Achieving Business Excellence with John Spence

Which Should Come First? The Employee or the Customer?

A few weeks ago I posted a guest video from my good friend Joe Calloway, so that I could introduce him to all of you that did not know about his fantastic work. He sent a great video on leadership and disruption. (Click here to watch that video). The video was so well received that I decided to reach out to several of my very favorite authors and ask them to contribute. Today I am extremely pleased to introduce you to Dr. Joseph Michelli, who I would consider the world’s leading expert on customer service/customer experience. Joseph has written several amazing books including “The Starbucks Experience” and “The New Gold Standard” (about the Ritz Carlton). His newest book is called “Driven to Delight” and it looks at how Mercedes Benz catapulted the company to first place rankings in national customer satisfaction studies while at the same time growing sales and profits. ALL of his book have valuable insights that can help any business improve their customer service, satisfaction and loyalty. In this blog Joseph answers a question I get a lot too; Is it customer first or employee first? I will give you my opinion at the end of the blog, but first, here is what Joseph has to say…

Which Should Come First? The Employee or the Customer?

from Joseph Michelli

Ok, I admit the issue of employee versus customer primacy falls into the category of   unanswerable debates such as which came first the chicken or the egg. That said, many leaders continue to articulate a mantra that either the customer or the employee “comes first.”

While I personally like to side-step this looping debate by suggesting that “all business is personal,” and that personal connections must be formed with the people we call employees in order for those people to profit and serve other people we call customers or shareholders, I am convinced greater leaders have a penchant for forming meaningful personal connections at all levels of an organization.

The experiences on which I’ve come to concluded the importance of “interpersonal engagement” stems from my work with and the books I have written about companies like the Pike Place Fish Market, Zappos, The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, Starbucks, and UCLA Health Systems. Here are a few lessons and tools I’ve picked up along the way by watching the consistent care afforded by leaders in these organizations:

1) Employee Engagement Drives Customer Engagement.

While a causal relationship would be difficult to prove, strong correlations exist between employee engagement and customer engagement. As such, leaders in “world class” service organizations measure and actively seek to drive employee and customer connections. Ultimately these leaders seek to have employees who feel their opinions matter, are recognized for work that is well done, are provided opportunities to work and grow and to function in a community environment where employees experience autonomy, mastery, and purposefulness.

2) Customer Engagement Drives Loyalty and Advocacy.

Customer satisfaction does not ensure customer loyalty. In fact, satisfaction alone leaves your customers a coupon away from trying a competitor. As such, great leaders and business owners seek to instill a culture of service excellence through a clear delineation of the optimal customer experience (operationally and emotionally), and by constant discussions of core service values, as well as an emphasis on the overarching purpose of the business. These leaders collect stories of service excellence and link them back to the desired optimal customer experience and to their companies mission, vision, and values

3) Business must be transacted for high efficiency but filtered through the lens of humanity. In my book Leading the Starbucks Way, I share a conversation I had with the company’s CEO Howard Schultz in which he demonstrates this point best, “Take love, humanity, and humility and then place it against a performance driven organization; these are in conflict to the naked eye but …we have become more performance driven than at any other time in our history and the values of the company are at a high level. If we can infuse love, humanity, and humility on a global basis and build it into a performance-driven organization, we are unbeatable.”

So rather than trying to craft a catchy slogan like the customer is king or queen, or the employee is number one, how about redoubling efforts to drive the engagement of both customers and employees while fueling a high-performance organization in which leaders makes decisions through the lens of humanity? That seems like an unbeatable combination to me, how about to you?

 

From John: I agree with Joseph in large part, but I will sum-up my thoughts with one Awesomely Simple phrase…

The customer’s experience will never exceed the employee’s experience.

I hope you found this helpful, if so, please share it with your network. Thanks so much – John

 

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Irrationally Passionate

I was driving into the office this morning (Saturday – and you notice I didn’t call it work) listening to a podcast about how to increase sales. The person being interviewed said that the best way to grow your business was to focus on “irrationally passionate” customers. People, who are fanatical about the type of products or services you sell. Good examples would be Star Wars fans who will buy just about anything that has to do with Star Wars, or a sports fan who is crazy about their team, someone into golf, knitting, gardening, dogs, cats… a target customer who is so irrationally passionate that they become a raving fan for your business because you offer something that they “have to have.”

I love this idea. It makes perfect sense for how to identify your key target market. If you start your focus on this potential group of customers, you will also appeal greatly to the folks that are not quite as passionate but still very interested. It also makes it so much easier to sell when you are offering your products and services to people that are enthusiastic about buying them. I see a lot of businesses waste time and money trying to sell to people that either don’t want or can’t afford their product. Here is a quote I use a lot when I’m delivering sales training, “Don’t try to sell to broke people.”

However, I also saw another application for the idea of “irrationally passionate.” This is the exact same thing that YOU need to be about your business/career if you want to achieve a high level of success. It’s very hard to become superb at something you are not deeply excited about. If you want to be one of the best of the best you must be fully committed… irrationally passionate… and willingly do what unsuccessful people are unwilling to do. So here are a few questions for you.

Are YOU irrationally passionate about…
  • Being better prepared than any of your competition?
  • Being insanely customer focused?
  • Delivering the highest quality products and services?
  • Delivering world-class customer service?
  • Operating with 100% honesty and integrity?
Is your company irrationally passionate about…
  • Hiring only top talent?
  • Building a winning culture of highly engaged employees?
  • Being fair and generous with your customers and employees?
  • Creating high levels of accountability across your entire organization?
  • Fostering lots of open, honest and transparent communication within your company?
  • Focusing intently on disciplined execution?
  • Demanding excellence and refusing to tolerate mediocrity?

These are just a few questions; I could easily add another twenty. The point is, you will never become truly great at something if you are not irrationally passionate about achieving greatness in that area. I know that sounds simplistic, but it is the truth. Unfortunately, I see a lot of people today that think that they can attain great success without great effort. That has never happened and it never will. All success comes from work, usually very hard work, and excellence comes from being irrationally passionate about the pursuit of excellence.

What are you irrationally passionate about?

A Perfect Breakfast Storm

240_F_90927099_z6LSkcqAbKKIpsbNmhygPROfNiNTK1x9Recently I witnessed a perfect storm of two prevalent business problems:

 Activity vs. Results and The Law of Unintended Consequences.

 

I was having breakfast at a very nice hotel. When I was seated I asked the hostess if I could have a menu but she explained to me that they only offered a buffet. So I walked over and put together a plate of food. When I returned there was a glass of water on my table, however, I really like to have iced tea with my breakfast, so I looked around to try to catch the attention of one of the servers. I was literally the only person in the restaurant, yet I couldn’t get any help. The staff was feverishly working away at folding napkins and setting tables for lunch (it was 8:40 AM), busy as could be and completely ignoring me. When I started to eat my meal, the eggs were cold, the sausage was cold and the potatoes were cold, so I decided I might as well have some yogurt, because it’s supposed to be cold. I set my plate to the side and went back to the buffet for the yogurt, upon returning my plate was still there and no iced tea. After I ate my yogurt I waited patiently for someone to come over so that I could ask for a check, and no one ever came to my table. So on my way out of the restaurant I mentioned to the hostess that no one asked me to pay for my breakfast, to which she replied, “Oh it is included in with room, you have already paid for it.”

That is when it dawned on me. Because they had no way to earn a tip, nobody put any effort into helping the customers, it was much easier to just look busy folding napkins so that their manager did not give them a hard time. Again, I tell you these sorts of stories not to complain, but to hold up a mirror and ask you: Do you ever do this in your business? Do you judge your employees by how early they get to work, how late they stay and how busy they look – not on the quality of their work or results they deliver? Is your reward and recognition system in alignment with the priorities of your business?

Are you paying your people to do what is most important and drive success, or to have nicely folded napkins?

If you would like some ideas about how to improve your culture, I wrote a short ebook with my best ideas. Here is a link to learn more:

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Delivering Business Excellence

11127664_10152747300417466_255902195476459028_nI recently stayed in the best Best Western in the world. I was in Hamilton Canada to give several speeches and stayed at The Best Western Premier C Hotel by Carmen’s and was absolutely delighted. As someone who spends more than 200 nights a year in hotels, I’m a very seasoned and somewhat cynical guest, to me the hotel and restaurant business just does not seem that complicated, yet so few of them seem to understand that. Here is all I really want…

Hotel: easy check-in, professional and friendly staff, clean rooms, free high-speed Wi-Fi, double pane glass so my room is quiet, and a uber-comfy bed.

Restaurant: good food, very good service, reasonable prices, exceedingly clean, quiet with a relaxed ambience.

You deliver these things and I will love you forever, and the folks at the Best Western Premier C absolutely nailed them. So here’s my question for you…

What are the handful of things that you must do consistently do to delight, enthrall, surprise and satisfy your most important customers?

Let me break that down a little bit…

Handful of things: the three, four or five Moments Of Truth that make or break your relationship with the customer. Every business has a few limited things they absolutely MUST do flawlessly to create loyal, engaged, and satisfied customers. What are they in your business?

*By the way, there are external Moments Of Truth that you must deliver your customers, but there are also internal Moments Of Truth that your staff needs to deliver to each other… in order to be able to deliver the external Moments Of Truth to your customers.

Consistently: it does no good if you only deliver the Moments Of Truth every now and then, it must be every single time for every single key customer. This is why I teach at all of my classes that: if you want repeatable success, you must have process. You have to have the systems, checklists, processes, procedures AND training to ensure that your employees know exactly how to deliver the Moments Of Truth flawlessly.

Delight, enthrall, surprised and satisfy: the goal here is to deliver what is most important to your customer in a unique and highly valued way. However, the only person who really knows what this entails… is the customer. That’s why one of my very favorite quotes is:

Whoever owns the voice of the customer, owns the marketplace.

Most important customers: not all customers are created equal. If you’re going to spend the time, energy and effort to deliver the Moments Of Truth flawlessly, you want to try to do this for all of your customers, but it is essential that you do it for your most important target customers. These are the customers that value what you deliver, are willing to pay for it, are easy to deal with and have the ability to tell lots and lots of people about how great you and your business are.

While in Hamilton I interacted with the staff from the Best Western Premier C Hotel by Carmen’s, the Baci Ristorante and the Hamilton Convention Center by Carmen’s and was truly delighted, enthralled, surprised and satisfied in all of my interactions. From front desk staff, to the servers, to the housekeeping crew… everyone was professional, extremely customer focused and had a great positive attitude. Can you say the same about everyone that works for you?

As someone who teaches business excellence for a living, it was a joy to see an organization that clearly understood how to deliver exceptional service and a wonderful guest experience. Here’s the kicker, when I talked to the manager he made it clear that the main reason for their success was to cut out all the clutter and just focus on the fundamentals. When I stepped off the elevator on the third floor to go to my room I was greeted by a giant quote painted on the wall (which just so happens to also be on the back of my business card!) that summarized their philosophy:

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” – Leonardo da Vinci


Free eBook Link for Building and Sustaining a Winning Culture by John Spence

Ode to Customer Service, a Business Poem…

 

I sit in the hotel restaurant, my iced tea is empty

The waitress fiddles to reset a table and spies my glass

We make eye contact…

I look at the glass

She looks at the glass

She goes back to setting the table

The game is afoot!

 

Care to offer your own business poem for this lovely Friday? The best business poem submitted wins a free copy of my book!!!

The FIVE Keys to Business Success

Success

 

 

 

 

Several years ago I wrote about this business success list, but I just have to share it with you again because it’s so incredibly powerful and vitally important. 

I can count on one hand, with several fingers left over, the number of businesses that I deal with that deliver consistently superior customer service.  On the other hand, I do have a list as long as my arm… down to the ground… and about a mile down the street, of businesses that consistently disappoint me.  I will bet that you do to: the service repair person who says they will be at my home between nine and five… what, am I supposed to spend the entire day waiting around for them?  I’m the customer, I’m trying to give them money and they treat me like this?  Or the restaurant waiter who is rude and inattentive and then angry when they don’t get a 20% or greater tip?  The doctor who keeps you in their waiting room for three hours then only spends 10 minutes with you; the real estate agent who does not return your calls; the hotel maid who bangs on your door even though you have the “Do NOT Disturb” sign out; and don’t even get me started on cell phone companies. 

So let me tell you the secret of how to dominate your marketplace, how to do something so outlandishly different, unique and special that you will be loved by your customers and they will tell everyone they know to do business with you.  I got this little nugget from one of the most expensive books I’ve ever bought ($50.00 for a 29 or so page book) called: “How The Best Get Better,” by  Strategic Coach Dan Sullivan.  It may have been quite expensive on a per-page basis, but it was worth every penny because this idea can make you rich.

If you want to drive lots of positive referrals to your business you need to do only FIVE things (Dan recommended four – but I added a fifth):

1.  Show up on time.

2.  Do what you say you will do.

3.  Finish what you start.

4.  Say “Please” and “Thank You.”

And added by me…

5.  Give a little more than expected.

Now you’re probably asking yourself?  “Why did Spence get me so excited about this amazing success formula and then disappoint me with such a pathetic list?” Let me tell, that if you consistently did these five things for every customer, every time…you would need to invest in a dump truck to bring your cash deposits to the bank. 

Just five things…it is so awesomely simple, but incredibly powerful.

So I challenge you to take a good, hard, honest look at your business and see how well you truly deliver these five things…consistently.  I promise you that if you work hard in improving each of these five areas, you will look up and in several months your business will be doing dramatically better, your customers will be much happier, you will have lots of new customers, and you will be making much, much more money.

Let me know how it turns out – I wish you great success — John

This Makes It Very Clear…

I was talking to one of my clients yesterday, the President of a large commercial landscaping operation called Austin Outdoor, about how to help his front-line folks take their customer service delivery to a higher level. Now mind you, this is already a great company that delivers consistently excellent customer service, but because they are a truly great company… they want to do even better. So as I was driving to the office this morning I was thinking about how to really send a clear message to all of his employees about the critical importance of always delivering amazing service when a powerful image came to my mind. Continue reading “This Makes It Very Clear…” »

The Three Keys to Success in a Tough Economy

When times are tough, the number one thing that will help you survive is your staff. That’s right. There is no way that you can make it through the current economic turmoil alone; you need your employees (or team if you aren’t running the place) to be motivated and dedicated to helping the business succeed. How do you keep these important people on your side? To me, there are three keys: Honesty, Vision, and Culture. Continue reading “The Three Keys to Success in a Tough Economy” »

The Single Most Important Indicator of Business Success

I just received a wonderful note from my friend Miguel da Rocha Cavalcanti in Rio de Janeiro asking me what I felt was the single most important indicator of business success.  My reply was quite simple: customer satisfaction.  If you have highly engaged, satisfied and loyal customers — then an awful lot of the other things in your business must already be going very well  (of course, cash flow is pretty darn important too — even if your customers love you, if you run out of money you will be run out of business – but lots of cash flow is not necessarily an indicator of sustainable business success!). Continue reading “The Single Most Important Indicator of Business Success” »