Simple Lessons From Great Clips’ Success

As I mentioned in my post about Amazon’s relentless customer advocacy, I recently attended the Arizona State University, Center for Services Leadership (CSL) Compete Through Service Symposium.

One of the speakers was Ray Barton, Chairman of Great Clips. He had a great story, explaining how he led the company from a little four salon outfit in 1983 to a behemoth operation with 3,300 salons and 30,000 stylists. It’s the largest and fastest growing hair care brand. Supercuts, by comparison, has 2,300 locations.

Barton was clear about what was important in his business: clarity and simplicity. He made a number of points that are valuable for many others to follow. Here’s my take on some of what he presented:

Focus on the Customer
The hair care industry was fragmented and organized around the stylist, not the customer. By focusing on customers, the company did innovative things such as opening during evenings and all day on Saturday, offering $6 haircuts, and not requiring reservations. He was clear about what his customers want: quality, convenience, and value.

  • My take: Most organizations make decisions based on internal needs. It’s powerful when you take a look at things through your customers’ eyes. Think about adopting customer journey thinking.

Four Simple Steps
Barton said that he ran the business based on four simple things: (1) Ask customers what they want, (2) Give it to them, (3) Ask them if they got what they wanted, and (4) Thank them.

  • My take: The only thing I can say is… these are the best four steps that I’ve ever seen.

Everyone is the Brand
Barton said “everyone in our organization can draw a line from them to how they affect the customer, or we don’t need them.”

  • My take: This should be true for every employee at every company. Great companies have employees that understand and embrace their role in delivering on brand promises. This is also the essence of one of our four CX core competencies, “compelling brand values.”

Growth is an Outcome
Barton believed in the rifle, versus shotgun approach to expansion. Rather than following other franchises such as Krispy Kreme and Boston Market that expanded into many different markets, he focused on building density in a few areas at a time. This provided the marketing clout and brand awareness in those areas. It also allowed the company to focus on good real-estate decisions and make sure that staff was adequately trained.

  • My take: Growth should come from successfully delivering on your brand promises. If not, then your organization may get bigger, but it will certainly lose its focus and values along the way. That’s a lesson that even Starbucks needed to learn.

Simple, Powerful Metrics
Barton described how at one point during its growth, the company lost its focus and simplicity. They simplified their brand measures from 33 columns down to 5 measures that now all fit on one page. He actually said that only two measures are really important, what he calls 30/30: 30% of stylist hours occur during weekends and 30% of new customers come back. Since then, the company has had 40 consecutive quarters of same solon sales growth.

  • My take: When it comes to metrics, less is often better. A simple set of metrics that everyone understands is a powerful way to align everyone in the organization around what’s important.

The bottom line: Simply stay focused on your customers and your brand.

Examining Amazon.Com’s Relentless Customer Advocacy

Last week I attended the Arizona State University, Center for Services Leadership (CSL) Compete Through Service Symposium. It was an excellent event. I was impressed by what the CSL is doing to equip future customer service/experience leaders.

One of the speakers was Mike Gathright, Director Americas Customer Services at Amazon.com. He describe Amazon.com as “The Earth’s Most Customer-Centric Company,” or just EMC3. It’s no accident that Amazon.com scores so consistently high in the Temkin Experience Ratings and Temkin Customer Service Ratings. The company works on it.

I really love one of the company’s tenets, Relentlessly advocate for customers. It sounds like something that all companies should strive to do.

Gathright explained that Amazon.com has three key priorities:

  • Empower your people
  • Listen to customers
  • Invent for customers

To deliver on those priorities, the company uses a number of internal quality processes including Kaizen (continuous improvement) and Genba walk (seeing and observing the actual process or activity).

One of the quality efforts that I really like is the use of an Andon Cord. This is a concept where any employee can identify a quality problem and halt manufacturing. The implementation at Amazon.com is that any phone agent can pull the Andon cord (not a real cord), which will remove the buy button from all of its sites, immediately stopping the sale of a product. This step kicks off a process for the product team to find and solve the root cause of the problem.

To get the Andon cord going, Amazon.com celebrates its use and analyzes the savings from avoiding quality issues with products sent to customers. The company also built a tool to help associates decide if the situation they are seeing warrants them pulling the Andon cord.

Gathright also discussed the notion of one-way doors and two-way doors in the context of innovation. One-way doors are changes that you can’t undo, while two-way doors are changes that can be undone if they don’t work. He said that Amazon.com goes big and bold through two-way doors.

The company taps into its employees with a Twitter-like tool internally to crowd-source ideas. Employees submit ideas and they get voted up or down based on the likes and dislikes from associates. Gathright also said that the company believes in “hiring the right people and getting out of their way.”

To measure the effectiveness of Amazon.com’s customer service, the company asks a simple question: “Did we solve your problem?” The answer to that question is the only key metric.

When asked about the trade-off between CX and bottom line results, Gathright explained that it’s not “either/or,” it’s more like “both/and.”

The bottom line: Amazon.com is purposeful about delivering great CX.

CX in the C-Suite: Webinar With Mercedes-Benz CEO

1410_CXfromCSuiteMBUSAAs part of Customer Experience Day, I interviewed Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) CEO Steve Cannon on a CXPA.org webinar called Customer Experience from the C-Suite. Cannon was energetic and informative in describing how MBUSA has infused a strong sense of CX across its organization as well as across the company’s network of 375 dealership franchisees.

One of the highlights of the webinar was when Cannon said that “customer experience is the new marketing” and is critical for fulfilling MBUSA’s brand promise, The Best or Nothing.

Here are some other highlights and lessons from the webinar:

  • The CEO plays a critical role in CX. Cannon was clear on the role of the CEO in driving CX across the organization. “If the CEO doesn’t take CX personally, he’s not going to be able to convince people that it isn’t just the flavor of the month.” He called himself the “Chief conversation starter” and “Chief Evangelist.” Cannon mentioned that CX is a topic in every single town hall and when he visits a facility, he says, “Don’t give me a facility tour, give me a customer experience tour.” (Related: CX Mistake #1: Faking Executive Commitment).
  • Change takes focused leadership. Cannon pointed out that historically; CX resided in too many siloes (sales, marketing, presales, etc) across MBUSA. One of the first thing Steve did was reorganize around CX, carve CX out of different business units and put them together in one unit with a General Manager who reports directly to him. (Related: State of CX Management, 2014).
  • Alignment is well worth the investment of time. When CX became the MBUSA’s main objective, the executive team went offsite and spent two days debating and critically examining the organization’s CX—where they were coming from and where they were going. This meeting incorporated the voices of General Managers into MBUSA’s CX plans, making them what Cannon called “co-architects.” Afterwards, Cannon held similar meeting with the next two levels of leaders across the company. (Related: WL Gore Succeeds Without Employees).
  • It all starts with employee engagement. Cannon said that Employee Engagement is a precursor to CX. Cannon stated that “MBUSA is committed to investing in people because they are the only ones who can create great CX.” And Cannon is investing in this area. He discussed the company’s Immersion Program. Over the next few years, 26,000 employees will visit the MBUSA plant in Alabama and go through a learning journey that includes driving cars and visiting the company’s brand center. (Related: The Untapped Value of Employee Engagement (Infographic)).
  • CX is about culture, not a veneer. Cannon mentioned that great leaders create culture that creates great customer experience. That’s why Cannon is so proud of MBUSA leadership academy. He said that CX is in the DNA of the MBUSA, and is its higher calling. (Related: Driving Customer Experience Transformation, Made Simple).
  • Satisfaction isn’t enough.” Cannon stated that any company can satisfy customers just by operational excellence and performing a transaction right. Instead of satisfaction, MBUSA wants to delight its customers. To measure this objective, MBUSA is changing its metrics to include Net Promoter Score within a basket of other metrics. (Related: Customer Effort, Net Promoter, And Thoughts About CX Metrics).
  • Engage your channel partners. Cannon was clear that dealers have the ability to amplify, accentuate, or marginalize everything MBUSA does. He explained that 2.5 points out of the 5.5 points of performance bonus that dealers can earn are related to delivering great customer experience, which results in a $40 million customer experience payout across dealers. Cannon was proud of the “Drive a Start Home” program that provides dealer employees with a Mercedes-Benz to drive for two days. (Related: Our B2B content plus an upcoming report on B2B2C CX).

Check out last year’s webinar with Dan Hesse, CEO of Sprint.

The bottom line: CX leaderships requires executive leaders like Steve Cannon.

Lesson From Dana-Farber: Treat The Whole Person

As part of yesterday’s Customer Experience Day celebration, I attended a CXPA local networking event at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI) in Boston. The session kicked off with a panel from the DFCI discussing patient experience.

I’m a big fan of DFCI and have enormous respect for the great work that it does in battling cancer. The panel, which included a cancer survivor turned volunteer, was fantastic. I was inspired by the commitment and compassion they displayed.

One of the points that came up was DFCI’s commitment to treat the whole person. This explains why it provides things such as hand massages during chemotherapy treatment. DFCI doesn’t just treat the disease, it treats the whole person.

I love the concept of the whole person. It’s not just applicable to DFCI or other health care providers, but to every organization. It’s a powerful concept for anyone who cares about customer experience.

Here’s how I think about the whole person:

  • Emotion, not just success. DFCI doesn’t have data showing that hand massages will result in better clinical outcomes. It knows that a patient’s positive medical outcome is important, but it’s not enough. Your customers are the same. You need to understand, care about, and actively design for your customers’ emotional states.
  • Goals, not just interactions. A chemotherapy patient is battling cancer, not just getting treatment. When customers interact with you, it’s often part of a broader goal. A customer who calls to change her address, for instance, probably has a life change going on that dwarfs the need to update your administrative systems. The better you can understand and cater to these larger goals, the more opportunity you will have to build loyalty.
  • Community, not just individuals. One of DFCI’s key elements for helping patients is supporting their caregivers. These people are a critical element of the patient’s medical journey. Your organization needs to understand the role that community plays in your customers’ lives. How can you help your customers achieve their goals by supporting key members in their personal ecosystems?
  • Caring, not just doing. DFCI doesn’t just mandate a set of explicit activities that define how people should focus on the whole person, it consistently reinforces the importance of this focus in achieving DFCI’s mission. It gets employees and volunteers to care about these elements, not just follow a bunch of directions. You need to help employees understand why the whole person is important, and spark their natural capabilities for caring.

I hope that you are inspired to drive your organization towards focusing on the whole person. Here are a few tools that should help:

The bottom line: Start focusing on the whole person!

Nadella Pushes Microsoft to Rediscover Its Soul

In a letter to all Microsoft employees called Starting FY15 – Bold Ambition & Our Core, CEO Satya Nadella established a mandate and vision for significant change across the technology behemoth.

Microsoft has great assets, but it has not kept up with changes in how people use technology. The Redmond giant was becoming increasingly less relevant in a world where digital technology is becoming more relevant.

Microsoft has needed to change for a while. There’s a saying that the best time to plant a tree is ten years ago and the second best time is right now. Nadella has made it clear that Microsoft’s time for change is right now.

My take: First of all, it’s hard to talk about any large-scale culture change without recommending that people review our model called Employee-Engaging Transformation, which is built on five practices: Vision Translation, Persistent LeadershipActivated Middle ManagementGrassroots Mobilization and Captivating Communications.

EET2

We work with many of the world’s leading technology companies, so I could go on and on about what changes are necessary at Microsoft. But I’d rather examine broader lessons from Nadella’s letter. Here are some excerpts that I thought were particularly valuable to discuss:

“...in order to accelerate our innovation, we must rediscover our soul – our unique core

Successful companies almost always start with a strong raison d’être, but it can get lost as the company grows and the world changes (see my post on Starbucks). Without a “soul,” companies drift along as employees across the organization start operating in a disconnected way. This is where the brand comes in. Companies need to constantly refresh their brands and make sure that the brand drives decisions across the organization (see my post on Walmart).

More recently, we have described ourselves as a “devices and services” company. .. At our core, Microsoft is the productivity and platform company for the mobile-first and cloud-first world. We will reinvent productivity to empower every person and every organization on the planet to do more and achieve more.”

Our research shows that employees are more productive and engaged when they are inspired by their organization’s mission. Which one of these statements do you think is more inspiring: “We are the devices and service company” or “We will reinvent productivity to empower every person and every organization on the planet to do more and achieve more.”

“We will create more natural human-computing interfaces that empower all individuals.”

This is a comment about technology, but its also points to a broader commentary about making things easy to use. We have entered into a world where people have more options, more distraction, and less patience. Every organization needs to relentlessly focus on making their products, services, and processes easier for customers to use.

Obsessing over our customers is everybody’s job. I’m looking to the engineering teams to build the experiences our customers love.

What’s not to love about this excerpt. My customer experience manifesto (and Temkin Group, for that matter) is built on a fundamental belief that sustaining great customer experience is not about applying a veneer, but about building competencies across the entire organization that create great experiences for customers (see our four CX core competencies). Also, it’s interesting that Nadella used the word “love.” Experiences are made up of three component (functional, accessible, and emotional) and our Temkin Experience Ratings show that companies are weakest at driving the emotional component. To get people to “love” your company, I suggest applying what we call People-Centric Experience Design.

“I am committed to making Microsoft the best place for smart, curious, ambitious people to do their best work.”

One of the Six Laws of Customer Experience is that unengaged employees can’t create engaged customers. Any company looking to improve how it interacts with customers almost certainly needs to focus on its employees.

“We will be more effective in predicting and understanding what our customers need and more nimble in adjusting to information we get from the market.”

How companies use customer insights is changing rapidly. Technologies such as text analytics and predictive analytics are helping companies tap into more comprehensive and ongoing insights, rather than relying on periodic customer surveys. Ultimately, companies will need to reinvent their operating frameworks so that they can adjust more frequently to take advantage of these rapidly-flowing insights.

Nothing is off the table in how we think about shifting our culture to deliver on this core strategy.”

This type of statement only works if it’s backed up by clear actions that employees can observe. These “symbols” of change need to be clear departures from how the company operated in the past, and can include reorganizations, firings/hirings/promotions/demotions, killing projects, accelerating projects, etc.). Don’t just say change is coming, demonstrate it (see the 3 characteristics of transformational leaders).

“We must each have the courage to transform as individuals. We must ask ourselves, what idea can I bring to life? What insight can I illuminate? What individual life could I change? What customer can I delight? What new skill could I learn? What team could I help build? What orthodoxy should I question?”

The notion of a personal challenge is a great way to help employees think about how they can be (and must be) a part of the change. But the questions won’t be too powerful if they are just statements in a letter from the CEO. Use these questions as part of discussions across the organization and embed them into leadership training and competency models.

 The bottom line: Change isn’t easy, but Microsoft seems ready to give it a try.

Report: The State of Customer Experience Management, 2014

1404_TheStateOfCX2014_COVERWe just published a Temkin Group report, The State of CX Management, 2014. It examines the CX efforts within more than 200 large companies. Here’s the executive summary:

We surveyed more than 200 large companies and found an abundance of Customer Experience (CX) ambition and activity. Most companies have a CX executive leading the charge, a central team coordinating significant CX activities, and a staff of six to 10 full-time CX professionals. Using Temkin Group’s CX competency assessment, we found that only 10% of companies have reached the highest two levels of customer experience, although this does represent a slight increase from last year. Most firms struggle most to master Employee Engagement and Compelling Brand Values. When compared with CX laggards, CX leaders have stronger financial results, enjoy better CX leadership, and implement more successful employee engagement efforts. Executives in companies with stronger CX competencies also tend to focus more on delighting customers and less on cutting costs.

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The percentage of large organizations that have reached the two highest levels of customer experience maturity has grown from 6% in 2013 to 10% this year. During the same period, the percentage of companies in the lowest level of maturity has dropped from 40% to 31%.

1404_CXMaturity

Here are some additional findings from the research:

  • Companies with good or very good ratings in Purposeful Leadership rose from 39% to 45%, the largest improvement for any customer experience competency.
  • The research also revealed a significant focus on improvement. While only 6% of companies believe that their organization currently delivers industry-leading customer experience, 58% have a goal to be an industry-leader within three years.
  • Sixty-five percent of companies have a senior executive in charge of customer experience.
  • More than half of companies have at least six full-time customer experience professionals.
  • Almost two-thirds of respondents rate customer experience with phone agent as good or very good, the highest rated interaction. Less than 30% rate mobile phone and cross-channel experiences at that level.
  • The top obstacle to customer experience is the same as it has been for four years, “other competing priorities.”
  • We compared companies that have strong customer experience maturity with those that are weaker and found that customer experience leaders have better financial results, have more senior executive commitment, and focus more on their organization’s culture.

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The bottom line: Most companies are in early stages of CX maturity, but are getting better

United Airlines Can’t Advertise Its Way To Flyer-Friendly

United Airlines recently announced that its new brand campaign will resurrect its iconic tagline “Fly the Friendly Skies.” According to the United Airlines press release, “”Flyer-friendly” is “user-friendly” for today’s customers.” Tom O’Toole, United’s senior vice president of marketing and loyalty, says, “Our new brand campaign expresses the customer focus of all of United’s investments.” As Jane Levere points out in her NY Times article, “United is now telling travelers it is everything from “legroom friendly” and “online friendly” to “shut-eye friendly” and “EWR friendly.”

My take: Let’s start with some basic facts. United Airlines received a “poor” rating in the 2013 Temkin Experience Ratings. Its ratings are in the lower half of the airline industry, and the company showed no improvement over 2012.

In the 2013 Temkin Customer Service Ratings, United Airlines was in next-to-last place out of nine U.S. airlines (US Airways is the worst). United Airlines ranked 216th out of all 235 companies in the ratings.

Does that sound “flyer-friendly?” United Airlines will have a hard time backing up that claim today.

No matter how much companies spend on advertising, they can’t convince customers that they deliver a good experience — unless they really do. In the past, I’ve chided Comcast, JP Morgan ChaseCircuit City, and John Hancock for pushing these empty promises.

The path to being seen as flyer-friendly requires the organization to commit to delivering on that promise. I’ve highlighted a few good examples in previous posts: Alaska Airlines engaged its employees with its North of Expected campaign, Ford engaged its employees with its Drive One campaign, Staples redesigned customer interactions as part of its That Was Easy campaign, and JetBlue embedded its value across touchpoints in its Happy Jetting campaign.

My advice to United Airlines it to follow these CX Tips:

The bottom line: Don’t proclaim your flyer-friendliness, become flyer-friendly and then tell people about it

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