One of the many things I enjoy about social media is the amazing people I get to meet. Thanks to technology, I get to travel around the world and meet people with different backgrounds and perspectives. Thanks to Twitter, I recently met Shaun Belding from Ottawa, Canada, since he shares my passions for customer experience marketing, bold leadership, and inspiring workplace culture. We discussed our shared passions, and highlights follow Shaun’s bio.
Shaun Belding is CEO of Belding Training, and a leading global expert on customer experience, leadership, and workplace culture. He is the author of six books, published internationally in 12 languages. His most recent book is The Journey to WOW, the path to outstanding customer experience and loyalty, a highly acclaimed Amazon bestseller. Learn more about Shaun on his website at www.beldingtraining.com; on his Winning at Work blog at www.beldinggroup.com/winning-at-work-blog; on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/shaunbelding; and on Twitter @ShaunBelding.
QUESTION: How has the Covid-19 pandemic affected customer service in Canada?
SHAUN BELDING: The best word I can think of would be “fragmented.” On a macro level, most organizations have pivoted quite well. A lot of companies are still struggling to adapt their customer service channels, though. And many which have successfully adapted their processes haven’t adequately mitigated the emotional exhaustion employees are facing. Having said this, front line customer service in person and on the telephone is, in many ways, far more human than ever. People seem just that little bit more patient and pleasant - and trying just a little harder.
QUESTION: Your blog showcases a myriad of good and bad customer service stories. So out of all you've experienced and heard about, what is your number one best customer service experience and number one worst?
SHAUN BELDING: Tough question! The worst ones, for me, are the ones where people or companies become so focused on their self-interests, processes, or policies that they forget about humanity.
The divide between WOW customer service and face-palming horrendous service is best illustrated for me in a single episode with US Bank in 2019 (link at end of Q&A) on Christmas Eve. The bank was holding a customer’s check. He had no money and found himself at a gas station with not enough to buy gas to get home. The call center agent told her supervisor, who hopped into her car and drove to the gas station to give the man $20 for gas. It was a truly Wow experience and aligned with the bank’s claim that “Our employees are empowered to do the right thing.” HOWEVER, a week later, the bank fired both the supervisor and employee for breaking protocol. Apparently “doing the right thing” wasn’t referring to how customers should be treated.
QUESTION: Too often, corporate leaders downplay marketing because they cannot see immediate results. Similarly, customer service ROI is a difficult metric to track. However, you wrote that "customer service is like vegetables." Can you explain how easy it is to evaluate customer service?
SHAUN BELDING: I love this question, because I have heard the ROI debate all my adult life. Back when I had a real job, working in strategic and client management roles in national and international ad agencies, we were constantly faced with ROI questions. That’s when I learned John Wannamaker’s famous quote, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half.” The same might be said with customer service.
The ROI of customer service can’t be measured on a transactional basis, just like the ROI of hiring an accountant can’t be measured on a day-to-day basis. It’s also hard to isolate the specific impact of customer service on revenue or profitability because it is only one of many drivers.
The best way to measure the ROI of customer service is, believe it or not, by focusing on the negatives. It is easier and more accurate to attribute decreases in negative indicators to customer service. Outstanding customer service will reduce customer churn, complaints, escalations, negative social media, etc. Poor customer service increases these things. They make for a good measurable – from which one can calculate tangible changes In revenues and profitability.
TWEET THIS: The best way to measure the ROI of customer service is, believe it or not, by focusing on the negatives. –@ShaunBelding #ROImetrics #brandexperience
QUESTION: You wrote the following on a blog post: "If we aren’t passionate – visibly and demonstrably passionate – we will never be able to instill this in our people. We can never lose sight of the role we ourselves play in the success of our organization." How can a business instill passion for the brand and/or the mission in its employees so that they provide excellent customer service?
SHAUN BELDING: It has to start at the top. Just repeat those 7 words over and over again. Once that’s in place, it’s about the messaging. Here’s an example: About 15 years ago, I got a call from the CEO of one of our clients. I’d known him for a decade, and we had become good friends. He had built the company from scratch, and his charisma and passion fueled a rabidly loyal and proud workplace.
He began the call with, “Shaun, I need your help.” He went on to describe how the “fire” had gone out in his workplace, and try as he might, he couldn’t rekindle it. He wanted us to identify the problem and help create a roadmap back to where they had been. Identifying the problem didn’t take us long. I had been there when he created the company, and the changes were palpable.
When the company started, my friend would spend a huge amount of his time roaming the halls, sticking his nose into things, bringing people coffee, chatting, laughing – and celebrating small successes. The memos he and his executive team would send out were all about doing the right thing – like treating customers and colleagues well – and giving shoutouts to individuals.
Fast-forward ten years, and this was gone. Emails were all about business, and profit, and processes, and best practices and (ironically) ROI. Silos had sprouted, with precious little cross-communication in the company. Discussions around doing the right thing were quaint, distant memories.
It took him two years, but he turned it around. He single-handedly took ownership of doing the right thing and was absolutely relentless in ensuring that the message cascaded through the company. A couple of senior leadership team members who weren’t onboard with the changes were off-boarded in a hurry. The message that the CEO was serious was loud and clear.
The three lessons I learned from this transformation were:
a) Passion has to start at the top.
b) Customer service culture requires absolute relentlessness.
c) You need to focus on people more than stuff.
My friend has never given me permission to formally identify him, but I can tell you that he was my inspiration for the character of Avi Vincente in the leadership section of my book, The Journey to WOW.
QUESTION: Everyone in marketing and customer service circles has heard the Morton's Steakhouse story by Peter Shankman. What can brands learn from that story and apply toward their customer experience marketing strategies?
SHAUN BELDING: The definition of a “Wow” experience is one that people will think of first when in a discussion about a customer experience, and one that they feel will be interesting to others. Peter Shankman’s Morton’s Steakhouse story is a textbook example. There are three big lessons that brands can take away from it:
1. When a customer reaches out to you – regardless of the reason – don’t ever ignore them.
2. Give your people the permission and the courage to seize WOW opportunities.
3. Don’t be seduced by big data. It’s the one-on-one interactions that create loyalty.
TWEET THIS: Don’t be seduced by big data. It’s the one-on-one interactions that create loyalty. –@ShaunBelding #CX #brandexperience
QUESTION: What's your favorite customer service book, and why should everyone read it?
SHAUN BELDING: Okay…I would be disingenuous if I didn’t say my book, The Journey to WOW – but I’m probably not really objective there.
My second most favorite book on customer service, isn’t technically a customer service book – but it’s one that everyone in customer service should read: Dale Carnegie’s iconic How to Win Friends and Influence People. It was written 85 years ago and is as relevant and powerful today as it was then. There is no-one who has better or more succinctly captured the human condition – and the mechanisms for creating long-lasting positive relationships. The skill-sets he introduces speak to the very core of customer service, and his one quote, “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you,” are words that can change people’s lives.
My gratitude and appreciation to Shaun for sharing his inspiring perspectives.
LINK to incident referenced in second question regarding US BANK and fired employees: https://www.oregonlive.com/news/2020/02/supervisor-fired-from-us-bank-made-an-emotional-decision-to-ok-act-of-christmas-eve-charity.html
Image Credit: Pace Branding and Marketing (@paceadv on Twitter).