Wednesday, October 28, 2015

How to Create a Better Customer (and Employee) Experience

I love this article. I have often said that I would never ask an employee to do anything I wouldn't do, and that came to mind at midnight a couple of Sundays ago when I was at load-out waiting for trucks and picking up trash from a huge airplane hangar, folding chairs to make the rental pick-up go faster, etc. I wanted to share Shep Hyken's words of wisdom with you. He is quite the master of customer and employee relationships. -Andrea Michaels

Who is responsible for customer service? Unless you run a one-man operation, you probably have to entrust the job to your employees. How can you ensure that they care enough to deliver a good customer experience in every interaction? That they are in sync with your company's culture, vision, mission and philosophy as a whole?

You need to have employees who "buy in" to your organization - that is, loyal employees who have internalized the company's vision and mission. They believe in the company and want it to succeed, and will do their best to promote the business and help it grow.

This organizational buy-in doesn't happen by accident, but it is worth the effort. Employees who take pride in the company not only deliver good customer service, but they are also a benefit to marketing efforts. If you want customer service delivered by employees who care - and the loyal customers who develop as a result - here are some things to remember.

  • Start at the top. To be successful, customer service cannot simply be delegated to the front-line employees. Leaders have to be role models for the employees to follow, and all employees must provide good service, whether they are interacting with internal or external customers. The customer-focused culture has to permeate the entire organization from top to bottom. Every decision that is made should incorporate the question, "How does this impact the customer?"
  • Define your service. Take some time to thoughtfully consider what you want your customer experience to look like. What kind of special promise will you make to your customers? Do you promise to respond quickly? To be easy to do business with? To keep your promises? Once you define your brand of customer service, distill it into a few words that are easy for employees to remember and strive for.
  • Communicate and train. Share your customer service philosophy (and its short-form motto or mission statement) with your employees and train them in how to deliver it. Part of this could involve mapping out the customer's journey and identifying all the points of interaction he or she has with the company, and then ensuring that good customer service is built into each of these "touch points."
  • Lead by example. The best way for management to lead by example is by following what I call the Employee Golden Rule: Treat your employees the way you want the customer to be treated - maybe even better. When employees feel like their managers care about them and appreciate them, they are more motivated to do well in their responsibilities - including customer service.
There are also tools available today to test the level of employee engagement in your company. Not long ago, I wrote about TINYpulse. I love this company. They offer a simple software program to survey employees and monitor their levels of motivation and morale. Less in-depth but more up-to-date than an annual employee survey, it is a way of "checking the pulse" of your company each week.

Just as important as the employees' responses to the questions is the fact that the frequent opportunity to share their opinions gives them a sense of feeling more fulfilled, appreciated and understood.

When I talked with the owner of the company, David Niu, he shared some of the simple yet powerful questions he suggests that companies might ask:

  • Do you have all the tools you need to be successful in your job?
  • If you were to leave our company, what would your primary reason be?
  • Do you have a suggestion about how we might improve?

Why is this important? As we mentioned earlier, the best way to deliver good customer service is to have employees who believe in the company and what it stands for, who will promote it and do whatever they can to help make it succeed. So, set inspiring customer service goals, communicate them, and show employees how to achieve them. Then use the weekly "pulse check" to make sure everyone is on the same page - that your employees are buying in and not opting out!

 Shep Hyken, CSP, CPAE, is a customer service expert, hall-of-fame speaker and New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author. He works with organizations to build loyal relationships with their customers and employees. He is also the creator of The Customer Focus, a customer service training program that helps organizations develop a customer service culture and loyalty mindset. For more information contact (314) 692-2200 or

This article has been reprinted with Shep Hyken's permission.


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Mega Trends in Business

In the last blog I talked a lot about how to do business in the future. I reviewed general tips and advice I have garnered from successful people who are great at doing business. Now I'd like to get a bit more specific about trends in all aspects of our business world. They might apply to meetings and events, but in general they apply to advertising, public relations, and sales of every kind. They are what we need to keep watch on, now, and into the future. Read this today, and by tomorrow there will be a few new ones. I promise to try to keep on top of them and share.

1. Change your terminology
You no longer have "clients;" you no longer have "guests;" you no longer have "attendees" ... you have PARTICIPANTS. This changes the mind set on everything you think about and plan, because now you are offering to engage them in an experience.

2. Demographics are being replaced by psychographics, or "what do you like," not what is your age and where are you from.

3. Look closely at Generation Z, those 19 and under ... they are the participants of the future and should guide what you are doing now.

Mike Dominguez, VP of MGM Mirage, shared with me that they are building a new arena where the entire second tier will be General Admission for people to buy tickets but not purchase seats. They will stand and be a part of the experience of the concert ... an entirely new way of thinking.

4. Examine what the Music Festival Experience is all about:

  • People meet others they would never normally encounter.
  • They use the power of music as a unique tool to aid the human experience. 
  • Adding this to a social gathering is an unparalleled force.
  • Festivals are a uniting experience; people synch with each other; in other words, they connect.
  • The use of social media at events, once known for mosh pits, morphed into hyper-connected webs of social interaction.
  • Think of the possibilities:
    • geo tagging allows users to drop a pin on their tents so participants won't get lost;
    •  Austin City Limits programmed RFID bracelets with credit card information so no one had to pull out cash or cards to pay for drinks; for organizers all the data needed is provided, even line control, because they can see a back-up before it happens;
    • At the Sapphire Conference, use of I-Beacons and Wi-Fi heat mapping to improve the participants' experiences allowed data to be monitored in real time but analyzed later. It provided how people moved, what attracted the crowds, where they stayed the longest. And the data can be broken down into patterns by industry and job title.
5. It is still the day of "The Sharing Economy."

  • We have no more secrets. 
  • We share ideas.
  • Crowdsourcing and crowdfunding are becoming a norm.
  • It's about groups and togetherness ... nothing attracts a crowd like a crowd; just look at the popularity of flash mobs.
  • In the words of my friend, Colja Dams, President and CEO of Vok Dams, this is an era of word-of-mouth in 3-D.
  • One Spark is a great example of a Crowdfunding Festival in Jacksonville, Florida. It proves that face-to-face connections are critical to start-up projects. The idea is that great ideas can come from anywhere; it cuts through the digital noise and allows people to connect and truly engage and get real-time feedback. Ideas are presented on multiple stages; participants cast votes at kiosks or on an event app, and significant monies are given to creators in proportion to total votes cast; it empowers the crowd to make the decisions.

A lot to absorb, right? I'm going to give you some time to mull over all of these and watch for the next blog which will continue this conversation. I invite you to participate with your own "trends." Let's get the dialogue moving!

Andrea Michaels is founder and president of Extraordinary Events, a multi-award-winning international meeting and event planning and production firm based in Los Angeles. Andrea is the author of Reflections of a Successful Wallflower: Lessons in Business; Lessons in Life and an in-demand speaker and leading voice in the special events industry. She may be reached via