To quote Matthew Kobach (@mkobach), "Twitter is a key that unlocks thousands of doors, some of which you never even knew existed." As a member of the Twitterverse for almost 13 years, I always enjoy meeting new people and learning from them. I recently connected with Michael Brandt and invited him to appear here on my Blog in a Q&A about customer experience marketing and management. Highlights of our conversation follow a brief introduction.
Based in Lugano, Switzerland, Michael Brandt is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP) with 25 years experience in B2B customer facing roles. He is also a founder Member of the European Customer Experience Organization (ECXO). His main focus areas are Voice of the Customer and Loop Closing, Complaint Management, and Customer Journey Mapping.
QUESTION: Those of us who live in the marketing and customer experience worlds have heard the Jeff Bezos empty chair story many times, whereby an empty chair represents the customer in all meetings. What does this story mean to you?
(Read the post: https://www.inc.com/john-koetsier/why-every-amazon-meeting-has-at-least-one-empty-chair.html)
MICHAEL BRANDT: I think the Jeff Bezos empty chair story is mentioned at most of the CX events that I have attended! For me, it basically means that in every decision that a company makes, at whatever level, you need to take the customer’s interests into account. To be honest, in a company in which the culture is already that way inclined, the physical customer chair should not be necessary.
For some years I worked with a company in the USA, Baldor Electric, after they became part of the ABB Group. Their mission statement started, “To be the best (as determined by our customers)” and it was lived throughout the company. Each meeting started with a recitation of the short company mission statement. A survey done by an HR company showed that well over half of the company staff felt that “customer happiness” was at the top of the company’s priorities, and they identified with that. It was also very visible when dealing with this company that this was strongly reflected in the company culture and work ethic.
TWEET THIS: In every decision that a company makes, at whatever level, you need to take the customer’s interests into account. ~@CxExcellence #CX #DebbieLaskeysBlog
QUESTION: Since March 2020, which brands have stood out by providing excellent customer service during the covid pandemic?
MICHAEL BRANDT: That is a difficult question to answer. I think that local brands in many countries have faced the challenge that the covid pandemic represented head on and have come out of it much stronger. Many of the global brands that I deal with have attempted to plaster over the cracks and make the best of a bad job, which is not the same as doing a great job.
It cannot be that two years after the start of the pandemic, organizations are still asking customers for patience, using covid as an excuse for slower or more inefficient service. They have had the time to redirect resources and adjust processes but, in many cases, just haven’t done so.
One great example of a company that did react well was, in my opinion, Česká spořitelna, a Czech bank. When the covid vaccination programme got under way, they realised that older customers were having difficulty managing the technology required to make appointments. Their contact center was tasked with assisting older customers in making the necessary appointments. I think this is a brilliant example of a company that used its resources for the benefit of the community. This is worth mentioning in an age in which so few companies have a social conscience.
QUESTION: What customer experience metric should every brand use, and why?
MICHAEL BRANDT: If you use Google to research customer related metrics, you get titles with “The XX customer metrics you need to measure.” Replace XX with any number between 5 and 20! And to be honest, that is nonsense. Nowadays, customer surveys are so flawed (design and execution), that, in most cases, they should not be relied upon to place big business bets. Also, track too many metrics and you end up with data paralysis, not knowing what to act on first.
You really need to be looking at customer behaviour: how they actually behave as opposed to how they tell you they will behave. Look at your churn rate and renewals. If people are leaving your brand, find out why. Do a detailed analysis and work on correcting the issues. If you are a company that has the resources to carry out strong data analytics, start becoming proactive. Ascertain what the signs of vulnerable customers are and act accordingly. And most importantly, don’t stop listening to your customers, whether it is through surveys, through the contact center, through social media, through complaints, or through whatever channel your customers may use.
TWEET THIS: If people are leaving your brand, find out why. ~@CxExcellence #CX #BrandExperience #DebbieLaskeysBlog
TWEET THIS: Don’t stop listening to your customers. ~@CxExcellence #CX #BrandExperience #DebbieLaskeysBlog
QUESTION: Which three customer experience books should every marketer read, and why?
MICHAEL BRANDT: For the person starting out on their CX journey, I would go with Ian Golding’s “Customer what?” I think that it gives a great overview of CX without becoming too complex. It’s a great book with which to get a solid CX foundation to build on.
For the more experienced practitioner, I would go with Jeff Sheehan’s “Customer Experience Management Field Manual: The Guide For Building Your Top Performing CX Program.” It’s like having a Swiss army knife on your desk. It has most of the answers that you will need when practising CX and is a great reference book, giving you most of the facts that you will need at your fingertips.
Finally, to round things off, I would go with the latest book by Annette Franz: “Built to Win: Designing a Customer-Centric Culture that Drives Value for Your Business," but her earlier book: “Customer Understanding: Three Ways to Put the "Customer in Customer Experience (and at the Heart of Your Business)” is also worth reading.
QUESTION: To quote Marilyn Suttle (@marilynsuttle on Twitter), "The secret to providing exemplary customer service is making it the priority and part of every employee’s job description." Sounds easy on paper, but difficult in execution. How do you execute this?
MICHAEL BRANDT: It isn’t actually that difficult, and I don’t agree that it is something that needs to be in every employee’s job description. It’s a question of culture and example set by senior executives. If senior management shows that exemplary customer service is important to them, it will filter down the rank. But they have to walk the talk and lead by example. No exceptions. I’ll go full circle, back to the example in the first question of Baldor Electric. Staff there know that Customer Happiness was a priority to the company because senior management not only said it was, but they also acted like it was. Employees will follow the lead set by their managers. It really is that simple.
QUESTION: Similar to the stories I shared in a blog post about amazing customer experiences (link is below), what’s your favorite customer experience story, and why?
(Read the post: https://www.debbielaskeysblog.com/2018/04/want-your-brand-to-soar-above.html)
MICHAEL BRANDT: It happened during my time in Japan. I spent seven years in Yokohama with my family from 2000 to 2007. At some point, we had purchased a foot spa. It wasn’t a particularly wise purchase because our feet were probably far bigger than the norm in the local market. Anyway, it found its way into a cupboard where it remained for a few years until we started cleaning out. Disposing of electrical equipment was fairly expensive, so we took it back to the store to ask them to dispose of it. We certainly were not expecting any kind of refund.
The store assistant called a manager, who asked us whether we had a receipt. I said that we hadn’t, but that we really only wanted them to dispose of it. After 5 minutes working his computer, he shocked us by giving us a full refund! He explained that it didn’t really matter that the foot spa was no longer under warranty, it was inconceivable to him that we had purchased something from his store that we were not satisfied with. My wife and I were left speechless. We were used to the “rolling eyes” that we would generally get in stores back home. This experience was on a completely different level.
The whole customer-centric culture in Japan was what really got me hooked on Customer Experience. That was only one example, but there were several others that I could have also listed. There were any number of things that they could have used to turn us away empty-handed, not least the language difficulty. But it just never happened. These experiences, in my opinion, just would not have happened with the same frequency in Europe or North America. Or at least, not without serious effort on the customer’s part. I’m sure that it does happen sometime, somewhere, but it is more the exception than the rule.
My thanks to Michael for sharing his customer experience insights and for appearing here on my Blog.
Image Credit: 123rf.
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