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Building the Ultimate Customer Experience

Strategic Sense, in addition to providing Leadership Training, has made a commitment to highlight some of the remarkable authors, leadership professionals and business people we’ve had the great fortune of meeting and working with over the last 3 years. On Wednesdays you will see guest-posts from some of these folks. All are leaders in their field and have solutions to some of our biggest workplace issues. Such as Dr. Ellen Weber, Director at Mita International Brain Center who wrote about brain based approaches to innovation.

Today’s Guest Post is by Jeffrey Summers, the President and Founder of RestaurantWorx whose full-service, national and international, Hospitality Coaching and Consulting firm in Dallas, Texas guides clients to bring their customer experiences to new heights.

And now, here’s Jeffrey…

Customer ExperienceThe Experience

The customer experience is your product. It is the sum total of every interaction a customer has with your brand at every touchpoint. Equally critical is the employee experience. Both should be given equal validity, weight and attention when discussing, analyzing or creating the ultimate customer experience.

Most business owners/managers will tell you that most of this is out of their control or direct influence. Nothing could be further from the truth. Here are 5 critical tools you can use to design and deliver a superior customer and employee experience.

Culture

As one writer summed up it up recently, “Culture trumps strategy, every time.” Culture is critical in understanding, defining and executing the desired actions and behaviors by employees in order to ensure a superior customer experience. Culture is what happens in the absence of direct supervision or company policy. It’s what an employee does when confronted with a customer situation that wasn’t covered in their training or ongoing coaching by their supervisor. It’s also a critical decision-point which can make or break the customer experience and ultimately determine the success or failure of the business.

Culture is also the area in which you must align all of your businesses goals, values and processes with those of your employees and customers in order to achieve the necessary level of customer-centrism, cooperation, trust and execution.

Buyer & Employee Persona’s

The ‘Buyer Persona’ is critical to knowing and understanding who your target market is and what issues and behaviors you need to influence in order to increase the desired purchase or loyalty behaviors you want to see from them. It answers the two critical questions about your customers, ‘How can we influence this person to buy from us’ and ‘What issues or attitudes prevent them from buying from us.’ Essentially it defines what is important to them and what is not.

Without knowing the answers to these and similar questions, all of your marketing efforts will be in vain at most or just shots in the dark at the least.

Likewise, it is equally important to understand and create a similar ‘Employee Persona’ that matches and aligns with the company’s goals, values and processes in order to successfully execute your customer experience.

Voice-of-the-Customer & Voice-of-the-Employee

Voice-of-the-Customer (VoC) and Voice-of-the-Employee (VoE) programs are extremely important to your experience building success because it gives you the much needed measurement of your experience and ongoing experience building efforts. The value of gathering customer feedback, information analysis, the resulting process and experience changes and performance monitoring is immeasurable. This is where you can better understand and influence the loyalty drivers of your employees and customers by engaging them in the very process of experience design.

Experience Design

This is the overt process of mapping out your customer experience by analyzing each and every customer or employee touch-point. Then utilizing your VoC & VoE information to determine the what, where and how to add meaningfully differentiated value to each one in order to create the best experiences possible. This ongoing process of measuring, analyzing then refining not only applies to the customer experience, but the employee experience also as you cannot disconnect front-line employees from the process.

Coaching

Coaching employees and staff is absolutely critical to ensuring that you have not only their input and buy-in into the customer experience building process but also their understanding and participation in the necessary culture and ongoing process refinement that ensures future success as well.

Let’s also not forget that the process of building the ultimate employee experience is similar and just as important and critical to your success as it is in building the ultimate customer experience. Employees are your ‘Brand Ambassadors’ and are directly responsible for executing all levels of the customer experience. Not embracing this part of the program will render the rest of it worthless.

Jeffrey Summers is a 29 year veteran of creating, operating, Coaching and consulting with successful food service & hospitality concepts that include national and international chains, franchises and independent operators. He is an award winning business Coach, consultant, speaker, writer and blogger.
Jeffrey is also the president and founder of RestaurantWorx™, a full-service, national and international, Hospitality Coaching and consulting firm based in Dallas, Texas. Besides helping clients achieve success by working with them one-on-one, he frequently speaks at and attend numerous industry events as well as at local, state and national small business groups in order to share his passion for the business of food and hospitality.

Jeffrey can be reached through his company’s website at: RestaurantWorx™ and you will find him on Twitter providing great content for his followers.

Patti Blackstaffe, President of Strategic Sense Inc, is a Speaker, Strategic Advisor and Trainer in Leadership, Customer Service and Cultural integration through Mergers and Acquisition.You can book her to speak at her personal page.

Need Strategic Sense for your business? – hire us for Leadership Development of individuals, teams, group training and company strategy. Read what folks have to say about her eBook Leadership XXL: 11 Practical Steps to Living Leadership Extra, Extra Large.

Happy Workplaces Succeed, take the path to get there, and call us. (403) 201-8512

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Just Get Out Of The Way!

There are a lot of different descriptions of what a tool-kit really is, and it’s different for everyone.

Plumbers have a varied tool-kit to Electricians. Teens will need a different tool-kit than toddlers for getting through the learning curve that is teen life. Equally, leaders will benefit by understanding the tool-kits needed by their team members so they can do their jobs!

So what exactly makes up a tool-kit? It’s anything utilized by an employee to enable and enhance their ability to perform and exceed their expected role as an employee. You wouldn’t ask a software developer to write code on paper – you’d provide him with a computer, the right software, the ability to properly test it and (very important tools) the support to take as many roadblocks out of their way in order for them to do the job. That could include providing them with space to focus, limiting meetings and interruptions, fighting for the budgetary means to allow them to continue. It also means getting out of their way!

Leaders forget sometimes they are no longer the hands-on specialist. Often, they find themselves wanting to dig in and work with, rather than guide, employees. We’ve been hearing from a number of our clients that sometimes all they want is time to get the job done. Frustration over a manager who is keen to take part can provide the following impressions:

  • The Leader is micromanaging
  • The Leader is not confident in their employee’s abilities
  • The Leader doesn’t trust the employee to do the job ‘right’.

Often the case is simply an enthusiasm and keen desire to be part of something they have left behind.

So what is today’s message? Provide employees with what they need and then please get out of their way! Offer them the chance to shine, to improve and to make a difference on the team. We don’t suggest you abandon them, by any means; you are there to support and provide a tool-kit for them in order to enable them to shine. Avoid hindering them!

Patti is a strategic advisor in Leadership, Customer Service and Small business. You can book her to speak at her Speakers Page.

Need Strategic Sense for your business? – hire us if you prefer to rise above the status-quo, care deeply about employee and customer experiences and truly believe in living and performing with excellence.

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A Letter To The CEO

IdeasWorkshop: We’ve written a fictitious ‘Letter to the CEO’. This letter is written by an imaginary worker and is applicable for use across industries. We work with your team through discussion to dissect and create coaching opportunities that the fictitious CEO might address.

It is also an effective tool to promote introspection….it’s a bit long, but we believe worth the read. If you believe this has been helpful in your team meetings or leadership practices, please let us know. Leave a comment on the blog or connect with us through our contact page.

Dear CEO,

I am a regular employee, I don’t have a fancy title and I am not seeking to one day have your job. I like what I do, because I went to school for it and selected it to be my career of choice. The role has worked its way into something I never expected, because that’s just how life works out sometimes, but I like it.

I wanted to write you a letter because I never get the chance to see or talk to you and I know you are very busy with the running of the company, travelling, keeping shareholders happy, and I don’t really know what other responsibilities you have but I am guessing they are enormous.

I don’t wish to complain, I like what I do and the company is a good one. Perhaps we are of little significance down here and don’t want to interrupt the important things happening up in your executive offices, but we do see many things you might not see. If you will humour me I have a few questions that need some clarification, then I will feel that I have a voice.

Strategy Sessions – we know your executive goes away once or twice a year on a strategy session and while I’m certain these are important, the folks at our level have never really heard about a new strategy or direction. Everything here seems to tick along quite the same as it has for the 12 years I have been here. Do we have a company strategy? What does it look like? I would like to know if what I do every day is what the company really wants or that my work somehow feeds the ‘strategy’ you all have laid out for us.

Mission/Vision/Goals – The other day I was dealing with a customer service issue and the customer directed me to our public web page. They said I was not following our Mission. I looked kind-of stupid because I asked him what he was talking about. Then I saw we had one! When did we define a mission for our company and when did we add the vision and goals? I have never heard of any of it and so I printed it out and shared it with a few of the people I work with. They had never seen it either. Is there someone I can talk to so I can find out how to make what I do match the things we tell our customers we do, because those two things are not in alignment?

Expectation – I really like what I do! I also don’t want to sound like a complainer, but I worked for about 6 weeks on a project my manager asked me to commit time and energy toward. I worked quite a bit of overtime to meet his deadline and I missed out on some very important family commitments to do it, I was willing to offer the 540 hours rather than the 240 regular hours to meet the deadline. I was happy to do that because it meant I was getting the work done, and on time, it’s good to take pride in your work. It’s not the first project that I’ve committed this much time toward. Unfortunately, he failed to tell me that I was not being paid any overtime for the work I had to do. Do we have a project planning tool to help us understand the number of real hours it takes to complete a project or is it the expectation here that I will be committing 90 hour weeks to every project for the same salary?

Value – I am not quite certain I understand my role here. Don’t get me wrong, I like what I do, the work is something I selected, but I am struggling to see where I add any significant value to the organization. I want to make a difference, want to utilize my strengths and my skills to really add value to the team, within the organization and for the people I work with. There are some skills I have that I believe would truly contribute to helping the customers be happier and stop the project over-runs. I have taken it to my manager, but he says it’s not within my job description and to keep doing what I am doing. Isn’t it the responsibility of every employee to try and improve the company? If my own manager doesn’t believe in me, should I be looking for work somewhere else?

Performance – I have been passed over for a promotion 3 times in the last 3 years. I don’t want to head up the executive or management ladder, I am definitely happy being good at a specific technical role here, but I have 12 years of experience in this company. I work extremely hard and every year I ask my manager what I can do to improve so that next year I have the opportunity to be promoted. He always says, keep doing what you are doing, you are exactly where you should be. For some people that might be nice to hear, but I want to get better, I want to be someone my manager really needs on his team and I want to know I have a future. Life gets more expensive every year for my family and keeping a continual salary for 3 years makes me feel like I have somehow failed. Am I able to become technically good at what I do without moving into management and still receive increases or am I now a liability? You see, people with far less company knowledge have been surpassing me in promotions and yet no one will tell me why.

The Rah, Rah Meeting – Thank you so much for a neat day away from the office 3 weeks ago. It was fun to leave the building and have a day with people from other groups. I liked the hike and the food afterward was really, really good. It must have cost a lot of money, and in these struggling economic times it is highly appreciated. At the end it was nice to see you pop in there for an hour and to hear what you had to say, because it is the only time in a year I get to see you. I want in the worst way to believe I work in the company like the one you described. Unfortunately, it doesn’t feel that way. The other employees I work with are frustrated, angry and disgruntled. No one seems to know what is going on, the layoffs two months ago were devastating and we are all scared. The company you described was more like working for Google, and as much as I want to believe your description, it just isn’t real. How do I remove all the daily negativity of the workplace and bring what you described in that meeting into my every day when management does not lead that way?

CEO, I want to be the best employee you have ever seen. I want success for the company because it is the company I know and the work I understand. I want to see people happy and customers thrilled to come back for more. But I have to admit, I am struggling to understand why our managers are not trained to help us get there. I struggle to know why you see such a different picture of the company than we do. Please help me to find answers to how I can make it different. I am already walking in with a positive attitude, I already look for ways I can contribute more and I keep far away from the gossip chain. I support my co-workers with good feedback. But none of this is enough, there seems to be something missing because things are not going well at my level. Can you suggest what more I can do?

Sincerely,

Your Loyal Worker

No direct relationship to a specific organization or company is being intended. The letter is written in generalized form taking into consideration issues of employees at various organizations.

If you would like a copy of the facilitation guide for this exercise, please contact us on the contact tab and write “A Letter to the CEO, Facilitation Guide” in the comments.

(The first paragraph of this post was updated on Feb. 5, 2017)

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A Chicken Doesn't Stop Scratching Just Because Worms Are Scarce!

“A chicken doesn’t stop scratching just because worms are scarce.” ~Anonymous

I love this quote, in fact this weekend on Twitter that quote received the most replies of any quote I sent out. Why? Perhaps it speaks to us about the current economic situation. It speaks to us about never giving up, about knowing deep down that we must keep going. It tells us that we still must eat, pay our bills and says loudly that a defeatist attitude is a greater danger to our success than is scarcity.

To add to this concept I remind you of the inspirational, sincere and heart warming day of the inaugural celebrations both prior to and after the swearing in of the new US President, Barack Obama. Hope, change, transparency are all themes we saw rise out of the incredible activities and the vibration that was Washington!

Take a few minutes for deep thought on “scratching” no matter what your role; Leader, Employee or Newly Unemployed!

Leaders:

When times are tough, some of the first cutbacks are in the areas of Training, IT and Travel & Expenses. Risk management is at an all time high to ensure companies are careful with projects and initiatives such that there’s no room for profit margin fallout. It’s tough to lead in these times, your boss is demanding and your employees are holding you under a microscope. Your heart knows the many things you would LIKE to do as a leader, but the cutbacks make you feel like your hands are tied! Take heart, you are the one who needs to provide energy, optimism and enthusiasm to your team – grab the reins and take the challenge! Perhaps these questions will help you find a path to motivate and inspire your staff.

· Have I been honest with my team about our situation?

· Do I trust the staff and their talent and generosity of ideas for solutions to find our “best actions”?

· Do I know who my employees really are and what significant contributions they make to the company, or how we can work with their strengths to improve?

· Are there ways I can go above and beyond in order to make a difference for my team and their success and ultimately for the company?

· Am I modelling the behaviour I wish to see from my employees?

Employees:

Man, when you get scared that the axe is going to fall it can be hard to head to work every day. It is also hard when the axe has fallen and some of your favourite co-workers have been let go. Morale sinks to an all-time low and some days it’s hard to dig your way out and keep pace with your workload. Remember, you have a job and part of that job is loyalty to the tasks you have been asked to perform. No one can create a great attitude for you; that’s your job!

Now is not the time to lay low and hide, now is the time to shine. Ask yourself these questions to see if you are on the right track.

· What am I contributing to the team in order to help my boss make it through this tough time?

· What have I done in the last 6 months that make a difference for the team such as mentoring or holding a training session for the junior people?

· What can I do over the next 6 months to a year to support the team, my boss and ultimately the company?

· Am I really giving the best I’ve got or am I sliding by in discouragement?

· How am I stepping up to show leadership as an employee?

· Am I willing to bear the load with integrity, honesty, and transparency in order to complete projects and maintain a “thrive-don’t-dive” attitude?

Unemployed:

If you have been a casualty of the many lay-offs around the globe, then you have been hit hard, and most likely blind-sided! You have responsibilities, maybe a family and you certainly have bills to pay. For some of you it’s been a long time since you’ve had to seek work and it’s even possible you were hired out of college through a student co-op with barely any experience in finding work. Answering some of these questions might lead you in the right direction for your search.

· How long am I willing to let the shock, anger and <insert-your-emotion-here> keep me from taking action? How long will I allow myself to grieve? (pin down a date here)

· Have I sent a personal email out to ALL of my contacts letting them know I am available for work? (Now is not the time to feel shame or embarrassment!)

· Am I aware of the many online networking tools available to me?(Linkedin, Twitter, free blog sites, Facebook, Plaxo, etc.)

· When was the last time I wrote an article or whitepaper for a trade magazine in my industry?

· Am I aware of the government programs available to the unemployed for retraining?

· Am I taking advantage of the outplacement sessions provided with my package?

· What kinds of industry networking events are available in my community?

· Have I contacted my creditors to negotiate payments and lower rates?

It is ACTION that brings one to solution; building a plan starts with asking yourself many questions so that you are clear about your situation. By answering the tough ones, by standing up to some truly difficult truths about yourself, you will be able to start your action plan for moving through difficult times!

 

 

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Dealing With the Consummate Complainer!

You know who they are and they suck the wind right out of your sails, by the time they leave the room you are left depleted and feeling down. Energy is like that, it’s transferable and we humans are energy sponges, soaking up every ounce of energy coming our way. There are days when we wish we could be a mirror and reflect that energy right back at some people so they’d know what they do to us.

There is an old African Proverb that says, “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.” I firmly believe this, especially when it comes to complaining employees.

Don’t get me wrong, we have times in our lives when we’re blind-sided by more than we think we can handle and we begin to believe there are no solutions. A number of years ago multiple personal events combined with work stress pulled me right off the rails, and I know I was complaining. Thankfully, I did not stay down for long. I did affect others, however, so I removed myself from the situation for a time, gave myself a hip-check and returned with a better outlook and attitude. It’s on our own attitude where one needs to place focus!

As a leader, one of the most difficult people to deal with is the consummate complainer, the person on the team who is never happy, but does nothing about it other than spread the miserable story to others while trying to gain sympathy and a following. This can be quite disconcerting because they rarely share the problem with anyone who has the authority to change it, and they rarely bring a solution to the table.

Bad stories like to spread like wild-fire in a corporation. I witnessed a managerial comment misunderstood by an employee that flew from the 2nd floor to the 4th floor in 2.7 minutes! With various forms of social media and communication devices, it doesn’t take long for 50 people to hear one side and make a judgement call without the manager even knowing he/she had been misunderstood.

What A Leader Can Do About A Complaining Employee

If you have a consummate complainer on your team you need to stop them in their tracks! It’s especially difficult when you hear about all of their complaints as second-hand versions of their story rather than from the complainer, but you can approach the conversation by being considerate to all involved.

1. Never divulge the identity of the person who passed the information on to you, be discrete and considerate of their privacy and welcome their bringing it to your attention.

2. Find a private moment to discuss the “rumour” with the complaining employee and ask if what you heard is something they need your assistance with.

3. Thank the complaining employee for their candid conversation and ask them to come up with a solution to the problem. Then book a meeting by the next day to further discuss.

4. Be completely present in the meeting the next day and make it clear what (if any) of their solutions seem viable and worth looking into, explain clearly why the others will not work.

5. Be willing to mediate and coach the employee into a different tactic at work. Some complainers actually believe they’re not interesting unless they have a sad little story to tell.

6. Make it clear to the employee you are there to make their work experience the best it can be and their responsibility is to come to you first before going to another employee, as you are the one with the authority to affect change.

What A Co-Worker Can Do About A Complaining Employee

1. Understand, people complain to folks who are willing to listen. This co-worker has come to you because they feel you’ll be a friendly listener. It’s your responsibility to tell them that while you understand they are upset, you truly believe it is the Leader in charge who needs to hear this for any change to occur.

2. Cut the conversation as short as possible; don’t allow it to go on and on and on. Any excuse will do, your work deadline, your cell phone is ringing, you have a meeting in another office, just don’t allow it to drag you into the complaint abyss.

3. Find a time when they’re not complaining and let them know that you have a difficult time with negative stories and need some positive ones to get you through the stressful chaos that is corporate or office life.

4. Be a positive mentor willing to direct and coach a co-worker into solution-finding behaviour.

5. Strike up co-worker relationships with other positive employees who will keep the healthy side of you fed. There is a greatstudy by F. Gregory Ashby, Vivian V. Valentin and U.Turken from the UofCA in Santa Barbara/Stanford University that matches positive experience with productivity.

You Know You’re A Complaining Employee if…

1. …You have shared the same story more than once in the same day, as though you were building a legal case in the media.

2. …The response you receive from people you are talking to is always silence. They tend to use words like, “I see.” and their eyes glaze over as they stare at you while you talk, true communication is bi-directional.

3. …Other employees see you coming and find a reason to suddenly be very busy and unavailable, every time you walk toward them.

4. …More than a few minutes in your day was spent using text messaging,MSN, Skype, Facebook, Twitter or any other communication medium to complain about your situation.

The reality is, positive people generate a far better work environment and are better contributors to a team and to the company. Your boss is there to help you solve problems, work with them and let them know you want to make it better. (If you have a horrible boss, lets save that for another blog post, or you can read a great book by Robert Sutton.)

Complainers, even if efficient, kill the productivity of the person to whom they are complaining. Talking to a co-worker about a problem in the company when that co-worker can do nothing to solve the problem is merely gossip. Talking to multiple co-workers all day about the problem is sending a negative virus through the organization and solves nothing.

If you need to share with a good friend to get something off your chest, then do so once and move on, unless you are contributing to the solution, you are part of the problem.

For more inspiration, see a wonderful post titled “10 Suggestions for Self-aware Leadership in 2009” by The Recovering Leader that has some wonderful suggestions for the upcoming year.

If you are looking for Leadership Training, Strategy or Plans of Action specialties in your organization, contact Strategic Sense Inc. at 403-201-8512.

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