While focusing on the strengths of your company’s customer service is good, focusing on the weaknesses is better. I was recently in an organization where the COO told me how great everything was going, however, from the moment I stepped foot in the door, I knew differently. When we spoke, he only shared what he considered great news, but after asking the right questions and doing my own due diligence, I uncovered quite a bit of weakness that just weren’t being discussed or mentioned. So many owners take this same action out of fear on how to fix or make it better but it can take your company the wrong direction quickly if you have a fear of really exposing the problems rather than dwelling on the good things. It is a constant game of looking for problems and coming up with solutions to make your customer service experience the best in the industry.
As part of my entrepreneurial series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Amber Duncan.
Amber is a Serial Entrepreneur, a wife, and a mother of five children. She has a strong commitment to empowering women across the nation as they build and create their own businesses. Her latest venture Jackie, is a boutique subscription styling service for women. It is her goal to show women what is possible with the belief that anyone is capable of anything. Amber owns and operates a handful of other businesses; a debt-settlement company, a cupcake store, an online tutoring platform, and a consulting business, just to name a few. It is her goal to empower others to create a meaningful future for themselves, as she has learned to do through her experience as a self-starting businesswoman who has worked hard to achieve success.
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?
Since I was a child, I always marched to the beat of my own drum. I grew up attending a strict, private school which was tough for someone like myself who never liked being told what to do. This trait of mine carried into adulthood and after dropping out of college, I quickly learned that working for someone would be short lived. In my early days as an entrepreneur, I was encouraged and supported by two men who I consider to be mentors. They really encouraged me to pursue entrepreneurship, which led me to where I am today. I think every successful entrepreneur has had someone to encourage them in their entrepreneurial journey. It really showed me what I was capable of and since, I have launched several businesses successfully on my own.
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?
Looking back, one of the funniest stories was the fact that I had a baby on Friday and decided I needed to be back in the office on Monday with a bouncy seat on my desk. We had just launched our organization and felt I couldn’t miss a beat. I don’t even fully understand how I did it. I love sharing that story with employees who work for me not because I want them to do the same, but so that they fully understand my passion for business. I want to set an example in the way I operate so they feel confident in the leader they are working for and understand my desire to make any business I touch a huge success.
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?
Without a doubt I thank God for the gifts He has so graciously given me to operate the way I do. There is really no explanation as to how I know what I know and do what I do rather than His hand on me and blessing me with this gift. I don’t believe any successful entrepreneur gets there alone. For me, my business partners Ryan Duncan and Harry are my mentors and cheerleaders and they have poured all of their wisdom and knowledge in me over the years to make me the businesswoman I am. I am forever grateful for it and thankful that they saw something in me that I didn’t see myself. I hope to extend that same thing to others around me.
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?
Now you’re speaking my language… Customer Service. I cannot think of an area I love more than this one. I see so many businesses with talented individuals and a phenomenal product or service who fail to zone in on how they leave a client feeling. I have a sign in our office that reminds each employee to “Treat every client like they are the only one.” I believe that when someone starts a business, this piece is the most critical for success because it doesn’t matter how great the product is, if you leave someone feeling less than 150% after their interactions with you, they won’t be back.
Companies hire the wrong people to do the most important job and that is making clients feel heard, valued and validated. Customer service is the area they talk about long after the purchase. People love to share both good and bad experiences and it is no longer enough to just have a great product. You should ask yourself, “How was the entire process with the customer and how can we continually improve on that experience?” So many companies are scared to gather feedback but for me, I crave it. I believe that having a mechanism to gather feedback is extremely beneficial for the growth of an organization.
As an owner, you are working so hard to build something great and then hiring hourly employees to interact with your potential clients. They must be a mini version of you as an owner or you can shut your doors. If you aren’t willing to invest in your customer service to ensure they are properly trained, you might as well stop now. Don’t ever let off the gas of reviewing, continual training, and constant enhancements in the overall customer service department, and you will WIN with all of them and leave them feeling like a million bucks after interacting with you.
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?
I always acknowledge both good and bad customer service experiences. Because I value high-quality service in my own organizations, I make it a point to give feedback to the employee who goes above and beyond and I let the owner know if otherwise. The disconnect comes when managers assume everyone is doing what they are supposed to be doing or handling things the right way and for me, I know at all times how people handle things and provide feedback both good and bad after interactions to ensure my expectations are clear. I also require my staff to listen to how I handle situations and if in doubt when speaking with a customer, they are to listen attentively and respond with “Got it.” I understand and will have a resolution for you in just a moment. It allows my customers to feel heard and confident in my team’s ability to quickly and effectively solve their problems. As a company grows, it is easy to place managers in positions to oversee customer service and I am quickly learning that as an owner, you should always be connected to your team and know who people are and how they are representing you. For some, this becomes less of a priority as the company grows.
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?
When you have competitors in your industry, it does provide other options for consumers, but I feel that an organization should create its company culture and customer service platform not to compete with competitors but rather to be the best version of the business you created. When you stay focused solely on your own customer service platform and continually look and examine ways to make it better for the customer, you will see your clients stick with you because you have a relationship that regardless of the competition. They come back to you because they like you and how you have treated them. Don’t give customers a reason to shop your competition. They do business with people they like so invest in building relationships.
Did that Wow! experience have any long term ripple effects? Can you share the story?
I will never forget the impact I personally had on a client who entered our debt settlement program. He was an older man who never thought he would escape the hell of credit card debt and harassment. I worked with him throughout his time with our company to exceed his expectations and get him to the finish line, but it didn’t stop there. Once he completed his program, his son came to work for our organization because he saw how we were changing people’s lives and is still with us today and does an exceptional job. There is no amount of money that could make me feel the way that gentlemen made me feel when he personally thanked me in my office and shared how I made him feel. That is a success! It made me want to help so many more and allowed me to share with my team the impact they have the potential to make every time they answer that phone.
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.
1. If you wouldn’t have your customer service reps watch your children, don’t have them look after your customers. Your business is your baby and I always take such pride in hiring the RIGHT people to watch over my baby. If you wouldn’t trust them to look after your children, why would you ever entrust them to properly take care of your clients? This is the most important rule to follow because, with the right people, you can achieve anything.
2. Train your employees to be a part of the solution rather than a part of the problem. You know the type, the ones that love to win, and will argue or hold their position with anyone including your clients just to achieve the “I’m right and Your wrong” badge. When my employees bring me scenarios having to do with clients, the first thing I ask is “How would you like to be treated in this situation and what do you think is the right outcome?” Don’t give it to them. See and understand their train of thought. The second thing I ask is “By doing it the way you feel led, are you being part of the problem or part of the solution?” This gives my team the tools to handle any customer effectively and always WOWS the customer.
3. While focusing on the strengths of your company’s customer service is good, focusing on the weaknesses is better. I was recently in an organization where the COO told me how great everything was going, however, from the moment I stepped foot in the door, I knew differently. When we spoke, he only shared what he considered great news, but after asking the right questions and doing my own due diligence, I uncovered quite a bit of weakness that just weren’t being discussed or mentioned. So many owners take this same action out of fear on how to fix or make it better but it can take your company the wrong direction quickly if you have a fear of really exposing the problems rather than dwelling on the good things. It is a constant game of looking for problems and coming up with solutions to make your customer service experience the best in the industry.
4. Treat your staff the way you want them to treat your clients. This is one of my favorites. As a CEO, I cannot think of a better investment that yields the greatest reward than to pour into your staff. The way they feel about you and your company will be represented in the level of customer service they deliver to your customers and it will be the greatest ROI you can have.
5. If you want to take responsibility when things are great, you must be willing to take responsibility when things are bad. There is nothing that gets me more upset than a COO’s inability to take responsibility for things going the wrong way. I just recently had one say to me.” Times are just different and it’s not the same as it used to be which is why we are not doing as good.” I simply looked at him and said, “No, times have not changed, we have.” He looked puzzled and I said, “If you cannot truly take responsibility and realize all of the stories around your failure is simply the story you tell yourself to make you feel better about bad service, you will never achieve greatness in your level of service.” It’s ok to acknowledge failure. Out of that comes true reward when addressed and the company is worth it.
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?
People naturally love to share great stories and in fact, most of the time, they share bad experiences more than good so if you want to change that, there are a few things you can do to motivate sharing great customer service experiences. The first is to give them something in return for sharing and recommending your company to those around them. This will only happen if they have a WOW experience. The second is to have a platform designed to allow them to rate and give suggestions and then share those responses on your website publically and on your social media outlets. It’s called social proof and it motivates new people to really see what you and your company are all about based on the great feedback from others.
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.
Giving excuses should be a crime. I would love to start a movement that stopped human beings from giving excuses as to why they haven’t or didn’t do or achieve something. They are robbing themselves of greatness. All of these are simply stories we have in our brain to justify our actions and if removed I feel this world would be a different place
How can our readers follow you on social media?
- Personal @amberdunc
- Business @shop.jackie