John DiJulius | Customer Experience Blog


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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How to make Customers fall in LOVE with your brand

Biggest Advantage – Let’s talk about a word that is not used regularly, or comfortably, in the corporate world. That word is LOVE. While it isn’t spoken, it is what all executives want: People to LOVE their brand. They want their employees to LOVE working for them. We all want our Customers to LOVE us. Think about the top brands in the world: people don’t buy from Starbucks, they LOVE Starbucks. People LOVE Apple, Zappos, Nordstrom, Chick-fil-A, and Amazon. Think about the companies you personally would never stop doing business with? You may LOVE your hairdresser, or your account executive, manufacturer/distributor; you might even LOVE your banker or lawyer (crazy as that sounds).  What makes you LOVE a service provider or business? What did they do to make you LOVE them? How many of your Customers would make heart-shapes about your brand? I LOVE the phrase “Out-LOVE your competition.” Out-Loving your competition is the most distinct competitive advantage a company can have. When enough Customers LOVE your business, you have just made price irrelevant. What do we have to do to make our Customers LOVE us and our businesses?

 

You have to LOVE them first – LOVE has to start at home. In business terms, that means internally  treating your employees with world-class service. What is felt on the inside will be felt on the outside. All relationships begin with a connection. It may only be momentary  (your heart skips a beat) possibly originating out of the first three of the Five E’s (eye contact, enthusiastic greet, and ear to ear smile). It grows a little bit more when a conversation is had, executing on the final two E’s (engage and educate). Through this interaction, the Customer realizes it is not about the sale, rather you are truly interested in what’s best for them. Interest and trust has been created.  However, emotional connection isn’t made until the business demonstrates genuine care and interest in more than just their pocket book. Falling in LOVE with your brand is not possible until the Customer feels that it is all about them, that they are the most important person in the relationship. The business needs to take the time to learn about them, using Customer intelligence, their FORD — about their Family, Occupation, Recreation and Dreams.  Due to the relationship you have created, the Customer cannot recall how they ever got along before you were in their life and could not imagine a world without your business. You now have a brand evangelist.

 

What we need is LOVE – Let’s teach what kindness looks like, in business, in family, communities and schools. Have employees learn about caring for others with no hidden agenda to make a sale or profit. Teach them how to display genuine hospitality.

 

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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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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5 steps to a successful Customer service initiative

Every company is guilty of having a bunch of great ideas and incredible initiatives born in a meeting room only to eventually fizzle out and die, leaving the management team frustrated and cynical and the employees skeptical about what is the next program of the year, flavor of the month, or management by best seller.

  1. Create it – Whether your are creating your Customer Service Vision, your Non-negotiable Standards, Secret Service Systems, or your Service Recovery (Zero Risk) Protocols, you need to have a team that is tasked with this project. They are most commonly known as a steering committee, ideally composed of 12-18 people. This group should not be all management personnel, rather representative of nearly every department the company has, as well as some front-line employees. This will ensure the group as a whole is working for the best interest of the entire company.  This project also needs to have a leader, a champion (CXO), someone who reports to the CEO/President and will lose sleep at night over the success of this project at every stage; not just in the short term, but 6-18 months from now. When creating an initiative, the project champion needs to get the steering committee together for a workshop initially, and a follow up at a minimum. Homework and exercises need to be created to create the absolute best outcome possible. In between physical meetings, the project leader will need to manage regular communication between the steering committee through emails, conference calls and webinars to ensure everyone is collaborating and staying on target with outcomes and deadlines.
  2. Sell it – Creating your initiative can be exhausting. It should be exhausting, otherwise it won’t be taken seriously. Now the hard work starts. The only thing that is nearly as important as executive sponsorship is front-line sponsorship. Here is where a major mistake is commonly made. The steering committee can assume that everyone in the organization will have the same passion and commitment to this initiative, but no one else outside of the steering committee has been immersed in it for weeks, debating with passion what will help take the company to the next level. So there is typically a dis-connect between the group that gives birth to the project and the audience (rest of the organization). That is why it is so important to have a launch that gets everyone on board and able to understand why this initiative is so important to the company’s success, the Customers’ well-being, and employees’ future. A launch involves communicating with everyone, and in that launch, there needs to be a story told. Every story has a villain and a hero. The villain is what’s wrong with the way it is currently being done. The villain may be the competition, the status quo, price cutters, or the pain the Customers are experiencing. The hero is easy; the hero is our initiative and how it will change the company, the industry, our Customers’ lives, and solve their problem. You have to be able to sell the purpose of your initiative to all your employees and get them to rally around it, rise up to defeat the villain.
  3. Implement it – This is where most plans, projects and initiatives fail — at the implementation phase. You can create the greatest idea and get everyone to rally around it, but if you don’t have a solid implementation plan, it will be another good idea that never amounted to anything, because no one made sure there was a plan to roll it out effectively after the pep rally. Implementation is a roll out calendar of phases: crawl, walking and running. This calendar needs to be timed with training and support materials. This is also where creating an extension to the steering committee comes in, i.e. Secret Service Agents, who are traditional front-line employees who help roll out the initiatives and act as front-line ambassadors.
  4. Measure it – Just like the project leader needs to lose sleep at night over the success, now every department, manager, and employee needs to know the key metric that measures the success of this initiative, i.e. retention rate, number of referrals, resign rate, closing ratio, conversion rate, Customer satisfaction score, or NPS. Not only do they need to know what it is, but what it has to be, and they need to see it daily and know exactly what impacts it. Management and employees need to obsess over this metric. The ones hitting the goal need to be celebrated loudly, the ones who are underperforming need to be coached and convinced that this is the way we are operating now and forever. Live it, love it or leave it.  
  5. Sustain it – Be relentless. There is no ribbon cutting ceremony for a world-class Customer service organization. You never arrive; you just need to keep improving. And steps 1 thru 4 need to be constantly repeated, even for the same initiative. Customer service systems evolve, some things work, many things need tweaking, better training, support, technology, better communication, and awareness. The steering committee needs to continue to meet regularly to develop new systems as well as evolve the existing ones, constantly evaluating progress and defects. Most of all, all the work done and rolled out needs to be part of the new employee orientation and training so the future generations get it, provide consistency and understand the legacy the company is built on.  Then your company’s Customer service will be your single biggest competitive advantage. 

 

Johnism

 

There’s only one boss, the Customer, who can fire everybody in the company
 from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else

  ~Sam Walton                    

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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Can you really make price irrelevant?

 

Can you really make price irrelevant? I love the phrase Making Price Irrelevant, especially because it sparks conversation and debate. Is it possible to actually make price irrelevant? Absolutely! Otherwise, how have companies like Starbucks, Apple, and Nordstrom dominated their markets when they charge premium prices? What about making price irrelevant does NOT mean that you can double your prices or even raise them 20% and you won’t lose a Customer?  Every one of us is price sensitive to some degree. Typically, with the majority of companies where we do business, we know how much they charge versus how much we can get the same thing for somewhere else. However, all of us have a few businesses we are loyal to because of something that they repeatedly do for us, something they give us that we cannot get elsewhere, or a certain way they make us feel.  We have no idea what their competitors charge, nor do we care. What making price irrelevant does mean is:

 

Based on the experience your business consistently provides to your Customers,

a significantly fewer number of Customers will not be price shopping you.

 

Price wars versus Experience wars – Where do you compete? In the price wars, or experience wars? I prefer to compete in the experience wars where there’s a lot less competition. I have learned something in my experiences as a Customer, a business owner, and Customer service consultant:

 

Many times when Customers complain about the price,

it isn’t because they were not willing to pay for something, it is because the experience didn’t warrant it.

 

Take for instance John Robert’s Spa: I have had a client upset about a haircut she paid $45.00 for, feeling it wasn’t worth it. To make things right, I gave her money back and a gift certificate for her next haircut with one of our senior hair designers, who charges $85.00.  Three years later she is still going to that same hairdresser, who is now charging $100.  At $45.00 she felt she was over paying, but has no problem shelling out $100.00 every six weeks. It wasn’t the price, it was the total experience she was getting.  In fact, 85 percent of U.S. consumers say they would pay up to 25% more to ensure a superior experience.

 

Price is something you offer when you have nothing else.

 

The best way to predict the future is to invent it – In 2013, John Robert’s Spa opened a new location on the west side of Cleveland. What is unique about this location is that upon entering, you may question if you actually walked into a salon. There is no front desk, no computer, no printer, no receptionist sitting at a chair, not even a hostess stand. You walk into an experience area with beauty products displayed on tables that you can test and try on. On another table is a touch screen monitor where you can look for the latest fashion style. There is a concierge that comes to you with an iPad, greets you where you are, and checks you in. The concierge is also able to visit guests while they are getting a hair service, manicure or pedicure and get them their products, check them out, and schedule their next appointment, saving the guest a few minutes after their services are done. While the guests seem to enjoy this unique experience and conveniences, this particular location has the highest retail sales per client, $3.00 more per client than any of the other John Robert’s Spa locations.

 

 

Johnism

 

 Customer service is not a department, it is an organizational mindset

 

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.



Top 8 reasons why your Customer service may be failing

The top 8 reasons why your Customer service may be failing 

 

1. Lack of Executive Sponsorship – It is a proven fact that any big initiative, project, or revolution has to have the support of the senior leadership team. Otherwise it will be considered flavor-of-the-month or management-by-bestseller. The senior leadership team has to provide the necessary resources to create long-lasting change. Customer service has to be as important as finance, sales, operations, and technology. It needs to be talked about at board meetings and strategic planning sessions, with leaders and everyone else in the company including front-line employees. See past eService Executive Sponsorship

 

2. No CXL – Regardless of your company’s size, someone in your organization has to be the Customer Xperience Leader; the person in charge of the Customer experience for the entire company. I am not talking about the Customer service reps or call center. That person should not be the President, CEO or owner, but someone who reports directly to him/her. 

 

3. No CX community – One of the most effective initiatives developed by our consulting clients is an internal Secret Agent Team, made up primarily of non-management staff, to support the Customer service initiatives and help gain momentum throughout the front-line employees. See past eService Secret Service Agents 

 

4. No key metric – Companies need to see the impact that Customer satisfaction has on their key metric drivers (i.e., Customer retention, average ticket, re-sign rates, referrals, average contracts, frequency of visits). This demonstrates the ROI, as well as allows management teams to hold employees accountable for providing a great Customer experience at every level of the organization. Measurement tools can be anything from Customer surveys, third-party companies that measure Customer satisfaction, secret shoppers, to statistical benchmarks (such as the average ticket or the number of referrals. These provide a benchmark to measure the impact of the new systems and to determine whether they are being consistently executed. 

 

5. Your business is not special – If you ask 100 leaders why delivering superior Customer service is so difficult, you will hear the same answers over and over again: “Our business is unique.” “In our industry it is so hard to find employees, let alone ones who care about service.” “We can’t afford to pay enough to get quality people.” “We have a totally different Customer, it is much more difficult.” Every business is dealing with the same dynamics, trying to un-commoditize their service or product from all their competitors and not get sucked into price wars. 

 

6. Lack of hospitality training – On average, a company devotes more than 90 percent of its training to hard skills (such as technical and operational skills and product knowledge) and less than 10 percent to soft skills (such as hospitality, relationship building, service recovery, and experiential training). 

 

7. Low Service Aptitude – The quality of your Customer service comes down to the Service Aptitude of every employee you have. From the CEO to the account executive, sales clerk, call center, receptionist, corporate office support team, to every front-line employee — it’s all about Service Aptitude!!! No one is born with it; it is not innate. The vast majority of the workforce has extremely low Service Aptitude. It is not the employees’ responsibility to have high Service Aptitude, it is the company’s job to teach it to them. See past eService Service Aptitude

 

8. Lack of purpose motive – Too many companies underestimate the power a purpose provides to front-line employees, which is critical for having high morale in a workplace. See past eService Purpose maximizers & Service Vision

 

 

Johnism

 

Companies spend millions creating and advertising their brands,
yet the Customer’s experience is what drives Customer loyalty
 

 

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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