As a member of the Twitterverse for 13 years, I always enjoy meeting new people and learning from them. To quote Matthew Kobach (@mkobach), "Twitter is a key that unlocks thousands of doors, some of which you never even knew existed." Recently, I connected with Jeremy Watkin from San Diego, California, and invited him to appear here on my Blog in a Q&A discussion about customer service and customer experience marketing. Highlights of our conversation follow a brief introduction.
Jeremy Watkin is Director of Customer Experience and Support at NumberBarn and cofounder of the CustomerServiceLife blog. He has more than 20 years of experience as a customer service and contact center professional leading high-performing teams. He has been recognized as a thought leader for his writing and speaking on a variety of topics including quality management, outsourcing, customer experience, contact center technology, CCaaS (Contact Center as a Service), product marketing, social media, and more. When not working, he can be found spending quality time with his wife Alicia and their three boys, running with his dog, or dreaming of native trout rising for a size 16 elk hair caddis.
QUESTION: You wrote a very interesting post on your blog entitled, “Striking the Right Balance as a Customer Service Leader.” Can you provide brief highlights?
(Read the post here: https://customerservicelife.com/striking-the-right-balance-as-a-customer-service-leader)
JEREMY WATKIN: This was a fun article to write. In it, I compare and contrast the leadership styles of General George Armstrong Custer and General Ulysses S. Grant. Custer was loved by his troops because he was there with them, fighting on the front lines.
By contrast, Grant was removed from the front lines, constantly focused on strategy and looking at the bigger picture. Personally, I tend to be more of a Custer than a Grant when it comes to work in the contact center. And we know that for all of his successes, Custer is most remembered for his Last Stand — a failure that led to his death.
I can remember a conversation with a boss many years ago. I was frustrated because I constantly helped on the front lines in our contact center, but we never seemed to get ahead. I felt like it was my responsibility as the manager to be there for my team.
My boss helped me understand that I was doing my team a disservice by not thinking about the big picture and making a plan for our team to more efficiently serve customers. Since that time, I’ve worked to strike a healthy balance between Custer and Grant leadership styles in my work. Have I achieved perfection? NO! But, I improve a little more each day.
QUESTION: There are so many terms and abbreviations in the customer service and customer experience arena. Which do you like, and why? And which annoy you, and why?
JEREMY WATKIN: There sure are a lot of terms, abbreviations, and acronyms in the customer experience arena — and it gets even worse when you work in the telecom space. From a customer service standpoint, I hate any insider term or acronym that isn’t well defined, requiring my customers to decode messages.
As far as specific terms go, “customer experience” ranks pretty high on my list of favorite and least favorite terms. I love customer experience, or CX, as a means of uniting a company around a customer-centric mission. I get annoyed, however when customer experience is used as a buzz word but doesn’t make any material difference in the way we treat our customers. And the annoyance continues when we start rebranding our customer service teams as “customer experience teams.” Customer service is but one small piece of a customer’s entire experience with your company.
We must be intentional about how we speak of customer experience, otherwise it’s just lip service.
TWEET THIS: We must be intentional about how we speak of customer experience, otherwise it’s just lip service. ~@jtwatkin #CX #DebbieLaskeysBlog
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?
JEREMY WATKIN: What a fantastic quote! As someone who routinely interacts with customers, there’s no better way to see through the lens of the customer than to hear their voice. How do we listen to customers? Some ways include reading and listening to their interactions with customer support, speaking with them directly, and paying close attention to their responses on customer satisfaction surveys. Once you become attuned to what customers are saying, thinking, and feeling, you will make great strides toward a more customer-focused culture.
And by the way, this is an ongoing process and must stay that way. The moment you think you’re customer-focused and you no longer need to listen to customers, you’re headed for trouble.
TWEET THIS: The moment you think you’re customer-focused and you no longer need to listen to customers, you’re headed for trouble. ~@jtwatkin #CX #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?
(Read the post here: https://www.inc.com/john-koetsier/why-every-amazon-meeting-has-at-least-one-empty-chair.html)
JEREMY WATKIN: Admittedly, I don’t think I’ve ever left a chair empty during a meeting to represent the customer and their viewpoint. But I definitely think it’s a wonderful sentiment and reminder to always consider how our actions impact our customers.
Lately I’ve been spending time improving our self-service options and have even dabbled in chatbots. Self-service is a wonderful opportunity to help customers find accurate solutions to their issues without having to wait for a human response — and this is a terrific area of focus. But, the moment we introduce self-service options with the chief goal of making it more difficult for customers to contact support and driving down support costs, we’ve at least partly missed the point. If the customer was in the room, they would tell us the same thing.
QUESTION: What three brands stand out as experts in customer experience marketing, and why?
JEREMY WATKIN: I definitely follow a lot of different brands, but there are three that immediately come to mind:
(1) SafeSplash Swim School (https://www.safesplash.com/) offers swimming lessons across the United States using the swimming pools at health clubs. We originally found SafeSplash during the pandemic when there was absolutely no other option for swimming lessons for our children. On their website, they state, “We are committed to making every lesson the start of a lifetime love of the water.” As I witness the pure joy from the instructors as my kids reach new milestones in swimming, I am convinced that SafeSplash believes wholeheartedly in their mission.
(2) In full disclosure, I’ve never stayed at a Ritz Carlton but I have read Excellence Wins by Horst Schulze (https://customerservicelife.com/5-favorite-quotes-from-excellence-wins-by-horst-schulze/), former President of the Ritz Carlton Company. In the book, Schulze shares his 24 service standards which are regularly discussed and lived out by every member of the organization. This standard of excellence has been instrumental in building the Ritz Carlton into the customer experience legend that they are today.
(3) Being a lover of camping, hiking, and fly fishing, I absolutely love Patagonia. I have several of their products, with my puffy jacket, backpack, and fishing hat being among my favorites. I’d own more if not for the higher cost of their products. The cost is, however, justified, because their products are made to last and created with sustainability in mind. I tested this philosophy last year when a buckle broke on my backpack, and their friendly support team sent me the perfect replacement part. I’ve used that backpack for 8 years and fully intend to use it for many more. Patagonia is proof that many customers are willing to pay more for excellent service and exemplary quality.
QUESTION: What is your favorite customer service story?
JEREMY WATKIN: I want to give a huge shout out to my local True Value Hardware store. On one particular occasion, I was headed out of town on a trip to the Grand Canyon and needed to get some hardware to build a DIY bike rack for my tent trailer.
Immediately, when I walked into the store, a helpful employee asked, “Is there anything I can help you find today?” Having a pretty good idea of what I needed, I said “No thanks” and headed back to the hardware section — you know, the area of the store with all of the nuts and bolts.
After lingering in that section for a bit, the employee checked in with me to see how it was going. It was at that point that I explained my vision for this bike rack. He proceeded to find the perfect combination of eye bolts, nuts, and lock washers and even explained why certain washers would be better than others for my particular application.
Why do I mention a trip to the local hardware store? Unlike those big box home improvement warehouses, I know that every time I go to True Value, the employees are consistently available and exceedingly helpful. Though I might pay a bit more for their products, the expert help almost always ensures that I walk out of that store with exactly what I need.
Shep Hyken (@hyken on Twitter) defines Amazing Customer Service as being consistently above average every time. Since hearing that quote, I’ve learned to value those companies that achieve this level of consistency, and True Value is a shining example.
My thanks to Jeremy for sharing his customer experience insights and for appearing here on my Blog.
Image Credit: Patrick Fore via Unsplash.
Connect with Jeremy at these links: