, a $500 item, and a gift, I happened to know from my sources, that he was hoping for. Like most things I buy online, the PlayStation had come from Amazon.com. So I went to the site and tracked the package– something, thankfully, that is a snap to do on Amazon. What I saw made my heart sink: the package had not only been shipped, it had been delivered to my apartment building days earlier and signed for by one of my neighbors. I knocked on my neighbor’s door, and asked if she still had the PlayStation. No, she said; after signing for it, she had put it downstairs in the hallway.

Nonetheless, I got on the phone with an Amazon customer service representative, and explained what had happened: the PlayStation had been shipped, delivered and signed for. It just didn’t wind up in my hands. Would Amazon send me a replacement? In my heart of hearts, I knew I didn’t have a leg to stand on. I was pleading for mercy.

I shudder to think how this entreaty would have gone over at, say, Apple, where customer service is an oxymoron. But the Amazon customer service guy didn’t blink. After assuring himself that I had never actually touched or seen the PlayStation, he had a replacement on the way before the day was out. It arrived on Christmas Eve. Amazon didn’t even charge me for the shipping. My son was very happy. So, of course, was I.”  Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/05/technology/05nocera.html

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B) Zappos:

Zappos

Zappos

 

Right in-line with this blog article, Zappos is an e-commerce company whose #1 core value is to “Deliver WOW Through Service”.  In addition, in keeping with a customer first mantra, CEO Tomy Hsich states that Zappos is “a service company that just happens to sell shoes.” Here is a story I read while researching this article that definitely applies to Surprise and Delight Customer Service.  “Recently, a newly-married couple were packing up their belongings in preparation for moving. The husband packed his wife’s jewelry inside one of her purses, and packed the purse inside what he thought was a spare Zappos box. The wife, it turns out, was intending to return that purse to Zappos using that very box. Which she then does, having no idea that inside the purse now were several thousand dollars of her jewelry!

When the couple arrives at their new home and starts to unpack, bedlam breaks out as the wife figures out what has happened and why her jewelry is missing. The rep she reaches at Zappos decides to reroute the box directly to his desk, but once it arrives, the rep fears for the safety of the valuables if he were to ship them, and purchases a plane ticket to hand-deliver the package himself.  When he arrives, the incredibly grateful couple invite him in for dinner. Now they’re customers for life, as you can imagine.” Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/micahsolomon/2017/08/01/three-wow-customer-service-stories-from-zappos-southwest-airlines-and-nordstrom/#77ad6ace2aba

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Section 4: Top Surprise & Delight Delivery Companies:

 

Here is a list of several larger companies I consider to be at the top of their game and world-class in delivering surprise and delight customer service:

  1. Ritz-Carlton (consulting client)

  2. Marriott (consulting client)

  3. Zappos

  4. Amazon

  5. Southwest Airlines (consulting client)

  6. American Express (consulting client, 4 different projects)

  7. Costco

  8. Chic-Fil-A

  9. Wegmans Food Markets

  10. Publix

  11. Apple (consulting client)

  12. USAA Insurance

 

Section 5: How to implement Surprise & Delight Customer Service for your company or organization

 

How do companies like Amazon Ritz-Carlton and Zappos consistently deliver exceptional or legendary levels of customer service?  Do they rely on being lucky enough to hire the 1 in 1,000,000’s like Luigi from Marriott Philadelphia West or Greg from the Waters Edge Lighthouse or Sarah from Mario’s above, or do they possess something else, like a secret sauce to deliver this type of amazing customer service? Having consulted for Ritz-Carlton in the past, I know that many follow a similar 5 step process detailed below.

Step 1:  Map your customer journeys:

 

Leveraging an integrated team of process experts, customer service and front line employees, map the various ways customers journey through an experience with your company. Examples include:

  1. Customer prospect, exploring your potential services and/or products

  2. First time website visitor, buyer.

  3. Repeat or renewal website visits.

  4. Existing customer, new product and/or service purchase.

  5. Customer returns, complaints or warranty claims.

  6. Service termination or account closure.

Here is a chart that illustrates examples of these various types of journeys:

 

Customer Experience Journey Sample, Example

Customer Experience Journey Sample, with Measurements

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Step 2:  LISTEN TO AND CULTIVATE meaningful and valuable customer needs, preferences, etc.:

 

In parallel with mapping you customer experience journeys, develop a program that continually gathers customer insights into what is most important and meaningful for each individual customer. A gift card could be given to any customer, but to know that customer A likes Starbucks, and customer B would love a Amazon Kindle gift card and customer C would value an ITunes gift card goes a long way to demonstrate that you are paying attention.  It also demonstrates that you are in tune with customer interests and care about them as individuals.  These 1-to-1, personalized surprise & delight moments build loyalty and  make a customer feel valued.

 

Step 3:  Map customer S&D opportunities along your customer journeys:

Once you have determined and documented the majority of your important customer journeys and determined what is meaningful and valuable to each of your customer’s preferences, start overlaying customer surprise & delight opportunities along these journeys. Here is a real example of how a client mapped a surprise a delight moment for high value customer issues. The key is to develop business rules that need to be satisfied in order for that surprise and delight moment to be fulfilled. In this case, a high value customer whose order was misplaced and later corrected once error was discovered, receives a gift as an apology for the error.

Customer Experience Journey with S&D Opportunity Process Example

Customer Experience Journey with S&D Opportunity Process Example

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Example: Value of item lost $500. High value customer A would receive a $100 Starbucks gift card, customer B would receive a $100 Amazon gift card and customer C would receive a $100 ITunes gift card.

 

Step 4:  Develop & deploy customer S&D policies & procedures:

 

The next step is to distill all of the surprise & delight opportunities mapped along customer journeys into a set of front-line employee policies and procedures. Here are a couple of examples of each:

Policies:

  • We will compensate high value (high value is client specific) customers for errors and anomalies that are of no fault of their own.

  • Front-line employees shall be responsible and rewarded for turning satisfied customers into delighted, loyal customers by empowering them to easily and quickly deliver surprise & delight moments.

  • Each front-line employee shall undergo front-line customer service certification training to ensure they are prepared and equipped to delivery legendary customer service via surprise and delight moments, customer needs cultivation, etc.

  • Cultivate and reward the best employee surprise & delight customer stories from each quarter and showcase and provide rewards for ‘the best of the best’ at the end of the year.

Procedures:

  • If a high value customer is calling to complain about a missing shipment of high value that was lost of no fault of their own, we will compensate with an item of meaningful value to that customer worth 20-25% of the missing item.

  • Prior to checking into the hotel, we will check the customer preference and need profile on record to ensure all needs are met during the upcoming stay.

  • Employees are to document all cultivated customer preference insights during their current visit in the global customer preference database in order better serve the customer’s individual likes, preferences, needs, etc. Details on how to do this are documented in the global customer preference database procedures manual and trained on during front-line employee customer service certification.

Step 5:  Develop a set of S&D hiring standards & train on S&D policies, procedures, etc.

The last step is to ensure you are hiring the best employees that they have the highest Exceptional Customer Service Aptitude (ECSA). In addition, you need to continually train and certify your employees on customer service policies, procedures, processes and how to consistently deliver exceptional, surprise & delight customer service.

1) Screen for the Best:

To hire those with the highest ECSA, you need to develop a customer service screening questionnaire as I have done for many clients to be able to consistently hire those who are predisposed at delivering great customer service and screen out those who are not. By doing this, you are screening employee candidates to find and hire only those who posses the characteristics that are most like Luigi, Greg and Sarah who are naturals at delivering exceptional S&D service.

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2) Train to be the Best, Continually Improve:

The next sub-step is to develop a set of high quality customer service training materials and processes to certify your front-line employees on exceptional customer service delivery policies and procedures. All new employees should be certified via the training and all existing employees should have to re-certify to ensure adherence to the latest exceptional customer service policies and procedures. Ongoing training for all employees will help ensure a high level of customer service is being consistently delivered.

 

Summary:

You can either hope for good luck in the hiring of natural and exceptional customer service employees that are 1 in 1,000,000 or you can develop a holistic Customer Service Excellence program with multiple dimensions and capabilities such that all employees perform to the level of a Sarah, Greg and Luigi. By hiring, training and enabling your front-line employees to consistently deliver surprise and delight moments for your customers, your company will develop a cult-like customer following similar to Zappos, Amazon and Ritz-Carlton.  Your customers will remain fiercely loyal and will actively advocate to increase your revenue, margins and brand reputation. With all this being true, there is no excuse to not actively work on creating the best surprise & delight customer program possible?!

If your organization is seeking experienced assistance in deploying legendary levels of “surprise and delight” customer service, then give me a call or e-mail me at 518-339-5857 or stevenjeffes@gmail.com

Lastly, this is just one article of over 50 articles I have written on Customer strategy, customer experience, CRM, marketing, product management, competitive intelligence, corporate innovation, change management – all of which I have significant experience in delivering for Fortune 500 companies.  In fact, my blog is now followed by nearly 121,000 world-wide and was just named one of the top 100 CRM blogs on the planet by Feedspot, alongside Salesforce.com, Infor, Microsoft, SAS, etc. – Reference this informative site here: https://blog.feedspot.com/crm_blogs/

Change Management Best Practices & World-Class Change Deployment Methodology

 

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Best Practice Change Management Framework

 

Any change initiative should employ a proven & world-class change management implementation framework

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Best Practice Change Management Project Approach & Plan – Define Goals, Obtain Buy-In

Change Management Methodology: Any change initiative should employ a proven & world-class change management implementation framework. Best Practice Steps to Define Change Goals and Obtain Buy-In for the Change

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Best Practice Change Management Project Approach & Plan – Design Change Approach

Change Management Methodology: Best Practice Steps to Designing a Solid Change Approach

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Best Practice Change Management Project Approach & Plan – Develop and Deploy Change

Change Management Methodology: Best Practice Steps to Developing and Deploying Change

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Best Practice Change Management Project Approach & Plan – Deliver Change Results

Change Management Methodology: Best Practice Steps to Delivering Change Results

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Management’s Crucial Role In Supporting Change

Management Must Have Clearly Articulated Roles in Facilitating and Supporting any Change

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Organizational Change Alignment Possible Outcomes

The graphic above depicts the various change outcomes possible. Following a solid change methodology can ensure the optimal state of “total alignment”

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Change Initiative Ranking Analysis Techniques

A best practice change approach includes proven methods and techniques to evaluate potential change initiatives to undertake

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Typical & Critical Change Initiative Roles & Organizational Structure

A world-class change approach includes mapping out change roles and delivering sufficient training and role change orchestration. This approach ensures that aspect of the organization is pulling together in synergy on every level following the implementation of the change.

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Change Management Initiative Resource Plan

A world-class change approach includes mapping out a change implementation organization including the organizational inter-relationships, special committees and groups as well as specific roles and responsibilities.

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The Role of Middle Management in Change Management

A world-class change approach must include middle management inclusion strategies

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Managing & Mitigating Organizational Change Resistance

Careful Considerations must be made to anticipate and mitigate change resistance, including from middle management

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Executive Support for Change Management

A world-class change approach includes planning how executive support will be applied during any change initiative

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Change Management Strategies for Institutionalizing Change

Best practice change methodologies and strategies can mitigate the pitfalls associated with not institutionalizing a change which risks, over time, organizational drift away from the desired change state.

Achieving Market Leadership by Effectively Managing Customer Loyalty and Advocacy

 

  • Do you know which of your customers is destroying your company and brand value via negative word-of-mouth comments?
  • Do you know which of your customers is on the verge on defecting from your company and brands to one of your competitors?
  • Do you know which of your customers is promoting your company and brands and generating positive company and brand value on your behalf?
  • Do you know which of your customers is as passionate about your company and brand as your CxOs and should be rewarded as such?

 

To find out the answer to these questions, read the rest of this informative blog article below.

Customer Loyalty & Advocacy

     Customer Loyalty & Advocacy

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Your customer base is almost always represented by the above spectrum of customers. What varies from business to business is the percentage in each segment group. The more well managed your business, the more skewed to the right your customers tend to be. Therefore a business must develop strategies to migrate customers continually from the left to the right from segment group to segment group in increasing numbers. The rest of this blog is dedicated to sharing best practices on how to migrate more of your customers to the right of the spectrum.

Customer Loyalty and Advocacy Framework

    Customer Loyalty and Advocacy Framework

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For any company to achieve world-class status, one must carefully map out a customer loyalty and advocacy framework including the following component steps from the chart above:

  1. Clearly articulated customer segment definitions based on customer satisfaction levels, in addition to customer buy/sell segment definitions (top independent seller, high volume digital seller, etc.)                                                     
  2. A clear customer segment strategy and detailed tactics on the customer treatment that should be employed for each customer satisfaction segment               
  3. Customer cross-segment best practices and processes to drive segment migrations from the far most left segment to the far most right segment (i.e. from dissenters to super advocates)
Customer Loyalty & Advocacy Framework Segments

   Customer Loyalty & Advocacy Framework Segments

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The above customer loyalty & advocacy framework includes the following segments:

  • Customer Brand Dissenters or Malcontents – Very negative and detrimental to the company’s brand(s)
  • Customer Company Defectors – Very likely to defect to a competitor
  • Customer Neutral or Indifferent – Neither brand supporters or detractors of the company’s brand(s)
  • Customer Brand Supporters – Slightly positive about the company’s brand(s)
  • Customer Brand Advocates – Very positive and generating positive value to the company brand image
  • Customer Brand Super Advocates or Delighted Customers – Active promoters of the company’s brands, adding continuous & tremendous value to the company brand image

A formal social and company/brand listening and tracking program is a best practice on how to identify which of your customers exist in each of the above segments (see my previous blog entry on the topic of Social listening programs).

Customer Dissenters & Defectors

Customer Dissenters & Defectors

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From this graphic above, we can see clearly that the strategy should be as follows:

  • Dissenters: Diffuse and redirect customer angst and anger and come to some sort of closure agreement on for the source of their angst/anger.
  • Defectors: Get the defectors to see the entire spectrum of value the company has to offer and get them back to the level of positive company engagement vs. disenfranchisement. Provide insights to how a more positive company relationship would reward them – loyalty programs and other rewards.

Unless the individuals in these segments are high value or high profitability customers, then you would want to minimize the financial rewards to these customer satisfaction segments.

In addition and based on my research and experience, you are wasting your marketing and sales $$ spend to these two segments as they are much more unlikely to respond to any marketing offers due to being so currently dissatisfied with the company and brands (think about it – why would they trust you and buy more of the same when their initial experiences were so terrible?). 

Customer Neutrals & Supporters

  Customer Neutrals & Supporters

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From this graphic above, we can see clearly that the strategy should be as follows:

  • Neutrals: Develop strategies to more of these customers to a net positive relationship by communicating more frequently and effectively with this segment group. The path toward becoming a company/brand supporter should be clearly and frequently communicated to these customers so that they are encouraged to become ever more value to the company and its brands. This group is likely to be lukewarm to your sales and marketing efforts so expenditures here should be highly selective. 
  • Supporters: Develop these supporters into more loyal and more committed customers by developing brand ‘stickiness’ through company loyalty rewards, referral programs, by making it easy (discounts) to buy additional company brands or products, etc. The path toward becoming a company/brand advocate should be clearly and frequently communicated so that these customers become ever more value to the company and its brands. You should have formal programs in place that amplifies their support of your company and brands via social media, forums, etc. 

 

Customers in these segments should be offered tiered financial rewards to incentivize them to want to contribute at even higher levels to brand value and to remain even more loyal to the company and its brands.

Customer Advocates & Super Advocates

 Customer Advocates & Super Advocates

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From this graphic above, we can see clearly that the strategy should be as follows:

 

  • Advocates: This group should be provided with an array of rewards and accolades for helping effectively spread the word about the company or value of the company’s brands, especially if the individual customer is of high value, profitability or influence. The path toward becoming a company/brand super-advocate should be clearly and frequently communicated to these customers so that they are encouraged to become ever more value to the company and its brands. You should have formal programs in place that amplifies their advocacy of your company and brands via social media, forums, etc. 
  • Super Advocates: This group should be provided with top tier rewards and accolades for helping effectively spread the word about the company or value of the company’s brands, especially if the individual customer is of high value, profitability or influence. You should have formal programs in place that, not only amplifies their super-advocacy of your company and brands via social media, forums, etc., but also provides significant rewards for helping increase your brand value (i.e. via a “brand ambassador” rewards program). 
Customer Loyalty & Advocacy Cross-Segment Best Practices

Customer Loyalty & Advocacy Cross-Segment Best Practices

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The graphic above highlights just a few of the cross-segment customer loyalty & advocacy best practices I recommend that companies continually practice to migrate customers from the negative segments that hurt the company’s brand value (dissenters, defectors) to positive segments (advocates and super advocates) that adds incredible value to a company’s brand.

 

Here are the brands for which I am a Dissenter, Defector, Neutralist, Advocate and Super-Advocate for based on my own personal experience and opinions:

 

  • Companies and Brands for which I am an official dissenter:
Companies For Which I am Dissenter

Companies For Which I am a Dissenter

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Sears

Sears

Sears – I received abject customer service back in the late 1980’s and don’t want anything to do with the retailer ever again. I have tried to give them a second chance and continue to have an unsatisfactory experience.  I pledge to never set foot in a Sears store again.

Target

Target

Target – I interviewed for a senior management position at Target a several years ago was treated so poorly that even the HR manager at the time said the treatment of me was ‘questionable’. She then shared with me that she asked upper management “are we really trying to hire the best candidate here?” before she left the company.  I vowed to never shop in Target again and have held true to my word. 

Empire Carpet Today

Empire Carpet Today

Empire Carpet – We had several issues with our carpet installation and follow up customer service.  They are very disorganized, non-customer friendly and do not seem to keep with the volume of sales that they generate.  I will never use this company ever again. We steer people away from this company if asked.

2) Companies and Brands I am likely to Defect from or have defected from and tell everybody about why I am about to leave (or have left) these company & brands:

Companies for which I am a (potential) Defector

Companies for which I am a (potential) Defector

Bank of America

Bank of America

Bank of America – Closed many of the local branches where I live and the abundance of local branches was the reason I opened an account with BOA in the first place. The remaining branches are now crowded and not staffed adequately. This tells me they care more about the bottom line than customer satisfaction.

Marriott

Marriott

Marriott – In my opinion Marriott has lost its way. I used to be a Platinum member at Marriott for many years. Their properties since that time have become worn as compared to their competitors and they seem to not listen well to their customers. An example of this myopia is when they converted the Courtyards to the Bistro concept. Every customer I speak to was disappointed by this change but they went ahead and did it anyway (presumably to save $$ on operations costs).

Frigidaire/Electrolux

Frigidaire/Electrolux

Frigidaire/Electrolux – Our dehumidifier stopped working after only 1 year.  We have been trying to get a credit from them for six months with no end in sight.  The return process is the most customer unfriendly I have ever encountered with no possibility of human interaction. We have been without a dehumidifier for an entire year due to their poor customer service process.

3) Companies and Brands I am Neutral about and don’t really have much to say about them:

Companies For Which I Have Neutral Sentiment
Companies For Which I Have Have Neutral Sentiment

Samsung, Sony, Direct TV, Time Warner Cable, Panasonic, Cuisinart, Hunter Fans, Home Depot, Lowes, Macy’s, Sunoco, US Air, Delta, Tractor Supply, Wal-Mart, McDonalds, Burger King, Chili’s, Pizzeria Uno, American Airlines, Holiday Inn and many more. This category contains the most number of brands due to the distribution across segment group being shaped like a bell curve

4) Companies and Brands I am an Advocate of and share positive stories with anybody who is willing to listen:

 

Companies For Which I am An Advocate
 Companies For Which I am An Advocate
American Express

American Express

American Express – I have worked with American Express as a consultant on several different strategic projects.  They are an extremely well run organization with some very smart people running the company. I have also been a Platinum card member for many years.  They provide excellent customer service and their fee structure is the only thing keeping me from being a super-advocate. I tell everyone I meet I consider American Express a world-class company.

Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines

 

Southwest Airlines – Southwest is just a great airline and makes the flying experience pleasurable. They are almost always on-time, the employees are friendly (some even humorous) and they try to be reasonable to their customers at every turn. I used to hate Southwest and am now a Southwest lover/advocate.

Hilton Hotels

Hilton Hotels

Hilton Hotels – Did you guess what hotel I become more loyal to after minimizing my Marriott loyalty? Guess no further. Hilton has been on a roll creating new and invigorating hotels and I am now an advocate/loyalist and stay at Hilton Hotels whenever possible.

Dooney & Bourke

Dooney & Bourke

Dooney & Burke – Dooney & Bourke creates high quality, classic and trendy handbags and accessories that last over long periods of time even with heavy usage.  Styles and collections are priced to reflect the consistent durability and attractiveness of this brand. If something goes wrong with their products, they stand behind them through high quality customer service.

5) Companies and Brands I am a Super – Advocate of and go out of my way to tell everyone how wonderful my experience has been with dealing with these companies:

 

Companies For Which I am a Super Advocate

Companies For Which I am a Super-Advocate

 

Cox Automotive

  Cox Automotive

Cox Automotive – Cox Automotive has a great company culture consisting of many top automotive brands that includes Kelly Blue Book, Autotrader, Manheim, NextGear, DealSheild to name a few. The company is one of the best places I have ever worked and includes an employee first culture that they actually adhere to and practice. The company is run by a world-class CEO named Sandy Schwartz that has a great vision for the company’s future and is very visible in his support for the employee oriented culture.

Toyota

Toyota

Toyota  – My family has owned Toyota vehicles for many years.  Toyotas are extremely reliable automobiles. I have a Tundra with 132,000 miles on it and have had zero major issues with it. I have such an affinity with my Tundra I have a hard time thinking about trading it in for another vehicle even though it would most definitely be another Toyota.

Ritz Carlton

Ritz Carlton

Ritz-Carlton – I love staying at Ritz-Carlton since the experience each and every time is truly memorable. I also worked as a consultant for Ritz-Carlton to help design the perfect customer experience for guests.  Ritz Carlton’s goal is to create an experience to remember and smile about and they live up to this promise every time.

 

The amazing (or sad) part about my sentiment rankings of the above companies is that, despite spending millions ($$$) on analytic systems and databases, I am willing to bet that very few, if any, actually were knowledgeable about my sentiment toward their brands prior to my writing this article.

This relates directly to a previous blog entry I developed on why CRM (Customer Relationship Management based on historical analytic insights) is dead and a new CRRM model is now a best practice. In this article I point out how world-class companies now query their customers how they feel about the company and brands on a periodic basis. Like me, many customers would be more than willing to share their sentiment and how they are feeling towards the company and their associated brands. Bottom Line: Analytic models provide minimal understand of true customer sentiment when it is primarily focused on historical purchases, spend, etc.

Change Management 101 Primer for Senior Executives (CEOs, COOs, CSOs, CMOs, CFOs, CCOs, etc.)

The following blog was written to provide a simple primer on Change Management for Top Executives. It is written so you ‘get it’ in 15 minutes or less of reading this article.

Change IS Disruptive, but Change Management Can Mitigate Impacts to Productivity

Change IS Disruptive, but Change Management Can Mitigate The Impact on Productivity

As a business leader, have you ever encountered the following challenges within your company:?

1. Implemented new technology or IT system and people failed to adopt & fully utilize it?

2. Implemented new processes and ways of doing business and your employees continued to follow the older methods?

3. Your competition continually seems to be evolving and innovating, developing new and more effective ways of doing business, while your company culture resists change and new ways of doing business?

The remainder of this blog is dedicated to sharing some of the techniques to get your organization to embrace and be supportive of change.  These change management techniques are based on my years of implementing change at organizations like Macy’s, American Express, Intuit, AT&T, Pfizer, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Oracle, CBS Interactive, Wells Fargo, and numerous other Fortune 500 companies.


Topics in this blog:

1)      What is Change Management – A Simple Definition

2)      Why is it Important?

3)      Why is change resisted by so many employees?

4)      Do all employees approach change the same way and how do you harness the power of the innovators and change ‘early adopters’?

5)      How Change Management Helps Accelerate Change

6)      Change Management Mitigates the Impact on Productivity while Implementing Change

7)      The Organizational Change Model Facilitates Change Success & Greater Business Results

8)      Steps in the Organizational Change Model Ensure Change Project Success

9)      The Importance of the eight (8) Change Management Steps

10)   Summary – Change Management & Innovation Requires a 360°, holistic approach driven by skilled and experienced change management professionals

1)    A simple definition of what change management is:

A Simple Definiton for Change Management

A Simple Definiton for Change Management

2)    Why is change management so important?

Why Is Change Management So Important?

Why Is Change Management So Important?

3)    Why is change resisted by many employees?

Why is change resisted by many employees?

Why is change resisted by many employees?

Bottom Line: Without proper education and motivation, change is naturally resisted within the workplace by all but a few.

4)    Do all employees approach change the same way?

Employee Change Adopter Curve

Employee Change Adopter Curve

As depicted by the above chart, employees range from ardent resisters to innovators. Change management solicits the support from innovators and early adopters to help diffuse organizational change to the remainder of the organization.   

5)    How Change Management Helps Accelerate Change

How Change Management Helps Accelerate Change

How Change Management Helps Accelerate Change

Change management not only removes obstacles to change, it helps develop enthusiasm and excitement for accelerated change in the future. 

6)    Change Management Mitigates the Impact on Productivity While Implementing Change

Change Management Productivity Curve

Change Management Productivity Curve

By having a robust change management methodology and plan, disruptions to business productivity can be minimized until the desired change state is achieved.  

7)    The Organizational Change Model Facilitates Change Success & Greater Business Results

Organizational Change Management Model

Organizational Change Management Model

By having a robust change management methodology and model, change success and enhanced business performance can be nearly guaranteed.

8)    Steps in the Organizational Change Model Ensure Change Project Success

Change Steps in The Change Management Approach

Change Steps in The Change Management Approach

Change projects must have clearly defined and measurable steps that align with the overall change methodology.  This approach greatly enhances the chance that the change project will be successful as well as facilitates the achievement of desired-positive business outcomes.

9)    The Importance of the eight (8) Change Management Steps

The next set of graphs highlight the importance of each step in the change management (project) process:

Step #1

Change Management - Step #1

Change Management – Step #1

Step #2:

Change Management - Step #2

Change Management – Step #2

Step #3:

Change Management - Step #3

Change Management – Step #3

Step #4:

Change Management - Step #4

Change Management – Step #4

Step #5:

Change Management - Step #5

Change Management – Step #5

Step #6:

Change Management - Step #6

Change Management – Step #6

Step #7:

Change Management - Step #7

Change Management – Step #7

Step #8:

Change Management - Step #8

Change Management – Step #8

10)         Summary – Change Management & Innovation Requires a 360°, holistic approach

Holistic Organizational Change Components

Holistic Organizational Change Components

In summary, change management requires leveraging a proven change methodology, skilled change management practitioners and a holistic approach to implementing corporate innovation and change. The above is a simple depiction of a best practice approach I have used on many change management projects at many of the Fortune 500 companies in the US.

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