Dating back to my early work with Starbucks, (reflected in my first book about the global coffee leader titled – The Starbucks Experience), I have been asserting that ALL BUSINESS IS PERSONAL.
I often note that the next customer might be your 50th routine interaction of the day but for them, the contact will likely be their first and most important opportunity to feel that you care about them personally.
While I’ve long championed the importance of maximizing as much personal care as you can offer (while still driving consistency and profit), I couldn’t have imagined how much personalization would come to dominate consumer expectations.
Back in the early days of Starbucks, personalization took the form of allowing customers seemingly endless freedom to make their drinks their way. In fact in “The Starbucks Experience” I noted:
“Customers must be able to customize their beverage order, with the handcrafted assistance of their barista (the Italian word for bartender and term used at Starbucks for coffee preparer). Customization means satisfying each customer’s unique expectations and often involves special temperatures, soymilk, and various pumps of flavor. It’s not uncommon to hear customized orders for drinks as complicated as “quad, two-pump vanilla, one and one-quarter pump sugar-free hazelnut, ristretto latte, with one-quarter soy, one-half nonfat, one-quarter organic milk, extra hot, with three ice cubes and whip.” Such an order is but one part of the richness of the personalized Starbucks Experience.”
Today, at Starbucks and across the brand landscape, personalization has taken on gargantuan importance. For example, a company named Selffee, has developed proprietary technology which will allow customers to take a picture of themselves and have it printed onto their food in about a minute’s time. The founders Farsh Kanji and David Weiss note on their IndieGoGo crowdsourcing page, “Selffee brings photography and food together in a unique and visionary way. The Edible Photo Booth is the hottest new experience at special events. Selffee is perfect for corporate events, birthday parties, weddings, bar and bat mitzvahs or any other special occasion….Why have Selffee at your next event? 95 percent of attendees and customers take a photo with their Selffee and post it to social media. This boosts your event’s profile and makes it even more memorable!”
You can view their “personalized” value proposition on the video below.
Evolving from taking selfies with food to having selfies embedded in food is symbolic of the escalating need to personalize products and customize service delivery. An escalating customer appetite for personalization has resulted in a world where businesses must deliver consistency punctuated with an understanding of the uniqueness of the individual who is seeking your product.
So, what do you know about the customer in front of you or on your website right now? How do you leverage what you know about them to offer some level of customization of your products or services that align with who they are or what they value?
How do you operationally drive consistent product/service delivery with an added personalized twist? Better yet, how do you let each customer choose a journey through your product or service delivery experiences which will meet their personalized needs?
It’s not always as straightforward as having a customer superimpose a selfie on a cupcake but the outcome is just as tasty and rewarding!
Take a moment to think about your business. Think about the day-to-day tasks and the work that gets done. Consider who it is that is doing most of this work, investing their time and energy into bettering your company.
In nearly every case, the answer will be your employees. An employee is an invaluable resource that gives you many hours a week of hard work to keep your business running smoothly. Given all that your employees do for you, perhaps it is time to consider what you can do for them.
The Face of Your Business
Customer service is an essential element in any business, and the people who provide that service are your employees. When a customer thinks of your business, they will no doubt be thinking about the person they spoke with at your customer support call center or the employee who last helped them in your store. Given the direct effect your employees have on the customer experience and the way your business is perceived, it is essential to make them feel valued and keep them happy so the face they are presenting is a good one.
Value Their Opinions
One of the most important things you can do as an employer is listen to the voice of your employee.
Consider the way you feel when a person seeks you out to ask your opinion on a matter. There is no doubt that when you are asked in a way that makes you feel like your opinion matters, you feel valued and respected. This is exactly how your employees feel when you turn to them for advice and input on aspects of your business.
Employees Have a First-Hand View
Employees dealing with customers daily have a first-hand view of exactly what is working and what is not within your business. And not only that, they are receiving constant feedback from customers throughout the day that allows them to see trends within your business better than any charts or graphs could ever show. When you want to find out what your customers are looking for and what methods and practices within your business are working well or need to be improved upon, the best resource you can turn to is an employee.
Make Them Feel Valued
In addition to asking their opinion on specifics within your company, it is important to show an employee that they are worth investing in. Pay for them to attend conferences or trainings—this will benefit all involved, as the employee gains new skills to improve their job performance, which ultimately improves the work ethic within your business.
Oftentimes it’s the littlest things that can have the biggest impact. Ask your employees what you can do to make them feel appreciated. Remember that your employees are the face of your company—if they are happy and feel like they matter, they will work harder for you and desire to help you better your business in any way they can. An employee who feels valued will have a better attitude, and that good attitude will be evident to the customers they deal with.
Keeping Employees Loyal
Employees who feel heard and appreciated are more likely to be loyal to your business—they won’t have a reason to look elsewhere for a better work environment. When you have employees who love their jobs, word will spread about what a wonderful work culture your company has, and you will no doubt be able to hire and maintain a higher quality workforce.
Let Their Voices Be Heard
Every employee within your company should feel valued and important as part of a team, but also as an individual. Taking the time to communicate with your employees lets them know that their voices are being heard and their opinions matter, regardless of whether they are in an entry-level position, or are a manager who has been with the company for decades.
Happy Employee, Thriving Business
Your employees are one of your businesses’ greatest assets. Make them feel valued and you will reap the rewards tenfold in the knowledge they share with you, the work they do for you, and the loyalty they show your company.
About the Author: Brooke Cade is a freelance writer who’s committed to helping businesses and sales professionals build stronger connections with their customers. In her spare time, she enjoys learning more about InMoment.com—her CX platform of choice, reading books/articles on industry news, engaging on twitter, and exploring her local neighborhood coffee shop.
For a period in human history, all we had were spoken words.
Later we learned to communicate through written symbols and today it seems the most preferred communication medium is words shared through video.
Great customer experience brands are not only “visual storytellers” but they are supporting their customers as those brand loyalists visually communicate about their brand journey.
Let’s start with some numbers on the sheer power of video today. Thanks to livestream.com we know:
81% of internet and mobile users watched more video in 2016 than 2015.
45% of live video audiences would pay for live, exclusive, on-demand video from a favorite team, speaker, or performer.
YouTube reports mobile video consumption rises 100% each and every year.
If you have video on your retail site your likely to increase conversion by 30%.
Not only is video essential to the human experience but live streaming video is captivating more attention than video on demand (VOD). According to livestream.com:
Average time spent on VOD on mobile is 2.8 minutes and 3.5 minutes for live streams.
Average time spent on live streaming video on tablets is 7.1 minutes versus 4.1 minutes for VOD.
Average time spent on live streaming video on desktop computers is 34.5 minutes versus 2.6 minutes for VOD.
According to Tubular Insights, viewers spend 8x longer with live video than on-demand: 5.1 minutes for on-demand vs. 42.8 minutes for live video content.
It’s also important to remember that excellence in experience creation often involves celebrating and amplifying the video storytelling of your customers. This is evidenced by the supportive and responsive video provided by Kohl’s following the record-breaking Facebook LIVE post by Chewbacca Mom – Candace Payne. (Just in case you missed it or if you just need to hear that infectious laugh again – of course, I provided a link to VIDEO below.)
Without missing a beat, Kohl’s (which was mentioned as the store where Candace bought her personal gift – the Chewbacca mask) added to her story by videotaping a surprise gift run to her home. The Kohl’s employees were loaded down with Chewbacca masks for all of Candace’s family members and a generous $2,500 bounty of Kohl’s gift cards. (To see VIDEO of Kohls visual storytelling amplification – click the link below.)
Ecclesiastes 3 notes, “To everything, there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven”.
In modern communication parlance – we are deep in the season of video storytelling.
How effectively are you using the visual medium, particularly live video, to connect, celebrate, and amplify the stories of your customers?
I have been slow to accept that, from a service perspective, humans will ever be replaced by computers. I’ve suggested that customers will resist “robots” and I’ve based my thinking in part on the “uncanny valley” hypothesis which postulates that the more robots look like humans the less humans will feel comfortable with them.
I am starting to rethink my assumptions and my conclusion. While humans may not be fully replaceable, I do believe artificial intelligence and robots will displace a lot of service providers. Here are a couple harbingers of the future…
Café X is now open in Hong Kong and San Francisco. It’s a robotic coffee shop where you can place your order on your phone or on an in-store tablet. You can select your drink of choice and even your desired
locally roasted coffee beans. Twenty-five to fifty-five seconds later you have your “robot-crafted” beverage in your hand, thanks to a code sent to your phone which allows you to collect your drink. (To see CafeX in
action click here)
Staying in the coffee category and bridging between humans and bots, this week Starbucks announced it is launching voice ordering capabilities within the Starbucks mobile iOS app from the Amazon Alexa platform.
According to the press release “Select customers can now order coffee ‘on command’ using My Starbucks® barista as part of an initial feature rollout integrated seamlessly into the Starbucks mobile app for iOS. At the same time, the company is launching a Starbucks Reorder Skill on the popular Amazon Alexa platform. Both features allow customers to order from Starbucks simply by using their voice….Previously announced at Starbucks Investor Day, My Starbucks® barista, is powered by groundbreaking Artificial Intelligence (AI) for the Starbucks® Mobile App. The integration of the feature within the mobile app allows customers to order and pay for their food and beverage items simply by using their voice. The messaging interface allows customers to speak or text just as if they were talking to a barista in-store, including modifying their beverage to meet their personal preference.” To see the “My Starbucks®” barista in action click here)
Ok, so what can you do to maintain humanity in an increasingly robotic, automated, and artificially intelligent world?
In a word – CARE!
While many service functions can be automated to increase speed, efficiency, and consistency – I will stand firm that there will always be a need for people who add uniquely human value through compassionate listening and authentic caring.
I will use one last example from the world of coffee to demonstrate my point. It involved a drive-thru interaction between a team of Dutch Bros baristas and a customer who was having a difficult day shortly after the loss of her husband. That Vancouver-based team listened, focused their attention on the woman, and comforted her in ways I doubt robots will ever be able to fully emulate. One moment from that interaction was captured on a mobile phone by another customer and the picture went viral. News stories about the compassionate service followed. (To see more on human service intelligence in action click here).
How are you maintaining the relevance of your human service? Will Artificial Intelligence prevail over Human (emotional) intelligence?
I may have to yield ground to robots but I won’t concede that which is uniquely human!
I’m convinced that the new customer experience leadership challenge will be … (drum roll please) … integrating human and technology based service. I refer to this opportunity as the human/tech challenge.
That challenge involves leveraging technology for efficiency while integrating it with the warmth of human service delivery. In my opinion, your future success will hinge, in part, on how well you provide technology-aided, human powered experiences that seamlessly deliver when and how your customers want to be served.
Here is a prime example of the challenge. While generating a profit in their most recent quarter, Starbucks failed to meet analyst expectations. In the call explaining how those projections were missed, Howard Schultz, the historic face for and genius behind the brand explained that the slight stumble was the result of in-store “congestion”.
On deeper analysis, that “congestion” has been pinned on the tech/human challenge. According to a Reuters article, “The digital world can dump an avalanche of orders in a short period of time, creating delays and lines that scare away customers…baristas at the company’s busiest cafes had difficulty keeping up with mobile orders in the latest quarter, creating bottlenecks at drink delivery stations and leading some walk-in customers to walk out.”
Starbucks is looking at a variety of ways to address the “congestion” problem. Some of the options they are exploring are human powered and others rely on mobile solutions.
From the human perspective, Starbucks began adding additional staff (baristas) to focus centrally on mobile orders. At some point, this becomes a problem of scale and infrastructure since there are a limited number of espresso machines available to address drive-thru, walk-in, and mobile traffic.
From a technology perspective, Starbucks is exploring ways to message mobile customers to let them know their drink is NOW READY. The theory behind this exploration is that mobile orders can have a more precise pick-up time (now it is an approximately 5-minute window) and in the process of this pinpointed time, baristas can more effectively work around in-store traffic.
Based on my journey with the brand, I’ve watched leadership move from a time when customers had to pay for Wi-Fi to a present state where Starbucks is recognized as a leader in mobile pay and mobile ordering. In many ways, Starbucks has not only championed extraordinary digital solutions (for example the amalgamation of loyalty and social programs through their tweet-a-coffee program) but they’ve constantly invented solutions to the challenges of human/technology interface.
While Starbucks will likely innovate in response to their current opportunity, many leaders I’ve worked with are less prepared to address the human/tech challenge. They are not poised to seamlessly integrate human service delivery with digital assets.
The opportunity for those who offer seamless integration is huge. Accenture Interactive reports that 79% of those who own smartphones use those phones to aid their purchases. What if your customers could rely on both your technology and your people – no matter how or when they seek to interact with you?
As customers, we form impressions of brands based on the diverse experiences we encounter across service platforms. Are you delivering self-service/ease-of-use technologies blended with warm, genuine and compassionate service providers?
If so, I probably will be writing about YOU someday soon!