September 2015
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Joseph's Blog

Listening to the Unstated Need

Customer service is about transactions that fulfill a stated consumer need!  Customer experience delivery, however, is more than fulfilling a transactional need.  Loyalty-building experiences often involve caring for a customer by doing something unexpected.

I can think of no better example of the distinction between service and experience excellence than an example from Capital One.  Kalen Raynor called Capital One for service and began talking to Jocelyn a Capital One business banker.  The customer, Kalen, needed a replacement debit card.

During the telephone transaction arranging for the replacement card, Kalen’s daughter, Kaya, began crying about a charm falling off her Yankee charm bracelet.  Without missing a beat, Jocelyn engaged Kalen in a discussion about Kaya.  At that moment, Jocelyn and Kalen entered a human experience not just a card replacement transaction.

Jocelyn, took the personal connection one step-further.  Kalen received her replacement card promptly (solid service) accompanied by a personal note from Jocelyn with a charm bracelet kit for Kaya.

Kalen shared the story on her blog (free brand advocacy and promotion of Capitol One).  Kalen notes “this was the nicest gesture a stranger has done for me in a really long time. …You put a bright smile on my daughters face today.”

In my world, customer service is about satisfaction….customer experience is about advocacy and smiles!

Automated Call Answering Cuts Costs But Also Cuts Customers {Guest Post}

The size of a customer service department is, of course, directly related to the size of the business it is serving. A small company with only a limited number of customers will not have the same demands as a large one serving millions of people.

For the latter, it can become a costly operation to build and manage a customer service team to deal with thousands of customer calls every single day. Many, in fact, choose to cut corners by installing things like automated call answering instead. This is when customers will initially speak to a robot who encourages you to press numbers to determine the nature of your enquiry and provide you with an answer, or at least redirection to the correct department best equipped to deal with your request.

However, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that cutting corners and cutting costs is likely to also cut into your customer satisfaction in a big way. New research by alldayPA has found that over half of the people polled (55 per cent) would consider moving their custom elsewhere if a business treats their enquiries, complaints or troubleshooting requests with a robot rather than an actual human being. Even more – just over 70 per cent – said they would not choose a company if a human didn’t answer when they were shopping around.

From the one thousand people that were polled for the study, most people said that the automated answering service was at its most irritating when it was being used by professional services such as accountants and solicitors – companies where it is imperative that customers speak to human beings to discuss complex and often lengthy issues. The second most frustrating industry for customers to have to deal with automated machines is the travel businesses (travel agents, airlines, hotels, etc.)

So what should companies be doing? It’s simple, really: get rid of those automated systems and make sure you have actual people on hand to answer your customers queries. Even if they aren’t able to answer the queries immediately, just having a human voice instills a lot of confidence in the customer – 62 per cent of people say they would be happy to get transferred, receive a call-back later on or a reply by e-mail as long as they know their question is in the hands of a real person.

A board executive from alldayPA, David Joseph, explained why not using automated services might be more costly on paper but is far more financially beneficial as a long term solution. He said: “Automated call answering is often used by businesses in an attempt to save money, however such practices can often end up costing money in lost customers and sales.”

Take a look at this infographic for some more stats from AlldayPA.

This article and infographic originally appeared at Customer Service Guru. It has been reposted with permission.

The Cost of Serving Well

It was such a thought-provoking question.  In an interview this week, I was asked, “how much does it cost a business owner to deliver memorable service?”  Earlier in the day, I had read about a police officer in Connecticut, Michael Castillo, who was on a call to break-up a fight at a Target store.  After responding to the call, he noticed two boys in front of the store, one of which was standing near a broken bicycle.  Without hesitation, Officer Castillo swiftly fixed the boy’s bike.  That moment, now gone viral thanks to a passerby capturing it on their smartphone, reflects truly memorable service delivered at minimal cost to the taxpayers of Shelton, Connecticut.

My mother once said, “it doesn’t take any more effort to be nice than it does to be mean.”  Like many of those “momisms”, I am not sure if the words are completely true.  For some angry customers it does in fact take more effort.  But the essence of the sentiment holds strong.  It certainly doesn’t need to cost more to be nice.  I would argue that memorable service occurs when we treat our teams with dignity and respect and when we encourage them to do same. Outstanding service cultures rely on positive storytelling.  Why not share the store of Officer Castillo and ask your team what naturally occurring opportunities they have to take similar actions on behalf of those they serve?

Watch the video: The Cost of Serving Well

How great are you?

Ernie Andrus made his coast-to-coast run across the United States when he was only 90 and he is well on his way to doing it again at age 92!

In 2013 Ernie, a World War II Navy veteran, set out to break a record for the oldest man to run across America.   The prior record holder was a youthful 73 and Ernie, some 17 years older, shattered the record easily.

Now at 92, Ernie is out to get his own record.  With more than 1,500 miles behind him and averaging 6.4 mile a day for the three days a week he runs, Ernie often hears the chant “U.S.A. U.S.A” from children at schools along his route.

Ok, so what does any of this have to do with you or me?  And how does it fit in to a leadership/customer experience blog?  In short, Ernie has vision, passion, and unrelenting hunger for mastery.  He has what many business leaders lack!

I have often said that the biggest risk to success is not competition but complacency.  The fire, the hunger, the need to break one’s own record, fades for many leaders.  As their entrepreneurial spirit dampens and they fear losing what they have created many business owners practice defensive leadership.

So in the spirit of setting what Jim Collins would call a BHAG (big hairy audacious goal)…What is your “run across America?”

I started this blog by asking “how are you great?”  Let me finish by asking how will you be even  “greater” tomorrow?

“It’s not what you know but…”

According to the old adage that sentence stem ends with “who you know.”

On stage and in writing lately I have concluded that the old adage doesn’t tell the whole story.  As such I have modified it to say:

“It’s not what you know OR who you know.  It’s what you know ABOUT who you know.”

In essence, I am saying you can have a lot of acquaintances but if you don’t truly get to know people you can’t serve them.

One person I know well, Howard Partridge the CEO of Phenomenal Products, weighed in on my modified phrase and supercharged it.  Howard shares his take:

“It’s not what you know OR who you know. It’s what you know ABOUT who you know, and what they know about you (positioning).”

We could even add Jim Cathcart’s insight to our phrase.

Jim says “it’s who’s glad they know you”.

If that isn’t enough to think about, an internet marketer highlights the importance of perception with this tidbit:

it’s who THINKS they know you”.

Howard and I agree, if you take this one step further in the age of commoditized products and service…

“it’s not not only who knows you, but who LOVES you!”

Put all together, try this on for size:

It’s not what you know or who you know.

It is:

What you know about who you know.

What they know about you.

Who thinks they know you.

Most importantly it is who loves you.

Do I dare ask if you want to make any additions or modifications?

Seeing through the Eyes of Your Customer

Having just finished my new book about Mercedes-Benz and given that I recently spent time with Mercedes-Benz dealers at their annual conference in Las Vegas, I took the liberty of modifying a popular children’s logic puzzle by inserting a Mercedes-Benz E class.  Can you solve this puzzle in 20 seconds?  What parking lot number is under the Mercedes-Benz?

Of course the answer is: ________________

If for some reason that answer isn’t obvious, you must not have turned the puzzle upside down.  Had you done that, the correct answer becomes abundantly clear.

The puzzle, like so many of its kind, requires a simple shift of perspective.  The same type of flip that makes the number 87 pop is esential to achieve sustained success in today’s customer-driven world.  Too often we look at our businesses from our side of the counter and not through the eyes of our customer.  It is through strategies like the “Customer Walk” at Starbucks (baristas take turns during each shift to walk from the parking lot looking at the experience from the customer’s vantage point) that businesses help their people develop a core competency around seeing customer pain points and creating solutions to produce customer delight.  What are you doing to flip perspective and see your business from your customer’s point of view?

Leader of your own Career {Guest Post by Amy Klimek}

The average person will spend over 99,000 hours at work in the course of their lifetime. Knowing that a sizeable portion of your waking life will be spent on the job, it’s important to find something that you enjoy. It’s time to take control of your job and get the results that you want to lead a happy and productive life.

Take stock of your past

They say you can’t know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been. Take some time to reflect on your career up until now, and evaluate your successes and your failures. Think about when you were happiest and most productive in your career, and when you felt uninspired and bored. If you can remember the circumstances around your career journey’s ups and downs, you can use that knowledge to guide your decisions about your future.

Envision your future

Figure out what you want your future to look like. Do you want to dedicate yourself to one organization and steadily rise up the corporate ladder? Are you interested in seeking out new opportunities in a different field? Do you want to earn enough money to enable you to retire early and travel the world? Or do you want to raise a family and have time to spend with them, watching them grow? By understanding how you want your future to shape up, you can make smarter decisions about what type of job will set you up for success.

Avoid negative self-talk

Sometimes, you are your own worst enemy. Negative self-talk can keep you from engaging in exciting opportunities and new chances to grow. We all fall victim to self-doubt from time to time, and it can be hard to silence our inner critic. Don’t limit your list of potential new jobs because you are nervous that you can’t hack it. Instead, remind yourself of your skills and talents. Think back to another time when you successfully completed a project that made you a nervous wreck in the beginning. Also, don’t get discouraged if your job search starts off slow. It can be easy to begin doubting your skills when the frustration of your job search sets in. Call up a supportive friend or former colleague who can adjust your attitude by reminding and reassuring you of your talent. Exude confidence by acknowledging your skills and abilities, and employers will recognize them as well.

Work your contacts

In today’s career market, it’s often more about who you know than what you know. Be sure that the key component of your job search is connecting with your network of friends and former colleagues. They are often the best resources to learn about new jobs and openings that fit your skill set. Don’t be afraid to let your friends know that you are looking for a job; you’d be surprised how helpful they can be in offering solid leads. You can also utilize social media wisely to expand your network through sites like Facebook and LinkedIn.

Be open to new ideas

Don’t pigeonhole your job search into limited areas or interests. Be open to ideas that you hadn’t thought of before. The unknown doesn’t have to be scary; more often it’s exciting and inspiring. Just because your career has followed a certain path in the past, that doesn’t mean you can’t shake things up for your future. Similarly, just because you’ve always lived in a certain part of the country, that doesn’t mean you have to stay there forever. Think about whether you’d be willing to relocate for the right job. If you are open to a change of scenery, you open yourself up to a much wider job market than you ever expected.

Follow these tips for taking control of your job, and you can end up in a position where you truly thrive. Because if you’re going to spend 99,000 hours at work, you might as well enjoy them.


Amy Klimek is an experienced HR recruiter and VP of Human Resources for ZipRecruiter, a company that simplifies the hiring process for small to medium size businesses. Prior to that Amy has held similar roles at, eBay and US Interactive.

For Amy, corporate culture isn’t about dogs and free lunches, it’s about empowering employees and creating an enriching environment for people to excel.

Don’t Cry Over Spilled Coffee – Sue!

Nothing is stranger than the truth!  In case you missed it, a police officer in North Carolina is suing Starbucks for a spilled cup of FREE coffee.

Let me not make light of the fact that the officer purportedly burned himself when the lid popped off his free cup of Starbucks.  The officer claims that the coffee spill was so stressful that he had a flare-up of Crohn’s disease that ultimately contributed to surgical removal of a portion of his intestine.  His wife is also suing for the loss of intimacy with her husband.

My comments are not about the merits of the case but address why businesses do anything nice for customers when those actions can result in cases like the Starbucks spill.

For me the reason is simple!  Most customers appreciate kindnesses.  Yes, a customer could sue a hotel because the customer choked on the chocolate placed on their pillow but I say,  “give them the chocolate.”

If we treat every customer like they are out to cheat or harm us, we reduce our capacity to have maximum positive impact on the throngs of customers who would welcome the respect and kindness we extend.

Whether you are a business owner who treats employees like incipient thieves or a leader who encourages your people to assume the worst in customers,  I suspect you will attract the outcomes you predict.

I have found it both more gratifying and more productive to assume the best in people and manage those rare exceptions where people let me down than to assume the worst.

For now, I am headed to Starbucks to buy a cup of coffee in support of the way the company has delighted me through the years…

BE PERFECT or BE EXCELLENT: The Art of Getting Real

Sometimes we teach because we have something to share and other times we teach because we have something to learn.  This is one of those cases where I am exploring an issue for myself as much as I am addressing it for you.

How do we balance all the demands necessary to serve the needs of our customers?

For me, this challenge manifests in finding the time to keep a regular dialogue going through blogs.  You, the reader of this blog, represent a part of my service audience, as do my consulting clients, my speaking event customers, my team members, my book readers, and my publisher.  As I have been locked down on deadline writing my upcoming book about the amazing customer experience transformation taking place at Mercedes-Benz USA, I have had little bandwidth to regularly deliver blogs. I have considered having someone else write blogs for me but that always seems like a less than authentic solution.  Of course, the absence of blogs isn’t necessarily a viable alternative.

I imagine you have similar challenges.  How do you triage which customers get which services, given that there are always limits to the viable resources you can bring to your experience delivery?  Is it better to compromise product quality or authenticity in order to bring some product to market or do you step back from product presentation if it isn’t fully resonant with your brand?

If there is a lesson to learn and teach in this writing, it has to be the massive pressure we all face to execute flawlessly in an omni-channel world.  We often get pulled into the belief that we HAVE TO BE on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, have live chat, deliver engaging telephone support, master face-to-face service excellence, be thin, read the classics, know what’s trending…. You get the point…

In my case, I have opted to write blogs when I can (recently, about once a month) until my new book deadline passes in May.  I also will wait on reading the classics and will give myself a break on knowing what’s trending.  I once co-authored an article titled “The Risk of Excellence” in which my colleagues and I offered a core theme which suggested  that in order to be excellent you have to say no to things that will make you mediocre.

Saying NO to things that will make you mediocre — hmm, that’s a lesson I may not be qualified to teach but it is one I know is worthy of learning.  What are your thoughts?

Are your property values up? Thank Starbucks

What does brand equity get you?  Among other things – happy neighbors!  According to recent reports, when a Starbucks opens nearby your property values rise – alot.  Before you think this phenomena occurs anytime a multi-national company opens its doors in your vicinity, the research also shows that its better to have Starbucks than Dunkin Donuts.

So first to the details and then to the relevance for all of us who own or strive to improve the businesses with which we work.  In their new book Zillow Talk, the chief economist Stan Humphries and CEO Spencer Rascoff at Zillow report that if you live within a quarter-mile of Starbucks your property value could nearly double.

Here are the numbers, according to the Zillow data from the last 17 years, homes near a Starbucks increased in value by 96% those farther than a quarter mile from a Starbucks increased 65%. Rascoff and Humpries further note, “these properties appreciate at a faster rate than US housing on the whole. Interestingly, they’re also recovering much more quickly from the housing bust.”

All is not lost if you live near a Dunkin Donuts location, it’s just that homes near Starbucks appreciated 16% more.  While real estate analysts can talk about the impact of Starbucks on gentrification or that Starbucks has more west coast locations than Dunkin Donuts, those debates are beyond my scope.

My message is that great businesses lift up entire communities.

Rather than selling the notion that profit is the “be all end all of business,” we should be reminded that we have an opportunity to drive the enterprise value of our companies.  That value goes beyond the profit and loss statement.  It is reflected in the way in which we affect the lives of all we serve.

If we drive great value, that value will be extended richly into our surrounding community.  What will you do to drive enterprise and community value today?  Let’s think purpose not profits…profits emerge from purposeful activity!