John DiJulius | Customer Experience Blog

Book Smart Doesn’t Equal Customer Service Smart
April 6, 2016, 7:05 am
Filed under: call center training, Customer Service, Patient Experience

Growing up, I was a wiz in spelling but throughout medical school and residency (eight years of intensive studying and rare sleep) my focus was entirely on medicine. There wasn’t time for pleasure reading and my brain couldn’t fit another fact into it.  Subsequently, my ability to spell significantly dropped off and I found myself “i before e-ing” a lot more often. My focus was entirely on one area and while that built up, other areas dropped off. Fortune Magazine said in a 2016 article, “…learning comes with a cost and the more time you spend learning, the less time you spend enhancing skills. There gets to be a point where the distraction of learning eats away at your ability to capitalize on it.”  I would argue that intensive specific learning, as found in medical school, law school and those similar, eats away at not only “hard skills,” like spelling, but also “soft skills,” like hospitality or Customer Service.


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Hootsuite gave it away free and ended up with 5 million Customers

Give it away and they will pay later – Recently the founder of HootSuite, Ryan Holmes, wrote an article titled, “How to Get 5 Million Customers with Zero Ad Budget,” and shared that for the first three years, HootSuite spent literally no money on marketing, PR or advertising. Rather they built their business on the freemium model. The majority of users, hundreds of thousands of them, paid absolutely nothing for the service. And, it worked! Especially because free users have no vested stake in you, and no long-term contract. If you don’t deliver, they’ll move elsewhere. To this day, over half of HootSuite’s paying Customers-including some of HootSuite’s biggest enterprise clients, were once non-paying, free users. As Holmes says, “put your energies into developing an irresistible product and loyal user base. Worry about making money later. I can’t imagine doing business any other way.”


Freemium – The word “freemium” is a combination of the words “free” and “premium.” It is a business practice in which you give your product or service away at first, grow an extremely large Customer base that eventually can’t live without you, i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Google, or in which you give a core product away for free to a large group of users and sell premium products to a smaller fraction of this user base, i.e. Skype, Dropbox, and Evernote.  All were built on freemium. While this seems to be a new technique applicable to internet-based companies, this is the way many businesses started off, including brick and mortar, building a Customer base and brand awareness. The following is the marketing plan we executed 20 years ago when we originally opened John Robert’s Spa and couldn’t afford to spend any money on advertising. The result? Two decades of consecutive positive sales growth. 


Full article….

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Call Centers are dead

Director of First Impression Often the contact/call center is the only interaction Customers ever have with companies, which would then make sense that organizations should ensure they have an incredible experience. Unfortunately, that is typically not the case. There are several reasons (see past eService white collar sweat shops) besides management not giving call centers the resources and training necessary.  The Customer service representatives’ responsibilities have evolved significantly. Today they are asked to do so much more, juggling multiple channels of communications.


Relationship Centers – Companies have to look differently at their call centers and the roles of their Customer service reps. It is no longer a call center, but rather a relationship center. I seriously recommend naming and referring to your call center (or contact center) as Relationship Centers. This will help everyone from within the company (executives to the Customer service reps) to think differently about this critical part of the organization. In a great article titled, ” The Future of Contact Centers in the Age of the Customer,” Nicola Millard shared a study done with contact center experts, which revealed that they expect web-chat to become one of the primary ways Customers will communicate with companies. As Customers are increasingly starting their journey online or on a smartphone, web-chat is an easy way of having a conversation without leaving their browser or app. Video chat is also expected to explode in the next five years (see past eService Virtual Engagement).


Guardians of your Customer experience – Contact centers are more critical than ever to businesses. Today they are the ones that understand Customer demands, what Customers are contacting organizations about. Companies need to shift from the old paradigm of a “call factory” to relationship builders and “guardians of the Customer experience.” Companies also need to change  the traditional key performance indicators (KPI’s) for contact centers. These might be transactional metrics like average call handling time – which is not Customer centric (see past eService on Measuring the wrong metrics). Like anything, if you don’t have executive sponsorship, nothing will change.


Collecting Customer intelligence from…Customers – With the rise of the social media era, Customers are more empowered than ever to have access to, and influence information about themselves and their experiences.  Some companies (Testra puts Customers first) have decided to allow Customers to access and edit their account notes and preferences in their CRM systems. The theory is Customers will provide better, more accurate information, which will allow Customer service reps to build stronger relationships when they interact with their customers.  This also shifts some of the database maintenance from the employee to Customer, saving the company resources and time. Do you think giving Customers access to their information will be a good or bad thing?





John R. DiJulius III best-selling author, consultant, and keynote speaker, is the President of The DiJulius Group, the leading Customer experience consulting firm in the nation. He blogs on Customer experience trends and best practices. Learn more about The DiJulius Group or The Secret Service Summit, America’s #1 Customer Service Conference.

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Social media rebellion, Department of Customer defense

The Social Media Rebellion – Social media has turned Customer service upside down. No advancement has disrupted

the Customer-care landscape on the same order of magnitude – or as quickly — as social media (past eService biggest influence on Customer service in the last 50 years). Today, more than ever before, Customers are informed and empowered, and they expect personalization and quick responses. In the past, a company had the ability to respond (or not) on their own timetable, but now the fact is your Customer has instant access to social media, which means instant access to thousands of people. Consumers now have personal platforms and the ability to broadcast the good, the bad, and the ugly pertaining to their favorite (or least favorite) brands with the click (or the tap) of a finger. For better or worse, social media has also shone a spotlight on a brand’s approach to Customer care – fails, successes, and all.


Department of Customer Defense – Companies need to make sure they have proper procedures in place to handle their Customer’s reaction on social media. If not, then you run the risk of a potential nightmare (see past eService It’s About Time). Here are some keys:

  1. You need to know about it. There are numerous software choices that will automatically notify you anytime your company gets mentioned on social media channels. 
  2. Respond ASAP. It takes years to build a brand’s reputation and seconds to ruin it. Don’t be vulnerable to brand terrorism. Be aggressive, with both positive and negative comments. Thank and address publicly and privately if needed.
  3. Make it easy for Customers to share and give feedback, even if it is constructive. Most companies are only hearing from a small percentage of unsatisfied Customers. How often do you have a poor Customer experience and don’t bother to tell anyone at that business? If we advertise to our Customers that we want to hear about their experience, good or bad, it dramatically increases the amount that will share, both good and bad. What they are not telling you, they are telling their friends. Today that could be thousands of people in a click of a mouse. 

John R. DiJulius III best-selling author, consultant, and keynote speaker, is the President of The DiJulius Group, the leading Customer experience consulting firm in the nation. He blogs on Customer experience trends and best practices. Learn more about The DiJulius Group or The Secret Service Summit, America’s #1 Customer Service Conference.

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Creating a World-Class Employee Experience, Part 2


Employee Engagement, Part 2- Written by Senior Customer Service Consultant Dave Murray


If you recall, in Employee Engagement Part 1, we focused on a Harvard Business Review post written by Rob Markey.  In the post, “The Four Secrets to Employee Engagement,” Markey focuses on some recent findings from a Bain and Company study conducted across the globe.  The purpose of today’s article is to focus on one of the solutions the Bain and Co. study identified, and to discuss a little further.


Supervisors are the key – One of the big takeaways from the study was that supervisors lead the engagement charge, not the human resources department.  When reading this result, I immediately thought of a great piece of data that we at The DiJulius Group use when working on Commandment II, World Class Internal Culture, with our clients.  This data was uncovered by The Hay Group and Gallup, and reported by The Blanchard Companies in The Retention Challenge…


“The single most important determinant of an individual’s

performance and commitment to stay with the organization is the

relationship with his or her immediate manager. People leave their

manager far more often than they leave the organization.”


I think this is such important information that is too often overlooked.  Think about your own organization for a moment.  How often do employees get promoted to a supervisory role simply because they performed the job function well?  All of the time, right?  Well, I agree that performing the job well is an important piece of the puzzle.  All too often, that is the only determining factor considered.  Does the candidate relate well with others?  Do they know how to build and cultivate relationships?  Are they able to hold candid conversations with people that may have once been peers?  Do they know the importance of leading by example?


Typically, the answer is no.  Instead, the newly promoted supervisors often resorts to making their presence felt by finding as many flaws and mistakes as possible.  In order to demonstrate their newly found power, write-ups and negative reinforcement abound.  The initial, short-term results can be seen as a tightening-up of what had become a loosely run operation.  Sometimes this may be true, but all too often, this behavior is causing severe long-term damage to a department.


While discipline and accountability are vital to the success of any organization, they must co-exist with relationship building and positive reinforcement.  A great exercise we utilize with Clients at The DiJulius Group is the F.O.R.D. challenge.  FORD is an acronym that stands for Family, Occupation, Recreation and Dreams.  I suggest you try this with you supervisory team to get a baseline of where you stand.


The exercise is simple:  Have your supervisors write down the names of five employees that report to them.  Then, ask them to write down five pieces of FORD on each.  This information is key to gather and utilize when building a relationship with anyone… Customers, employees, etc.  One slight change occurs when gathering FORD on employees.  We obviously already know where they work and what they do, but do we know where they want to go?  Do we know what position or department they are working toward joining?  As a supervisor or manager, this information is vital to the relationship.


Back to the exercise. Have each supervisor write down five pieces of FORD on the five employees they have selected.  If they nail it on all five, that is great news.  Typically, the first one or two employees can be somewhat easy, but this exercise can become very difficult very quickly.  It can open the eyes of managers and supervisors to the fact that they know very little about the people they rely on daily.  It creates an opportunity for growth and development that will not only help your employees, but ultimately your Customers as well!


I encourage you to try this exercise and determine your internal FORD baseline, and I would love to hear your results!



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Creating a World-Class Employee Experience


Employee Engagement, part 1- Written by Senior Customer Service Consultant Dave Murray


Internal Focus So many organizations want to treat their customers well, yet so few take the time to consider their employees in the equation.  Don’t get me wrong, several organizations provide great annual service training programs, service related contests, etc., but how many take the time to focus on how they are treating their employees – the people who are actually interacting with customers.  The quick answer is, not enough.  All too often we hear leaders proclaim: “We are a great team, everyone loves it here,” “our employees love our culture,” or even the dreaded “they are lucky to have this job.”  The truth is, the first two are very often based on a gut feel rather than data, and the last one is obviously coming from a leader that flat out does not care that much about employees.


Earlier this year, Rob Markey wrote a telling blog regarding employee engagement for Harvard Business Review titled, “The Four Secrets to Employee Engagement.” I personally have always been a big proponent of organizations actively cultivating and reinforcing employee engagement.  Think about it for a minute: If your employees are not engaged with your company, how can you expect them to convey the proper message, sense of ownership, and pride to your customers?  They can’t.  If they are not properly engaged, they are simply going through the motions until they decide to finally leave.  If your employees do not feel engaged, any customer service training you do will not stick for the long term.  You may see some short-term success and momentum, but without true engagement, old habits will eventually return.


World Class That is why when we work with a client here at The DiJulius Group, Creating a World-Class Internal Culture is the second of the 10 Commandments. Once we set the compass by creating the Service Vision, we then want to make sure that employees are on-board with the organization and fully engaged in their roles.   Our Internal Culture process makes sure that employees are engaged and feeling appreciated whether they are just being recruited, or have been with the company 15 years.


The Findings In his blog, Rob Markey shared some startling data recently uncovered in a Bain and Company study that surveyed 200,000 employees.  As you read these, think of your own organization.  I’ll bet you can think of some real-life examples.  The number one finding was that engagement scores decline with tenure.  So, the people who know the most and probably are paid more are likely to be less engaged.


Finding #2 from the Bain and Company study was that engagement scores decline as you travel down the organizational chart.  Remember earlier how we mentioned leaders assessing culture based on feel?  Too often, leaders may be getting a false sense of security regarding engagement when only interacting with fellow senior leaders.


The last finding brought to light in the study was that engagement levels tend to be lowest among folks in sales and service – also known as the people dealing with customers the most!  All three findings are concerning, but to me, this one is the most serious. 


Honest Assessment I urge all leaders to take some time to honestly assess the level of engagement in your organization.  In my next article, we will discuss some ways to begin to cultivate a culture of engagement.  In the meantime, I would love to hear your examples of disengagement, or ways you have found to improve your engagement levels.


To be continued…

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Anytime Secret Service; Branson’s Customer service tips

Secret Service Anytime – Anytime Fitness, the world’s largest and fastest-growing coed fitness club chain, has as their service vision: “To Be Surprisingly Personable.” If you think about it, to be surprisingly personable is identical to the Secret Service definition: ‘The ability to obtain Customer intelligence and utilize that to personalize the Customer’s experience, leaving the Customer to ask, “How’d they do that, and how’d they know that?”  To be able to do that with every Customer, every time, they had to create an incredible Secret Service system.  A member uses a key fob (keyless entry device) to enter the Anytime Fitness facility. This triggers their information, such as their name and their picture to pop up on their Customer management software called ‘Club Hub.’  The member’s picture will stay up on the screen as long as they are working out in the club.  At any moment, a manager or team member can view a picture with a name and even some Customer intelligence of the member, and then engage them by saying something to the effect, “Hey Jim, great to see you again. Third workout this week!  Great job.”  Check out how the Anytime Fitness franchisees, who attended my workshop in San Antonio, TX, got into the Customer Service Revolution.


Customer service tips from Branson – Virgin Airline founder, Sir Richard Branson, constantly credits Customer service as the primary reason why his companies are so successful. The following are the what Branson thinks are critical in building an excellent Customer service company that appeared in a  blog written by Tricia Morris on, read the entire article:


1.     Set realistic Customer expectations 

2.     Hire the right people and empower them to do the right thing

3.     Respond ASAP to Customers

4.     Make a good first, and even better second, impression

5.     Customer service is your differentiator


As loyalty plummets, banks are trying to get personal – Only a few months ago several banks announced a teller tax, charging Customers an extra fee for face-to-face teller interaction (see past eService Teller Tax). The growing mobile banking trend with minimal human interaction has resulted in minimal emotional connection and minimal Customer loyalty. To try to win Customers back, some banks are now offering interactive ATMs, aka virtual tellers. As reported in the Washington Post, Interactive teller machines offer the ability for Customers to complete a number of financial transactions via two-way video that allows them to communicate with bank workers in remote locations.


Download: How to Build a World-Class Call Center webinar- Last week The DiJulius Group’s Senior Consultant, Dave Murray, presented a webinar on How to Build a World-Class Call Center.  Murray shared how companies can easily implement proven tips and improve the service delivery with systems that apply to both your Customers and your own employees. You can now replay this 30-minute webinar for free using password TDG423WEB. You can also download the MP3 audio and PDF of Dave’s slides using your DiJulius Group online account, with access code TDG423WEB.



John R. DiJulius III best-selling author, consultant, and keynote speaker, is the President of The DiJulius Group, the leading Customer experience consulting firm in the nation. He blogs on Customer experience trends and best practices. Learn more about The DiJulius Group or The Secret Service Summit, America’s #1 Customer Service Conference.

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