Soundview Executive Book Summaries


Employee Loyalty Equals Customer Loyalty

In a previous job, I worked for a woman who cared deeply about her employees. We enjoyed having every day off that both the post office and bank had, plus we always had the week between Christmas and New Years along with a Christmas bonus, on top of our regular vacation days. If your child had an event going on at school during work hours, she would encourage you to attend, and she was always interested in how our families were doing.

Her supportiveness resulted in a very loyal group of employees, ready to do whatever was needed to make the company successful. And this was especially evident in our treatment of our customers. We would go out of our way for them, because this was part of the overall atmosphere of the company.

Although this is certainly not a novel idea, loyalty seems to have taken a back seat to survival in the past decade here in the U.S.. While there has been a strong push for customer service, the employees have not always been taken into account.

In The Loyalty Factor, Dianne Durkin connects these two groups back together. Her Loyalty Factor is “Employee loyalty drives customer loyalty, which drives brand loyalty.” Some of her suggestions as to how to encourage employee loyalty include:

  • Communicate uniquely with each generation
  • Accommodate employee differences
  • Create workplace choices
  • Be flexible in your leadership style
  • Respect competence and initiative
  • Recognize achievements
  • Reward results

If you would like to hear more about Durkin’s thoughts on loyalty, you’re in luck. We’ve invited her to join us for our next Soundview Live webinar, Building Employee, Customer and Brand Loyalty, on May 15th. Register today and bring your loyalty questions to ask during the session.

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Book Review: The Zappos Experience

by Joseph Michelli

When business book authors seek companies that exemplify superior abilities in areas such as innovation, product development and talent development, a small list of names rapidly fills the pool. If asked, readers could name the top five with little effort: Apple, Google, Amazon.com, Facebook, and Procter & Gamble. In fact, the first three, respectively, are the top three companies named on FORTUNE magazine’s 2012 list of the 50 most admired companies. When the discussion turns to customer service, a new name joins the list: Zappos.com. In The Zappos Experience: 5 Principles to Inspire, Engage and WOW best-selling author Joseph Michelli explores the wildly different way of thinking that powers one of the strongest customer service engines in today’s global marketplace. The Zappos Experience is now available in multiple digital formats as a Soundview Executive Book Summary.

Michelli’s familiarity with corporate giants is second to none. His previous books have profiled Starbucks, Ritz-Carlton Hotels, and Seattle’s Pike Place Fish Market. If there is a single quality that distinguishes Michelli from his contemporaries, it’s his ability to blend elements of a company’s history with critical insight into how the company’s finer points can be replicated in the reader’s organization. Other authors get distracted by providing more biography than takeaways. Michelli’s five principles connect Zappos’ outstanding philosophy of building a great culture to a reader’s attempts to increase employee engagement, connect with customers and provide a truly exceptional service experience.

Zappos’ abilities as a service provider were a key factor in the company’s 2009 acquisition by Amazon.com. Readers will be fascinated by what Michelli discovered about the acquisition and the linchpin that helped Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh confirm the deal. Needless to say, Amazon.com’s third-place finish on FORTUNE’s most-admired list in 2012 is tied to some extent to Zappos’ service culture.

To download your copy of The Zappos Experience, visit Soundview’s Web site Summary.com.

Special Note to Soundview Subscribers! Don’t forget to listen to Soundview’s Author Insight Series featuring Joseph Michelli. He provides some additional insights about Zappos that you won’t hear anywhere else. Log in to your Soundview online library and check it out!



Handing Over the Reins to the Consumer

For those who have not been keeping up on the big news in the e-book publishing industry, the DOJ (Department of Justice) recently brought a lawsuit against the 5 big publishers and Apple for price-fixing, based on their agreement to use the “agency” price model. The publishers made this move to gain back control of pricing from Amazon and it worked.

This story has quite a lengthy and complex history, which Charles Stross does a great job of explaining in detail in his blog of April 14th. One of Stross’ points is that publishers got themselves into this mess with Amazon by insisting on DRM (digital rights management) protection for their books.

Publishers were concerned about the pirating of their books, but in the process of protecting the content they made it much harder for customers to consume the books they had purchased on the device they preferred. So Amazon gained a monopoly by developing the Kindle and locking books to one device.

Years ago, when Soundview began publishing business book summaries in digital form, we had this discussion about DRM as well. We researched software, devices and customer preferences and came to the conclusion that what’s best for our customers was to provide them with summaries in as many formats as possible to provide them with flexibility. Could someone take advantage of the lack of DRM protection? Certainly, but we believed that what’s best for the customer would also be best for us in the long run.

This has indeed proven to be the case as this flexibility has allowed us to move quickly to provide our book summaries in formats for the latest devices for individuals, and to provide our content in the ways that work for our corporate clients as well.

Let’s hope that publishers learn this lesson soon before they’re put out of business by competitors who are willing to adapt.



How to Amaze Your Customers

A quick review of books on customer service shows that the prevailing view is to WOW customers, to knock their socks off with service far beyond what they expect. But Shep Hyken takes a different approach. He says that what will really amaze customers is if you provide consistently above average service – with the emphasis on “consistent.”

“Amazement is not necessarily about “Wow!” levels of service, although sometimes it may be. It is about an all-of-the-time, I-know-I-can-count-on-it, better-than-average experience.”

In Amazement Revolution, Hyken provides seven amazement strategies that companies can implement in order to provide that consistency, which I will list below. But he begins with one very important principle. You have to take care of your employees first!

“To keep external customers happy, you must make sure your employees know that you care about doing what’s right by them, day after day after day. Your employees will in turn care about doing what’s right by the customer.” “Amaze your employees, and they’ll spread the amazement!”

The 7 Amazement Strategies:

  1. Provide Membership – Shift your mindset to treat the people you serve more like members rather than customers.
  2. Have Serious Fun – Real FUN in the workplace is determined, not by how many belly laughs your enterprise generates, but by the level of fulfillment it generates in the workforce, the uniqueness it respects in each employee, and the sense of anticipation it creates for the next challenge on the horizon.
  3. Cultivate Partnerships – Deliver a premium level of service that incorporates active problem-solving and inspires customers to count on and return to your organization.
  4. Hire Right – Create and implement innovative hiring and retention processes that support your service mission.
  5. Create a Memorable After-Experience – A positive initial customer experience is only the beginning! Make sure your organization gives people the flexibility to deliver a range of powerful, personalized after-experiences.
  6. Build Community – Support and inspire both the internal and the external community of evangelists.
  7. Walk the Walk – Acknowledge, model, and reward adherence to customer-focused values at all levels of the organization.

Does your customer service experience need tweaking, or a complete overhaul? Then you’ll want to hear directly from Shep Hyken as he explains his strategies in detail, and provides case studies from best-in-class companies. Join us on March 8th for our Soundview Live webinar Learn the 7 Customer Amazement Strategies, and bring your questions for Shep.

You can fill your conference room with people to listen in, Free for subscribers and just $59 for all other registrants. You might consider using this as a customer service training session.



Have You Experienced Zappos?

As most business people and consumers are aware, Zappos is a shoe and apparel website with a reputation for superior customer service. It was started in 1999 as shoesite.com and after a hefty investment by Tony Hsieh became zappos.com. In 2009 the company was sold to Amazon for $1.2 billion, just 10 year after it began.

But what some people may not know is that Zappos’ commitment to customer service goes beyond its own doors. They have developed a program called Zappos Insightsto help other companies also excel at customer service. Although the company may seem like a wacky one-time success, this success is built on a set of principles that can be applied to any company.

Joseph Michelli, in his book The Zappos Experience, provides us with these principles from his research of the Zappos business, with ample cooperation from its employees and CEO Tony Hsieh. Here are the five Zappos principles:

  1. Serve a perfect fit – Zappos has a rigorous application process to make sure new employees fit with their culture, and let’s all unsuccessful applicants know why they weren’t accepted.
  2. Make it effortlessly swift – Customers are less concerned about WOW service then they are about getting satisfaction without a lot of effort.
  3. Step into the personal – Zappos finds ways to create individualized experiences that extend beyond their solid service platform.
  4. Stretch – Zappos understands that a key to retaining great people is to keep them challenged and learning.
  5. Play to win – High levels of workplace fun are consistently associated with increased creativity and productivity.

If you would like to hear more about these five principles and how they can be applied to your company, join us on February 16th for our Soundview Live webinar The Zappos Experiencewith Joseph Michelli. You’re sure to learn something that can help your business succeed, and perhaps have some fun in the process.



Trends in Customer Service

As social media has taken hold in all areas of business, and as the mobile device has become our primary vehicle of communication and interaction with companies, this phenomenon has brought with it a resurging emphasis on customer service.

The reasons are obvious. Now when I’m not happy with a company’s service, I have more options than calling them or filling out a survey. I can now post my complaint on Facebook to all my friends, Tweet about it to my followers, and even put together a video for Youtube. Viral complaints are the new catastrophe looming over company executives. Just ask United Airlines.

So it’s no surprise that business authors have caught on to this trend and are highlighting those companies that do customer service right. Here are just a few recent titles:

Among the lessons that companies are learning is that they must keep their finger on the pulse of social media. Someone needs to constantly monitor the major social media networks for mentions of their respective company and products. In this way catastrophes can be averted by a quick response to any issue that arises. Ford, PepsiCo and Southwest Airlines are among those companies with staff dedicated to monitoring social sites and handling issues as they come up.

Do you have stories about companies that have handled (or mishandled) customer issues aired through social media? If so, we’d love to post your stories with this blog. Please comment below.



Delivering Extraordinary Customer Experiences

I expect that most of us remember a time not too long ago when the latest customer service mantra was “Underpromise and Overdeliver.” This concept made sense to a point. If you promise a customer that his shipment will arrive in 5 to 7 days, and he receives it in 3, he’ll be delighted. However, human nature being what it is, the customer will then begin to ignore your promise and expect delivery in 3 days every time. Advantage gone.

Rick Barrera advocates for a different approach to customers which he calls “Overpromise and Overdeliver.” Top companies like Apple, Pottery Barn, American Girl and Zipcar overpromise to lure customers in, and then overdeliver to keep them.

Barrera explains how aligning three types of customer contacts – Product TouchPoints, System TouchPoints and Human TouchPoints – can create dramatic market differentiation. Here’s an example:

TouchPoint #1: Product – Your espresso maker will do the job it’s designed to do without having to resort to flipping through manuals, changing brew settings, grinding beans and measuring and tamping. You offer prepackaged coffee pods that you just pop into the maker, and steaming espresso flows into the cup.

TouchPoint #2: System – In order for this espresso maker to keep its value to the customer, you must have a system in place to get them new coffee pods quickly and easily, by phone and the internet. The first time a coffee order is late, the machine may get packed away in the basement.

TouchPoint #3: Human – Customers also need to know that they can call and talk to a person about their order or about the machine. You need to have people in place who are knowledgeable about the customer, their order history, and especially the espresso machine itself.

Perhaps you’re trying to find a way to differentiate your product or service from your competition. Why not join us on September 15th when Rick Barrera will speak at our Soundview Live webinar How to Deliver Extraordinary Customer Experiences. Bring your questions for Rick as well. We’ll be providing attendees with a free copy of the Soundview summary of Overpromise and Overdeliver.

In a crowded business environment in which everyone seems to be shouting the same message at peak volume, overpromising and overdelivering is the best way to stand out.