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Interview with Joseph A. Michelli

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Bestselling author

Joseph A. Michelli

n his latest book, “Driven to Delight: Delivering World-Class Customer Experience the Mercedes-Benz Way,” bestselling author Joseph A. Michelli, PhD, provides an insider’s look at the iconic brand’s approach to creating and sustaining customer experiences. The sought-after speaker and organizational consultant has become a globally recognized thought leader in customer experience design by creating masterful roadmaps that help transform the relationship between leaders, employees, and the customers they serve. His books, which also include “The Starbucks Experience,” “The New Gold Standard,” “The Zappos Experience,” “Leading the Starbucks Way” and “Prescription for Excellence” have all hit No. 1 on The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestseller lists. Here are his thoughts on the importance of building customer loyalty today:

Is it fair to say that loyal customers are hard to hold on to today?

Yes. After struggling through years of turmoil and uncertainty, the last thing you need is to take customers for granted. And yet, if your company is like many, all your fervent efforts to attract and retain them fall curiously flat. It’s not that they’re storming angrily out the door; it’s that their experience with your company is not enthusiastic – more “ehh,” than “wow.”

COMPANIES MUST STRIVE TO HIRE PEOPLE WHO TRULY CARE ABOUT CUSTOMERS. IT’S NOT ABOUT SCRIPTING, BUT ABOUT HELPING THEM REALIZE WHAT CUSTOMERS REALLY WANT AND NEED, AND THEN EMPOWERING THEM TO PROVIDE IT.

So, what are we doing wrong?

Companies have great intentions. They want to delight their customers. Some undertake these big service initiatives, only to see their efforts fizzle quickly or never take root. The problem is that their great intentions are at odds with their culture. When that’s the case, they’re doomed to make certain, predictable mistakes. The mistakes are inevitable. What’s worse is that companies don’t even know they’re making them.

Do companies spend too much time chasing new customers at the expense of existing ones?

Too many companies are directing too much money toward acquisition and hardly any toward retention. The ratio is lopsided. Consider car dealers that spend huge amounts on commercials that scream at people to come in. What they’re not spending money on is employee training to make sure that once these customers are in the door, they’ll come back. I’ve noticed companies that are good at acquiring customers often are not good at retaining them. The key is to be great at both – to use those you’ve retained to help with your acquisition curve. A lot of brands miss the message here. The cost of acquisition is

much higher than the cost of retention, so why not invest more in the cost – in the tools of retention – to maximize that multiplier?

Is the goal to not make your customers work so hard?

Yes, businesses are competing in an increasingly Uber-ized society. Uber customers simply pull out their phones, push the app, and then a car pulls up and takes them where they need to go. They get dropped off. No money is exchanged. Brands are being forced to find ways to make their customers’ entire experience as effortless, frictionless, and yet as personal as possible. Don’t forget how complex life is for your customers. From there, pick apart your deliverable and figure out how to maximize its ease. Customers leave because brands don’t think through the degree of effort it requires to do business with them. They don’t provide solutions. They don’t simplify every touch point. When it’s not almost effortless, customers leave. Wouldn’t you?

Isn’t it all about your brand being authentic?

Companies must strive to hire people who truly care about customers. And that’s just the beginning. Train your employees to connect on a human level. It’s not about scripting, but about helping them realize what customers really want and need, and then empowering them to provide it. While it’s essential to practice disciplined hiring in the search for people with emotional intelligence, those capabilities have to be awakened and reinforced through the training process. Immerse your employees in your brand so they truly understand what it’s like to be the customer. Collect and share stories of customer delight. Touch the hearts of team members as well as their minds. When you do, they’ll genuinely want to serve the customer.

Trending With Joseph Michelli  
Trending With Joseph Michelli  
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