Examining the Happiness of Mothers on their Day

First of all, Happy Mother’s Day to all of the mothers that read my blog. Given the day, I decided to examine our consumer research to find out if mothers are, in fact, happy. My previous analysis already shows that females are happier than males. But what about if they are mothers or not? I examined happiness levels of more than 5,000 U.S. females based on their family situation.

As you can see in the chart below, married moms are by far the happiest females.

MothersHappinessThe bottom line: Happy Mother’s Day!!!

Examining the Demographics of Happiness

I read an interesting article this week by Adam Davidson in the New York Times called Money Changes Everything. It’s one of the growing number of articles raising the discussion about happiness. I’ve blogged a bit about happiness and decided to dive into our latest dataset of responses from 10,000 U.S. consumers and examine the demographics of happiness. Here’s what that analysis uncovered:

  • 74.4% of U.S. consumers agree that they are typically happy
  • Females are happier than males
  • African-Americans are the most happy and Caucasians are the least
  • People who live in the South are the most happy and those who live in the Northeast are the least
  • Happiness increases with annual income, up to about $100,000. Additionally, consumers who make less than $25,000 are considerably less happy than other consumers.
  • Consumers older than 65 are the most happy and those between 45 and 54 are the least

HappinessDemographicsThe bottom line: What can we do to raise all of these numbers?

Happiness Is Key Ingredient To Productivity

I want to leave you with a happy thought for the weekend. As you can see in the chart below, happy people tend to be more productive in work.

My take: First of all, it’s important to have happy employees. So make sure that you are screening out unhappy people during the recruiting and hiring process. Also, design your company environment and operations to encourage employees to be happy. It might make sense for the executive team to discuss employee happiness on a regular basis.

Psychologist Shawn Achor, in his TED Talk: The Happy Secret to Better Work, describes that happiness is what leads to success at work, although we often think about it working in the other direction. So it might make sense to follow his advice for creating your own personal happiness:

  • For 21 days, write down thee things you are grateful for
  • Journaling one positive experience per day
  • Exercise
  • Meditation
  • Random acts of kindness, write one positive email praising or thanking somebody in their social support network.

The bottom line: I hope that you have a happy weekend, you deserve it!

Working Men and Women Are Happier

Are working women and men happier than their peers? Yes. But there are significant differences across ages and genders.

To examine this question, we created a measurement called the Employment Happiness Gap (EHG), which compares the percentage of people employed who say they are typically happy with the percentage of people unemployed who are typically happy. I then examined the EHG across age groups and genders.

It turns out that males and females have substantially different EHG profiles. As you can see in the graphic below:

  • Consumers of every age and gender are happier when they are employed.
  • The largest EHG is 21 percentage points for males between 25 and 34. As males get older, the gap gets smaller and pretty much disappears once they reach 65.
  • The largest EHG for females is 16 points, and it occurs in two age groups, when they first enter the job market between 18 and 24 and then later in life when they get to be about 50. The EHG virtually disappears over the next 10 years.

HappyGenderAgeEmploymentThe bottom line: Consumers are happier when they are employed.

CX Tip #16: Analyze Promoters and Detractors Separately


CX Tip #16: Analyze Promoters and Detractors Separately
(Customer Connectedness)

Companies often focus their efforts obsessing about why customers are unhappy. While this is great for eliminating detractors, it may not actually increase customer loyalty. Why? Because loyalty is not the opposite of dissatisfaction. In addition to analyzing unhappiness, you should also analyze what makes customers really happy and loyal, which is often more than just eliminating problems. A focus on loyalty will also create a more positive vibe inside of an organization, since it’s a good counter-balance with the overwhelming negative feelings that can be associated with discussions about problems.

See full list of CX Tips

Resources for Employee Engagement

An engaged workforce is a valuable asset, which is why employee engagement is one of Temkin Group’s four customer experience core competencies. It’s also the starting point for a wonderfully virtuous cycle.


Given it’s importance to organizations, I’ve assembled some research and blog posts on the topic:

Employee Engagement Reports:

Employee Engagement Blog Posts:

View all of our employee engagement content

Employee Engagement Assessment:

EEAssessmentDownload our free Employee Engagement Assessment. It’s a great tool to identify the maturity level of your employee engagement efforts and identify strengths and weaknesses of the program across our 5 I’s of Employee Engagement. If you want to compare your results against the employee engagement efforts at 198 large organizations, then download the Temkin Group report State of Employee Engagement Activities, 2013 that includes detailed benchmarking data.


Additional content that you may find valuable:

Sign up for our monthly CX Matters Journal

Temkin Group helps organizations across a spectrum of customer experience activities, including engaging your entire workforce. You can learn more about our services on the Temkin Group website.

50 CX Tips: Simple Ideas, Powerful Results


***See free eBook and infographic with the 50 CX Tips***

As part of Temkin Group’s celebration of Customer Experience Day on October 1st, I am publishing 50 CX Tips, starting 50 days before this exciting “CX holiday” that celebrates great customer experience and the professionals who make it happen. Here’s the (evolving) list of CX tips aligned with the four customer experience core competencies: Purposeful Leadership, Compelling Brand Values, Employee Engagement, and Customer Connectedness. CX Tip #1: Help Customers Achieve Their Goals (Customer Connectedness)

Don’t push your products and agendas on customers. Instead, find out what they want and create experiences that fit your company into their journey. Wayne Peacock, Executive Vice President of Member Experience at USAA has said:

“We want to create experiences around what members are trying to accomplish, not just our products. If a member is buying a car, then we would historically see that as a change in auto insurance. We are changing that to an auto event – to help the member find the right car, buy it at a discount, get a loan, insurance, etc. and do that in any channel and across channels. There’s enormous value for members and for USAA if we can facilitate that entire experience.” Click for more info

CX Tip #2: Make Employee Engagement a Key Metric (Employee Engagement)

Since 2007, Bombardier Aerospace’s annual employee engagement and enablement survey has given all employees a voice within the organization. In 2012, 93% of employees completed the survey. Managers are evaluated based on the engagement levels of their employees. To create an environment that ensures performance, every leader has an annual target for employee engagement. Click for more info

CX Tip #3: Regularly Refresh Your Brand Promises (Compelling Brand Values)

Starbucks CEO Howard Shultz once said “Customers must recognize that you stand for something.” While most organizations start with a clear brand promise, the focus on short term goals can easily push them away from delivering on it. Decisions across an organization may seem reasonable in their immediate context, but they can collectively push a company off its course.

Once the brand promise is lost, organizations will often spiral out of control without the brand as their True North guiding the way. That’s what happened to Starbucks in 2007. Shultz returned to the company in early 2008 to help restore the brand promise. His assessment of the situation: “We lost our way.” The company closed more than 7,000 stores on one day for a three-hour session to re-instill the brand promise with employees.

Rather than waiting for the painful recognition that your organization has lost its way, examine your brand promise at least every two years. Even if nothing changes, the process of reaffirming your brand can be powerful. Make sure that your brand promises are recognizable, believable, compelling, and well understood by both customers and employees.

CX Tip #4: Make Every Ending Count (Customer Connectedness)

People make decisions based on how they remember experiences, not on how they actually experience them. This distinction is important because people don’t remember experiences the way they actually occur. Memories are constructed as stories people create in their minds based on fragments of their actual experiences. Noble Prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman’s research identified something called the “peak-end rule,” which states that people’s memories tend to be heavily influenced by the most severe (good/bad) parts of an experience and the way it ends. So improving the way you end experiences will have a disproportional effect on what customers remember. Keep this in mind when you’re developing an approach for how service reps end a call, designing the confirmation page after an online application, training technicians to close out a job in the field, or developing the discharge process for a hospital.

CX Tip #5: Lead with “Why” in Communications (Purposeful Leadership, Employee Engagement)

How does Herb Kelleher, Founder of Southwest Airlines, describe the company’s secret to success?

“If you create an environment where the people truly participate, you don’t need control. They know what needs to be done and they do it. And the more that people will devote themselves to your cause on a voluntary basis, a willing basis, the fewer hierarchies and control mechanisms you need.”

To elicit this type of connection with employees, leaders must focus their communications on answering a critical question, “why?” Most corporate communications focus on “what” and “how,” telling people what needs to be done and how they should accomplish it. This command and control pattern may elicit short-term compliance, but it’s efficacy decays quickly and it loses value completely when situations change and the “how” no longer applies. Leaders need to elicit buy-in from people by starting communications with “why,” explaining the reason that something is important to the company and to the people who are being asked to do something. To fully empower people, share “why” a goal is important and “what” success looks like and leave it up to the individuals to figure out “how” to make it happen. Click for more info

CX Tip #6: Measure the Value of Key CX Metrics (Customer Connectedness)

If you know the value of improving a CX metric, then it’s easier to make the case for investments. JetBlue has previously measured that every promoter is worth $33 extra dollars ($27 from referrals and $6 from loyalty) to while a detractor is worth $104 less than average. One point change in JetBlue’s NPS is worth $5 to $8 million. Temkin Group research shows that a modest increase in the Temkin Experience Ratings can result in a gain over three years of up to $382 million for US companies and up to £263 million for UK firms, depending on the industry. It’s important for companies to develop this type of analysis for their business. Click for more info

CX Tip #7: Motivate Employees with Intrinsic Rewards (Employee Engagement)

Companies often try and force employees into doing things by slapping on metrics and measurements. While these types of extrinsic rewards can change some behaviors, they can often cause conflicts and lead to unexpected consequences. When Staples put in place a goal for $200 of add-ons per computer sold, some store employees stopped selling computers to customers who didn’t want to purchase add-ons.  Compare this outcome to inspirational coaching at Sprint, which leads to an environment where employees consistently excel and measure their performance against their best effort and compete with themselves to be their best. It turns out that people tend to be more motivated by intrinsic rewards. To build commitment from employees, stop relying so heavily on extrinsic rewards and focus on providing them with the four key intrinsic rewards: sense of meaningfulness, choice, competence, and progress. These types of rewards build an emotional, instead of a transactional, commitment from employees.

CX Tip #8: Start Your Brand Marketing Internally (Compelling Brand Values)

Brands need to be understood and “owned” by the entire organization. That’s why it’s critical for companies to invest heavily in communicating the brand value to everyone in the company. Before BMO Financial Group’s new brand went live, it launched an internal campaign, Brilliant at the Basics, which identified eight actions that every employee could demonstrate, including “Our heads are up, not down;” “Everyone pitches in…titles don’t matter;” and “Help in choosing, not choices.” Employees were given a brand book which covered the brand principles, including a breakdown of what’s different “tomorrow from today.” The launch kit for leaders and branch managers included a DVD and materials covering key messages and talking points, along with anticipated questions and answers to prepare them to lead discussions with their teams. Click for more info

CX Tip #9: Bring Customers to Life With Design Personas (Customer Connectedness)

Big Lots CEO David Campisi mentioned “Jennifer” 25 times on a single earnings call. She’s not a real customer or even a real person. Jennifer is a design persona, an archetype that is representative of a key customer segment. Here’s why Campisi believes in using a design persona:

“I am confident in developing a new mentality to focus on her and all facets of our business will pay off and begin to drive positive comps over time.”

One of our 10 CX Mistakes to Avoid is Treating All Customers the Same. Organizations need to identify key customer segments and design experiences to meet their specific needs. Design personas help an organization have a common understanding of the needs of those segments.

Click for more info

CX Tip #10: Tap Into Customer Insights from Unstructured Data (Customer Connectedness)

As more companies thirst for customer feedback, the number of surveys has escalated. But there is a limit to customers’ willingness to complete surveys. As completion rates get more difficult to maintain, companies will become more efficient with the questions they ask, target questions at specific customers in specific situations, and stop relying as much on multiple-choice questions. Tidbit: When we asked large companies with VoC programs about the changing importance of eight listening posts, multiple choice survey questions were at the bottom of the list. Companies must learn to integrate their customer feedback with other customer data and tap into rich sources of customer insights in unstructured data such as open-ended comments, call center conversations, emails from customers, and social media. This new, deeper foundation of customer intelligence will require strengthening capabilities in text and predictive analytics. Click for more info

CX Tip #11: Predict and Preempt Obstacles to Customer Value (Customer Connectedness)

Thanks in part to sophisticated adoption measurement capabilities that allow Salesforce.com to monitor how customers are (or are not) using the product and individual features, account teams now have access to reporting and predictive analytics alerting them to which clients are on plan and which are struggling. The analysis provides a view into how the customer is doing relative to their individual deployment goals, industry peers, and ideal deployment paths based on Salesforce.com’s experience. Included with the analysis are suggested interventions for the account team to pursue with the client based on the current state. On a monthly basis, the company reviews at-risk customers to address anything that might contribute to attrition. Click for more info

CX Tip #12: Map Your Customer’s Journey (Customer Connectedness)

BMO Financial’s approach to customer journey mapping includes both the customer view and the internal view. This ensures not only that customers’ reactions are represented for each touchpoint, but that the impact of internal policies, training, and measures and targets for each interaction are also factored in. Internal stakeholder interviews and employee focus groups provide the view of “what we think happens” and external research identifies customers’ needs and wants as part of mapping the ideal experience. A gap analysis is used to gain agreement on the opportunities, which are then incorporated into customer experience action plans. Check out Temkin Group’s Seven Steps for Developing Customer Journey Maps

CX Tip #13: Cultivate Experience Design Skills (Customer Connectedness)

Through its Design Matters initiative, Citrix helps its employees rethink core business processes with a focus on customer needs. They learn to collaborate on ideas to meet those needs, prototype and test with customers, and integrate feedback to deliver solutions such as an online customer “onboarding” experience to help new customers get up and running with their flagship product. A network of employee Design Catalysts, who are specially trained to help colleagues use design thinking on a daily basis, supports this work. Click for more info

CX Tip #14: Continuously Test Your Value Proposition (Purposeful Leadership)

Samuel Palmisano revitalized IBM during his decade as CEO of the IT behemoth. He led the company using a framework based on four questions that he used to focus thinking and prod the company beyond its comfort zone:

  1. Why would someone spend their money with you — so what is unique about you?
  2. Why would somebody work for you?
  3. Why would society allow you to operate in their defined geography — their country?
  4. And why would somebody invest their money with you?

Click for more info

CX Tip #15: Close the Loop Immediately with Detractors (Customer Connectedness)

VMware has a dedicated Customer Advocacy Team, which is tasked to contact severe detractors within 48 hours of a survey response. This team pulls appropriate members of the account and support teams into the resolution process. The Customer Advocacy Team retains responsibility for ongoing customer communication, monitoring internal progress, and following up with the customer upon conclusion. Click for more info

CX Tip #16: Analyze Promoters and Detractors Separately (Customer Connectedness)

Companies often focus their efforts obsessing about why customers are unhappy. While this is great for eliminating detractors, it may not actually increase customer loyalty. Why? Because loyalty is not the opposite of dissatisfaction. In addition to analyzing unhappiness, you should also analyze what makes customers really happy and loyal, which is often more than just eliminating problems. A focus on loyalty will also create a more positive vibe inside of an organization, since it’s a good counter-balance with the overwhelming negative feelings that can be associated with discussions about problems.

CX Tip #17: Discuss Feedback with B2B Clients (Customer Connectedness)

A unique element to SanDisk’s VoC program is its external roadshow to meet with customers about their survey results. Following internal review and reporting, account managers work with the CX governance board to identify a subset of customers to meet with face to face. Approximately 70% of the information reviewed with the customer is drawn from their specific survey responses, and account managers also review trends and insights from across all customer feedback and the actions being taken by SanDisk to address them. Click for more info

CX Tip #18: Remove Jargon from Customer Communications (Purposeful Leadership)

Standing out from the BCBS of Michigan’s accomplishments is its Clear and Simple effort to help the business become easier to understand and do business with. BCBS of Michigan’s Customer Commitment guides the way the organization serves its members. It focuses the company on being easier to understand and do business with in everything from language to business practices. The related Clear and Simple effort generated over 50 requests from across the business to help different areas become more clear and simple, and involved 375 employees in those improvement projects. Click for more info

CX Tip #19: Use Ambassadors to Build Links Across Organization (Employee Engagement)

Fidelity’s Voice of the Customer Ambassadors program is the cornerstone of Fidelity’s efforts to engage customer-facing associates across the organization around their customer experience vision. Ambassadors are associates from across Fidelity’s functions who apply to become part of a network of customer experience evangelists who (1) identify opportunities for improvement by amplifying the voice of the customer/associate; (2) inform new product and service development; and (3) inspire their peers with local dialogue and other activities. Ambassadors are supported by extensive executive sponsorship across multiple levels of management and are asked to dedicate 10% of their time influencing Fidelity’s shared customer experience vision. Click for more info

CX Tip #20: Use Founders to Instill Values with New Employees (Purposeful Leadership, Employee Engagement)

The first day at work for new ZocDoc employees includes lunch with the company founders. During the course of the meal, employees hear about the early days of the company, what the executives are focused on now, and what they love about the organization. Employees hear about the 7 Core Values and see them in action. In particular, this lunch reinforces the “Speak Up” core value which is about leadership accessibility and that everyone in the company has a voice – that their questions and opinions matter.

CX Tip #21: Set Service Targets Based on Customer Expectations (Customer Connectedness)

Recognizing that it needed to establish targets for execution based on customer expectations, and not just on its operational ability to execute, EMC added customer experience focus questions around the customer’s expectations during a service event. For example, a question was added that asks the customer what timeframe between updates they would find acceptable. EMC uses a Van Westendorp Methodology to analyze the customer’s responses that helped determine the optimum timeframe for progress updates as it relates to the customers expectation. Knowing what the customer expected allowed EMC to add or improve processes and set customer quality targets within the support organization to better meet or beat the customer’s expectation. Click for more info

CX Tip #22: Actively Solicit Insights from Employees (Employee Engagement, Customer Connectedness)

Adobe’s Intranet includes an online suggestion tool called “Tell Adobe.” Through this simple mechanism, employees can submit suggestions for improving the company, covering everything from current products and services to the processes used to engage and help customers. All submissions are reviewed by a member of the People Resources team, who then brings in internal subject matter experts or functional teams to evaluate the submitter’s suggestions, work with him or her to understand the idea better, and then decide if and how to proceed or pursue further. The process closes the loop with the employee so that he or she has visibility to the outcomes resulting from the initial submission. Click for more info

CX Tip #23: Share Customer Verbatims Internally (Customer Connectedness)

Troy Stevenson, Vice President, Client Loyalty & Consumer Insight at Charles Schwab stressed the value of listening to client verbatims, saying that “There’s no substitute for employees reading through unadulterated client comments. They explain what needs to change and how they need to change.” Stevenson’s team analyzes cross-organization topics (like affluent consumers), but a critical goal is to put the information in the hands of the people that understand different parts of the business. Stevenson’s team organizes verbatims by themes and topics and then puts them in the hands of the appropriate people across the company. He estimates that thousands of people read the verbatims including every branch and call center team. Click for more info

CX Tip #24: Define Competencies for Living the Brand (Compelling Brand Values)

Microsoft defined six values to support its corporate mission: To enable people and businesses throughout the world to realize their full potential Of the values created towards this mission, a Passion for Customers, Partners, and Technology. To foster its values, Microsoft has developed a set of key competencies (core, leadership & profession specific) that every employee is measured against in terms of their proficiency in demonstrated behaviors. The competencies help to plan careers, build necessary capabilities for success in a role, and inform performance reviews. “Customer Focus” is core competency for all employees, measured on a 5 point proficiency scale. Click for more info

CX Tip #25: Use Online Advisory Boards of B2B Clients (Customer Connectedness)

Technology solutions provider CDW has engaged clients through a private online community for over seven years. Using open-ended questions or short surveys, the company can gather a significant amount of feedback on a variety of topics including new product offerings, marketing messages, and customer technology usage—in less than a week. Members also have the ability to pose questions to each other. For example, a member recently received numerous responses to his inquiry on other members’ Bring Your Own Device policies. Click for more info

CX Tip #26: Train Employees for Key Moments (Customer Connectedness, Employee Engagement)

This is from a New York Times article about Apple:

Training commences with what is known as a “warm welcome.” As new employees enter the room, Apple managers and trainers give them a standing ovation. The clapping often bewilders the trainees, at least at first, but when the applause goes on for several lengthy minutes they eventually join in. There is more role-playing at Core training, as it’s known, this time with pointers on the elaborate etiquette of interacting with customers. One rule: ask for permission before touching anyone’s iPhone. “And we told trainees that the first thing they needed to do was acknowledge the problem, though don’t promise you can fix the problem,” said Shane Garcia, the one-time Chicago manager. “If you can, let them know that you have felt some of the emotions they are feeling. But you have to be careful because you don’t want to lie about that.” 

CX Tip #27: Continuously Re-Recruit Your Team (Purposeful Leadership)

Linda Heasley, CEO of Lane Bryant and former president and CEO of The Limited has said:

I believe that my associates can work anywhere they want, and my job is to re-recruit them every day and give them a reason to choose to work for us and for me as opposed to anybody else.”

Click for more info

CX Tip #28: Share Comparative CX Metrics Across Locations (Customer Connectedness, Employee engagement)

Each of Sam’s Club’s 600+ stores gets a monthly score they call the “Member Experience Track” (MET) which covers three areas: In-club operations, Merchandising, and Membership. Underneath those three areas are more than 150 individual attributes that the company tracks. Each store has an overall rating of red (bad), yellow (“okay”), or green (“good”) based on surveys completed by members. At monthly meetings, the executive team reviews a dashboard that highlights the number of stores in each category (red, yellow, green), looks at key issues driving problems across stores, and also looks at the top 20 and bottom 20 stores. This is a powerful tool for motivating store managers, as Bala Subramanian, VP of Global Customer Insights points out: “You don’t want to be called out on the bottom as a member of the ‘Red Club.’” Click for more info

CX Tip #29: Innovate Around Customer Lifecycle Events (Customer Connectedness)

Sovereign Assurance NZ’s research showed that many new parents don’t have the time to review their life insurance, but after having a new baby, it’s more important than ever to have some life insurance. The company developed a program “Choose Precious” that offers new parents $10,000 free life insurance up until their baby’s first birthday. New parents just need to register at chooseprecious.co.nz before their baby is six‐months old. The company also rolled out its ‘Breathing Space’ offering. Recognizing that buying a home is a big deal and it’s difficult to get the attention of home buyers, can be difficult to attract, the company offered home buyers $25,000 free life cover for 90 days to provide interim protection until they have the time to consider their longer term protection needs. Click for more info

CX Tip #30: Encourage Employees to Thank Customers (Employee Engagement, Customer Connectedness)

Sprint’s Thank You Thursdays helps keep customers top of mind. Employees at offices, call centers, and retail stores enjoy getting together monthly to collectively write personal thank you notes to customers. Supplies and sample notes are provided, but employees are free to express thanks in their own words. Even the CEO participates in this activity. Sprint sent more than 700,000 thank you notes in 2012. Click for more info

CX Tip #31: Develop Simple Service Standards (Customer Connectedness, Employee Engagement)

NBA’s Oklahoma Thunder has identified five CLICK!™ With Your Guests non-negotiable service principles:

  • C – COMMUNICATE COURTEOUSLY (practice the golden rule)
  • L – LISTEN TO LEARN (rather than listen to respond)
  • I – INITIATE IMMEDIATELY (being proactive)
  • C – CREATE CONNECTIONS (everyone is a VIP)
  • K – KNOW YOUR STUFF (knowledge is power)

All front‐line team members, from parking to concessions, participate in the required CLICK! With Your Guests on-boarding program, which provides training and tools to create memorable experiences. Click for more info

CX Tip #32: Create a Mission that Inspires Employees (Purposeful Leadership, Employee Engagement)

Temkin Group research shows that employees who are inspired by their employer’s mission are significantly more committed and productive. Here are some examples of inspiring missions:

“To inspire hope and contribute to health and well-being by providing the best care to every patient through integrated clinical practice, education and research.” (Mayo Clinic) “In times of war or uncertainty there is a special breed of warrior ready to answer our Nation’s call. A common man with uncommon desire to succeed. Forged by adversity, he stands alongside America’s finest special operations forces to serve his country, the American people, and protect their way of life. I am that man.” (U.S. Navy SEALS) “The Ritz-Carlton Hotel is a place where the genuine care and comfort of our guests is our highest mission. We pledge to provide the finest personal service and facilities for our guests who will always enjoy a warm, relaxed, yet refined ambience. The Ritz-Carlton experience enlivens the senses, instills well-being, and fulfills even the unexpressed wishes and needs of our guests.” (Ritz-Carlton’s Credo)

Here are five questions to examine your organization’s mission: Is it written? Is it real? Is it simple? Does it connect with employees? Will it create value?  Click for more info

CX Tip #33: Adopt Coach K’s Five Fundamentals of Team Building (Purposeful Leadership, Employee Engagement)

Michael William “Mike” Krzyzewski known as “Coach K” owns the record for the most wins by an NCAA division 1 basketball coach. Coach K’s style is to empower, challenge, and inspire his players. He recognizes that wins are the byproduct of a team performing at its best. To understand his leadership style, here’s an overview of his philosophy on teams:

There are five fundamental qualities that make every team great: communication, trust, collective responsibility, caring and pride. I like to think of each as a separate finger on the fist. Any one individually is important. But all of them together are unbeatable.”

Click for more info

CX Tip #34: Create Paths for Grassroots Communications (Purposeful Leadership, Compelling Brand Values, Employee Engagement)

Started in the early 1990s, PRIDE Teams—made up of a network of 700+ employees—are one of USAA’s ongoing listening efforts. Each of the 70+ teams is led by a director or executive director who facilitates grass roots communications across the organization. PRIDE Team members have their day jobs, but spend up to ten percent of their time on two-way communications between the team and their workplace colleagues. They reinforce key messages from senior leadership and connect with their peers, bringing key insights from their colleagues to USAA leaders. Click for more info

CX Tip #35: Make Your Brand Values Explicit (Compelling Brand Values)

Based on customer research, Safelite AutoGlass has identified five brand values—Trustworthy, Reliable, Safe, Innovative, Helpful/approachable. These have been translated into how customers are treated in a variety of ways, including how phones are answered by contact center associates to the “5 Ts” that their field technicians use to highlight their helpfulness and approachability:  1) Time: Call customers in advance to notify them of arrival time. 2) Touch: Shake hands, make eye contact and engage the customer. 3) Technical excellence: Doing it right the first time, every time. 4) Talk: Tell the customer what we’re going to do and do it. 5) Thanks: Show appreciation for choosing Safelite. Click for more info

CX Tip #36: Maintain List of Top 10 Customer Issues (Customer Connectedness)

Oracle drives consistent customer experience activities across all regions and lines of business through a structured framework and standardized approach to monitoring the customer experience: Listen, Respond, Collaborate for Customer Success. The portfolio of feedback tools includes transactional and product surveys, relationship surveys, customer advisory boards, user experience labs, and independent user groups. Feedback from across these sources is integrated and analyzed to identify the 10 customer feedback themes that have the greatest impact on customer experience and business results, and programs are established to improve each. Click for more info

CX Tip #37: Test for Cultural Fit Before You Hire (Employee Engagement)

To test how well prospective employees will fit with its company culture, Disney Store’s interview is actually a “casting call” and includes role playing in-store scenarios to demonstrate potential guest interactions and reading a portion of a Disney story, which is part of the job description.

CX Tip #38: Discuss CX Metrics and Initiatives at Company Meetings (Purposeful Leadership)

To keep employees aligned, leaders discuss customer experience in every quarterly employee meeting. Citrix executives share initiatives and progress against goals for key customer metrics. Through reporting and dashboards, customer metrics such as NPS and customer retention are shared broadly throughout the business. In addition, the company shares deep-dive analysis of drivers and opportunities for improvement.

CX Tip #39: Use Workshops to Review Customer Feedback and Develop Local Action Plans (Customer Connectedness, Employee Engagement)

SimplexGrinnell (a Tyco Company) has what it calls NICE workshops, interactive sessions where local offices review customer verbatims and develop action plans.  These are highly focused 5-hour interactive on-site session for key district personnel (managers, admin, and front-line) to develop an action plan for improving their customer experience with district service delivery. In small teams, workshop attendees are exposed to their district CSAT metrics and customer verbatim comments drawn from 80 to 100 of their customers that were surveyed over the past 12 months. Using that customer feedback, they identify and agree upon their most prevalent service delivery challenges. They brainstorm new and best service practices to implement within the next 30 days that will begin to make an impact on customer satisfaction within the next 90 days. Click for more info

CX Tip #40: Measure Yourself Against Your Brand Promises (Compelling Brand Values)

Intersil, a semiconductor manufacturer, regularly surveys customers to measure its performance in meeting the company’s brand promise to be “Simply Smarter.” The organization has a formal process for reviewing the results and taking action if it finds that the company is not living up to its brand promise. In one survey, Intersil foiund that cusotmers were having a hard time finding information on its website. The company identified this as a breaking of the promise to be “Simply Smarter” so it invested in updating the usability of its online experience. Click for more info

CX Tip #41: Create Peer-to-Peer Executive Relationships with B2B Clients (Purposeful Leadership, Customer Connectedness)

Stream Global Service’s Executive Sponsorship Program charges Stream’s senior leaders with establishing peer-to-peer relationships with senior executives from one to three of its largest clients. The goals of this program are to extend the relationship beyond the sales team, to better understand the customer’s business direction and goals, and to ensure the customer is receiving the value it expects from Stream. On a quarterly basis, the two leaders meet with each other and discuss the customer’s big initiatives, functional area goals, and how Stream can support their efforts. Feedback from these meetings is integrated with other VoC captured from that customer relationship. Click for more info

CX Tip #42: Make it Easy for Employees to Be Brand Advocates (Customer Connectedness, Employee Engagement)

Microsoft’s Quick Assistance program is used when employees encounter consumers in social situations (e.g., meeting someone on a flight). The program positions employees as ambassadors and allows them to provide no-charge technical support incident vouchers to customers. Employees are able to request and deliver vouchers directly from their mobile phone.

CX Tip #43: Randomly Call Out to B2B Clients (Customer Connectedness)

The law firm Becker and Poliakoff staffs a dedicated client care department and uses those same specially trained employees to proactively contact 2,500 randomly selected clients each year. This continuous feedback process gathers input on the attorney and other service providers involved with the account, along with an open dialogue on how the firm’s professionals are serving them and what the firm could be doing better. Surveys are timed to occur in advance of annual client renewal periods and feedback is provided to both the client relationship manager and practice group leader. These outbound calls have also resulted in the client care team more proactively addressing both minor and major issues. Click for more info

CX Tip #44: Create a Help Line for Employees (Employee Engagement)

All Hilton Garden Inn employees – from management to the front line – have access to a dedicated Advice Line. This provide employees a toll-free number or monitored email address through which they can get an answer to any question that’s taken them more than five minutes to find the answer to. It’s intended to make it easy for employees to get the knowledge or help they need quickly.

CX Tip #45: Use Blog to Connect CEO with Employees (Purposeful Leadership)

Safelite AutoGlass’s CEO, Tom Feeney, maintains his “Ask Tom” blog where any employee can ask any question with no fear of retribution. Mr. Feeney researches the answers and provides a personal response.

CX Tip #46: Translate Your Brand Into Employee Behaviors (Compelling Brand Values)

Companies need to make their brands more concrete and get the organization to interpret it into specific requirements. JetBlue, translated its “Jetitude” marketing campaign into five specific behaviors for its front line employees: 1) Be in Blue always, 2) Be personal, 3) Be the answer, 4) Be engaging, 5) Be thankful to every customer. Click more info

CX Tip #47: Use Job Shadowing to Improve Cross-Channel Cooperation (Employee Engagement)

Sprint uses a cross-channel program to create more engagement between call center and retail store employees. Each group visits the others’ locations for job shadowing in order to gain a greater appreciation of the customer experience and operations in each other’s settings and identify lessons to bring back to their own workplace. Click for more info

CX Tip #48: Empower Employees to Create Memorable Moments (Employee Engagement)

Hampton has trained its team members on a set of Moment Makers rather than checklists and scripts to handle a variety of situations. Moment Makers are designed so that team members can choose approaches based on their personality, comfort level, and individual style to match the cues from guests. These approaches include being anticipatory, using empathy, using humor, providing unexpected delight, and giving a compliment. Moment Makers are taught from a team member’s first days on the job when he or she learns the brand story and continue to be reinforced on an ongoing basis through learning maps and e-learning modules. Click for more info

CX Tip #49: Obsess About Customers, Not Competitors (Purposeful Leadership)

Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos has said: “Our energy at Amazon comes from the desire to impress customers rather than the zeal to best competitors… One advantage – perhaps a somewhat subtle one – of a customer-driven focus is that it aids a certain type of proactivity. When we’re at our best, we don’t wait for external pressures. We are internally driven to improve our services, adding benefits and features, before we have to.”

CX Tip #50: Don’t Overlook Low-Tech Opportunities for Customer Research (Customer Connectedness)

When using Intuit’s IVR (the menu of options customers hear when they call), customers were getting incorrectly routed 40% of the time. Since it took 10 days to reprogram the IVR, they couldn’t try a lot of things in the normal way. So one engineer said let’s do this the old fashioned way; and they did. People answered the phone and spoke the menus. By trial and error, they found a menu structure that worked before reprograming the IVR. Click for more info

Stay tuned for additional CX Tips…

Female Sports Enthusiasts are the Happiest

In recent posts I explored the demographics of sports enthusiasts and the demographics of happiness. So why not  look at those two topics together? I dug into our U.S. consumer benchmark and examined the happiness of males and females who enjoy watching sports. As we know from the previous analysis, females are happier than males. But this analysis also shows that:

  • Females who enjoy golf are the happiest consumers.
  • The happiest males are those who enjoy golf, soccer, or tennis.
  • Consumers who enjoy sports are much happier than those who don’t.
  • The largest female-male happiness gap occurs with consumers who don’t enjoy sports. When it comes to sports enthusiasts, the largest gap is with golf, basketball, and football.

SportsHappinessGenderThe bottom line: Sports enthusiasts are happier people

Interesting CX Data Tidbits From 2012

CXDataBits100hAs you’ve probably noticed, our research is full of rich data from companies and consumers. So I looked through my posts from this year and extracted a number of datapoints that you might find interesting…

Value/ROI of Customer Experience:

Consumers are almost 7x more likely to follow advice from a health plan after having satisfactory interactions.
Compared with NPS detractors, promoters are more than 2x as likely to recommend retailers airlines, more than 3x as likely to recommend insurers and health pans, and 4x as likely to recommend banks
Consumers that are satisfied with customer service interactions are more than 4x as likely to repurchase than those who are dissatisfied.
The correlation between CX and NPS for tech vendors is 0.77, which is higher than the correlation between product satisfaction and NPS.
A modest increase in customer experience can result in a gain over three years of up to $382 million for US companies and up to £263 million for UK firms.
When companies responded very poorly after a bad experience, 47% of consumers stopped spending completely with the company. When they had a very good response, only 6% stopped spending and 37% increased their spending.

Elements of CX Leadership:

Companies with strong CX metrics programs are 5x as likely to be CX leaders compared with those who have weaker CX metrics programs
Customer-centric culture is a key goal for 77% of CX leaders and only 34% of other firms
46% of VoC programs are in the two earliest stages of VoC maturity
HR professionals are more than 2.5x as likely as CX pros to say that HR provides considerable help for CX efforts.
75% of HR professionals view employee engagement as very important and 61% believe they are doing a good job in this area.
72% of companies think predictive analytics and open-ended verbatims will become more important sources of customer insight, compared with only 30% who view that way about multiple choice survey questions.
Only 28% pf VoC programs have reached the top two stages of VoC maturity.
Making the company’s culture more customer-centric is more than 2x as important for CX leaders than for CX laggards.
35% of large companies are in the lowest stage of CX maturity.
74% of companies think that customer experience design is important, but only 35% believe that they are good at it.
CX leaders have more than a 16 percentage point advantage over CX laggards in consumers’ willingness to buy more, their reluctance to switch business away, and their likelihood to recommend.
The companies that are good or excellent at customer experience has increased from 16% in 2011 to 19% in 2012.
46% of companies plan to increase spending on CX in 2012 compared with only 8% that expect to decrease spending, and text analytics is the area with the most spending momentum
40% of U.S. employees at companies with 1,000+ employees are moderately or highly engaged compared with 59% at companies with 10 or fewer employees.
Highly engaged employees are 5.8x more committed to helping their companies succeed and 4.7x more likely to recommend that someone apply for a job at their company.
Companies with good customer experience have 2.5x more engaged employees than companies with poor customer experience.

The CX Profession:

28% of large companies have 20+ employees focused on CX
There are 87,000 CX professionals in the U.S. and almost 14,000 in Canada.
99% of CX professionals think that customer experience is a great profession to be in and 89% are satisfied with their current position, but only 63% are happy with their opportunities for advancement

Social Media Adoption:

Consumers are more than 50% more likely to use social media like Facebook and Twitter when purchasing cell phones than they are for selecting health plans
A quarter of consumers read or update Facebook several times per day and more than half of consumers younger than 45 use Facebook daily.
77% of U.S. consumers use Facebook daily, 13% use Twitter daily, and 5% use LinkedIn daily.
Consumers who earn $100K or more are 2.5X as likely to tweet about a bad experience, compared with those who earn less than $50K.

General Consumer Behavior:

52% of U.S. consumers prefer good service over low prices for banks and computers, but only 25% prefer good service for rental cars and groceries.
Healthy people are more than twice as likely to be happy than unhealthy people.
89% of healthy people are happy, Happy people but only 41% of unhealthy people
Apple Mac users are wealthier, younger, and enjoy watching soccer more than Dell and HP users
Happy people are 50% more likely than unhappy people to do something that’s good for their company, but unexpected of them
31% of U.S. consumers use mobile apps daily.
U.S. consumers go on the Internet 5.9 hours per day and watch TV 3.9 hours per day.
African-Americans are the most avid fans of football (67%), Hispanics are the most avid fans of baseball (38%), Caucasians are the most avid fans of NASCAR (20%), and Asians are the most avid fans of golf (18%).
Web self service is the preferred channel for checking a balance (60%) and updating an address (51%), while talking on the phone is the favorite for investigating a mistaken bill (58%) and resolving a technical issue (46%).

The bottom line: The numbers show a lot of CX work ahead of us

Healthy + Wealthy = Happy

In my final (at least for now) post about happiness, I am examining the link between healthiness, financial security and happiness. We asked 10,000 U.S. consumers if they agreed with these statements:

  • I am typically happy
  • I am financially secure
  • I am healthy

I then examined which groups of consumers are the happiest.

Here’s what we found:

  • Financially secure people are the happiest (92% are happy)
  • Healthiness has a larger impact on happiness than financial security; happy people are more than twice as likely as unhealthy people to be happy .
  • People that are neutral on financial security and healthiness are only a little happier than unhealthy and financially insecure people.

The bottom line: I hope that you are healthy and financial secure!

Hilton, Westin, and Lexus Have the Happiest Customers

In my previous two posts, I examined the link between happiness and loyalty and exposed happiness levels by consumer segments. Now I want to look at which companies have the most (and least) happy people as customers. We did not ask if the people were happy with the company, just if they were happy in general. The companies probably have little influence on the overall happiness of their customers, but there is still a gap across companies.

I examined 249 companies that had at least 100 consumer responses and identified the average “net happiness” ratings for their customers. The “net happiness” is the percentage of people who agree that they are typically happy minus the percentage that disagee with that assessment. The overall “net happiness” for the U.S. is 66% (74% are happy and 8% are unhappy).

Here’s what we found:

  • Hilton, Westin, Lexus, Alamo, Hertz, and Courtyard By Marriott have the happiest customers
  • Medicaid, TracFone, Virgin Mobile, 21st Century and EarthLink have the least happy customers
  • The “net happiness” scores range from 56% to 82%

My take: Since our previous analysis shows that wealthier people are more happy, we’d expect companies that serve wealthier consumers to have higher happiness ratings. So it’s no surprise that there are a number of upscale brands at the top and Medicaid at the bottom. But what does this mean for a company?

Since happy people are more loyal, the companies that attract happier customers will have a disproportionate advantage in building loyalty. Also, I would imagine that it will tend to be more pleasant to work as a front-line employee at companies that serve happier customers.

The bottom line: I’d rather work in the front-lines for Hilton and Westin than for Medicaid

Women And Wealthy Are Happiest

In the previous post, I showed the link between happiness and loyalty. Now it’s time to look at which consumers are the happiest. So let’s start by examining happiness across the entire U.S. population, where we find that 74% of people are typically happy.

But the level of happiness is quite different across consumer groups. To begin with, I examined the differences across age and gender. The data shows that women are happier than men in every age group except for the oldest Americans and that people 65 and older are the happiest.

Do you know the old saying that money can’t buy happiness? Well, it might be wrong. We examined the level of happiness based on age and income levels. It turns out that consumers with higher incomes are happier across all age groups. The largest income-happiness gap is with 55 to 64 year-olds. The oldest and youngest consumers have the smallest gap.

In my next post, I’ll examine which companies have the most (and least) happy people as customers.

The bottom line: Women, wealthy, and elderly are happiest people.

Happy People Are More Loyal Customers

I’ve been following the research on happiness for several years, because I think it has a strong link to customer experience. The theory is that happy people tend to be more loyal customers and more engaged employees.

So I took a look at our consumer data to see if there’s a quantifiable link to loyalty (look for the same type of analysis around employee engagement later this year). My analysis looked at the likelihood of consumers to recommend companies across 18 industries based on whether or not they agreed with the statement “I am typically happy.” Please note that we were not asking consumers if they were happy or unhappy with a company.

It turns out that happy people are more likely to recommend companies across all 18 industries. The largest gap between happy and unhappy recommenders is in rental cars, where happy people are more than twice as likely to recommend. Even the smallest gap, 11 percentage points for retailers and parcel delivery services, is still substantial.

In my next post, I’ll examine which consumers are happy.

The bottom line: Happy people are more loyal customers

Examining Apple Stores And Employee Engagement

In our Employee Engagement Benchmark Study, we found a high correlation between good customer experience and high levels of engaged employees. But many companies don’t understand this connection, which is why we’ve identified “Ignoring Employees” as one of the 10 CX mistakes to avoid.

Apple, however, seems to be avoiding this mistake. Customers tend to love their experiences with engaged employees in Apple stores. That’s why I thoroughly enjoyed this article in the New York Times a few weeks ago: Apple’s Retail Army, Long on Loyalty but Short on Pay. It provides great insight into Apple’s retail model.

So I decided to dissect the article and reconfigure parts of it into some key lessons…

Apple stores are sales machines. There’s no questioning the success of Apple’s retail efforts.

Last year, the company’s 327 global stores took in more money per square foot than any other United States retailer — wireless or otherwise — and almost double that of Tiffany, which was No. 2 on the list, according to the research firm RetailSails. Worldwide, its stores sold $16 billion in merchandise. Divide revenue by total number of employees and you find that last year, each Apple store employee — that includes non-sales staff like technicians and people stocking shelves — brought in $473,000. Electronics and appliance stores typically post $206,000 in revenue per employee, according to the latest figures from the National Retail Federation.

The brand is built on an army of hourly workers. Apple’s brand may be drawn-up and envisioned in Cupertino, but it comes to life through 10′s of thousands of relatively low-paid 20-year-olds. This phenomena is true for many companies. (see CX Law #4: Unengaged employees don’t create engaged customers.)

About 30,000 of the 43,000 Apple employees in this country work in Apple Stores, as members of the service economy, and many of them earn about $25,000 a year.  By the standards of retailing, Apple offers above average pay — well above the minimum wage of $7.25 and better than the Gap, though slightly less than Lululemon, the yoga and athletic apparel chain, where sales staff earn about $12 an hour. The company also offers very good benefits for a retailer, including health care, 401(k)contributions and the chance to buy company stock, as well as Apple products, at a discount. But Cory Moll, a salesman in the San Francisco flagship store and a vocal labor activist, said that on Tuesday he was given a raise of $2.82 an hour, to $17.31, an increase of 19.5 percent and a big jump compared with the 49-cent raise he was given last year.

People seek out a higher purpose. Apple recruits people who love the Apple brand and provides them with a vision for their work that goes beyond selling products to “enriching people’s lives.” Companies need to identify this purpose and communicate it to employees.

But Apple’s success, it turns out, rests on a set of intangibles; foremost among them is a built-in fan base that ensures a steady supply of eager applicants and an employee culture that tries to turn every job into an exalted mission.“When you’re working for Apple you feel like you’re working for this greater good,” says a former salesman who asked for anonymity because he didn’t want to draw attention to himself. “That’s why they don’t have a revolution on their hands.”One manager said it was common for people offered jobs to burst into tears. But if the newly hired arrive as devotees, Apple’s training course, which can range from a few days to a few weeks, depending on the job and locale, turns them into disciples. The phrase that trainees hear time and again, which echoes once they arrive at the stores, is “enriching people’s lives.” The idea is to instill in employees the notion that they are doing something far grander than just selling or fixing products. If there is a secret to Apple’s sauce, this is it: the company ennobles employees.

Train for key customer moments. Apple examines the experience of customers and trains employees how to deal with these critical interactions. Companies need to understand interactions from the customer’s perspective. (see CX Law #1: Every interaction creates a personal reaction.)

Training commences with what is known as a “warm welcome.” As new employees enter the room, Apple managers and trainers give them a standing ovation. The clapping often bewilders the trainees, at least at first, but when the applause goes on for several lengthy minutes they eventually join in. There is more role-playing at Core training, as it’s known, this time with pointers on the elaborate etiquette of interacting with customers. One rule: ask for permission before touching anyone’s iPhone. “And we told trainees that the first thing they needed to do was acknowledge the problem, though don’t promise you can fix the problem,” said Shane Garcia, the one-time Chicago manager. “If you can, let them know that you have felt some of the emotions they are feeling. But you have to be careful because you don’t want to lie about that.”

Apple established an environment for good customer experience. You can’t just push people to deliver good customer experience, you need to  create an environment that encourages them to do so; people typically conform to their environment.  (see CX Law #5: Employees do what is measured, incented, and celebrated.)

At Apple, the decision not to offer commissions was made, Ms. Bruno said, before a store had opened. The idea was that such incentives would work against the company’s primary goals — finding customers the right products, rather than the most expensive ones, and establishing long-term rapport with the brand. Commissions, it was also thought, would foster employee competition, which would undermine camaraderie.

Sales and productivity goals are creeping in. Over time, every system tends to sway away from its initial design. While this may be appropriate, it often leads to competing metrics or to environments that encourage behavior that is inconsistent with the original brand goals.

He had already begun to sour on the job when in 2007, he said, his store began an attendance system whereby employees accumulated a point for every day they did not come to work; anyone with four points in a 90-day period was at risk of termination. “It was a perfectly good idea, but the thing that was terrible is that it didn’t matter why you couldn’t come to work,” Mr. Zarate said. “Even if you had a doctor document some medical condition, if you didn’t come to work, you got a point.”

To meet the growing demand for the technicians, several former employees said their stores imposed new rules limiting on-the-spot repairs to 15 minutes for a computer-related problem, and 10 minutes for Apple’s assortment of devices. If a solution took longer to find, which it frequently did, a pileup ensued and a scrum of customers would hover. It wasn’t unusual for a genius to help three customers at once. Because of the constant backlog, technicians often worked nonstop through their shift, instead of taking two allotted 15-minute breaks. In 2009, Matthew Bainer, a lawyer, filed a class action alleging that Apple was breaking California labor laws. Sales employees, Mr. Garcia and others noted, deal with stresses all their own. Though commissions are not offered, many managers keep close tabs on sales of warranties, known as Apple Care, and One to One, which is personal tutoring for a fee. Employees often had goals for “attachments” as these add-ons are called — 40 percent of certain products should include One to One, and 65 percent should include Apple Care.

Employee engagement requires an ongoing focus. Even companies that have string levels of employee engagement, like Apple, can’t rest on their laurels. It’s critical to track employee engagement and to respond immediately whenever it starts to deteriorate.

Like many who spoke for this article, Shane Garcia, the former Chicago manager, talked about Apple with a bittersweet mix of admiration and sadness. When he joined the company in 2007, he considered it a place, as he said, that “wanted you to be the best you could be in life, not just in sales.” Three years later, his work life seemed tense and thankless. He had little expectation that upper management would praise or even notice his efforts. In recent years, the level of unhappiness at some stores was captured by an employee satisfaction survey known in the company as NetPromoter for Our People. It’s a variation of a questionnaire that Apple has long given to customers, and the key question asks employees to rate, on a scale of one to 10, “How likely are you to recommend working at your Apple Retail Store to an interested friend or family member?” Anyone who offers a nine or 10 is considered a “promoter.” Anyone who offers a seven or below is considered a “detractor.” Kevin Timmer said the internal survey results last year at the Grand Rapids store were loaded with fives and sixes.

The bottom line: Don’t ignore employee engagement.

Insights About The Zappos Experience

When it comes to customer-centric culture, Zappos is one of the first companies that comes to mind. I still remember my interview with CEO Tony Hsieh from a few years ago, it’s an amazing story. So I am always interested in hearing what’s going on at Zappos, especially since it was acquired by Amazon.com.

I was recently approached to join the blog tour for Joseph Michelli’s new book, The Zappos ExperienceSince Joseph has done some nice work in the past, including writing about The Starbucks Experience, I decided to participate.

Actually, that’s only part of the reason. I also did it because Joseph is a good guy and he agreed to answer some questions for my blog readers. So, here’s my Q&A with Joseph:

What are the most effective things that Zappos does to…

…keep employees engaged with the company’s mission?
Michelli: “From the onset, Zappos socializes applicants so they understand they will be responsible for “defending and growing the Zappos culture.” Leadership at Zappos has culled 10 core values that are the foundation for all decisions made by the company. From orientation forward, employees are involved in projects to make the core values at Zappos more prominent. In the book, I offer an example of one of the new hire group projects called “you got faced.” In order to deliver the value “build a positive team and family spirit”, one group of new employees developed a mechanism for Zapponians to get to more easily get to know one another. Beyond initial onboarding projects, leaders demonstrate, talk about, and structure activities that enliven values like “be humble”, “create fun and a little weirdness,” and “do more with less.” Inexpensive, quick re-energizing, mini-play vacations in the middle of a work day (like Zappos parades, spontaneous karaoke, etc) are examples of living and stewarding a values based culture.”

…identify and respond to the needs of customers?
Michelli: “Zappos asks about, watches, infers, and tracks customer behavior and input. They are restlessly looking for scalable ways to make the customer experience quicker, easier, and more emotionally engaging. They are not content with satisfaction and as such strive to find “personal emotional connections” with customer that produce a “wow” reaction and that form the basis for customer loyalty and advocacy. At the individual level, staff are charged with and empowered to do what it takes (even if it means sending a customer to a competitor) to secure engagement as opposed to just a sale.”

…make sure that every interaction lives up to its brand promise?
Michelli: “Zappos leaders audit all their touch points with customers looking at them from the perspective of operational excellence and whether they deliver wowful happiness. Take a call to the Zappos call center for example. These calls answered by “customer loyalty team members” are reviewed by supervisors and evaluated for accuracy, rapport, and whether they connect and wow customers. In addition, customers are sent a post-call email that asks questions that get at whether customers were merely satisfied or truly “wow’d””

How does the management team operate differently from management teams at other companies?
Michelli: “The management team is hard to distinguish from the non-management staff at Zappos. Tony Hsieh the CEO and multi-millionaire sits in a cubicle easily accessible to all employees and that spirit of humility and availability is pervasive. Leaders are required to spend time with their people outside of work, to foster a family spirit beyond the walls of the office. This type of leadership approach is not for everyone but it works for the environment Zappos is seeking to create. Leaders at Zappos also work with staff to develop a true “pipeline” plan that helps employees grow at Zappos and acquire the skills needed for viable succession planning and the creation of a sustainable culture of service excellence.”

What limitations are there, if any, for a large established company to adopt some of Zappos practices?
Michelli: “I think there are several major hurdles to overcome. The first of which is the “that will never work here” mindset. While the exact values that drive Zappos should not be imposed everywhere, the passion for values-driven culture is directly applicable across all settings. Moreover, many large established companies have so much hubris and legacy that they are unwilling to drive change. They have lost the entrepreneurial hunger of companies like Zappos or Apple. A visionary leader at an established company can accomplish the crisp break from competitors that Zappos enjoys if he/she creates a compelling vision, anchors to defining values, selects for culture fit, inspires people to grow and change, and challenges people for significance beyond success.”

What’s the weirdest thing you found while doing the research that is NOT IN THE BOOK?
Michelli: “I saw customers and business people coming for a free tour of Zappos in Las Vegas and being oddly giddy. It was almost like they realized a spiritual quest or they were having dinner with their favorite celebrity. The strength of Zappos customer bond built through online videos, twitter, live chat, phone support, and lightening fast delivery has almost created a cult following. I’ve often said their is a fine line between cult and culture and some of the tour goers demonstrate that the Zappos internal culture is forging a powerful connection externally.”

The bottom line: Zappos service is an extension of its culture


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