Today's guest post is by Peppercommer Carl Foster.
What do these three Steves have in common?
• Steve Jobs, former CEO of Apple
• Steve Joyce, CEO of Choice Hotels
• Steve Cody, Co-founder and Managing Partner of Peppercom
Answer: They have all taken time to step out of their corner office and actually experience their organization from their employees’ perspective.
Why is this important? Getting in the trenches helps you directly understand what your frontline employees deal with, and what they deal with most often are customers, the people who pay all our wages. So here’s a question: Why stop with just experiencing life as a low-rung employee? Why not actually put yourself in the shoes of your customers and prospective customers?
We all know the days of top-down marketing are over; companies are now in a conversation with their customers. So shouldn’t more people at the top make more of an effort to ‘get’ where their customers are coming from? And by that I do not mean registering zip codes or monitoring cookies.
A recent article on CNN.com claimed that Steve Jobs fielded a number of customer service calls – a pretty amazing fact considering he was the head of a company with more cash than the U.S. government. Here is an exchange between Jobs and Apple customer, Scott Steckley:
"Hi Scott, this is Steve," Steckley recalled hearing from the other end of the phone.
"Steve Jobs?" he asked.
"Yeah," Jobs said. "I just wanted to apologize for your incredibly long wait. It's really nobody's fault. It's just one of those things."
"Yeah, I understand."
Then Jobs explained that he expedited the repair.
As for Steve Joyce of Choice Hotels, he appeared on Undercover Boss on CBS. He plunged toilets, made beds and cold-called potential conference customers.
There was no toilet plunging for our own Steve Cody, but spending a day as Peppercom’s receptionist and another as a junior PR pro led to concrete changes for the better at Peppercom.
How many CEOs do this? Or, more importantly, have the mindset to even consider doing anything like this?
Spending time as the low person on the totem pole gets you closer to the customer and the issues they face. It’s a good start, but you’re still on the wrong side of the fence when it comes to understanding your customer’s experience, or, to be exact, your audience’s experience, because there are a lot of people in your target audience who are not your customers.
Sure, you have reams of reports, stats and data about your customers, but there are also reams of reports, stats and data about your employees. For those who have done it – named Steve or otherwise – the value of this reported information pales in comparison to the actual experience of life as a lower level employee. If there is so much value in putting yourself in the shoes of the people you pay, imagine how much value there is in putting yourself in the shoes of the people who pay you?
In the Shoes of Your Wage Payers
Today's guest post is by Peppercommer Carl Foster.
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Thanks BookAndBlogGeek. I find most companies have a “president’s request order” if you get worked up enough. Just ask the CEO of the company that delivered our water cooler bottles. We were out and I was told that it was “impossible” to get a delivery within the next three days. One respectful but forceful diatribe to the CEO soon changed that.
Having said that, Verizon sounds like a particularly bad case of overpromising and under delivering. If you can’t deliver on the promise it is best not to give people hope in the first place.
That’s great, Kristen. Thanks for sharing.
At Peppercom we would counsel Beauty Brands to put themselves in the shoes of their customers. By doing this they should discover that their outstanding service is not universally understood by their customers. If they closed that gap with they could attract more customers, in the way that Zappos attracts customers as much for the service as for the shoes.
Hope the new straightener is working out for you.
Verizon has a “president’s request order” if you are lucky enough to complain loud and long enough to get to him. Unfortunately, management (or central office) as the case may be, all too frequently, will give a technician the order AFTER the date/time it was suppose to be done, thereby ruining even further, the company’s reputation.
The first example that first came to mind was Beauty Brands. I purchased a high priced hair straightener from the store this summer. I went back to the store this fall after the straightener had stopped working. I honestly wasn’t expecting any kind of reaction, but I thought it was worth a shot. Apparently the company holds a 100% satisfaction guarantee. Without a second thought, the employee traded out my broken straightener for a brand new one. I didn’t have to drop a single penny. I was very impressed by that, and I can’t say I’ve ever had a bad experience in that store.
Thanks for your comment, Kristen. I agree that companies have been better able to connect with their customers through social media and this has given them a better understanding of what their customers want. But has the CEO, CMO or other senior leaders in a firm actually put themselves in the shoes of their customers? I don’t know of many examples.
I am glad to hear that you think some companies are doing a better job with customer satisfaction. I agree, at least with some companies. I would love to hear what companies you think are doing particularly well at this.
Although it will never be a reasonable expectation, every customer would love to be directly connected to the CEO of the company they’re interacting with. There will always exist some poor level of customer service or a consumer leaving a store with a bad experience. However, I feel in recent years companies have been doing a much better job when it comes to customer satisfaction. Especially though social media, companies and consumers can connect and communicate on a much simpler and faster level. Top employees in a business definitely need to keep in mind their frontline employees. The customers need to be intertwined in this consideration as well. The overall goal is to gain the loyalty of a customer, and the only way to do that is to know exactly what the target audience wants. Although each CEO can’t sit on a customer service hotline, this type of thought process needs to stay at the top of each consideration set when dealing with potential and loyal consumers in order to find success.
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