Cultivating Fantastic Customer Experiences – Part 3

cultivate3In part one of this series, Nate Brown (@CustomerIsFirst) talks about putting the focus on the employee experience to benefit the customer experience.

Then, Jeremy (@jtwatkin) follows up in part two with his “poomatoes” and how fertile soil can grow toxic cultures.

And now, here I am to roll it all together. Or, something like that.

I have little to no experience in gardening. I gave up before I even began. I over water and under nourish every plant I try to grow, even when I follow the instructions on the tag! So why even bother?

When I was a child though, we had a garden in our backyard. It was my responsibility to “harvest” some of the vegetables that my younger sister and I planted. One day, after school, I was in the garden, picking carrots out of the dirt. One particular carrot was jammed in there pretty good and was tough to get out, so I began digging in the dirt beside it. As I’m digging, I hit what appeared to be an air pocket in the soil. Out crawls a giant, hairy wolf spider from it’s cozy den that I just destroyed. I fell back and screamed as the spider scuttled away. I then ran inside to share the story with my sister, who never stepped foot into the garden again for fear of running into the spider.

So you see, even with a bounty of fresh vegetables to harvest, there will always be some unexpected gaps in the soil with creepy, crawly things ready to leap out at you. These are the holes and challenges in your company culture.

While you may not be able to prevent or predict what happens or when it happens, being prepared for those culture pits begins with having a strong, passionate team, working together, with the right tools for the job.

Because, when you encounter a surprise like that, it can leak over into your customer experience, possibly shying them away from doing business with you.

So how can you “mind the gap” in your company culture, keep everyone on the same page, including your customers, without everyone freaking out about what lurks below?

It’s not an easy job but sometimes we just have to step into the shoes of what we’re trying to grow!

Be the Carrot

A carrot grows underground with its green leaves sprouting out of the soil. As a leader, you have the tough job to keeping one ear to the ground and one to the sky. Being present and mindful about the culture that surrounds you helps you be ready for action when something goes awry.

Be the Sunflower

Sunflowers are the leaders that grow tall in the garden. Sunflowers turn and face the sun.  In the company culture, it’s important to have people who are focused on the greater vision and mission of the company so we are moving in the right direction. Their many seeds (of knowledge) are shared with the soil to grow more flowers or given as a snack to squirrels, birds or us humans. They don’t hold back! They are can grow together successfully as a group and they can grow successfully on their own, which is a huge part of building a strong relationship and culture (i.e. taking care of yourself to take care of others).

Be the Pumpkin

The pumpkin grows on the vine, together, with it’s pumpkin friends. Pumpkins are harvested and used for so many different things from scrumptious pie, to stage coaches to Jack-o-Lanterns. On a team, it’s important to acknowledge and appreciate the variety of unique qualities of each team member and what they bring to the garden.

Cultivating customer experience can be dirty business.  With so many obstacles (i.e. rocks, poomatos, wolf spiders, etc.) there will inevitably be moments you will want to throw in the towel.  Don’t give up.  The fruits of your labor will take shape in lasting customer loyalty…a treat cherished in any organization!

Jenny is the Customer Success Manager for Phone.com with almost a decade of customer service experience. She is co-founder and a regular contributor on Communicate Better Blog.

Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google+ YouTube 

Let’s Play: “Who Is Your Customer?”

shutterstock_135207236-1We all have customers but sometimes it’s not as obvious WHO they are. And, sometimes you have more than ONE set of customers. I’m not putting the answers for you but would love to hear your responses! So, get ready…it’s time to play:

 

 

 

Who Is Your Customer?

  • You work in the IT department and work on client escalations given to you from customer service agents on the front lines. Who Is Your Customer?
  • You flip hamburgers for a local fast food chain. You are handed the order, cook the burger per the instructions and then send to the “topping” team to put the finishing touches on. Who Is Your Customer?
  • You work with a team of mechanics to repair diesel trucks dropped off by local transport companies. Who Is Your Customer?
  • You are a photographer for an elementary school portrait company. Who Is Your Customer?
  • You are a veterinarian for a local zoo. Who Is Your Customer?
  • You are an actress working with a cast on a TV show. Who Is Your Customer?

There are so many unsuspecting roles we play in our jobs and customers that we have, internally within our company and those that are outside of the company, purchasing our product or service. Can you think of more situations of figuring out who your customer is?

Jenny is the Customer Success Manager for Phone.com with almost a decade of customer service experience. She is co-founder and a regular contributor on Communicate Better Blog.

Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google+ YouTube 

Flaunt That BIG Personality!

hamitupLast Sunday I completed the America’s Finest City Half Marathon.  It’s a beautiful San Diego race from Cabrillo National Monument, along the harbor, and ending in Balboa Park.  All participants are required to park at Balboa Park before 6am and take a bus to the starting line.

Due to the early hour and perhaps the nerves of the impending race, the bus ride is generally very quiet–that is until Pam the Ham came along.  Pam was our bus driver on Sunday and made it very clear that this would not be the typical, quiet bus ride.  From the get go, she used her outgoing personality to encourage passengers to enjoy their upcoming race.  Her style truly left her passengers, AKA customers, with a smile on their faces.

People with outspoken, outgoing personalities are truly at an advantage in customer service.  I’m here to tell people like Pam the Ham that regardless of what anyone says, they have the gift of an outgoing personality and should absolutely use it to their advantage when working with customers and coworkers.

Customer service professionals come in as many different shapes and sizes as the people they serve — and each must use their unique strengths and abilities in order to thrive.  That’s just a fact.  For those of you who have BIG personalities, you have a gift.  Flaunt it!

Jeremy Watkin is the Director of Customer Service at Phone.com with 13+ years experience as a customer service professional. He is also the co-founder and regular contributor on Communicate Better Blog. Jeremy ranked #85 on the Top 100 Most Social Customer Service Pros on Twitter by the Huffington Post in 2013. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn for more awesome customer service and experience insights.

Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google+ YouTube 

Cultivating Fantastic Customer Experiences – Part 2

cultivate2

In part one of this series, Nate Brown talked about the dangers of rocky soil, also known as a poor employee experience.  I’d like to take this opportunity to one-up him with a little gardening story of my own.  Please bear with me here as I border on the disgusting.

As an owner of two Chocolate Labrador Retrievers, I shovel a TON of dog poop!  I typically shovel the poop into a bucket and dump it into the trash later.  On one occasion, I took way too long to make that transfer and sure enough – a tomato plant sprouted out of the bucket of poop.  Let me tell you how this truly scientific process went.  I fed a dog a tomato, the seeds then made their way through the dog, and sprouted into a lovely plant.  When I say lovely, I mean that we had hundreds of beautiful, red grape tomatoes.

I’m sure you’re asking, “Oh my goodness! Did he eat them?”  I am pleased to announce that I did NOT eat the tomatoes.  After consulting with people smarter than myself, I learned that the bacteria could potentially make its way into the tomatoes and make us sick.

Examine The Soil A Bit Further

This certainly makes the soil analogy interesting doesn’t it?  While my soil was apparently fertile enough to grow a plant, the fruit that was produced could have made me sick.  The effects here can be destructive, they just may take a bit longer to occur.

When you think in these terms, the soil is really the culture we build in our organizations.  There are many, many different company cultures where people can exist for a long time, and yet the fruit produced by that culture is toxic to both the employee and the customer.

A Better Way

One of my customer service heroes, Shep Hyken always says “Treat your employees the way you want your customers treated – maybe even better!”   As business leaders, it is imperative that we see this correlation and then build a culture that does just this.  I’d like to propose a few steps to achieve this.

  1. Invest In Our Employees- In my opinion, StrengthsFinder is the best thing since sliced bread, but that’s partly because that’s where my experience lies.  Regardless of the tool you select, you are showing employees that they are valuable to you.
  2. Learn About Ourselves First- The first real value with these tools is helping individuals gain higher self-understanding.  Until we have a good understanding of ourselves, it is very difficult to understand others.  Again, you are communicating to individual employees that they are valuable.
  3. Learn About One Another- Once we have a good understanding of ourselves, we can then learn about others.  StrengthsFinder gives employees the opportunity to dialog with one another about their strengths and gain a better understanding of how not to just coexist but to thrive together.  This shows employees that the company values healthy teams.
  4. Let The Fun Begin- Now that you’ve laid the foundation and everyone understands themselves and one another, you are well on your way to a cohesive team with a solid foundation.  I could lay out any number of options for team events to build cohesion.  The fact of the matter is, a team that understands one another won’t have any problem figuring out how to have fun together.

Are you building a healthy culture, or much like my “poomatoes,” is it toxic?  Your customers CAN tell the difference and this affects employee and customer retention.

What team building tools does your company use in order to communicate value to employees and build cohesive teams?  Please tell us.  Stay tuned for part three where Jenny will share her thoughts on ways we can cultivate this fertile soil and bear healthy fruit in our organizations.

Jeremy Watkin is the Director of Customer Service at Phone.com with 13+ years experience as a customer service professional. He is also the co-founder and regular contributor on Communicate Better Blog. Jeremy ranked #85 on the Top 100 Most Social Customer Service Pros on Twitter by the Huffington Post in 2013. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn for more awesome customer service and experience insights.

Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google+ YouTube 

Cultivating Fantastic Customer Experiences – Part 1

Screen Shot 2014-08-15 at 9.24.00 AM

I (Nate) regret to announce that I am retiring from recreational gardening.  It is a sad decision, considering my fledgling age, but a fairly easy one given the fact that everything I plant dies.  Even my suburban office cactus perished prematurely.  It only takes one of a hundred factors to go wrong and my horticultural ambitions are ruined.  I admire the successful caretakers – those who are patient enough to perform the required prep and are knowledgeable enough to create perfect growing conditions.

A Customer Experience (CX) Professional and a master gardener have a lot in common.  It requires similar skill and patience to cultivate customer loyalty.  Without fertile soil from which to grow, the act of planting a seed is worthless.  So too is the act of focusing on the customer experience without first creating a worthwhile employee experience.

Screen Shot 2014-08-15 at 9.25.27 AMAnd what is the cornerstone for a great employee experience?  One factor stands above the rest – Outstanding Teams! 

This is challenging news.  Who would want to build a foundation on something that is always changing? (As is the case with virtually all teams)  The Tuckman Stages of team dynamics have proven true in my career – you may be performing today but storming tomorrow.  This is why any leader looking to have influence on the customer experience must harness the power of teams.  By cultivating the soil at this level, you are paving the way to lasting loyalty.

The Shallow Soil – Getting Back to Human

Screen Shot 2014-08-15 at 9.26.18 AM“The Parable of the Sower” in Matthew 13 talks about a farmer planting his seed in shallow soil.  The seeds sprouted, but as soon as the sun came out they withered and died due to lack of roots.  Our work environment can often feel like the rocky, shallow soil.  It is almost impossible for relationships to find strong roots in an office context.  We quickly stop seeing one another as fellow humans, and instead see each other as hurdles.  We take our negative feelings toward a company situation and associate them with people.  This can take shape in many ways – grudges, gossip, one-upmanship, and a general complacency toward co-workers.  These behaviors kill our teams and takes the life right out of us.  Often times the “rocks” in the soil are remnants of past, unresolved conflict.  These must be cleared before a proper foundation can be laid.

CAUTION!  Be careful not to skip this  key “gardening” step.  Before you go to Amazon.com and search for latest team dynamics book, consider the emotional context team members share with one another.

If your team members are not unified on a human level, you are not ready for Five Dysfunctions, DiSC or any other “Miracle-Grow” solution!

Are these resources bad?  Not at all!  They have outstanding principles behind them that haveScreen Shot 2014-08-15 at 9.26.48 AM helped hundreds of thousands of teams reach the next level.  The danger is that these tools require a specific starting point before they are effective.  If used prematurely, this technique can further impair your team instead of bringing resolution.  Establish the “human” baseline first by doing events and sharing real life experiences.  Once the rocks are removed, it is time to plant seeds of improvement.  Resources such as DiSC, Five Dysfunctions, StrengthsFinder or a similar tool will make an excellent next step to move your team forward.

Screen Shot 2014-08-15 at 9.27.26 AMIt is essential that we keep relationships fresh and vibrant.  Just like in a marriage, this takes intentional effort.  We have to get our teams out of the office and let them experience life together on a regular basis.  If we do not authentically care about those we work with, long-term success is highly unlikely.  An individual who is able to sincerely connect with their coworkers will be far more likely to create a sincere connection with customers.  This is especially critical with millennials.  The traditional lines of work and personal life are fading. (See this article by Rob Asghar for Forbes)  People want to have a work experience that is going to add synergy to their life – as opposed to going someplace five days a week to subject themselves some type of masochistic punishment.  Lets offer our employees, and ultimately our customers, the gift of authentic connections!

Stay tuned for Part 2.  Jeremy Watkin from Phone.com will share favorite methods to foster humanity within his group.  He will also reveal the next step in organically cultivating fantastic customer experiences!

Screen Shot 2014-08-15 at 9.28.01 AM

Nate Brown has had an outstanding day when he is able help customers. As the Manager of Customer Support for UL, Nate’s ambition is to create outstanding service interactions through creativity, knowledge and professionalism. He is an HDI (Help Desk Institute) certified Support Center Manager, VP of Membership for the HDI Music City Chapter and Speaker in the Southeast region. Nate is also the founder and primary author for the service blog CustomerCentricSupport.com

Facebook Twitter Google+ 


5 Customer Service Tips From My Dog

Miso SmileThis is my dog, Miso. He is a 9 year old Pekingese. He’s the doggone best dog in the whole world and deserves endless amounts of cookies (okay, he made me write that, but I agree, it’s true. The first part at least.). He also has his own Instagram (miso_monster) so make sure to follow him.

Miso has taught me a thing or two about life through him just being his adorable, wise and noble self. And, he’s taught me a thing or two about customer service. It cost me some extra apple slices and blueberries (he loves those natural treats) but he is graciously allowing me to gather his knowledge on the subject and share it with you.

 

Customer Service Tips from Miso the Dog

Tip 1: Sniff It Out

It’s all yours to sniff–every nook and cranny. Smell every last bit, even that one blade of grass for five minutes, because you never know what you’ll find. Don’t leave any tree or fire hydrant un-sniffed. The answers to everything you’ve ever wanted to know are all right under your nose.

Tip 2: Chew On It

Whether it’s a bone or a shoe, allow yourself proper time to chew and enjoy. Give yourself this moment to really savor what you’re working on, bite by bite, and let it really sink in. You’ll thank yourself later that you took the extra seconds to focus.

Tip 3: Know When It’s Nap Time and Know When It’s Play Time

When I want to nap, I nap. I curl up in some rather uncomfortable looking position, turn on the drool and conk out. I define this time for myself because I know I need my energy for later. When I want to play, I play. I set aside the time for fun because well, what’s the purpose of anything without some fun?

Tip 4: Get Excited About The Little Things

When it comes down to it, the little things make up the big picture. One blueberry or French fry from Shake Shack on my tongue can go a long way. That ride in the car with my head out the window and the breeze blowing my ears back is priceless. That relaxing belly rub after a walk in the park together means everything to me. Pay attention to the small stuff and realize that it’s all puzzle pieces in the larger picture of experience.

Tip 5: Bark It Out

If someone rings the doorbell, even if it’s on TV, make sure to let everyone know.  If you have something to say, say it. Don’t keep it smooshed down under your tail–let it free! Open communication beats closed communication, always.

Now, where are my treats?

Jenny is the Customer Success Manager for Phone.com with almost a decade of customer service experience. She is co-founder and a regular contributor on Communicate Better Blog.

Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google+ YouTube 

Awesome Product + Awesome Service = Awesome Customer Experience

This was originally published on Shep Hyken’s blog.  Click here to read the original and other fantastic posts by Shep.

vitamix-redThere are a couple things you should know about me.  First of all, I love blending things.  Second of all, I’m a very loyal Costco shopper and I’m a big fan of their return policy.

My love affair with blending began when my wife and I got our first blender some thirteen years ago as a wedding gift.  While that blender lasted us seven or eight years, it was always a fairly weak machine.

When it came time to replace it, I turned to Costco.  Blender number one was the least expensive model that Costco carried.  Upon blending my very first smoothie containing a frozen banana, the machine broke.  You could actually shake it and hear nuts and bolts rattling around inside.  I returned it to Costco for another blender that cost about ten dollars more.  That one lasted a little bit longer, but within a few months, my kitchen smelled like burnt rubber and I was left with another broken blender.

Fed up with cheap blenders, I headed back to Costco with my sights set on a real machine.  I was on a mission to get a Vitamix!  Costing more than my three previous blenders combined, I was eager to see how it would perform and if it was worth the money.  After a couple years, I have yet to find a job too difficult for the Vitamix and use it almost every day.  It is truly a well-built, superior machine, and I am a fan!

Fast forward to a couple weeks ago when I noticed a small crack in the Vitamix pitcher.  It was at this point that I found myself at a crossroads.  I could easily return the machine to Costco for a brand new one.  Yes I know it seems like an abuse of the system, but I guarantee they would take it back.

Being a connoisseur of awesome customer service stories, I opted instead to contact Vitamix directly and see if they would stand by their seven-year warranty.  After filling out their email form, I was delighted to receive a response from Tori in Customer Service, letting me know they were sending me a new pitcher!  I didn’t even have to mail the cracked pitcher back and I received the new one in a few days.  The decision to go directly to Vitamix with my problem really paid off.

Here are a few things Vitamix did right:

1. Vitamix makes a quality product.  The old adage “You get what you pay for” applies here.  The Vitamix is a high-quality, durable blender.  After breaking three inexpensive blenders, I am a believer!
2. Vitamix Customer Service exceeded my expectations.  I expected to have to spend time and money to replace the pitcher.  Even a trip to Costco would have been a minor inconvenience.  Instead, the customer service team was empowered to simply send me a new pitcher after the exchange of just a couple emails.  There was absolutely no inconvenience to me as the customer.
3. They gave me every reason to remain loyal.  I’m sure most people have heard of other brands like Ninja and BlendTec, who are touting high-end blenders that are competitive with the Vitamix.  In a moment of truth where Vitamix could have mishandled my request, they were flawless.  In the words of Shep Hyken, they created a Moment of Magic!

I apologize if this reads a bit too much like an ad for Vitamix, but really it’s just another example of a company that demonstrates how to pair awesome customer service with an awesome product in order to deliver an awesome customer experience.  I think you’ll agree with me that these are the best companies to do business with!

Jeremy Watkin is the Director of Customer Service at Phone.com with 13+ years experience as a customer service professional. He is also the co-founder and regular contributor on Communicate Better Blog. Jeremy ranked #85 on the Top 100 Most Social Customer Service Pros on Twitter by the Huffington Post in 2013. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn for more awesome customer service and experience insights.

Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google+ YouTube 

How Strong Is Your Ladder Of Success?

We CREATE our…

V I S I O N.

…G O A L S.

…P U R P O S E.

We SEE the…

…B I G  P I C T U R E.

We KEEP a…

…P O S I T I V E  P E R S P E C T I V E.

  We work hard to BUILD THE FRAME to our…

…L A D D E R  O F  S U C C E S S.

But, what happens when we focus too much on creating the outer layers? What becomes of the small steps that must happen in between?

broken-ladder

 In business, no matter what industry, we can create a vision, define our purpose and get everyone on board…but what matters most are the steps that happen in between. If some steps are ignored completely, the outside work toward a lofty vision may wear and tear on the rungs. You can have a strong ladder frame but without the strong rungs, climbing toward the goals will not be possible. So, how do you strengthen the rungs AND the frame of the ladder?

Begin with…

B R A I N S T O R M I N G…

…with your team. And, NOT just about the final vision and purpose, but about the tiny steps that must happen along the way to get there. How will you define every step? What will everyone do to help keep the rungs of the ladder strong? Break up the vision into tiny chunks, define each chunk and decide how you will build each into the larger picture.

Then, make sure that you have open…

C O M M U N I C A T I O N…

…with your team. Everyone. Don’t allow things to hang out in the darkness. Don’t let people wonder how they should take their next step. Hold meetings. Email. Write it in the company newsletter. Give a speech at an event. Meet with everyone individually. Answer every question. Leave no stone unturned when it comes to open communication within your organization.

And in some cases, you may think that the rung of the ladder is strong enough to hold the step and once you step on it, it may break. You may fall. Pick yourself and your team back up and revisit the brainstorming and communication between everyone. Did you get everything out in the open?

Chances are, you missed something and this is your O P P O R T U N I T Y to try again.

The rung of a ladder was never meant to rest upon, but only to hold a man’s foot long enough to enable him to put the other somewhat higher.

Thomas Huxley

Jenny is the Customer Success Manager for Phone.com with almost a decade of customer service experience. She is co-founder and a regular contributor on Communicate Better Blog.

Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google+ YouTube 

Jeremy And Jenny Made ICMI’s Top 50 #CCTR Thought Leaders List

top50cctr-badgeIn a recent article by ICMI, we were recognized in the Top 50 Contact Center Thought Leaders On Twitter!  Jeremy (@jtwatkin) ranked #17 and Jenny (@jennysuedempsey) ranked #45.  We are truly honored and elated at this honor.  Here are a few key points we would like to make in light of this accolade.

  • On this list are many people we consider to be our customer service heroes.  If you are in the world of customer service, the other 48 folks on this list have a ton of amazing thought leadership to pass on to you.  Follow them!
  • We aren’t in this for the awards.  Don’t get us wrong, we love being recognized as much as the next person but our goal still remains to make the customer service at Phone.com awesome.
  • Recognition like this means that we are hopefully making a meaningful contribution to the world of customer service.  We are passionate about our jobs and about serving customers, and if we can enrich the lives of our fellow customer service professionals and our customers, we call that a win-win!

Finally, we would like to say thank you to ICMI for this recognition!

Jeremy Watkin

Jeremy Watkin is the Director of Customer Service at Phone.com with 12+ years experience as a customer service professional. He is also the co-founder of Communicate Better Blog, a blog dedicated toward serving people better both personally and professionally and making the customer service at Phone.com awesome. Follow him on Twitter @jtwatkin.

Jenny is the Customer Success Manager for Phone.com with almost a decade of customer service experience. She is co-founder and a regular contributor on Communicate Better Blog.

Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google+ YouTube 

Coffee And Customer Service: Reasons To Celebrate

In today’s hangout, we discussed a number of topics ranging from the two year anniversary of Communicate Better Blog, to our recognition as contact center thought leaders, to the week of blogging in review.  Without further adieu, enjoy the hangout!

Jeremy Watkin is the Director of Customer Service at Phone.com with 13+ years experience as a customer service professional. He is also the co-founder and regular contributor on Communicate Better Blog. Jeremy ranked #85 on the Top 100 Most Social Customer Service Pros on Twitter by the Huffington Post in 2013. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn for more awesome customer service and experience insights.

Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google+ YouTube 

Jenny is the Customer Success Manager for Phone.com with almost a decade of customer service experience. She is co-founder and a regular contributor on Communicate Better Blog.

Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google+ YouTube