The Customer Experience: How To Wow Your Customers (PART 4)
TRANSCRIPT: Now customer service is a top-down proposition. You may have heard the expression before, crap rolls downhill. It does, it rolls downhill all the way to the customer. How you treat your frontline employees will dictate how they treat your customers.
Let me give you a real world example. I worked for a beer distribution company in Chicago years ago in the 90s, and I was in the backroom in the receiving area watching with one of my drivers. We were delivering beer there, we were putting up displays and stuff, and I was helping him. I watched as a Regional Vice President for this grocery store chain, he is in the backroom just berating a store manager, he was abusive, and it was brutal, and he was just yelling at this guy and screaming at him for something. I don’t even remember what he was screaming about, to be honest with you, but listen to this.
Then I watched as that store manager after this Regional VP left, I watched him beat up the liquor department manager. Then when the store manager walked away, I watched the liquor department manager beat up the first employee he saw, which was actually just a poor, nice, middle-aged woman who was stalking shelves in the liquor department. Then I watched her as she went to the liquor department checkout stand to help a customer, I watched her get short with that customer. By the way, this all happened within 15 minutes.
Imagine the long-term effects of this kind of abuse. This was one example over 15 minutes, crap rolls downhill. You cannot treat people like crap and expect them to treat your customers well. Carl Buehner once said, “They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” See, this is funny because I don’t remember why that Regional Vice President was beating up on that grocery store manager anyway, but I remember the beating.
See, this is especially true of employees. They may forget what you said, but they’ll never forget how you made them feel. See, you can never expect your employees to care as much as you care. You can never expect them to care after a beating. Think about this the next time you’re beating up your entire sales team at your Saturday morning meeting 15 minutes before you open the doors.
Do you think it’s going to be a productive day? Do you think they are going to give everybody a great experience? Do you think that everybody who comes into to your dealership or your business that day is going to rate you a five on a scale of one to five? They are not. Your employees are going to treat your customers the way they are treated. How about just allowing your own personal life to make you short with your employees? You can’t do that. See, crap rolls downhill all the way down to the customer.
Let’s recap what we’ve talked about so far, what good customer service is. It’s not about solving issues, it’s about not having issues in the first place. If I can do good customer service, it leads to genuinely good reviews, higher customer retention, a willingness for people to spend more money with me, and it doesn’t have to be great. Remember, it can just be good customer service, don’t have to be great. “But, Steve, my team is sharp. Man, we are great. Man, I’m the CEO and everybody loves us. It’s great. I ask them ask the time, ‘Oh yeah, we blow people away, we do VIP experience.’ Fantastic.”
Let me tell you something, Mr. CEO, Mr. Owner, leadership is often clueless. No offense. No offense, but for most businesses that I work with, that I consult with, the leadership at the top is often clueless about the customer experience. If you are a CEO or a senior leader watching this, you are likely oblivious to the real experiences of your customer. See, everything you see is filtered, everything you see is distorted like this view. See, everything presented to you is what we call a dog-and-pony show.
You don’t know what a dog-and-pony show is? I’ll show you what a dog-and-pony show is. I was in the Marine Corps back in the 80s, 1983 I was on the island of Guam. This is an actual picture of me. I won’t tell you which one of these guys I am. Taking it easy after we are out in the ocean that day in our little rafts. That building behind us, that’s not some blown-out destroyed old building from World War II, although it may be from World War II, those were our barracks. We loved them but people who see this picture think that we lived in some slum, we didn’t. Those were the barracks, but those were what the barracks looked like every day.
When we had a General coming to visit, we put on a dog-and-pony show. We’d scrub the mold off the barracks that you see there, we painted everything perfectly. Everything was in line, everything worked, everything was great. It was a dog-and-pony show. We stood in line, we answered questions the way we were supposed to, the General left and we went back to doing the things we always did. That’s what’s happening to you.
See, examples of your dog-and-pony shows is you get a lot of filtered or falsified reporting. I see it a lot, I see a lot with my dealer clients, I see a lot with my OEM clients. You are giving a lot of false reports from the field, from your own stores, from your own managers in your store. You’re getting filtered customer messages too. The only customer messaging you see is the stuff that maybe the OEM pushes to you, but if there are bad reviews online, people are telling you something different about that. They are telling you what an unreasonable customer that person was, and how we did everything we could for them.
Ok, they are filtering that customer’s messaging. You are making preannounced visits. When I worked for the Asbury Automotive Group, the CEO would come to the stores, the store would know two days in advance he was going to be there, and we were able to put on a dog-and-pony show. Everyone is always on their overall best behavior because they know you are coming in.
How do you uncover these dog-and-pony shows? You may have seen the TV show, Undercover Boss. Now this provides a pretty entertaining blueprint for CEOs and other leaders, but that’s reality TV, not reality, but the premise of an undercover boss, that’s actually a sound one. If you are the CEO, COO, President, Regional Vice President, whatever, you should always go unannounced to the frontlines and do so on a regular basis, so they don’t know when you are going to be there.
They’ve got to assume that you are going to be there any day at any time and they’ve no idea when. When you are there try to take the view of a customer, try to show up as a customer, try to take the view as an employee, and try to take the view as just an innocent bystander, somebody who has no skin in the game and see the customer experience from that viewpoint.
Also go as yourself, go as yourself as the CEO, but then learn how to get honest answers from people. See, you are getting filtered answers, and how do you get honest answers from people in the field, you learn two words, you learn ‘show me’, you become what we call a ‘show me leader’. This is a ‘show me leader’, and we’ll do it at the base level first.
We’ll talk about a sales manager say in the car business. Sales manager in the car business walks up to one of his salespeople and he says, “Hey, Bob, do you have all your calls done today?” What does Bob say every time? “Sure, do, boss.” The ‘show me leader’ says, “Great. Show me. Show me you got all your calls done. Let’s open up the CRM, let’s see the calls, let’s see the call notes. Let’s see what opportunities we created from those calls.”
That’s how you get to the honest answers and you get beyond the filtering. If you are say a Chief Marketing Officer or a Regional Vice President, why don’t you walk into your stores and say, “Hey, how are we wowing our customers today?” Then he’ll say, “Oh, boy, we are doing this and this. Oh man, we have a VIP experience. When people come in we …” Say, “Great. Oh man, it sounds great. I’d love to, shall I tell the stores? Show me.”
They look, it’s kind of weird. “What do you mean?” “I mean, show me. Let’s see it happen with the customer. Let’s bring a salesperson over here who has done it recently. Let’s have him take me through it as well. Let’s talk to a customer who is over there in our F&I office getting ready to buy a car. I want to see this. This is great. Show me.”
It will stop the filtered messaging that you’ve been getting. Ask your frontline managers, “Hey, how did we wow the last customer you encountered?” Go to your service manager, go to your service advisor, “Hey, how did we wow the last customer who was in here?” Oh, we got, bah, bah, bah. They are going to tell you all sorts of stories. You say, “Show me. Great. Sounds great. Show me.” That’s what a ‘show me leader’ does.