Author Archives: Shep Hyken

About Shep Hyken

Shep Hyken is a customer service expert, keynote speaker, and New York Times, bestselling business author. For information on The Customer Focus™ customer service training programs, go to Follow on Twitter: @Hyken

Frontier Airlines Ends Human-to-Human Customer Service

Frontier Airlines Ends Human-to-Human Customer Service

GUEST POST from Shep Hyken

In a bold move to cut costs, Frontier Airlines announced that it would no longer offer human-to-human customer support. As a customer service expert, I was surprised at this move. I have waited to see the fallout, if any, and thought the company might backpedal and reinstate traditional phone support. After almost two months, it hasn’t returned to conventional customer support. The dust has settled a bit, and people (passengers and employees) are adjusting to the decision.

The decision to go digital is different from the decision Northwest Airlines (which eventually merged with Delta) made in 1999 to introduce online check-in to its passengers. The idea behind that technology, and eventually the technology driving online reservations, was to give the customer a better and more convenient experience while at the same time increasing efficiency. The big difference in that decision versus Frontier’s was that there has always been (and still is) an option to connect to a live agent. If passengers didn’t want to use the self-service tools the airline provided, they could still talk to someone who could help them.

That does not appear to be the case with Frontier. There is no other option. The airline is relying on digital support. If you check the website for ways to contact them outside of their self-service options on the site or mobile app, you can use chat, email or file a formal written complaint. Chat is in the moment, and can deliver a good experience—even if it’s AI doing the chatting (and not a human). Email or a written complaint could take too long to resolve an immediate problem, such as rebooking a flight for any last-minute reason.

For some background, Frontier Airlines is a low-cost carrier based in Denver. It has plenty of competition, and when you combine that with rising expenses in almost every area of business and a tough economy, Frontier, just like any other company in almost any industry, is looking to cut costs. In a recent Forbes article, I shared the prediction that some companies will make the mistake of cutting expenses in the wrong places. Those “wrong places” are anywhere the customer will notice. Cutting off phone support to a live human, just one of Frontier’s cost-cutting strategies, is one of those places the customer may notice first.

If a customer wants to change or cancel a flight, make a lost-luggage claim and more, if they have the information they need on hand and the system is intuitive and easy to navigate, the experience could be better than waiting on hold for a live agent. Our customer service research found that 71% of customers are willing to use self-service options. That said, the phone is still the No. 1 channel customers prefer to use when they have a problem, question or complaint.

Frontier’s decision to stop human-to-human customer support has generated controversy and criticism from customers/passengers and employees. The company’s management defends its decision, stating that they need to cut costs to remain competitive. They claim you can eventually reach a human, but their passengers will first have to exhaust the digital options. While self-service automated customer support may help the airline cut costs and increase efficiency, it obviously frustrates customers and negatively impacts employees.

The big concern is that 100% digital or self-service support is still too new. We are still a long way from technology completely replacing the human-to-human interactions we’re used to in the customer service and support worlds. Efficiency is important, but so is the relationship you maintain with your customers and employees. It takes a balance. The best companies figure this out.

Consider this: Video did not kill the radio star. ATMs were predicted to eliminate the need for bank tellers. And for the foreseeable future, technology will not kill live, human-to-human interactions. Frontier customers looking to save money will be forced to adapt to its new way of customer service. Knowing this upfront will help. But also consider this, something I’ve been preaching for several years: The greatest technology in the world hasn’t replaced the ultimate relationship-building tool between a customer and a business, and that is the human touch.

This article was originally published on

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Today’s Customer Wants to Go Fast

Today's Customer Wants to Go Fast

GUEST POST from Shep Hyken

Customers don’t want to wait. Specifically, they don’t want you to waste their time. If you do make them wait, you risk losing them. Making your customers wait sends the message that you don’t respect them or their time.

Jay Baer, a customer experience and marketing expert, proves this in his latest study, The Time to Win, which measures the impact of speed and responsiveness on customer experience and loyalty.

Just how important is speed? Consider these findings from Baer’s report:

  • Two-thirds of customers say speed is as important as price.
  • More than half of the customers surveyed hired the first business to respond to their requests, even if it was more expensive.
  • Half of all customers will not wait more than three minutes in a store.

I had a chance to interview Baer on Amazing Business Radio, where he shared some important insights that should be considered. Here are six of my favorites, followed by my commentary:

  • Speed is the most important component of customer experience and the only one that never pauses or goes backward – Calling it the most important component of the customer experience is bold, but consider a key finding from the report: 50% of customers are less likely to spend money with a business that takes longer to respond than they expect. Baer says, “Customers’ expectations for speed and responsiveness escalate every year without fail.”
  • Everyone has the same amount of time, 1,440 minutes a day, and there is nothing we can do to get more – Time is the same for everyone. Nobody gets more than anyone else. It has nothing to do with being rich, poor, young or old. And once it’s gone, you can’t get it back. Starting with that premise, business leaders should ask themselves, “What can we do to make sure we’re not to blame for wasting our customers’ time?”
  • Age makes a difference – In our interview, I was surprised when Baer shared the generations that were most and least patient. I would have thought Baby Boomers (the older generation) would have been more patient, but I was wrong. Gen-Z is the most patient generation. Boomers are the least patient. The point is to know your customers. Who do you cater to? Understand the demographics and improve your response time accordingly.
  • The first company that responds to a customer has an incredible advantage – If your company is the first to respond, you could win the customer’s business, regardless of price. Specifically, 53% of consumers hired the first business that responded to them. Customers want to make decisions and move on. If you give them what they want, they can skip the hassle and time of comparing all the competition.
  • Fast response impacts your bottom line – Just as customer service and convenience make price less relevant, so does quick response or fast service. The research found that customers would pay an average of 19% more for “always immediate service,” which includes no waiting in line, not waiting on hold, etc. In other words, customers put a premium on speed. It’s about convenience. Furthermore, 27% of customers are more likely to spend money when the brand responds faster than expected.
  • Right now is not really right now – As customers’ expectations and their need for speed increase, the concept of “right now” can seem daunting. According to Baer, the concept of “right now” is the optimal amount of elapsed time in every customer interaction throughout the entire customer journey. If that sounds technical, here’s a simpler way of putting it: “Right now” is simply slightly faster than the customer expected.

With only 1,440 minutes available each day, customers want to devote as few minutes as possible to waiting, as Baer’s research proves. This is so important that people will pay more for it. The security lines in airports are perfect examples of this. If you’ve taken a flight in a major U.S. airport, you’ll notice three lines to get through security. The TSA security line is for most passengers. This is free. Then there is TSA PreCheck. For a small investment of $78 (which covers you for five years), you can get pre-qualified to use a shorter line where you don’t have to take your computer out of your bag, take off your shoes, and more. And for a bit more money, you can sign up for CLEAR, which allows you to jump to the front of the TSA lines.

Baer’s research makes an important point. If you want a competitive edge in business, respect your customer’s time. Don’t make them wait. Respond quickly to their questions, requests, and problems. Find ways to incorporate speed into your customer experience and you’ll reap the benefits of returning customers who spend more and say, “I’ll be back!”

This article was originally published on

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10 Ways to Rock the Customer Experience In 2023

10 Ways to Rock the Customer Experience In 2023

GUEST POST from Shep Hyken

As of today, 2022 is behind us. It was quite a year. Some businesses are still recovering from the impact of the pandemic, and then came employment issues, supply-chain problems and a shaky economy. All that makes for a company’s leaders having to use every skill they ever learned in their careers.

Our CX research indicated that 2022 was worse for customer service than the prior year. So we don’t continue that trend in 2023, I’ve created a list of tactics to help you. And while these may seem basic, they are essential to your organization’s success. With that in mind, here are ten ways that you can rock the customer experience in 2023:

1. Manage First and Last Impressions

There may not be anything more basic than this. Start with a strong first impression—and not just the first time a customer interacts with you. It could be the 500th time. First impressions set the tone for whatever is to follow, be it the first interaction or the 500th. As for last impressions, be sure to end strong. Last impressions create lasting impressions.

2. Give Back

Customers gravitate toward companies and brands that give back. Forty-five percent of the customers we surveyed in our annual customer experience research said that a company that gives back to the community or stands for a social cause is important to them. That’s almost half of your customers.

3. Be Customer-Focused

My definition of customer-focused is more than just delivering a good customer service experience. In addition to paying attention to customer service and CX, every decision you make keeps the customer in mind. Even if you are considering a change that will negatively impact the customer, you think it through, understand the ramifications and strategize how to overcome or handle the decision’s impact.

4. Empower Your Employees

If you want to keep your best employees and want them to take care of your customers, you need to hire good people, train them to do their job and then let them do it. Customers become frustrated when they encounter employees who aren’t able to make smart decisions. By the way, employees become frustrated as well, and that’s not good for the culture.

5. Practice Proactive Customer Service

This how you create customer confidence. Reach out to them proactively if you know of a problem. For example, the cable company that reaches out to its customers to let them know about an outage before they turn on their TV or computer. Or the retailer that emails, texts or calls a customer to let them know their purchase is delayed. While nobody likes bad news, knowing in advance gives the customer a sense of control and knowledge that the company is working on the problem.

6. Make It Personal

Find ways to personalize the experience. Customers like to be recognized and remembered. Make your customers feel as if you know them.

7. Have an Abundance Mindset, Especially When It Comes to Time

Zig Ziglar used to say, “You will get all you want in life if you help other people get what they want.” In this case, help customers get the most out of their experience with you and your products. That may mean spending a little more time selling, supporting and relationship-building with your customers. One of the big “loyalty killers” in business is when employees rush a customer to get to the next customer. Customers know it, feel it and don’t like it. An extra minute or two can be the difference between a customer coming back—or not.

8. Be Convenient

Eliminate anything (or at least as much as you can) that causes friction. Don’t make customers wait, don’t make them go through extra steps or do anything that is in the least bit inconvenient. Seventy percent of the customers we surveyed said they would pay more for convenience, and 68% said a convenient experience alone will make them come back.

9. Practice the “Employee Golden Rule”

My Employee Golden Rule goes like this: Do unto employees as you want done unto your customers. In other words, treat the people you work with as well (if not better) than your customers. That sets the tone from the inside and is felt by the customer on the outside.

10. Be Helpful

Ace Hardware is known as “The Helpful Hardware Place.” That’s their secret sauce. It separates them from their direct competitors (Home Depot, Menards, Walmart, etc.). I was interviewing an Ace executive for one of my customer service books, and he said, “Our competition has friendly customer service. So do we, but we also provide helpful service.” Think about how to help your customers be more successful when they buy whatever it is you sell.

BONUS: Show Appreciation

Don’t ever forget to say, “Thank you.” It doesn’t matter if it’s in person, on the phone, a text or an old-fashioned, hand-written note. Customers must always know you appreciate them for their business.

Some of these ideas may seem basic—even common sense. Maybe they are, but they are also essential to delivering the experience that gets customers to say, “I’ll be back!”

This article was originally published on

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Customer Experience versus Customer Service

Customer Experience versus Customer Service

GUEST POST from Shep Hyken

As I talk to people about their experiences with the companies and brands they do business with, they often use the terms customer service and customer experience interchangeably. Are they confused? Do they not know the difference? Maybe, maybe not. And in the end, it doesn’t matter. They don’t care, and neither should you.

All you should worry about is giving them the experience they want, expect and deserve – regardless of what your customers call it.

Here are some of the different definitions the public gives to customer service:

  • Customer service is a group of people who help me when I have a problem or a complaint.
  • Customer service is the way people treat me.
  • Customer service is a friendly experience.
  • Customer service is easy and convenient.

And every once in a while, someone will use the words customer experience to describe the same. I’ve heard many other definitions of customer service and customer experience. The idea here is that customers have their definitions, and yours doesn’t matter. However, and this is important, regardless of how they define customer service or customer experience, the outcome needs to be the same: the customer always wants to be happy.

Now the word happy is my word. Customers will say they want to be happy, delighted, satisfied, pleased, and more. What drives all of that is an experience that might include friendly, knowledgeable employees, excellent customer support when there’s a problem, a simple, convenient experience, not having to wait, fast response times, employees who have empathy when it’s needed, and more. The list can get quite long, and it’s different for different types of businesses. Depending on your business, you may include something that other businesses might not.

In the end, does it really matter what customers call their experience? And does it really matter what we call it? The answer, as I’ve already mentioned, is no. What is important is that the company has every employee in alignment with what they want the customer to experience. It’s about the outcome. Whatever words we use internally, be it customer service, customer experience, or any other term that describes the outcome and process we want to create for the customer, it doesn’t matter. All that matters is that we create the experience that meets our customers’ expectations, makes them happy, and gets them to say, “I’ll be back.”

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23 Ways in 2023 to Create Amazing Experiences

23 Ways in 2023 to Create Amazing Experiences

GUEST POST from Shep Hyken

Happy New Year! I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions, which are often broken. Instead, I like setting and resetting my goals for the year, and in my world, those goals focus on delivering an amazing customer service experience. So, I’ve created a list of simple ways to deliver the experience that everyone wants. Here are twenty-three ways to help you and your teams provide an amazing customer experience in 2023.

  1. Manage the first impression. It sets the tone for what’s to follow.
  2. Manage last impressions. They create lasting impressions.
  3. Demonstrate your knowledge and expertise. Customers want to work with people who “know their stuff.”
  4. Make the customer feel like a person. Customers are not a sale, an account number, a prospect, etc. They are people.
  5. Respond quickly to calls and emails. Fast response time creates confidence.
  6. Don’t make customers wait on hold. Making customers wait for unreasonable amounts of time is a sign of disrespect.
  7. Be nice and show empathy. Create a warm human-to-human experience.
  8. Be available. How easy are you to reach? And if you’re not available, go back and read No. 5 again.
  9. Treat employees the way you want customers to be treated. How employees are treated will be felt on the outside by customers.
  10. Eliminate friction. If there is anything in the process of doing business with you that’s hard on the customer, find a way to eliminate or mitigate it.
  11. Act like a leader. My friend Mark Sanborn says, “You don’t need a title to be a leader.” Be the person everyone admires and wants to emulate.
  12. Always be polite. Say please and thank you. It shows you respect and appreciate your customers.
  13. Be proactive. If you know there’s a problem, let the customer know before they call you. Any form of proactive communication is always appreciated.
  14. Have an abundance mindset. Be generous – and don’t keep score. Zig Ziglar used to say, “You will get all you want in life if you help other people get what they want.”
  15. Give customers the gift of your time. An extra few minutes with a customer goes a long way in building a relationship.
  16. Give back to your community or contribute to a cause. Besides being a nice thing to do, customers gravitate to companies that “give back.”
  17. Have a “helpful” mindset. What can you do to help your customers be more successful?
  18. Don’t make excuses when problems arise. Instead, think in terms of explanations. Excuses show weakness. Explanations are reasons that can be followed up with how you plan to fix the problem.
  19. Be flexible. Excellent customer service lies in flexibility. Rules should be guidelines.
  20. Avoid phrases customers hate, such as, “It’s not my department,” or, “That’s our company policy.” I refer to these as loyalty killers.
  21. Train and empower your employees. If you have good people and train them well, let them do their job. Customers love working with empowered employees.
  22. Be customer focused. That means that every decision you make keeps the customer in mind. That doesn’t mean every decision will make the customer happy, such as a price increase, but at least you’ve considered the impact or result of your decisions.
  23. Express appreciation. Say, “Thank you!” Depending on how your customers like to communicate, it could be in person, on the phone, in an email, a text or an old-fashioned hand-written note.

As you look at this list, you’ll see nothing complicated. The ideas may seem rather basic. But don’t be fooled by the simplicity. These are precisely the strategies and tactics that will make your customers say, “I’ll be back!”

Again, Happy New Year, and may 2023 be your best year yet – and each year better than the last!

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Ten CX and Customer Service Predictions for 2023 – Part Two

Ten CX and Customer Service for 2023 – Part Two

GUEST POST from Shep Hyken

Last week I shared the first five of ten business predictions and trends for 2023. Here the remaining five (plus a bonus). As you look at these predictions, think about how they might impact your company. For example, if self-service customer service options are more popular than ever (No. 7), is your company or brand offering them to your customers?

6. Customer Support on the Phone Is Not Dead

Even with all the self-service solutions becoming more popular, the phone will continue to reign as the most popular way for customers to connect with customer support. Our customer service research (sponsored by Amazon AWS) confirms this as 87% of Baby Boomers (who make up just over 21% of the population of the U.S.) prefer the phone to any other channel, keeping traditional phone support as the No. 1 way customers choose to get their questions answered and their complaints resolved.

7. Self-Service Is More Popular than Ever

Even though the phone continues to be the most popular channel for customers to have their questions and complaints addressed, self-service options are becoming more and more appealing. Just as Boomers drive the phone, the younger generations—Gen-Z and Millennials—are proving that an investment in self-service channels, such as a robust knowledgebase on a website, video tutorials, chatbots and more, is an up-and-coming trend.

8. More Companies and Brands Will Stand for Something Important

Here’s more vital research to consider. Forty-five percent of your customers value a company that supports a social cause that’s important to them, and only 20% feel that a cause is not important enough to sway their buying decision. It’s especially true for Gen-Z and Millennials. Causes can range from climate change to sustainability, local community and charity events, and good old-fashioned values. You’ll start seeing more companies and brands participating in causes that are important to them and their customers. Our customer experience research found that customers are drawn to companies that “give back.”

9. Customers Want to Do Business with Companies and Brands They Can Trust

The old expression says it all. Customers want to do business with people and companies they know, like and trust. The knowing and liking are easy. Trust is harder. It’s an emotional connection between the customer and the company. Customers must know something will absolutely happen, that their experience will always be great and that the company has their best interests in mind. Eighty-one percent of more than 1,000 consumers we surveyed said a great customer experience increases trust. Start with the experience. Work to create an experience that instills confidence and will positively impact your bottom line.

10. The Customer Support Department Becomes the Revenue Generation Department

There have been numerous discussions and debates over the years about the investment into a customer support system. For many years, the department and processes that handle customers’ questions and complaints were seen as a cost. As the importance of customer service continues to grow, leaders are recognizing the revenue generated from the front line that handles customers’ problems and issues. I’ve gone as far as suggesting to clients that they stop referring to this group as the customer support department, but instead call it the revenue generation department. If it is the job of sales and marketing to bring in customers, it is the job of the people who have direct contact with the customer, especially after the sale, to maintain and nurture them for future business. A problem handled well gives the customer confidence to want to come back. When they do, they spend more. Eventually, they may even become loyal. As companies realize this, they will start investing more into the department and process traditionally known as customer support.

BONUS: Robots Will Not Replace People

In our research, we asked more than 1,000 consumers if they thought in the next ten years, robots would start to replace humans in customer service roles. Sixty-four percent said yes. Here’s my prediction. Robots won’t replace humans—at least not 100%. We are already seeing chatbots, voice recognition software, AI-infused conversations (with the computer) and other digital technologies becoming more capable, and therefore more popular. However, they won’t replace customer support agents and frontline employees. What they will do is make their jobs easier. Currently, AI and digital support are really good for basic questions and simple problems. While they will improve, we’ll still need human-to-human interactions when necessary. Certain businesses will excel in the adoption of high-end robotic and AI-infused technologies, but we’re a long way away from computers and robots replacing people. A few years ago I came up with a quote that still holds true today, and I believe will hold true ten years from now: The greatest technology in the world hasn’t replaced the ultimate relationship building tool between a customer and a business: the human touch.

If I had to sum up my predictions for the future of customer service and CX, I might use another old saying: The more things change, the more they stay the same. Yes, you need to provide your customers with modern convenience and technology that they have come to expect and rely on, but the basics are basics for a reason. Customers will always want to be treated well, be treated like individuals, and feel a real human connection.

This article originally appeared on Forbes

Image Credit: Shep Hyken

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Ten CX and Customer Service Predictions for 2023 – Part One

Ten CX and Customer Service for 2023 - Part One

GUEST POST from Shep Hyken

We are in a strange time. For the past two and a half years, we have experienced one hurdle after another. It started with the pandemic, moved into supply-chain problems that merged with employment issues, and to top it all off, we’re experiencing a rough economy. While the difficulties hit some industries harder than others, every company or brand has had to show a level of nimbleness and flexibility to stay ahead, if not just stay in business. Some companies figured it out, and some are still finding their way. Regardless, the following predictions could give you some food for thought in how to navigate the next year and beyond.

1. Customers Will Be Smarter and More Demanding Than Ever

Each year, I start the list with a similar prediction. It seems that our customers are smarter than ever when it comes to customer service and experience. They are getting the type of experience they want from certain companies and brands, and then they expect it from just about anyone they do business with. All of our customers, regardless of our type of business (B2B, B2C, B2B2C) are consumers. Certain B2C rockstar brands are teaching our customers what good service is like, and it’s become the expectation (and hope) of every customer that they will get a similar experience from any type of business.

2. Companies Will Focus as Much – Maybe More – on Employees Than They Do on Customers

What has been termed The Great Resignation wasn’t so much about employees quitting work to retire. They were quitting to move to better jobs. Companies that haven’t been employee-focused have struggled to keep some of their best people. Just as you work to attract and keep your best customers, you want to do the same with your employees. The cost of turnover, hiring and training can be far greater than an increase in salary and benefits. And don’t forget the appreciation factor. Just as you appreciate your customers, you should appreciate your employees. And a powerful byproduct of this effort is the customer experience. What’s happening on the inside of a company is felt on the outside by the customer.

3. Customers’ Expectations of the ‘Basics’ Continue to Rise

The basics of a good customer experience are really simple. Customers want employees who are kind and helpful. They want to easily reach the right customer support person. They expect employees to be knowledgeable about the company’s products and services. They want faster customer support responses from email, messages or text. Yes, these are the basics and they seem so simple, but that doesn’t mean they are easy to execute consistently. Our customer service research (sponsored by Amazon) found that year over year, customers’ expectations of these basics increased. The research also found that 49% of customers had more bad customer service experiences in the past year compared to the year before. Going back to Prediction No. 1, it’s the rockstar companies and brands that are setting the right example and raising the bar—and thereby raising customers’ expectations. The message is clear. Focus on the basics. They are the foundation of your customer service and CX strategies.

4. Personalization Gets More Personal

Up until recently, personalization had been used just to segment customers into several personas. Today, customers are experiencing hyper-personalization, treating them as individuals versus part of a larger group in a company’s database. Perhaps a better term for personalization would be individualization. In our customer service research, 74% of customers we surveyed said a personalized experience is important. A personal or individualized experience will endear the customer to the company, creating a greater chance of repeat business and even customer loyalty.

5. Some Companies Will Make the Mistake of Cutting Expenses in the Wrong Place

As many companies experience the pressures of the economy (and supply chain delays and employee issues), they will begin to make changes. Customers are spending less, and costs are going up. That’s not a good formula but it’s what we are forced to work with, and the result is companies being more careful about how they spend money. As this applies to customer experience, companies will be looking for places to cut costs and save money. The big mistake is if they cut in the areas of customer service and experience, leaving them vulnerable to competition and taking away their market share. Unfortunately, if history repeats itself, and I predict it will, many companies and brands will make this mistake. Hopefully, your company isn’t one of them. One of the worst places to cut is anywhere the customer will notice.

Well, that’s the first five of my ten predictions for 2023. Come back for the remaining five predictions next week.

This article originally appeared on Forbes

Image Credit: Pixabay

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Trader Joe’s Loyalty Program Has No Points or Perks

Trader Joe's Loyalty Program Has No Points or Perks

GUEST POST from Shep Hyken

If you’ve shopped at a Trader Joe’s grocery store, you are familiar with their combination of high-quality products and a great customer experience delivered by friendly, helpful, knowledgeable employees, also known as teammates. The retailer has an incredibly loyal base of customers. Its loyalty program, if you want to call it that, has nothing to do with points or perks. There’s no loyalty card to punch. Its loyalty program is simply about creating enough value to turn a one-time customer into a loyal customer.

This type of loyalty is the envy of many retailers—and any other business with a formal “loyalty program.” It’s been my position that most loyalty programs aren’t really based on loyalty. They are marketing programs that drive repeat business. Often there are incentives such as points that accrue for free merchandise and discounts. Take the airlines, for example. Almost all have a frequent flier program that offers points/miles and perks to returning passengers. The more you fly, the closer you get to a free trip or a complimentary first-class upgrade. But what happens if the points and perks go away? Would the passenger still choose that airline? Or would they go with an airline that offers a lower price or a more convenient schedule?

True loyalty is about an emotional connection. The customer enjoys the experience, the products and the employees so much that they wouldn’t think of doing business elsewhere. And as a bonus, this level of loyalty makes price less relevant.

This is precisely what Trader Joe’s has done. Without the typical customer loyalty program, it has created an experience that drives repeat and loyal business. In a sense, it is a throwback to an era of simply taking care of the customer with a good, old-fashioned customer experience and product quality. Furthermore, they don’t participate in e-commerce and other shopping options that you might find at other grocery stores and retail outlets.

Is this type of loyalty sustainable? It’s worked in the past. It’s Trader Joe’s brand reputation. Will it take them into the future?

In a recent RetailWire article, experts weighed in on the question, “Will the lack of e-commerce, a loyalty program or discounts found at other grocers become bigger liabilities for the chain down the road?”

Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData says, “The lack of e-commerce at Trader Joe’s may not be everyone’s preference. However, the proposition is so strong across so many attributes—value, quality, taste, uniqueness of offer—that most consumers are willing to overlook this and visit stores. This shows up in Trader Joe’s strong trading numbers over the past few years: it has gained market and shopper share.”

Bob Amster, principal at Retail Technology Group, says, “The store experience is the brand at Trader Joe’s. They are unequaled in their segment.”

George Anderson, editor-in-chief at RetailWire, weighs in with his comment, “Trader Joe’s rationale has been that it offers the lowest price possible to customers on a day-in and day-out basis and that added expenses such as loyalty programs will only drive prices up. The company counts on developing true loyalty with its customers, in the human sense, by offering products they value and backing them up with a no questions asked and no receipt required guarantee. It also excels at hiring people who are true brand ambassadors who customers value for their knowledge and willingness to help. If there was ever a retailer that didn’t need a loyalty program—Trader Joe’s is it.”

There are many more comments, and most of them reflect the views of the experts above.

Trader Joe’s is a benchmark of value that other retailers (not just grocers) should aspire to reach. They have good products, competitive pricing and incredible service. That keeps them in the game—and at the top of the game. And as for a loyalty program, Trader Joe’s already has one. It’s their customer experience. That’s what gets customers to say, “I’ll be back!”

This article originally appeared on Forbes

Image Credit: Pixabay

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Six Ways to Stop Gen-Z from Quiet Quitting

Six Ways to Stop Gen-Z from Quiet Quitting

GUEST POST from Shep Hyken

There has been a shift in the workplace culture. Some employees are going from “The Great Resignation,” in which they outright quit, to “quiet quitting,” which means they do the bare minimum and nothing more. While all ages have potential quiet quitters, Gen-Z seems to have earned the reputation (right or wrong) for this practice. The problem with employees participating in this movement of doing the bare minimum is that it can turn into a lack of engagement, and the impact could be felt by customers in the form of a bad customer experience.

I had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Santor Nishizaki, author of the upcoming book Working with Gen Z: A Handbook to Recruit, Retain, and Reimagine the Future Workforce After Covid-19, and he has some great tips for leaders to help Gen-Z employees be more engaged at work and create a better customer experience. Here are six of his tips, followed by my commentary.

1. Have Clear Expectations

Dr. Nishizaki’s research found that 98% of Gen-Zs want clear expectations from their employer from day one. It’s frustrating for workers not to understand what is clearly expected of them. The expectations must be set on day one, if not during the hiring process. Proper onboarding is crucial. According to Gallup, clear expectations are essential for all generations. How can we best serve our customers if our employees don’t know what we expect?

2. Be Transparent and Show the “receipts”

Dr. Nishizaki refers to “receipts” as evidence. Just as a customer might get a receipt as proof of purchase, the same concept is relevant for Gen-Z employees, and is one of the significant challenges to getting them to come to work and do more than the bare minimum. Rather than proof-of-purchase, consider proof-of-value for employees. This is especially important as employees are being asked to return to the office after two years of remote work. Feeling valued must be more than words. True appreciation is needed to get workers to feel good about the company that employs them.

3. Help Them “glow up” by Investing in Their Strengths

Dr. Nishizaki believes in playing to Gen-Z’s strengths. Specifically, he uses the Gallup CliftonStrengths to help them grow to their potential. Focusing on your employees’ strengths and partnering them with coworkers whose strengths complement their weaknesses significantly impacts their enjoyment of work and serving customers. Spending extra time to let people do what they do best will make them happier, which translates to more engagement with fellow employees and customers.

4. Support Their Mental Health

Dr. Nishizaki heard from his clients and saw the rise of mental health challenges on college campuses and realized the need for leaders to respond. Recent data from McKinsey found that Gen-Zs are more likely than Millennials to feel stressed or anxious regularly (53% for women, 39% for men), and 82% want mental health days. Leaders must ensure that all employees are aware of resources available to them (mental health apps, therapy, etc.), and lead by example by taking mental health days and being open about burnout. Creating a positive and engaging customer experience is difficult when an employee’s basic needs aren’t met.

5. Build a Culture of Impact

What impact does your company or brand have on its customers—and even the world? Gen-Z is attracted to creating impact, and it doesn’t have to be a major impact. Taking a few extra minutes to explain why someone’s work is important to a customer or their colleagues can satisfy this need.

6. Be a Coach, Not a Micromanager

Dr. Nishizaki found that Gen-Zs ranked the skills necessary to be a good manager as a “coach and mentor” over “technical expertise” and a “task assigner.” If you’re managing Gen-Z (or employees from any generation), asking good questions will help them learn better and is less confrontational. Dr. Nishizaki quotes Timothy Gallwey, an author and performance coach, who said, “Coaching is unlocking a person’s potential to maximize their own performance. It’s helping them to learn rather than teaching them.” Customer service role-playing is a great training tool, but rather than offering a list of what they did wrong, ask them why they took their approach. Usually, they’ll figure out what they did wrong without any drama, and you’ll see your retention and customer satisfaction surveys improve.

Gen-Z wants its leaders to be engaged. Managers who can turn up the volume on their leadership skills will retain the best employees, win the war on talent and create a better experience for internal and external customers.

This article originally appeared on Forbes

Image Credit: Pixabay

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Seven Ways to Create Brand Recognition Learned from Benihana

Seven Ways to Create Brand Recognition Learned from Benihana

GUEST POST from Shep Hyken

When you think of recognizable brands, companies like Coke, Apple, Amazon, and McDonald’s come to mind. It’s hard to imagine there is anyone who wouldn’t recognize the brand name or logo of these companies. Some of my clients have said something like, “If we could just get a fraction of that kind of recognition, it would be a huge accomplishment.” Well, meet Benihana. Yes, the restaurant chain known for chefs putting on amazing, entertaining cooking demonstrations at your table while they prepare your delicious meal.

Benihana is an American restaurant company founded by Hiroaki Aoki in New York City in 1964. Today, its 116 restaurants serve about 18 million guests each year, and according to CEO Tom Baldwin, Benihana has 90% brand recognition. That’s incredible. Think about this for a moment. McDonald’s, with almost 13,500 restaurants in the U.S. serving millions of people each day, has almost 100% brand recognition. Benihana, with just 116 restaurants, has 90% brand recognition.

How did they do it? The restaurant chain has never strayed from what brought its original success. It is not the neighborhood restaurant you go to every week. This “special occasion” restaurant is known for creating great guest memories, which is their motto.

At a recent meeting of general managers, Baldwin shared what has made the Benihana brand a success, and how it will continue to be even more successful in the future. These strategies are the “brand builders” that have helped make Benihana so recognizable and can do the same for you:

  1. A One-of-a-Kind Restaurant Platform. While there may be some competition in local markets, with 116 restaurants, it is the largest chain of its kind. If you’re not already, what could you do to become a one-of-a-kind brand? What makes you unique?
  2. Timeless Appeal that Transcends Generations. If you walk into a Benihana, you will see young and old. Families are there celebrating children’s and grandparents’ birthdays. There are couples, young and old, celebrating anniversaries. Companies host events for their employees and customers. There are no age boundaries at Benihana. While most companies don’t have such a wide customer base, you must understand who your customers are and create an experience that is both timely and timeless.
  3. An Exceptional Leadership Team, Culture and Infrastructure. Benihana has a system. They deliver a consistent and predictable experience. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a restaurant in New York, Los Angeles, Miami or any of the other 113 locations, you will have a similar experience. Its leadership team, from headquarters down to managers of each location, along with the culture and processes, ensures the same great memories are created regardless of location. With focused effort, any company can create a consistent experience that comes from a good system and the right culture.
  4. A Clean Environment. A guest can expect to have an excellent meal and a great experience in a spotless environment. This is an important point. While you may not want to eat off the floor of any restaurant, they do their best to make you feel as if you could. Cleanliness creates guest confidence. Anything less may send a negative message. For example, a dirty floor means the food might not be fresh. What’s your version of the dirty floor? What sends mixed or negative messages to your customers?
  5. The Kaizen Philosophy. It may not be a surprise that a Japanese restaurant chain embraces Kaizen, the Japanese business philosophy focused on continuous improvement. It is a strategy in which all employees work together to find new ways—large or small—to improve the process. The five principles of Kaizen include teamwork, personal discipline, improved morale, quality circles and suggestions for improvement. The growth and innovations that Benihana has created come from its attention to Kaizen, a philosophy that can be embraced by any company.
  6. Engaging and Embracing the Community. Part of the Benihana company mission is to “engage and enhance the community.” How do you get involved with your community? More and more, customers are being drawn to companies that support what they believe in. It could be a cause in the local community or something as large as the sustainability of the environment. It’s about giving back.
  7. An Unparalleled Guest Experience. It’s all about the guest experience at Benihana. They relentlessly focus on creating great guest memories. They also recognize that the guest experience comes from the right employee experience. The strategy—and lesson—are simple. Focus on the employee and customer experiences. Create the experience that makes your customers say, “I’ll be back!” This is an appropriate strategy for every company—one you want all your customers to associate with your brand.

This article originally appeared on Forbes

Image Credit: Pixabay

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