Sales Enablement Soirée: Designing an Exceptional Customer Experience in 2021, Fall 2020

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Shawnna Sumaoang: Welcome to the Sales Enablement’s Soirée session on Designing an Exceptional Customer Experience in 2021. Now more than ever it’s critical for organizations to invest in nurturing their existing customers. With a dedicated focus on the customer experience, sales enablement can help organizations build solid relationships with customers to foster growth and retention as the business world continues to evolve. Today, I’m excited to have Jeanne Bliss, the best-selling author of Chief Customer Officer 2.0 join us. She is known globally for transforming businesses to earn customer driven growth. She is the co-founder of the customer experience professional association, and is fondly known as the godmother of customer experience.

Today, Jeanne will dive into how organizations can build exceptional customer experiences in a virtual world, and how to make advocates out of your existing customers. With that, Jeanne I’d love to hand it over to you. 

Jeanne Bliss: The lessons we learned as kids stick with us, and often they have the faces of the people that we love and admire all over them. Their guidance, their rules, they’re still in our heads. We were taught to be kind, to trust each other, and to play together nicely. And that sandbox and those rules, that guidance is some of the most important that we strapped to our backs and take with us into our personal lives. It’s also some of the most important guidance for how to earn admiration and growth in business. The most beloved and admired and prosperous companies grow by living those lessons, they remove practices that might inhibit their employees to deliver care or prohibit their ability to act in good conscience. They create a balanced relationship between customers, employees, and partners, and honor the human at the end of their decisions. And they enable people to act at work like they act at home, like they were raised. 

I grew up Italian. I was the third of seven kids. We lived a loud and a crazy life, but we learned how to act by watching our parents and their actions more than their words showed us the path to follow. The women in my life were particularly animated. My mom, Lydia on the far end would make teeny tiny Barbie doll dresses for my sisters. And even sometimes staying up all night long to do it. And homemade Halloween costumes I remember for all seven of us. My grandma Melinda in the middle, I never saw this woman sit at a dining room table. Instead, she would stand behind us with huge bowls of food, plopping it over our shoulders and onto our plates, whether we wanted it or not saying, “Mangia, mangia, eat, eat.” My grandma, Virginia, my mom’s mom on the far right would roll out homemade ravioli every holiday season. And you know, everything’s about food when you’re Italian. 

I had a little stool, I sat on and watched. She would roll the dough and roll the dough. And sometimes I saw her throw away the complete mountain that she had been working on because each of these women, like the companies that we keep, like the people that we keep, are selfless, they’re perfectionists. They think of us first. And that’s what we’re going to talk about today for areas that earn growth and admiration and both financial and human prosperity by enabling our people to live. What I call congruence of heart, what we know is right. And also, especially in the times that we’re living in COVID, in this uncertainty, what we know is that the organizations that put forth these behaviors, not only individually, but as an organization, they’re the ones who grow and prosper and we’ll come out of this faster and better.

So the first thing we’re going to talk about is enabling your people to thrive, letting them be part of something greater than the tasks that they deliver to deliver a one company experience, whether you’re in-person or not in this virtual world, the humanity of your people in your communication, in your independent conversation with them bakes a difference, and it will connect with people. Build in respect delivery. This is about getting rid of the things that make it hard to be a customer and instead creating an operating model and people who are respected and can respect your customers in return. Help customers achieve their goal. This means turning the work of the business on its ear and making it be about customers’ goals for you to achieve your goal. And then finally, take the high road is around leadership, bravery, choosing to establish a balanced relationship. 

We’re going to talk more about that, where customers and partners and employees all feel that they’re better off because they’re in each other’s lives. A little while after being injured, Nooyi was named the CEO of PepsiCo. She went back home to visit her mom in India. And her mom said to her, and you’re wearing something nice, which of course she did. And Indra, please come in, sit on this couch, which of course she did. And Indra Nooyi sat there and watched this wonderful line of people come into her mother’s home and welcome her back and congratulate her on becoming CEO. But then they also went to her mom and congratulated her on raising a daughter who could become the CEO of a large major multinational corporation and Indra Nooyi, if any of you have followed her, you know that she’s just such a reflective woman. And she sat there and she thought about this and it made sense to her because it was her mom and her dad and the values that they instilled in her that enabled her to be the kind of leader that she is.

After that day, she went back and instituted a practice that she encourages leaders around the world to do, including you, which is she began handwriting letters and notes to both the moms and the dads of her top leaders saying thank you for the gift of your child, to our company. Thank you for raising them up the way that you did so that we can lead and our people can raise our organization. Do what Nooyi does and what all the most admired and beloved companies do. Is that they first find how to target and build and bring people into their organization whose values are congruent with their own. But then they enable them to thrive. They enabled them to act. They get rid of things that get in their way of delivering value and they create clarity for them of the higher purpose that they have.

So let’s take that little journey on what it means to do that. I love this one. Would you roll your mom into a hospital hallway and then leave her there? Well, you know that you wouldn’t, but organizationally sometimes that’s how we show up to the customer across all of the experiences that our customers have. It feels like people are executing their individual tasks, but we’re not united and showing up as a caring company. In this great example, probably a really wonderful tech took your mom out of her hospital room, rolled her out into the hallway, checked the box that his or her work was done and left your mom in the hallway. Then another great tech came out from the room where he or she was doing the test, brought your mother in and rolled him back into the hallway. Again, in each one of these cases, the customer person did their role, but their job and their task was more important necessarily than wiring humanity into it. And this is our opportunity and I’m telling you, the virtual world, this means even more than ever. The sound of your voice, the united way that you show up as a caring company, whether in-person or not means everything about growth and prosperity. And here’s a case study to prove that. What’s important about this is that as we live in a world where high tech has swung, the pendulum has swung.

What we know from customers, especially in a world today, is that they need a balance of both high-tech and high-touch. What I always say is look, people want self service until they don’t. And so what’s important is we need to blend an understanding of people’s lives to make sure that we’re touching them in an efficient way, but also making sure we’re connecting in a very human way. For example, if you’re lucky, your cable repair man or woman can provide an app and tell you when he or she will arrive, that’s the high tech part. Pretty cool, but it’s that man or woman and how they greet you when you open the door, and if they put booties on their feet and navigate your furniture as if it’s their own, and that shows you the kind of mom they’ve got, that shows you the kind of leadership that honored them.

So they can honor you in 2007 Toby Cosgrove, the CEO of Cleveland clinic. Brought all of his people together and said to them, “Look, we are efficient and good at what we do, but people don’t like us very much.” And so from that day forward, Cleveland clinic has been on a fascinating journey to really elevate and connect and unite their people to be able to deliver the feeling of we as a company care about you. And they did a few things that you can do virtually and then eventually in person. Number one, they created their version of what they call the no passing rule. Now, what that means is when you’re in a hospital and that red call light is on, no one can walk past a room of a patient without going in and checking how they are.

It doesn’t matter if they’re delivering flowers or a plumber or a doctor or a nurse, you have to go in and care for the human. Your version of that in your organizations is to get rid of the customer pass around. Make sure your customers don’t fall into the Bermuda triangle of someone saying, “It’s not my job. I pass you on to the next person.” We need to own the customer, we need to own the life and take care of that. Now, sometimes that also means making sure that we are creating those commitments inside of our organization. The second thing that’s also very important now is that they elevated everybody’s role beyond the technical term of their role to caregiver. And what we know now is we need peace of mind artists. We need to be customer rescue artists. We need to unite our organization. And so think about how you can unite people so that they can elevate their work and be united around the real reason why you’re in business. 

Here’s what happened with Cleveland clinic: They received very high call love and admiration ratings, and they’ve achieved a number two rating by US News and world report. So do you show up as a caring company? Well, first they saw it one red boot, then a Cape. Who was it? Was it Superman? Well, it was these people washing the windows. In children’s hospitals around the world. In fact, this is what happens globally one or two times a day, 20 times a year, when window washers get rid of their extra and normal clothing and wear the superhero costumes because they become the hero of these kids’ days as they’re going down the window in front of them. And this is our opportunity in this work, especially now is memory creation. 

What we know is we are living in a time in our lives where the organizations that step up and honor the human find out new and creative ways. Those are the companies that create a moment where people remember not just what you did, but how you did it and who you showed up as people, because memory creation truly is the currency of your brand. In fact, the union square hospitality group does a wonderful job of connecting high-tech and high-touch, this is a great example. There’s something called a Danny dine around where many people go out and go to all Danny Meyer’s restaurants, because he has many in New York. And then they talk about it. They tweet about it. It’s an experience of a lifetime. Well, there was a young couple that did their Danny  and their last very specifically planned Danny dine around wasn’t JFK as they were leaving. Well, unfortunately the Shake Shack, that union square restaurant that they have wasn’t in that terminal that they were leaving from.

And so they tweeted their unhappiness. And when you build employees that have congruence of heart and habit and you’re blending high-tech and high-touch magical things happen, memories occur. Those people got the tweak, they made some fries and burgers and shakes and ran to that terminal. So our opportunity is to nurture this memory, making, recognizing that people have an opportunity, we all have an opportunity to leave a customer with a different kind of feeling whether we have to say yes or no to them when we leave them. So do you nurture that memory honoring employees to thrive drives business growth? In fact, Cleveland clinic has been in the 90th percentile of all hospitals for a long, long time. They had 47% growth last year in union square. Hospitality is considered one of the major restaurant companies in the world and continues to thrive even in these times.

Raise your hand if your mom ever washed your mouth out with soap or threatened to do this. Part of our work is about getting rid of the things that make it hard to do business with you. It’s about getting rid of the waiting and the worrying and the concern and those things that make people’s memory of you more about the effort it took to get their experience or service than the service or experience itself. In fact, Siegel and Gale tells us that over $86 billion is left on the table every year, because we don’t take advantage of respecting and building what I call a respect delivery machine. Customers ask why don’t they know me? Why aren’t they respecting me or my time? So let’s talk about that.

I’ve had breakfast, lunch and a snack, and the cable guy is still not here. I got a call from him about an hour ago that he’s on his way. No clue what that means. Would you do that to your mother? What we know is that one of the most important things is respecting your customer, is building your operation on customer time, not on company time. In fact, at Amazon, the woman who started and runs Amazon prime said there’s two big metrics that they follow inside the organization. Do we have what somebody wants and do we get it to them when they want it? And in this time in our life, those packages or those processes, we know people are waiting with more fervent release and need than before. So, are you practicing and building and honoring your customer’s time? Slightly also, we know that lack of communication means worry, concern and fear. And one of the things that we’re finding in these times of virtual life is that we need to ramp up the communication we have not only with our customers, but with our internal people, because if we don’t talk about what’s happening, people will fill in the blanks. 

That’s why I love the story about center point energy, where they actually mail product or communication, a product so you can sign up and you immediately will know when there’s a potential straw storm. When the lights may go out, they provide you with information. I know it’s time to pack up and leave your home. So that communication creates peace of mind. And you don’t live in that black hole of fear and worry and concern. And what’s powerful about communication, especially now is it doesn’t cost you anything. And it can be a wonderful opportunity to bring your employees together on those Zoom calls or those Teams calls and whatever you do to communicate and talk about where are the black holes let’s brainstorm, give everybody a seat at the table and your employees will rise and your customers will feel better because they’re not feeling like they’re in that black hole.

There is so much uncertainty in our lives right now. Be the company that’s there that communicates before the customer starts wondering where you are and why you’re not serving them the third competency. And the third thing we’re going to talk about today is about helping customers achieve their goals. What we know about the organizations that grow most organically is that they flip their operating model around from serving and supporting what they want to supporting customers’ goals. So their goals are what drives the business of the business. Now this is way, way more than whacking whacking away problems. It’s about totally reorienting your business to be about the customer’s life. 

Now, we’ve all seen these funny purpose statements on walls or in our employee manuals or whatever. And this is just an example, is that often even our mission statements are about what we want to achieve. The companies that are growing in most prosperity are those that are growing because they flipped everything to their customers’ goals. And what we know is the importance of understanding customers’ goals has to start with understanding their emotions. We know we’re all at an emotional high right now. If you start with the negative and build what you do to flip to a positive emotion, you’ll earn a high rate of recommendation as well as a sales rate. 

This is what Cole Haan, the global shoe manufacturer does. For example, they think about and actually have a laboratory of imagining all of our lives in shoes. In fact, they make the men and the women wear every kind of shoe. For example, this was inspired by wearing those pumps around and realizing after a certain amount of time, all of us women who wear heels get a little bit of a pain in the back of our legs. Well inspired by that and by the life they actually created this shoe, which is one of their best sellers, which actually has gym shoe technology in it. Now a big part of this is also about being proactive, knowing that there are times in your customers’ lives when they’re going to need you to go the extra mile. And again, what’s powerful about this is that we can proactively help our people to rise. 

Would you turn down your mom’s warranty claim three days out of warranty? You know that you wouldn’t, but the opportunity is to remove putting our people in the position of being that policy cop and not having the ability to make the call in the moment and to understand that customer so they can serve and support them. And what we know especially now is that we can probably get five to 10 people together, a few more if you’d like and brainstorm those vulnerability moments that your customers are having on a regular basis, whether something’s not available, whether it’s not on time, et cetera. And this is what Alaska Airlines has done. A beautiful blend of high-tech and high-touch they created what they call the, “We Trust You Toolkit.” It’s an app where there are people who have the opportunity, whether they’re in person or not to read the customer situation, when they’re upset or even happy.

And they have a series of options that they can take without asking for permission. And that’s the power here you already know, like in the airline industry, the five to 10 things where we have a bad day because of what’s happening, the CEO of Alaska airlines says, “Look, you’re in that moment, read the situation, read the moment and you make the call,” and that’s what’s driven this incredible growth for Alaska airlines, not only in admiration, but also in growth. So do you know those vulnerability moments? Can you be proactive about not only knowing them, but putting your people in the position to act in the moment growing your business is also way beyond asking customers, “how are we doing,” in a survey.

We need to understand their lives. And one of the things that I found that is so important now is to move from validating how we did to understanding what customers are going through and their lives. For example, there’s this wonderful example, pre pandemic of a company called Careem. It’s really the Uber of the Middle East. And they noticed that a certain population of their riding community was going downhill. Well, instead of just sending out a survey to say, “Why aren’t you riding with us anymore?” They actually followed customers home, not in a creepy way. And what they found out was that they were having children. Now, what do you need when you use a ride sharing app, you need a car seat. And so what they did was they created Careem kids, which is a little car seat on the app. You click on it and you get a driver with the car seat in the car, but most importantly, you’ll also get a driver who likes having kids in the car. It’s a blend of high-tech and high-touch, and it has led to their growth.

So do customers’ lives inspire experience and innovation? Putting others before yourself, building your company around them, goals of your customers drives your business. Mayfair clinic, one of the companies in the book that I talk about, would you do that to your mother? It is the clinic that changed how they say hello to people. And they became profitable in almost three months versus a year because they do that differently in a virtual world, your hello and your goodbye means even more. Alaska Airlines, number one, I know almost all of the boards of customer loyalty and admiration, and Careem grew over 200% because of Careem kids. The most admired companies that grow organically also do so because of their operating model that proves that they have their customer’s best interest in mind. And this has to start with leaders and how leaders leave inspired and established. 

For his mother’s Greek and Turkish yogurt, Hamdi Ulukaya took out a loan and bought an old craft yogurt plant that was going on in business. And he named his company Chobani, which means shepherd. Now for Hamd Ulukaya, what this meant was not only building a great product, a great yogurt honoring his mother, but also shepherding his employees into how they will grow and build the business. In fact, he proved with his example in the first two or three years about how to treat customers because he answered many of the customer calls himself. And remember when Greek yogurt first came into the marketplace, we’re all like, “Ooh, what’s Greek about it.” Well, now we all know, and we love it. In fact, it’s 55% of that category.

We are trusting customer companies, but we don’t feel trusted back in return. In fact, every relationship between a company and a customer begins because the customer decides to trust that company. We trust doctors to make us better. We trust real estate people to help us find a home, but are we being trusted back in return? And that’s why I love this story about Lemonade insurance, a completely virtual experience that begins with many things, creating community conscience and a mom-like way of trusting their customers and customers trusting them back. In fact, when you sign up for Lemonade insurance, they get rid of all the rigmarole of pricing. They just charge a flat rate. That begins the trusted relationship. They process your claims really quickly, but also they ask you to name a charity of your choice so that if there’s any money leftover at the end of the year, from all the premiums that it goes back to your charity. The thing that had me giggling though is that when you file a claim, you have to hold their phone up to your face and speak to their bot and film an honesty pledge. 

I promise that no matter what you know, this lamp that I’m asking to be replaced really is $25. So help me mom. Trust given is trust received. So does two way trust define your actions? We all know that love is irrational. Customer love is a reward for what some consider irrational business behavior. How will we choose to correct something that goes wrong? How steadfast we are in delivering the goods, ensuring quality, giving our people what they need, sends a signal to our customers, to our partners and to the marketplace about who we are and what we value. 

So choose to raise your people, to enable them to be the best version of themselves, choose to get rid of those soapy difficult moments in our lives. Choose to start with goals of your customers so you grow organically with admiration and choose to be the company that creates that clear, balanced, trusting relationship with your customers and your employees and your partners. And above all else, a simple little thing you can do is simply ask the question whenever you’re doing anything, would you do that to your mother?

So that’s it for me today. I’m going to leave you with this slide that also has a place for you to post a picture of your mom and talk about what you’ve done to make her proud as well. And you can always reach out to me at or on my website

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