Emily Sehbe of LaserAway: “Focus on your employees”

Focus on your employees — The way you treat your employees is how your employees will treat your customers. Activate every employee in the feedback process — celebrating the wins and game planning collectively on the opportunity areas. It’s important to be hyper focused on making it “right” for employees and customers. As part of my series about the […]

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Focus on your employees — The way you treat your employees is how your employees will treat your customers. Activate every employee in the feedback process — celebrating the wins and game planning collectively on the opportunity areas. It’s important to be hyper focused on making it “right” for employees and customers.

As part of my series about the five things a business should do to create a Wow! customer experience, I had the pleasure of interviewing Emily Sehbe.

Emily is Head of Member Experience at LaserAway, the nation’s leader in aesthetic dermatology. With over a decade of experience focused on activating the voice of the customer across multiple verticals, Emily’s passion is fueled by making your customer experience your best offering. Focused on fostering a collective alliance in driving customer loyalty and being an advocate for why companies should utilize NPS to drive bottom line growth, Emily is passionate about driving CX value through engagement and service innovation.

Emily is a graduate of the Baker School of Business & Technology at FIT, an active member of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA), Medallia CEM certified, and holds multiple certificates from Wharton Executive Education focused on Customer & People Analytics.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

Thank you for having me. Growing up in the restaurant business, I learned from a young age how much control one has in fostering strong customer loyalty. Call it a human-centric way of operating, but being able to see situations through the customers’ lens and take an unbiased, empathetic approach became rooted in my DNA from those early years.

Prior to joining LaserAway, I dedicated 8 years to Equinox, a global luxury lifestyle brand which is centered around providing an unparalleled member experience. It was during my time at Equinox that I built my career trajectory focused on the customer experience.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

In my early years at Equinox, I was tasked with rolling out an Net Promoter Score (NPS) program, a strategy focused on operationalizing customer feedback through a daily pulse survey format. NPS was brand new to me, one of the first questions I asked during the survey build out was if we could change the Likelihood to Recommend (LTR) question. At the time I had no knowledge of the profound research Fred Reichheld undertook at Bain in the early 2000s which led to LTR being the core question in measuring customer loyalty.

It was after I read The Ultimate Question that my journey began in becoming an advocate for activating the voice of the customer and a quest to truly understand the behaviors and drivers which unlock customer loyalty, beyond the NPS metric.

Today I laugh looking back at how naive I was when I questioned the ultimate question.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I’ve always looked for mentors in my career and thankfully I’ve had quite a few. Rather than comment on a specific person, here are some of the skill sets that drew me towards a mentor.

  • They took the time to truly listen and empower me to share ideas and feedback, fostering an environment in which there was trust and a common belief in the mission of the organization.
  • They were connectors who led with purpose and their actions were in line with the company’s core values.
  • They understood the importance of collective intelligence, diversity in team knowledge and rallied behind “we” not “I” in pushing the organization forward.
  • They were open to learning and adjusting, and exhibited transparency and empathy.

Thank you for that. Let’s now pivot to the main focus of our interview. This might be intuitive, but I think it’s helpful to specifically articulate it. In your words, can you share a few reasons why great customer service and a great customer experience is essential for success in business?

Simply put, customers remember the service a lot longer than they remember the price. The experience a company delivers is rooted throughout every touch point and each interaction can serve as a make or break in the experience. Taking a company from great to iconic is rooted in the details — it’s that slight edge in everything they do. Customer Service and Service Recovery are two branches within the CX experience. It’s how the customer feels when engaging with your brand.

A critical starting point for businesses is forming an explicit customer experience vision which is aligned with the company’s Mission, followed by embedding that vision into the culture. The employees should strive to see through the customers lens in everything they do, their passion and ability to anticipate the customers’ needs will directly improve the CX experience. That’s when you start to transform ordinary CX experiences into memorable experiences worth telling your friends and family about.

We have all had times either in a store, or online, when we’ve had a very poor experience as a customer or user. If the importance of a good customer experience is so intuitive, and apparent, where is the disconnect? How is it that so many companies do not make this a priority?

You would think it’s intuitive and if there was ever a more critical time to focus on service recovery it is now. A recent study released from the Jay Baker Retailing Center at Wharton shared that during the COVID-19 pandemic as companies are scrambling to adjust, customers are less forgiving, so service recovery is key and critical.

At the micro level, it starts with basic staff training. Companies should ask themselves, have we explicitly set, documented and trained on the expectation? Do we reinforce the expectation on a consistent basis and have a process to inspect the expectation? Companies must also be flexible in the sense of adapting and changing practices based on feedback from the front line on what’s working well and where there are current barriers in delivering excellent service.

At the macro level, customer centric companies know how important it is to have a robust Voice of the Customer (VOC) program in place to collect and operationalize customer feedback on an ongoing basis. This will allow businesses to identify and quantify the major experience themes emerging, set priorities and implement business changes to provide a better customer experience.

When companies do not have a solid connection to the front line and lack a VOC program, it’s almost impossible to identify your true CX opportunity areas. Competing priorities get in the way, and slowly over time, small opportunities snowball. The thing with CX is the experience is the input — it takes time to see the impact, and the output is the business results. So, at times when a company is incredibly profitable, it’s easier to lose sight of the importance of the experience and service recovery process.

Do you think that more competition helps force companies to improve the customer experience they offer? Are there other external pressures that can force a company to improve the customer experience?

Here’s the interesting thing with NPS — it’s the one metric that sums up customer loyalty. When a business serves the needs of a community but is not delivering a great experience and not focused on fostering customer loyalty, this will be shown through a low NPS.

I’ve seen first-hand what happens when this dynamic exists — a competitor opens next door and you immediately see an impact on attrition. The secret here is that you didn’t win the loyalty of your customers. When you have a deep, loyal following you can have new competitors surrounding your every move and see a minimal or short-term impact on your business. Businesses should constantly be striving to build relationships that lead to loyalty. Take Starbucks, for example. They internally launched The Leaf Raker’s Society, a brilliant ongoing advertisement for their pumpkin spice latte that has as of today over 40.9K members! It’s a truly organic community that goes beyond the Starbucks pumpkin spice latte and offers Starbucks valuable data and a window into its customers’ minds.

Also, it’s important to understand that the needs and expectations of the customer are constantly evolving over time. Customer centric companies have to constantly be looking to identify opportunity areas for change and they need to be quick to react to change.

Blockbuster, for example, was once the pioneer in movie rentals. There was a pivotal moment where they could have evolved their business model & introduced a streaming service, but they did not evolve, they did not change, and the result is that Netflix capitalized on the opportunity.

Can you share with us a story from your experience about a customer who was “Wowed” by the experience you provided?

At LaserAway we transform lives, unlocking the confidence within our members. Our team daily rallies around exceeding our members expectations and we’re constantly sharing the wins with team member callouts. I believe that is a key aspect in fostering a “customer wowed” culture.

An incredible story was shared recently from one of our members on how their experience at LaserAway with laser hair removal has unlocked a new level of confidence, removing fear and insecurity they struggled with for years. Their success story has now led them to focus on living a healthier lifestyle and being an advocate for inspiring others to overcoming skin insecurities. We service over 6,000 new first-time members per month with a consistent laser focused (no pun intended) approach, supporting them during their journey and unlocking their inner confidence.

Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a founder or CEO should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience. Please share a story or an example for each.

Focus on your employees — The way you treat your employees is how your employees will treat your customers. Activate every employee in the feedback process — celebrating the wins and game planning collectively on the opportunity areas. It’s important to be hyper focused on making it “right” for employees and customers.

Deliver brilliantly on the basics — A simple but effective focus on the basics wins the championships. Consistency is key and that is what builds consumer trust. For example, with 60+ LaserAway locations, you can expect the same friendly greeting upon entrance and hyper focus on safety and experience excellence across all of our locations whether you visit Brooklyn Heights or our newest location in Fresno, CA.

Create frictionless experiences — Having a VOC program will accelerate visibility into issues, allow companies to focus on customer centric change across departments and measure the impact. NPS creates a shared sense of accountability across departments & breaks down the silos. For example, when Apple wanted to solve for customers waiting in line, they removed lines — instead of solving the problem they completely removed it.

Focus on the emotional connection points — It is said that 80% of decisions are based on emotions and according to a Deloitte study the emotional connection a brand establishes with the customer at every interaction point is the most important driver in building loyalty — this matters more than price. Customers have greater spending power today but are less loyal. Companies that put emphasis & focus on how employees are delivering experiences is fundamental in forming your slight edge. Every touch point is a trust point. The three key touch points in winning the emotions of your customers: Anticipate their needs, Personalize & Curate, Surprise & Delight.

Don’t be scared to fail — Be visionary because what got us here won’t get us to the future. It’s critical to never stop looking to evolve and change. Read daily about new trends in and outside of your industry, be real and transparent on your opportunity areas. Foster a culture which is constantly challenging the status quo. Experience innovation is unlearning from the past. Designing monumental experiences that customers want to share will create entirely new value and drive ecosystem loyalty. To accomplish greatness, remove the fear of failure.

Are there a few things that can be done so that when a customer or client has a Wow! experience, they inspire others to reach out to you as well?

Focus on having a simple and clear referral program. Customer advocates are your best form of marketing, driving loyalty sales. Ensure you have a compelling offer and a benefit that rewards the referrer and referee. Execution is also critical, inspect that the process is seamless, eliminating any friction points. Your promoters are evaluating every touch point and sharing those “wow moments”, make your referral process one of them!

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Starting a movement begins with a clearly articulated vision with a clear purpose and compelling story. You have to be passionate and 100% committed to bringing your idea to life. To bring complex change into a culture, influence everyone around the decision maker, know who and what influences the people you are trying to pursue.

A core value I’ve built my career around is focusing on the impact I have on others. I’ve always looked for opportunities to create efficiencies for others, finding the tools for them to do their jobs better and removing friction points or barricades. When you get to the root of these issues and focus on improving/fixing the causation you will see a direct impact on the customer experience.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

LinkedIn — http://linkedin.com/in/emilysehbe/

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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