Category Archives: marketing

Avoid These Four Myths While Networking Your Organization

Avoid These Four Myths While Networking Your Organization

GUEST POST from Greg Satell

In an age of disruption, everyone has to adapt eventually. However, the typical organization is ill-suited to change direction. Managers spend years—and sometimes decades—working to optimize their operations to deliver specific outcomes and that can make an organization rigid in the face of a change in the basis of competition.

So it shouldn’t be surprising that the idea of a networked organizations have come into vogue. While hierarchies tend to be rigid, networks are highly adaptable and almost infinitely scalable. Unfortunately, popular organizational schemes such as matrixed management and Holacracy have had mixed results, at best.

The truth is that networks have little to do with an organization chart and much more to do with how informal connections form in your organization, especially among lower-level employees. In fact, coming up with a complex scheme is likely to do little more than cause a lot of needless confusion. Here are the myths you need to avoid.

Myth #1: You Need To Restructure Your Organization

In the early 20th century, the great sociologist Max Weber noted that the sweeping industrialization taking place would lead to a change in how organizations operated. As cottage industries were replaced by large enterprises, leadership would have to become less traditional and focused on charismatic leaders and more organized and rational.

He also foresaw that jobs would need to be broken down into small, specific tasks and be governed by a system of hierarchy, authority and responsibility. This would require a more formal mode of organization—a bureaucracy—in which roles and responsibilities were clearly defined. Later, executives such as Alfred Sloan at General Motors perfected the model.

Most enterprises are still set up this way because it remains the most efficient way to organize tasks. It aligns authority with accountability and optimizes information flow. Everybody knows where they stand and what they are responsible for. Organizational restructures are painful and time consuming because they disrupt and undermine the normal workflow.

In fact, reorganizations can backfire if they cut informal ties that don’t show up on the organization chart. So a better path is to facilitate informal ties so that people can coordinate work that falls in between organizational boundaries. In his book One Mission, McChrystal Group President Chris Fussell calls this a “hybrid organization.”

Myth #2 You Have To Break Down Silos

In 2005, researchers at Northwestern University took on the age old question: “What makes a hit on Broadway.” They looked at all the normal stuff you would imagine to influence success, such as the production budget, the marketing budget and the track record of the director. What they found, however, was surprising.

As it turns out, the most important factor was how the informal networks of the cast and crew were structured. If nobody had ever worked together before, results were poor, but if too many people had previously worked together, results also suffered. It was in the middle range, where there was both familiarity and disruption, that produced the best results.

Notice how the study doesn’t mention anything about the formal organization of the cast and crew. Broadway productions tend to have very basic structures, with a director leading the creative team, a producer managing the business side and others heading up things like music, choreography and so on. That makes it easy for a cast and crew to set up, because everyone knows their place.

The truth is that silos exist because they are centers of capability. Actors work with actors. Set designers work with set designers and so on. So instead of trying to break down silos, you need to start thinking about how to connect them. In the case of the Broadways plays, that was done through previous working relationships, but there are other ways to achieve the same goal.

Myth #3: You Need To Identify Influentials, Hubs And Bridges

In Malcolm Gladwell’s breakaway bestseller The Tipping Point, he wrote “The success of any kind of social epidemic is heavily dependent on the involvement of people with a particular and rare set of social gifts,” which he called “The Law of the Few.” Before long, it seemed like everybody from marketers to organizational theorists were looking to identify a mysterious group of people called “influentials.”

Yet as I explain in Cascades, decades of empirical evidence shows that influentials are a myth. While it is true that some people are more influential than others, their influence is highly contextual and not significant enough to go to the trouble of identifying them. Also, a study that analyzed the emails of 60,000 people found that information does not need rely on hubs or bridges.

With that said, there are a number of ways to network your organization by optimizing organizational platforms for connection. For example, Facebook’s Engineering Bootcamp found that “bootcampers tend to form bonds with their classmates who joined near the same time and those bonds persist even after each has joined different teams.”

One of my favorite examples of how even small tweaks can improve connectivity is a project done at a bank’s call center. When it was found that a third of variation in productivity could be attributed to informal communication outside of meetings, the bank arranged for groups to go on coffee break together, increasing productivity by as much as 20% while improving employee satisfaction at the same time.

Myth #4: Networks Don’t Need Leadership

Perhaps the most damaging myth about networks is that they don’t need strong leadership. Many observers have postulated that because technology allows people to connect with greater efficiency, leaders are no longer critical to organizing work. The reality is that nothing can be further from the truth.

The fact is that it is small groups, loosely connected, but united by a shared purpose that drive change. While individuals can form loosely connected small groups, they can rarely form a shared purpose by themselves. So the function of leadership these days is less to plan and direct action than it is to empower and inspire belief.

So perhaps the biggest shift is not one of tactics, but of mindset. In traditional hierarchies, information flows up through the organization and orders flow down. That helps leaders maintain control, but it also makes the organization slow to adapt and vulnerable to disruption.

Leaders need to learn how to facilitate information flow through horizontal connections so people lower down in the organization can act on it without waiting for approval. That’s where shared purpose comes in. Without a common purpose and shared values, pushing decision making down will only result in chaos. It’s much easier to get people to do what you want if they already want what you want.

— Article courtesy of the Digital Tonto blog
— Image credit: Pixabay

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The Personal Touch Should Not Be Faked

The Personal Touch Should Not Be Faked

GUEST POST from Shep Hyken

One of the most powerful customer service and CX tactics is personalization. We interviewed more than 1,000 consumers for our CX research, and 71% said a personalized experience is important to them. When personalization is used correctly, customers feel as if you recognize them. Using their name, remembering their past purchases, their buying patterns and more can build confidence and trust.

While personalization is nice, it is not required, and if you decide to do it, there are some mistakes you must avoid. For example, if you’ve ever talked to a customer service agent who uses your name repeatedly to the point that it seems disingenuous, the effort to personalize fails. Another example came in the form of an email I recently received from a sales rep. It started out like this:


I hope this email finds you well. I wanted to discuss upgrading your current technology …

Obviously, my name is not “Not Provided.” I could tell the mail-merge field didn’t work. It took about two seconds for me to delete the email.

What made it worse was the next day, I received a phone call from the salesperson who sent the email. He didn’t ask for me by name. He asked for “the person in charge of technology.” So, this guy has my phone number and email address, but can’t get my name? His “personalization” strategy failed. As always, I’m polite to every salesperson who calls, but the conversation and relationship were over in less than a minute.

Shep Hyken Personalization Cartoon

There are some pretty easy ways to create a personalized experience. Here are three of many to consider:

  1. Use the Customer’s Name – As already mentioned, be sure to use it correctly.
  2. Know the Customer’s Buying History – With the right software, you can track what the customer bought, how often and more.
  3. Make Appropriate Recommendations – Knowing your customer’s buying history can give you insights into up-sell and cross-sell opportunities. This isn’t a traditional sales pitch. It’s based on what you know about the customer. And if you know a customer can use something and don’t tell them about it, that is actually bad customer service.

While there are many more ideas, let’s wrap up with this. Personalization is about connecting with your customer. Be sure to do it right, whether it is as simple as using the customer’s name or as sophisticated as using data to understand your customer’s needs. No personalization is better than personalization done wrong.

Image Credits: Shep Hyken, Pexels

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Customer Service is Never Out of Your Control

Customer Service is Never Out of Your Control

GUEST POST from Shep Hyken

Last month I was in Las Vegas for a major convention. I stayed at a very nice hotel, and each night I tried to fall and stay asleep. I emphasize the word tried because, unfortunately, there was non-stop, 24-hour-a-day road construction outside the hotel, as the city of Las Vegas is preparing for the Formula One race later this year. All night, there was jackhammering and bulldozing on the streets where the cars will be racing.

Upon checkout, I was asked, “How was your stay?”

I responded, “I love this hotel. It’s too bad about all that noise from the road construction.”

The front desk employee practically cut me off and curtly stated, “It’s out of our control.”

Of course, I knew it wasn’t the hotel’s fault. I didn’t blame them, but she was quick to point that out anyway. I can only imagine how many similar complaints she has heard from numerous guests over the past few weeks and will hear from many more until the project is over. She obviously has become annoyed by hearing the same complaint again and again, and somehow lost empathy or sympathy for her guests.

So how do you communicate something like this, that’s “out of your control?” Here are a few ideas using the hotel as an example:

  1. Respond With Empathy – First, respond to any and every comment about it with sympathy and empathy. Act like you care. You could say something like, “I understand how you feel about the noise. I wish we could do something about it, but the city of Las Vegas is preparing for the big race later this year. I’m sorry this happened.”
  2. Apologize – It may not have been your fault, but that doesn’t mean you can’t say, “I’m sorry this happened,” which is how I ended the empathy statement above.
  3. Be Proactive – If enough guests are complaining about something that is completely out of your control and you know the problem is going to continue, proactively inform them when they check in. You can even put a note in the room to warn them about the problem that really is out of your control.
  4. Come Up With a Solution – This may or may not be possible. In this example, the hotel could offer free earplugs. While it’s not their fault and really is out of their control, they could show a sign of effort to manage the problem, even if it isn’t the perfect solution.

A problem may be out of your control. That’s okay. What’s not okay is to use “It’s out of my control” as an excuse. Instead, see it as an opportunity to show empathy and care for your customers. It’s the words you use and the way you say them that counts.

Image Credits: Shep Hyken, Pexels

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Simple Sells

How Simple Can You Make Your Business?

Simple Sells - How Simple Can You Make Your Business?

GUEST POST from Shep Hyken

I love good barbeque. I live in St. Louis, which is famous for some of the best BBQs in the world! Really! We have a number of restaurants that have competed in worldwide competitions and come back with the first-place trophy.

My friend Norman Beck loves BBQ, too. Living in Texas, he’s also exposed to some of the best BBQ in the world, although I’ll argue it’s second to St. Louis. He teased me the other day by sending pictures of dinners featuring brisket, ribs, sausage and delicious side dishes from award-winning Hutchins BBQ in North Texas. He also included a description of its marketing plan.

According to Beck, the marketing plan is simple:

  1. Cook the best BBQ in Texas. My comment: Always do your best. Beck said the owner has one goal, “Be a little better today than you were yesterday.” That’s a great goal. Even if you don’t hit it, trying makes a big difference.
  2. Sell it at a fair price. My comment: A fair price doesn’t mean the lowest price. When you sell a good product, the price is less relevant.
  3. Be nice to everyone. My comment: This is customer service 101. It’s the basics. If you have the best BBQ but treat people with disrespect, you won’t be nearly as successful. And when you combine friendly service with a great product, price becomes even less relevant. People will pay more for the best of both worlds!
  4. Close when you sell out. My comment: I love the law of scarcity. When people know they have to “act now,” or they may miss out, they make more of an effort to do business with you.
  5. Repeat. My comment: If it works, just keep doing it!

The other thing you’ll notice about Hutchins (and most other BBQ restaurants), is they don’t spend a lot of money on ambiance. Many BBQ “joints” have wooden tables and chairs. The restaurants are set for function. In other words, no fancy light fixtures or expensive plates. They keep the place clean, and that’s about it.

The point of all of this is simplicity. You don’t go to a BBQ restaurant unless you want BBQ. The choices are limited, and so are the quantities. The BBQ chefs know how much to prepare every day, and when they run out, they close for the night. Customers know this and don’t expect anything more.

Simple Sells Cartoon by Shep Hyken

Most likely, your business has a few more “moving parts” than a BBQ restaurant. That doesn’t mean you can’t find ways to simplify the customer experience, your internal processes, and more. Go through an exercise in simplification by asking questions like these:

  1. Is any part of the process of our customer experience (or employee experience) redundant?
  2. Is there anything in our process that is unnecessary?
  3. Is every touchpoint our customers experience with us optimized for ease and efficiency?
  4. What could we do to make it easier to do business with us?

Asking questions like these and implementing the answers will help you simplify your business.

Image Credits: Shep Hyken, Unsplash

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Baseball Has Gone Bananas

Baseball Has Gone Bananas

GUEST POST from Shep Hyken

Jesse Cole is an anomaly. He has turned the Savannah Bananas, a minor league exhibition baseball team, into a world-class case study in marketing and customer experience. At game time, Grayson Stadium is packed. In fact, every game the Bananas play is sold out. Remember, this is an exhibition team playing in a small stadium that holds just 4,000 fans. They have a waitlist of 550,000 fans hoping to get tickets, and the number of people joining this list grows by 3,000 daily. Add to that a social media presence with millions of followers, and you have a marketing machine fueled by the team’s reputation that lives up to and exceeds the expectations of its fans.

The Savannah Bananas are being studied by other baseball teams as well as almost every major sport at the highest professional level. And, business leaders who hear of Jesse Cole and his Savannah Bananas are taking notice. It all comes down to Cole’s philosophy, which is, “Imagine what the best possible fan experience is and do that. Don’t settle for the way things have been done before.”

That may sound simple, but there is so much to delivering on that philosophy. Cole not only changed the way fans are treated, but he also changed the rules of baseball. The new rules are referred to as Banana Ball, which is the name of Cole’s latest book that includes his business philosophy and the history of the team.

In my recent interview with Cole, he said that the biggest complaint about attending a major league baseball game is how much time it takes. I confirmed this with an informal survey by asking a number of friends the question, “What do you think is the biggest complaint about a major league baseball game?” Everyone responded, “It takes too long.”

Cole’s Banana Ball rules eliminate the complaint. For example, some of the rules that speed up the game include:

  • A two-hour time limit on games.
  • Batters are not allowed to step out of the batter’s box, or it is an automatic strike.
  • No mound visits by the catcher or any other players are allowed.
  • If a foul ball is caught by a fan in the stands, the player is automatically out.
  • At the end of nine innings, if there is a tie, rather than extra innings, there is a flurry of exciting activity in the form of a “one-on-one showdown,” which is similar to a shoot-out in soccer or hockey and lasts at least three rounds.

In addition to speeding up the game with a new set of rules, the entire experience is a show. Players perform line dances to popular songs from Michael Jackson, Britney Spears and other musical stars. They have a senior citizen women’s dance group, the Banana Nanas, which is akin to a cheerleading squad. They have the world’s only dancing umpire who will dance and twerk when he calls a player out. One of the coaches, Maceo Harrison, does a breakdance or “moonwalk” before giving a sign to the hitter. The list of antics goes on and on.

But none of this works without Cole’s vision, which puts the fan experience above anything else. It’s more than making the game move faster. He takes inspiration from what other sports teams and companies are doing wrong, and then does the opposite. He recognizes that a fan’s last impression of their experience leaves a lasting impression. Cole wants his customers’ experience to be a celebration they will never forget.

Cole hires the best people, and just as there are fans on a waiting list to get tickets to a Bananas game, he has a waiting list of potential employees. Cole says, “Everyone talks about recruiting great talent. Don’t recruit, attract great talent. Build a culture that people want to be a part of. It’s the culture that keeps people.”

Cole knows that if everyone in your business makes the customers the stars and you give them the red-carpet treatment, you’ll make those customers feel like a million bucks. It changes everything for the customer, and your employees will be more fulfilled and take pride in their work.

If you want to dig into the marketing lessons that Cole used to turn a minor league exhibition team into a sensation, you can start by reading Cole’s latest book. Better yet, score some tickets to a Savannah Bananas game. You’ll be glad you did!

This article originally appeared on

Image Credits: Savannah Bananas

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Growing Your Business with Customer Obsession

Growing Your Business with Customer Obsession

GUEST POST from Shep Hyken

A 21-year-old college senior and his roommate started a business that stored students’ belongings over the summer. They rented a warehouse and hired a local trucking company to pick up items at the dorms and take them to the warehouse to store for the summer. The company was becoming a college business success story. Then, in the middle of final exam week, the trucking company quit the project with 84 more pickups and customers left to service.

What does an entrepreneurial senior in the middle of final exams do? If he’s customer-focused (and he is), he stays up all night studying and doing pickups himself, honoring his commitment to these 84 students and still passing his exams!

That’s the beginning of Mark Ang’s story. Today, just six years later, Ang is the CEO and co-founder of GoBolt, which has evolved into a successful logistics company from what he and his roommate, Heindrik Bernabe, started in college. That company has gone beyond serving college students and now provides logistics and “last mile” delivery services for many businesses and well-known brands. Currently, they have over 1,500 employees, 14 warehouses and hundreds of trucks across the U.S. and Canada. The company is an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year finalist, a multi-year winner of Deloitte’s Fast 50 and a recipient of the SupplyTech Breakthrough Award for Last Mile Solution Providers.

I interviewed Ang for Amazing Business Radio, and we talked about the secret of his success. Today, his company continues to grow at an exponential rate. The secret, according to Ang, is to live by these three main principles:

1. Customer Obsession

Just as he honored his commitments to his customers during his final exam week in college, he continues to obsess over making sure his customers are taken care of in a manner that will grow their trust and confidence in the organization.

2. Failure Is Not an Option

Ang would not accept defeat when the trucking company he hired in college broke their agreement. He figured out how to juggle school and business and came out on top of both, and he continues to focus on this principle today.

3. An Insatiable Desire to Win

This is where “Failure Is Not an Option” comes to life. Combining this principle with a love and obsession for your customers gives you a formula for success.

Even with these three principles in play, you must still be smart about running a business. These principles serve as a backdrop to many of Ang’s processes, strategies and tactics for running the company. Here are some of his customer-obsessed strategies that have helped him grow the business to where it is today:

Availability: A brand needs to be available to its customers 24/7. While not all businesses need around-the-clock support, his company does. Technology can answer the most basic questions at any time of day. Ang and his partner, co-founder and CTO of the company, leverage technology to deliver the best customer service.

Communication: Brands must provide communication channels that are convenient for customers. The customers will reach out by phone, email, chat, social media and other channels, and the company must be there to listen and respond.

Get It Right the First Time: This is another way of saying first-contact resolution. If agents have the correct customer information in front of them, they should be able to handle questions, problems or complaints on the first call. No customer should have to call back again and again to get an issue resolved.

Proactive Customer Support: If there is a problem the company knows about, reach out to customers before they call in. The credibility and trust that builds is huge. For example, a shipment might get delayed because of the weather. Ang believes (and he’s correct) that the right thing to do is to immediately inform the customer. It may not be good news, but it is information that the customer needs.

Ang’s final comments in our interview were to invest the time needed to create the optimal experience. Customer support, by nature, is reactive. It’s easy to get inundated with activity as you work in your business and not on your business. Take time to learn about what your customers want, research the right technology for your business and spend time with your team to understand what they need to be a customer-obsessed organization.

This article originally appeared on

Image Credit: Shep Hyken

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Making Your Customer the Hero

Making Your Customer the Hero

GUEST POST from Shep Hyken

“What we say doesn’t matter. What our customers say is what matters!”

Those are the words of Ragy Thomas, founder and CEO of Sprinklr, a customer experience software platform used by an incredible list of clients that includes nine of the 10 most valuable brands in the world and whose mission is to enable every organization on the planet to make their customers happier.

I had the chance to interview Thomas at a recent conference in Dubai. We began by discussing the company’s vision, which he conceived in 2009 and is just as appropriate today as it was back then: To be the world’s most loved enterprise software company.

Now, that’s a pretty lofty vision, and I love it. Some might even refer to it as a goal. I can envision Sprinklr’s leadership team meeting to discuss new ideas and products and how this vision might come up in the discussion. I can picture Thomas asking the question behind his vision, “Is what you’re proposing going to help us continue to be the most loved enterprise software company in the world?”

Phrasing the vision in the form of a question can help reveal the opportunities and pitfalls of a new idea. It’s obvious that if the answer is “No,” the discussion changes the approach to the new idea. It could even stop the discussion altogether. But if an idea is in sync with the vision, the question fuels the conversation.

So, how do you define what customers love? The answer comes in the form of feedback. And here is where Thomas shared another concept: The customer is always the hero.

Specifically, Thomas referred to how Sprinklr gets feedback and sums it up by saying, “What we say doesn’t matter. What our customers say is what matters.”

So, I asked, what kind of feedback works? I was surprised to hear Thomas stays away from the Net Promoter Score (NPS) question, which is: On a scale from zero to 10, what’s the likelihood that you would recommend us to a friend or colleague? Thomas said, “The NPS question makes the company the hero. It is a little presumptuous to be asking customers if they would recommend us, which means we get to be the hero again.”

Of course, Thomas would love for customers to recommend them, but he wants the focus to be 100% on the customer. He wants to make them the heroes, and what he cares about is knowing the customer is happy. It’s that simple, which is why he believes the right question for Sprinklr is: On a scale of one to 10, how happy are you with us?

So, if a customer rates the Sprinklr product and experience as any number less than 10, there is a follow-up question: What three things could we do to get you to give us a 10?

And if you didn’t already notice, the customer’s happiness is tied to their vision. They want their customers to love the company, so much so that Thomas believes that a score of 10 is the only acceptable score. If the customer were to rate them less than a nine or 10, Thomas and his team want to know why and what they can do to improve the product or experience.

Some may argue that any simple feedback question similar to NPS, CSAT or any other rating gives you a base to know the overall customer sentiment. I don’t disagree, but I do like that Thomas and his team are purposeful about always putting the customer first and their desire to get them to love Sprinklr at the center of the conversation. In the end, it may not matter what words Sprinklr uses to create feedback questions. What matters is knowing that they are achieving their vision, which is worth repeating: To be the world’s most loved enterprise software company.

This article originally appeared on

Image Credit: Pixabay

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Understanding Permission

Understanding Permission

GUEST POST from Geoffrey A. Moore

Permission is one of the most powerful concepts in strategic marketing, but it is an easy one to misinterpret if you are not careful. Here are five things you need to know:

1. Permission is anchored in the idea of what the world wants your company to be.

It may surprise you that the world has an agenda for your company, but it does—even if it has never heard of you. The world has unmet needs, and it is always looking for someone credible to enlist in meeting those needs. If you are a start-up, then you are credible at being highly disruptive. If you are an established and vibrant enterprise, then you are credible as a responsible steward. If you are an aging enterprise looking to rejuvenate, then you are credible as an agent of change within a conservative community.

2. Permission means you get more than one bite at the apple.

It means the customer base, and even the industry ecosystem, are willing to cut you some slack because, in their view, you represent the best chance for them to accomplish their agenda. In effect, you are granted a competitive advantage out of the box, given a status that none of your peers are getting. It is an amazing gift and is key both to start-up successes and enterprise turnarounds.

3. Permission is absolutely necessary at the point of business transformation.

There are plenty of times when you can overcome lack of permission through tenacious persistence, but not at the point of transformation. When you are turning the boat, when you are changing the direction of your enterprise, when you are entering a new space, your first encounters need to be with natural allies. They may not have bought in just yet, but they must be naturally aligned with your agenda, or you need to go elsewhere. You are simply too vulnerable otherwise.

4. Permission is an invitation to display generosity.

The prize you are after is a relationship of trust, one which will cause your target customers to privilege your company above other vendors. That’s what will secure your future in the new world. To accelerate getting to that point, begin with acts of strategic generosity, ones that demonstrate respect for the challenges your customers are hoping you can solve, and evidence that you have the wherewithal to solve them. Get these offers in play ASAP, and let the market’s viral properties drag you forward.

5. Permission has a sell-by date.

When issues and concerns come to the fore, there is a period of several years during which the pragmatist herd will wait to see who is going to step up to meet its new set of needs. If you have the wherewithal to lean in at this time but hold back instead, perhaps because you fear you will cannibalize some other aging product line, you will not be forgiven downstream. Gather the rosebuds while ye may.

That’s what I think. What do you think?

Image Credit: Unsplash

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Customers Have Bad Days Too

Customers Have Bad Days Too

GUEST POST from Shep Hyken

You’ve probably experienced this. No matter how hard you try to please some customers, they aren’t happy. It’s frustrating, but at the same time, it’s reality.

And speaking of reality, no matter how good you are at creating an amazing customer experience, it is the customer’s perception that counts. Their perception is their reality.

I once went to an amazing restaurant – at least, I was told it was amazing. That evening, I had a bad cold. The people I was with raved about the food, however, I didn’t have the same experience. It had nothing to do with the food. It had to do with how I was feeling.

When customers aren’t responding to the excellent service you’re providing the way you want them to, you might refer to them as “difficult” customers. The question to ask is, “What’s making them difficult?” Maybe they have a legitimate gripe. Maybe they have unreasonable expectations. Or maybe, as in my example of the restaurant, they aren’t feeling well.

I was reading a LinkedIn post from Valerie Choniuk, the national director of patient experience at Agilon Health, who described exactly what I’m referring to. A hospital may be known for its compassionate treatment and commitment to taking care of its patients, but if patients are in great pain, they may not be able to “enjoy” the experience you provide. That patient may be the nicest person in the world, but because of the pain, may become a difficult customer. To Choniuk’s point, “Patients are not purposely GIVING us a hard time. They are HAVING a hard time.”

Sure, some people are chronic curmudgeons. You may never be able to make them happy. Accept it. Other customers are very nice people just having a bad day. You must accept that, too. Continue to do your best, regardless. If you can turn the mood of a person having a bad day into something better, you can declare victory. But don’t stress over it if you can’t.

Not every experience you create for your customers will be exceptional, no matter how hard you try. But the point is that you try. Nobody is perfect, and things can go wrong. That’s okay. It’s how you fix it that makes the difference. And then there are days when it seems things did go well, but you still can’t make that customer happy, no matter how hard you try. It’s like a professional sports team that played a great game but lost. It’s going to happen. It’s not your fault. If you can sleep at night knowing you did your best, you should sleep well.

So do your best, and remember, sometimes customers are just having a bad day!

Image Credit: Pixabay

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Eliminating 100% of Live Customer Service is a Mistake!

Eliminating 100% of Live Customer Service is a Mistake!

GUEST POST from Shep Hyken

You need help. You call customer support. Nobody’s home!

Actually, somebody is there. They just aren’t taking support calls. Someone at home—as in a corporate office—has decided to eliminate live, human-to-human customer support, pushing the customer to a digital option such as a chatbot, frequently asked questions page, etc.

My opinion is that this could happen in the distant future, but I can’t imagine that in the next few years there will be 100% digital and AI automated customer support. And here’s why. If all you are is an automated company, you have no way to emotionally connect with your customers. That means your customers have only one way to compare you to direct competition that sells exactly what you do, and that is price.

At that point, the only way to keep your customer is to always have the lowest price, and that is typically not a viable long-term strategy.

Recently I wrote about Frontier Airlines’ decision to drop traditional live phone support, and the reviews have not been good. That said, I give them credit for a bold move that may be just a little ahead of its time—and time will tell. Maybe the reactions are from initial shock. Perhaps there have been glitches that can be fixed for a smoother experience in the near future. We’ll know in six months. If the current reactions continue, at best, some changes will be made, provided the airline wants to stay in business.

I had a chance to interview Paulo Almeida, the CEO of Clientscape, on Amazing Business Radio. We talked about the possibility of AI and automation taking over the contact center. We briefly discussed Frontier Airlines, but more importantly, Almeida articulated the perfect answer to my question:

How do you feel about complete elimination of a human-to-human customer support department?

Almeida responded, “If you’re working in an industry that chooses to automate everything, you can potentially become a commodity. If that is what a company wants to do, the only difference from one company to the next will be what they charge. If that’s the only way a customer makes a decision, the company will go bankrupt!”

“It is not a sustainable financial model. It’s the human factor that makes the difference. It’s about giving the customer the care they deserve. That’s a way to differentiate. For example, Apple may make some of the best products, but they also have some of the best support. If their reputation for support goes away, they will no longer be perceived as having the best product. They will also lose pricing power. When that disappears, they could be on the path to failure. They will lose customers, and the cost to get them back will be extravagant.”

Almeida used a powerful word to summarize a decision to eliminate a human connection, and that word is bankrupt. I can buy into this for some companies, but there will always be exceptions.

People have said, “What about Amazon?!” Yes, Amazon is a digital company, and it has great digital customer support. However, if you need to talk to someone, you can. It’s a last resort, but when you do so, it’s typically a very pleasant experience. Amazon knows how far it can go with automation before it has to say, “It’s time to talk to one of our reps.”

Many products and services are becoming automated. To Almeida’s point, 100% automation is a mistake. Without a human-to-human relationship, how can you create an emotional connection? How can you differentiate yourself from other automated companies? You can’t. You’re a commodity.

More automation and AI technology are in our future. It shouldn’t surprise you that at some point in time planes will be flown by computers, not pilots. We’re already seeing self-driving trucks moving across the country. Companies like Tesla, Google and others are investing tens of billions into autonomous self-driving vehicles (even if they are still a long way from success). Amazon and Walmart are betting on alternative delivery methods that include drones and robots. And yes, some customer service functions are being handled by automation and artificial intelligence (AI).

We can’t fight progress. I love seeing products and services get better through automation. But I’m concerned about the companies and brands that are distancing themselves from their customers by not letting them connect with customer support people, who are also brand ambassadors for the company.

If the leadership of a company thinks the customer support agents’ only role is to fix a problem, then shame on them. Your agents can do much more. If they handle a call well, they can confirm that the customer made the right decision to do business with you and give them the confidence to do even more business. So, at least for now, don’t miss that opportunity. Don’t make the mistake of 100% elimination of live customer support.

Image Credit: Pixabay

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