Treat your employees better than you treat your customers. Your employees will pass on that sentiment to the customers and make them feel as valued as they feel, it’s a cycle. It all starts internally. The most important thing here is to create a workplace where you employees want to come into work each day, where they thrive and have a desire to contribute their best work. Creating a sense of autonomy and independence helps further this — TRUST! Recognizing achievements also plays a big role here as well — take the small “wow” moments and celebrate them. This continues the cycle of employee pride as it relates to good customer service — aka a job well done!
As part of my customer service interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing John C. Amato, President and CEO of WorldPoint ECC, Inc. WorldPoint helps its customers deliver the highest quality of healthcare training through the marketing, sale, and distribution of the products and programs from organizations such as the American Heart Association (AHA), American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians throughout the U.S., Latin America, and the Middle East.
John has been working with the AHA’s Emergency Cardiovascular Care (ECC) Division since 1996, helping to grow and strengthen AHA’s critical mission. WorldPoint is a model partner of the AHA. As such, John requires all of his employees to be trained and certified in CPR and AED use. Additionally, he has made health and fitness an accessible priority at WorldPoint by offering programs to his employees that promote heart health. The American Heart has recognized these programs by designating WorldPoint as a ‘Fit-Friendly’ company at the Platinum level for each of the past 7 years.
John brings a broad base of experience to WorldPoint. With a business degree in Accounting from the University of Notre Dame, John began his career as a Certified Public Accountant working for Touche Ross & Co. in their audit department and continued with Taco Bell as an internal auditor. Upon completion of his MBA at the University of Chicago, John began an eight-year tenure at Frito Lay, Inc. working in Planning, Marketing, and Sales. John prides himself on being a hands-on executive who believes that excellent customer service is the ‘alpha’ and the ‘omega’ for business. John seeks to engender a positive team environment both within his company and with business associates.
John served as a member of the American Heart Association Metro Chicago Board of Directors from 2005 to 2012. He was Chairman from 2007 through 2012. He was an active member of two AHA National Task forces: the 2013 Strategic Plan for Revenue Volunteer Leadership Group and the Vision for Volunteerism Oversight Group. John was a member of the American Heart Association Midwest Affiliate Corporate Operations Committee. And since 2004, he has been a member of the Citizen CPR Foundation Board of Directors.
Thank you so much for joining us John! 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?
I am a classic baby boomer! I am very goal-oriented and consistently focused on building on my experience base to achieve those goals. Upon establishing that base, I discovered I wanted to own and operate my own business. I networked and communicated my dream to as many people as possible, and here I am today: President and CEO of WorldPoint.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or takeaways you learned from that?
I loved taking customer calls in the early days. In those days, all of our orders came in via phone. I learned so much about how I was doing as a business just by talking with our customers. In order to get an objective read on things, I would never reveal my secret identity. On this one call, I had a customer ask me a question that I could not answer. So here is how I responded: “Thank you very much Mr./Mrs. Customer. I need to inform you that I am an intern at WorldPoint and have very limited knowledge to be able to answer that question. I apologize. I will, however, reach out to the president and/or my supervisor and get back to you within the hour with a complete answer. Thank you for your patience with me and my lack of experience.”
Lesson learned: I applaud that young president for thinking on his feet like that. I chose to hide my identity because it would create ‘credibility’ questions with that customer that I don’t believe would have been beneficial to anyone… especially WorldPoint. More importantly, I chose to address the customer’s need as the priority, which was answering that question specifically, correctly, and with a deadline.
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 feel that I have a typical response when I say that both my mother and father had a foundational influence on me and my success:
From my mother, I received my untiring work ethic
From my father, the athletic coach, I received an innate commitment to coaching, leading, and continually improving. Being an athlete that competed under my father’s tutelage, these lessons learned transferred seamlessly from the gridiron to the office.
There is one more person that I feel shaped my confidence and drive as a young entrepreneur, Tom Peters. Tom Peters was a former McKinsey consultant who wrote a book called ‘In Search of Excellence’. Tom built upon this book and became a very popular and successful business speaker and syndicated columnist. His message was always very simple and practical about what success in business looks like. First, it starts with the customer. Second, it ends with the customer. In his words, “It’s about the customer, stupid!” Tom’s message resonated with me a powerful and still resonates with me today. He speaks in practical and common-sense terms that seem to elude so many businesses and their leaders/management. In my business where I am selling CPR training manuals which could be considered quite mundane and uninspiring; Tom spoke about the concept of commodities. Certainly, if anything could be categorized as commodity-like, it could be these manuals. However, Tom’s comment regarding commodities changed my thinking permanently. He said something is a commodity only if you allow it to be one. That was truly profound to me… and has been ever since.
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?
As I just quoted a moment ago, “It’s about the customer, stupid!” — Tom Peters
I don’t think I need to say anything else. Every business revolves around the customer — why would a customer return if the service and experience was lacking?
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?
The disconnect here is that it is not intuitive. Good customer service is something that needs to be developed, nurtured, and cared for. It’s not something that just “is”. So many companies are just focused on the dollar signs, and not who brings in those dollar signs.
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?
Not necessarily, no. It’s helpful to be mindful of the competition, but I can’t change what they are doing — I can only change what my company is doing.
Can you share with us a story from your experience about a customer who was “Wowed” by the experience you provided?
Yes! There was a time when a customer placed an order and needed the product the next day. For some reason, there was a goof-up, and the product didn’t arrive the next morning! The customer was not pleased. I promised I would deliver. I contacted a courier who went direct to the vendor to get the product right away and then flew the product, SAME DAY, to the customer. The cost of doing this was enormous, but the lesson I taught to my company was priceless. Needless to say, the customer was certainly “wowed!”
Did that Wow! experience have any long term ripple effects? Can you share the story?
The customer service lesson that I was able to demonstrate to the entire company that day was priceless and continues to be taught and reinforced to this day — we treat each and every customer on an individual level, and we strive to provide them the best possible service we humanly and financially can! We have NO limits!
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.
1–3) Treat your employees better than you treat your customers. Your employees will pass on that sentiment to the customers and make them feel as valued as they feel, it’s a cycle. It all starts internally. The most important thing here is to create a workplace where you employees want to come into work each day, where they thrive and have a desire to contribute their best work. Creating a sense of autonomy and independence helps further this — TRUST! Recognizing achievements also plays a big role here as well — take the small “wow” moments and celebrate them. This continues the cycle of employee pride as it relates to good customer service — aka a job well done!
4–5) I’d like to reference Tom Peters again — “It’s about the customer, stupid!”
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?
The most important thing that you can do is to focus on customers on an individual basis. You listen to that individual and take care of them to the best of your ability, each and every time you interact with them. Never take a single communication for granted.
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. 🙂
Easy. My Executive Vice President came up with this idea a while ago. She thought of having a Superbowl commercial that instructs viewers in CPR. Can you imagine the ripple effect of that commercial? Endless lives saved.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
Thank you, it was a pleasure!