Dennis Geelen is a customer-centricity and innovation author, speaker, and consultant. He is the founder of Zero In, a consulting company that helps businesses build a more customer-centric and innovative culture and author of the book The Zero In Formula: The Ultimate Guide to Building a Disruptive and Sustainable Business through Customer-Centric Innovation. Connect on LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/dennis-geelen-5a95703) and on Twitter @dennis_geelen.
QUESTION: In a post you wrote on Entrepreneur entitled, "How to Get Customers and Employees Excited About Your Business," you provided some key take-aways. Can you briefly share them?
DENNIS GEELEN: The main theme of the article is that all businesses need to be focused on solving indifference in BOTH their customers and their employees. They should be focusing on building a brand that customers crave and a company that people are passionate to work for. This is the key to long-term success.
In the article, I shared seven different strategies to help you get there:
(1) Exclusivity: Start by targeting a specific group or people or a specific need (Think Amazon and how they started with selling ONLY books online)
(2) Company Message/Purpose: Having a message or purpose that your customers and employees resonate with (Think Tom’s Shoes)
(3) Business Model: Perhaps the way that you provide your product or service is what separates you from your competitors (think Dollar Shave Club or AirBnB)
(4) Product/Service: Delivering a very unique or high quality product or service (think Dyson)
(5) Customer Experience: Building an experience that is meant to resonate with and WOW your ideal customer (think Starbucks or Disney)
(6) Practices and Processes: The way that you operate is unique and better in a way that benefits both your customers and employees (think Amazon or Google)
(7) Employee Culture: Having the right incentives and rewards in place that motivate the specific behaviors that you want to build your culture around (think Zappos)
(Here's the article's link: https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/403617)
QUESTION: Dennis Snow (@DennisSnow on Twitter) wrote, "A customer-focused culture is one in which everything is designed with the “lens of the customer” in mind." What does this quote mean to you?
DENNIS GEELEN: I love this quote and completely agree. Centuries ago, humans believed that Earth was the center of the universe with the sun, moon, and all the other planets revolving around it. Only to discover this was not the case at all. The sun is at the center, and all the other planets (including Earth) revolve around it.
I believe the many business have similar incorrect thinking. They place their company, their products, and their services at the center, and all of their customer strategies (marketing, sales, CX, etc.) revolve around this inner focus. Whether you want to call it product focused, or inner focused, they have it wrong.
The CUSTOMER needs to be at the CENTER of everything you do and everything else needs to revolve around them. Understanding your customer, what their needs are, and why they do what they do (or don’t!) needs to be what drives your business.
TWEET THIS: The CUSTOMER needs to be at the CENTER of everything you do and everything else needs to revolve around them. ~@dennis_geelen #DebbieLaskeysBlog
QUESTION: Those of us who live in the marketing and customer experience worlds have heard the Jeff Bezos empty chair story many times. What does this mean to you?
DENNIS GEELEN: It is so easy to “forget” about putting your customer and their needs first when you are in internal company strategy meetings. I love how Amazon created a physical reminder that the customer and their needs should always have a seat at the table in every decision they make.
Another way that I have seen this done effectively is to start a meeting with a story or two about some real life recent customer experiences with your brand (good or bad). Starting from a point of empathy with your customers is a powerful way to start a meeting and get everyone in the customer-first mindset. Maybe that is why Design Thinking is such a popular and effective approach to innovation, it starts with empathy.
(To read more about the Jeff Bezos empty chair, check out this article: https://www.inc.com/john-koetsier/why-every-amazon-meeting-has-at-least-one-empty-chair.html)
(To read more about Design Thinking, check out this article: https://www.ama.org/marketing-news/the-5-phases-of-design-thinking/)
QUESTION: Since the covid pandemic began to impact everyone's lives in March 2020, which brands have stood out to you by providing excellent customer service?
DENNIS GEELEN: Again, I will go back to the point of empathy here. The pandemic has been a traumatic time impacting so many different people in so many different ways. Some companies get this, and some don’t (or don’t show it, at least).
Zappos is a great example of a company that gets it. They understood the need that people were having for human connection and opened a hotline to chat with customers. Zappos gets it.
Then there are stories of companies that have gone over and above to do something for their customers during these trying times. Restaurants delivered home cooked meals, grocery stores had special times set aside for the elderly to shop exclusively in a less busy environment, etc.
But I would like to highlight a business in my local area here in Ontario: Fresh Fuell. Owned by Louis and Leanna Segura, they have gone out of their way to build relationships, goodwill, and an amazing customer experience. They actually expanded their business during the pandemic. They have loads of loyal customers due to their empathetic and community-first mindset that, when times got tough, they still had the full support of their patrons.
QUESTION: Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has said, "Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning." How can all brands apply this timeless advice?
DENNIS GEELEN: Too many times, we seek to discredit or make excuses for critical or negative feedback from customers. I think it is human nature. We get defensive or want to deny or lay the blame elsewhere. But to Gates' point, we need to learn to get past this and seek to understand the situation more clearly. What caused frustration or anger with this unhappy customer? How could we have handled the situation differently or better? What improvements can we implement to prevent another situation like this in the future? Until we get to the point of being open and looking inside our businesses and ourselves with the objective to learn, grow, and improve, we will be sitting on a goldmine of information that is left untapped if we continue to ignore it.
The best way to handle unhappy customers is with a mindset that what they have to tell you is going to help your business provide a better experience for other customers in some shape or form.
TWEET THIS: What unhappy customers tell you will help your business provide a better experience for other customers. ~@dennis_geelen #DebbieLaskeysBlog
QUESTION: What three customer experience books should everyone read, and why?
DENNIS GEELEN: Great question. To answer this effectively, I think we need to categorize this first. To truly understand why customer experience is so important, you need to first understand the experience economy. For this, the book ‘The Experience Economy’ by Joe Pine and James Gilmour is the gold standard. For me, they are the godfathers of CX, and their book is where all business leaders need to start in order to get a solid foundation.
Next, you need to have a principle for understanding your customers better. You can’t design and deliver a great CX without understanding your customers. For me, that principle is Customer Jobs Theory, or Jobs to be Done (JTBD) as it is known. There are many terrific books on this subject, but my favourite has to be ‘The Secret Lives of Customers’ by David Scott Duncan. I love this book because Duncan takes the original JTBD thinking from the book ‘Competing Against Luck’ that he helped to co-author with the late Clay Christensen and expands through a wonderfully told parable full of interesting characters and lots of insights for better understanding your customers and why they choose your product or service.
Lastly, once you understand the experience economy, and you have a good grasp on your customers and why they purchase your product or service, you then need some strategies for how to deliver a great customer experience. Again, there are many great books to help you with this. Shep Hyken has written many, with ‘I’ll be Back’ being his latest. Dan Gingiss recently published ‘The Experience Maker’ as well, another great book. But my favorite book as a guide for delivering great CX would be ‘The Ten Principles Behind Great Customer Experiences’ by Matt Watkinson. Maybe I am biased because Matt and I have chatted a few different times about CX and writing, but I love this book because of Matt’s insightful yet concise writing style. He does a terrific job of bringing the reader in with captivating info and stories that keep you turning the page until, before you know it, you have finished the book and you have an MBA in CX!
My thanks to Dennis for sharing his inspiring employee and customer experience insights and for appearing here on my Blog.
Image Credit: Debbie Laskey.