Service experience will be the game changer; if you don’t have a proven process to generate service excellence you may not survive. Many companies rely upon technology to replace the human experience, and this is risky.
As part of our series about the future of retail, I had the pleasure of interviewing Darrell Hardidge is the CEO and founder of Saguity, a customer experience research company that specializes in defining service excellence — basing the foundations of a companies reputation upon its ability to deliver 10/10 service experiences predictably. He is the creator of the customer experience metric “Appreciation Certified” which defines the head and heart drivers of what creates unshakable loyalty. He is the author of the best-seller “The 10 Commandments of client appreciation” and “The Client Revolution.”
Darrell Hardidge is the CEO of Saguity (www.saguity.com) a customer experience strategy expert, professional speaker, published author, certified CEO and columnist. For 11 years he has led the team at Saguity and structured the customer experience process for some of Australia’s leading companies. He has delivered keynotes and masterclasses to many 1000’s of people and is the leading national speaker at the CEO Institute. Darrell is a highly sought-after media commentator and is featured across multiple mediums. His knowledge in the area of client experience and its connection to leadership is cutting edge.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Like many entrepreneurs its wasn’t really planned, I had a client in our business advisory firm who was a start-up. They had a different approach to obtaining customer feedback, and we used this service within our own business to learn about how best to develop the customer service strategies for our advisory clients. It proved to be a sure strategy as the end-user customer will tell you the truth about what they love and what they don’t. All you have to focus on is giving them what they appreciate and fix the things that cause frustration. I saw an excellent opportunity to take this business further, so I initially invested in a 50% share and worked on developing the company into new markets and on improving the service offering. Three years later, I purchased control of the business, and we diversified into specializing in high quality, high-value markets, where customer loyalty is critical to the company. Today our clients are both large and small, most importantly they are genuinely committed to excellence and are prepared to do what it takes to be #1
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
I attended a business strategy course to learn what I could from a very wise old guy called Marshall Thurber from the USA. He studied extensively with two extraordinary business leaders, Buckminster Fuller and W. Edwards Deming. It was early days in this business, and I knew we needed a lot more than what we had to be unique in the market. There was a flaw (and still is) in the CX measurement space, everyone still bangs on about customer satisfaction as the goal, and I was searching for a new distinction that clearly defined service excellence. It was one of those tipping points that occur in the life of a business, and it was only 30 minutes into a 3-day course that I found the solution. Marshall had no idea of the immediate impact he had and over the three days, he completely revolutionized our business. That was eight years ago, and every day our company leverages these distinctions into every business we work with. It’s also the foundations of the three books I’ve published and had dramatically transformed the way many thousands of people engage with each other as a team and most importantly, how they engage with their market.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
In 2003 I joined the advisory firm after I sold my payroll business. A part of learning the ropes was that you had to walk the talk and source your own clients, there were no handouts and day one you had to hustle. I had to come up with an innovative idea for my direct mail campaign, and it had to be different. I decided to use the old Australian phrase ‘you don’t know me from a bar of soap’ so I purchased a box of soap from a clearance center that was going cheap. What I didn’t think of was the width of the soap, and when I went to the post office, I quickly learned they were to fat and were too expensive to mail out. I then purchased the thin ones you get in a hotel and mailed them out. They were stuck in the middle of a letter that said, “Here’s the bar of soap you don’t know me from, and five reasons why you should”. It actually worked really well, and the first mail out of 50 got me, seven clients. What was interesting was a guy called me, saying thanks for the soap as they ran out in the toilet and because of that he became client #8 for the unique approach.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I rarely follow conventional thinking and always think of how to be better at what we do. Marshall was a very successful trial lawyer, in the 60’s he beat the US government in health exemption cases for Vietnam soldiers. He had an unbeaten record of protecting soldiers from going to war, and in the end, the military would refuse to go to trial against him. He had a unique way to engage.
He taught me a unique way to present and deliver keynotes and workshops to engage and communicate. He also taught me the most powerful distinctions of quality from W. Edwards Deming, which created the systems of the world’s best like Toyota, LEXUS and Cannon. I have adapted these distinctions into how to measure and implement quality leadership and customer experience. This journey with Marshall led me to innovate a new service measurement that replaces the outdated standard of satisfaction. Today we are the innovators of the powerful loyalty metric “Client Appreciation”.
In my business, we use these in measuring the customer loyalty and service standards of our clients. I believe we are the only company that has adopted these Deming principles into measuring customer experience. I use the presentation skills I learned from Marshall to engage the teams of our clients to be the best they can for each other and for their market. We have many clients who have adopted this unique methodology and have followed the process to become a #1 company. The key distinctions of Client Appreciation are in my book “The 10 Commandments of Client Appreciation.”
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
“Simplicity only exists on the other side of complexity” have you ever watched a professional golfer or tennis player? So many companies battle it out every day in the very average world of delivering customer satisfaction where the common ground is the price. There are an excellent opportunity and reward for those who step back and learn how to be the best at what they do. Delivering a standard of client appreciation ensures you leverage the benefits of a value-driven market. Once you have this as your service standard, the pressure of chasing the competition diminishes, they now chase you. “Obsess over your clients and not over your competitors.”
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?
As already mentioned, Marshall Thurber, without a doubt, has been the most significant influence on how we operate in our company. One of Marshall’s most successful students is the most unique entrepreneur I’ve ever met. Bill Allen is the founder of Hawaii Care and Cleaning, and his specialty is the facilities management of the most exclusive resorts in the Hawaiian islands. Bill leads a team of approx 1500 professional cleaners and has the most extreme levels of client loyalty and the most predictable process of delivering 10/10. I have worked onsite with Bills’ management team on client appreciation, and they are, without doubt, the most committed team I have ever worked with.
Bill has a unique process of generating relevance with his clients. The focus of causing clients to make unreasonable requests is what defines his mastery of how to create loyalty. He actively pursues the opportunity to support his market by helping them in difficult situations, especially when it’s what they don’t normally do. His strategy, when I client asks for help in an area they don’t normally operate, he knows they have run out of options, and if he can be the one who can help, he will be remembered and appreciated for it. He has a unique process in causing his company to be more relevant than any of his competitors. He lives to the mantra “obsess over your clients, not over your competitors”.
Are you working on any exciting projects now?
We are working on our biggest project. We are revolutionizing the Merger & Acquisition market by creating a new methodology of customer due diligence. There is very little discovered about the existing customers/clients in the commercial due diligence process. Our method is a market first, and we are currently working on the software to scale this into a global product. We want to bring client appreciation as a new standard, and in the process, protect the investors in the deal and at the same time ensure value to the market. If we succeed, it will be a massive game-changer in how investors and clients are protected.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Our client experience process ensures a rigorous measurement of leadership and team performance. Every individual in a company is in the customer service business, and we ensure they understand their vital importance in protecting loyalty. As a result, we have created many great leaders both in and out of the work environment, the principles we integrate ensure every individual has the tools for leadership. What we love to hear about is how our work has enhanced the lives of the team in and out of work and how it creates a great culture. The spin-off is happier customers/clients, and this leads to a stronger business that propels the cycle forward.
Can you share 5 examples of how retail companies will be adjusting over the next five years to the new ways that consumers like to shop?
- Service experience will be the game changer if you don’t have a proven process to generate service excellence you may not survive. Many companies rely upon technology to replace the human experience, and this is risky.
- Always have your phone number easy to find and have someone answer the phone who knows how to assist. It’s a massive weakness in many companies as they think it is cost-effective to push people online; however, they are losing a lot of business as a. result.
- Communication will be your point of difference, from 100,000’s of client interviews; communication is the biggest driver of loyalty and also the biggest driver of lost business. Communication covers many areas and is the critical cause in areas such as; helpful, friendly, understanding, knowledge, trust and empathy.
- Obsess over your customers and not over your competition. Make sure you are a genuinely committed business to delivering service excellence. Don’t let the bean counters cut your front line team budget, train them to be the best and they will pay for themselves.
- Constantly research your market and ensure you are delivering the highest standards of Appreciation, never rely upon internal opinion or generic feedback. Ensure you make your Customer/Client Experience metric the single focus number in your company. Ensure everyone in your company understands they are in the service excellence business.
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. 🙂
Removing customer satisfaction as a measurement of excellent service, it’s just giving people what they expect and what they paid for. Customer/Client Appreciation is where every individual has a positive emotional experience in their transaction and receives value beyond the price tag. Every company that achieves a standard of Appreciation do so by first implementing and embracing it within their culture. As a result, it builds loyalty to both team and customer and ensures a stable and profitable business. Creating a high-value experience in every transaction ensures people are respected, it also causes this impact in everyday exchanges with our families and communities. Every day we commit to changing one company at a time and cause a shift in how consumers receive value.
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This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!