Just down the street from my house is a Walgreens. For those of you who don’t know, Walgreens is a place to pick up your prescriptions but also a place for small items you forgot at the grocery store. From aspirin to cards to glow in the dark necklaces, you can find just about anything. However, this is not just a typical Walgreens store, this is a place where a model of great customer experience lives. His name is Juan. You would not know this to look at him. Juan is an older gentleman, he speaks fluent Spanish in addition to his excellent English. Over the years Juan and I have made small conversations. I would ask about his grandkids and he would ask about my kids. He always has a smile and greets me when I come through the door. What made me write this article about him, you ask? Simple, one day while checking out my conglomerate of items, Juan said “You know, your son was in here with his buddies the other day and bought an energy drink. Those drinks can be harmful, do you want him to drink those?” Understanding his concern I said, “He only gets one a week, so if you see him get more, you let me know. Thanks Juan!” Juan knows he can’t prevent my son from buying the drinks because he works at Walgreens, but he was kind enough to let me know what my teenager was up to so I could intervene with some parenting if needed. It’s this extra level of compassion that inspired me to write about him. I started to think about what Juan does that sets him apart from other workers and other stores. Why do I always use this local Wallgreens instead of the CVS around the block or the 7-11 across the street? What is it that Juan does to exemplify the customer experience? It comes down to these 5 essential ways:
- Be familiar: Juan knows my name and my family member’s names. It was not instantaneous familiarity. He saw my name and used it, looking me in the eye to confirm that he was pronouncing it correctly. I nodded yes and saw his name on his name tag and said his name. Later, I came in with my kids, he asked their names in a pleasant way “Who is this big fella here?” Always smiling, very cordial. Important point though, when he knew our names, he didn’t forget.
- Be inquisitive: Juan would never let the check out transaction be a boring one. He always asked something different. “What are you all doing today?” “How’s everything?” “Hows that tall boy of yours?” “Where’s your daughter, I haven’t seen her lately?” I wasn’t offended by these questions and was happy he asked.
- Be humorous: The checkout would never leave without a joke about something. One day I was with my son and as I was putting items on the counter, Juan looked at my teenager square in the eye and said “Are you buying these for your mom?” Now, Juan knows my son does’t have a job and couldn’t pay for it. But my son would smile at him shyly and we would all laugh. I would reply “Juan, he may have to work in the back, do you have a job for him?” Juan’s eyes would light up and he would say “Oh yeeesss!” My teenager at this point would would grin and try to grab the bag of stuff to get out the door. It’s all in good fun but my son is now thinking that he might have to work to pay for stuff right?
- Be consistent: Now every time I go to Wallgreens, I am hoping Juan is there to do our usual joke. It’s a little silly but this is what we usually do. When I rush into the store, if he sees me first, he will say to me “Merry Christmas, Brenda!” (keep in mind, it’s the middle of July) and I laugh and greet him with “Happy New Year, Juan!” It’s our joke and I feel special. We may use other holiday type greetings but I always think of one that he’s not using. It’s a fun exchange. Juan is also consistently smiling and talking to everyone like he knows them as friends. It’s expected behavior from him with everyone, not just me.
- Be sincere: Even if Juan is having a rough day, he will tell me. The other day he said in response to my “How are you doing today Juan?” with “Oh, I am tired today, my allergies are acting up.” All I have to do is nod my head in understanding and we move on to the smiles and wish each other well. I know he is sincere because I know he is human.
Customer service, success or experience, whatever you want to call it, is really about a creating a community that cares about it’s patrons. You can get to know your customers well enough to go the extra mile and make an impression which creates a loyal community. Who do you know in your community store that does this for you? How can your business implement these to give your customers the best experience?
I heard a great speaker last week. The title, “Thriving in the Uncomfort Zone” by Jeff Moore, CEO of Moore Leadership. He says the key to success in today’s economy is one’s willingness to compete,”to strive together.” Jeff trains leaders in both college sports and the corporate world develop championship teams, building on his winning experience as a former UT Women’s Tennis Coach. Jeff explained what makes a Champion versus a Winner. This is important to understand in order to see recognize the value of a Champion.
What is a Champion?
Champions are built from the inside out. They ask questions like, “How will this impact who we are?” or “How will we get better?” Champions have a fierce collective spirit. Champions also focus on competing. People on a Championship team respect each other even before they like each other. In contrast, Winners are built from the outside in. Winners are focused more on results. Winners compare to each other whereas Champions strive together. There is a certain personality that comes with being a Champion, being a “striver”. A striver will always try to reach beyond their grasp and they are driven by a purpose that transcends winning. This will be an uncomfortable place. Winners have a typical characteristic as well, they are called arrivers. “Arrivers” spend all their time creating a perception of success. They want to always be compared favorably. This leads to a superficial type of improvement. “Arrivers” will show up and say, “I am good at this now, so how are you going to get me to the pros?”. They more that likely ask, “How long is practice?”. When these questions come up, the answer should be “How long are you willing to play at a competitive level in every practice for the team?”.
How can you test for a Champion?
You can always change your performance but not your personality. Jeff has a test which shows if you have a high “Striver” ability. His approach for the workplace regarding building teams is that workers should have a high SQ (Striver Intelligence) in order to get a high performing team. “Strivers” support each other unconditionally and push each other. In my own experience as a manager, I have been in a company culture where I was not allowed to push and stretch my direct reports because it may upset them. In addition, my direct reports were not encouraged to push me to make me a better manager. I believe this is because managers see the “Arrivers” on their team and they believe they are already good so they promote them higher without challenging them to do better and improve their character.
Can Customer Success Managers Be Champions?
My thoughts went to how this relates to Customer Success Managers for a business. Business cannot just have the appearance of success in comparison to others and be “Arrivers” but they should strive for success like champions do. Here are three ways Customer Success Managers can be champions:
- Customer Success Managers can practice their craft by building relationships in a way that is honest and supportive and challenging. In some instances, let the customer push you to reach new ways of achieving excellence. Always establish yourself as the customer advocate and problem solver but also ask them for ideas that will challenge you. Hopefully the client will be receptive to your challenges as well, if you promote this by your own example.
- Customer Success Managers need to track relationship progress with clients. Not just renewals and churn rates but specific conversational wins. How did they challenge you? What was your response? What could you do better next time?
- Customer Success Managers should keep their companies and coworkers in check by encouraging the “Striver” mentality. Companies need to listen carefully to their Customer Success Managers and be challenged to become better. Get used to being uncomfortable. This would be a striver mentality and would produce a championship business. Truly understanding each customer’s goals and definition of success will push the customer into making touchdowns! When customers get touchdowns, business will get the retention and renewals needed to keep moving forward.
In conclusion, think about how you can be a Champion in your daily life. Are you challenging yourself? Are you part of a team that has a “striver” mentality? Winning is not everything but being a Champion in your daily life is will make a difference.
As a Customer Success Manager and previous business owner for 10 years, there is a consistent challenge of making sure your customers see your company’s value. Today consumers are able to research quickly, pick and choose their product or services and this retaining customer value through Social Media is what I am studying about at the Northwestern University.
In Mark Schaefer’s article: The 30 Possible Ways You Can Create Customer Value, he lists an amazing 30 methods your company can use to establish value. He reviews how many of these values you should you actually have. In his research, the most successful companies provide more than one value to their customers.
In another article by Eric Devaney: The 3 Customer Success Metrics You Should Be Using, he reiterates how important it is to measure your churn, expansion revenue, and customer satisfaction to derive how much value your customers are getting from your product.
Drawing on these two articles and my experience with Customer Success and business ownership, I have listed three actions that companies should use to retain their value to their customers:
- Establish benchmarks for customer value: It’s not only important to review the data but you should also create benchmarks to measure against
- Solve problems: Problem solving naturally leads to customer happiness which is the emotional component you want the customer to have about your business. Realizing a business can’t solve all problems, it’s essential to have this as a priority.
- Drive value through virality. Word of mouth comes in many forms these days but it is still the number one way customers will see your value. They trust their peers to give them honest feedback.
Starting today, take action to determine the value you have for your customers to ensure stability and growth and most of all happy customers.
My name is Brenda Hanley and I have over 13 years experience in running a successful business and over 5 years in Customer Experience. I am currently pursuing certification in Social Marketing Specialization with Northwestern University in Coursera. You can reach out to me on Twitter @hanleybrenda.