Empower your team – Empowerment can be around decision making, discretionary spend or ability to give feedback and share suggestions and innovations for improving the customer experience. I once worked with an organization where one of the major blocks to service delivery was empowerment and the number of hoops and levels of leadership the team had to deal with to fix an error for a customer. Once this amount was adjusted, it resulted in a more seamless customer experience, reduced complaints and a much higher level of team member, leadership and customer satisfaction.
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 Monique Richardson.
Monique Richardson is one of Australia’s leading experts in the area of Service Leadership and Customer Service and is a highly sought-after Trainer, Keynote Speaker, Facilitator and Coach in the Customer Service Industry. Monique has an unparalleled passion for how Leadership impacts employee engagement, the customer experience and the profitability and growth of the organization.
Monique brings a wealth of experience with over 31 years working in the Customer Service Industry. Monique has an extensive background in Learning and Development and for the past 20 years has consulted to many leading organizations both nationally and internationally over multiple industries working with companies, leaders and teams to transform customer service cultures.
Monique has had the immense privilege of working with thousands of Customer Service Leaders and Professionals including Executive and Senior Leadership, Team Leaders, Frontline and Internal Teams. This has given her enormous insight into the pivotal role Leaders play in determining the customer experience, customer satisfaction levels and employee engagement.
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?
I found my love and passion for Customer Service in my first job while at school working in a Delicatessen. I then worked in Retail, Hospitality and Contact Centres before commencing my Bachelor of Adult Education and Training and moving into Learning and Development. I then combined my great love of customer service and learning and moved into training, speaking, facilitating and coaching in the area of Service Leadership and Customer Service.
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?
When I first started out in Hospitality at age 18, I had a very drunk customer that said the most despicable thing that was ever said to me in all of my years of service. Reacting straight away, I put my hand in his drink, grabbed the ice and poured it down his shirt and said “Please do not ever speak to me like that again”. I then panicked and went and spoke to my manager who promptly removed him from the premises. I learnt two valuable lessons that day, as a leader always protect your team and remember when faced with difficult customer behavior, stop and pause before reacting! Interestingly the customer came in the next week and apologized, I accepted his apology and he was a delightful customer to deal with from that day forward.
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?
There are so many people that have helped me and shaped who I am today, however, my late Father had the biggest impact on my customer service philosophy. His work ethic was legendary as were the relationships he built with all customers and also his team in his role as a leader. He treated everyone as an equal, would know everyone’s names and interests and always used to do thoughtful and unexpected acts of kindness. His example was pivotal in shaping my great love of service and people and was such an example of the impact service can have on an individual, team and organization.
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
Great customer service and experiences are essential on so many levels, for business growth, customer retention, customer loyalty and profitability. There is a financial cost of poor service in rework, loss of business and reputational damage. Great customer experiences also have a significant impact on the employee experience. Organizations that provide great service also are able to retain and attract talent, team members are happier and more productive, which impacts on the morale, motivation and engagement of people within the organization and ultimately results in more positive customer experiences.
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 have found in my many years of experience if the Leadership of the organization fails to make the customer experience a priority, it greatly impacts on the service culture of the organization. I have often found service failures are the result of poor processes or poor customer experience design, and yet it is often the people that are blamed for poor service. If organizations do make customer service a priority and do not invest in their people or technology it will impact on the customer or end user. It genuinely astounds me when organizations do not make the customer experience a priority given the numerous benefits for organizations, leaders and teams.
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?
Increased competition in such a fast-changing world is impacting on organizations needing to continually improve and adapt their customer experience. Customers often compare their experiences across industries, meaning if have a superior experience even in another sector, it raises the bar for all customer experiences. With advancements in technology and as more customers are happy to self-serve, they are looking for a seamless and effortless customer experience. This means when a customer needs to interact with a person, it is often more complex problem-solving.
Can you share with us a story from your experience about a customer who was “Wowed” by the experience you provided?
I often get feedback from clients about how appreciative they are about the lengths I take to understand the unique needs of their business before I work with them in delivering any learning solutions. Over the years this has involved everything from me getting dressed in the team uniform and working shifts, washing cars and even giving blood to see what the customer experience was like, I will do anything and everything I can to understand the organisation and the teams I am working with and it is something they have expressed they greatly value.
Did that Wow! experience have any long-term ripple effects? Can you share the story?
The biggest impact I see, is on the team who then engage more with the learning as they know it has been built for them and has been customized to their work environment. This leads to higher levels of engagement as it is more relevant and this translates to greater application of skills and knowledge back in the workplace. The long-term ripple effects are then that I am work with the organization on a long-term basis and the team feels that I have taken the time to understand their world and has resulted in much stronger and personalized relationships.
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.
- Build and drive a customer-centric culture through Leadership
– It is critical for any Business Founder or CEO to drive a culture of customer-centric thinking where the customer experience is viewed as the key to the organizations success and that everyone has a role to play to build a customer-focused culture. It’s not only the frontline that is involved in delivering value to the customer. Zappo’s is famous for this, and everyone in the organization knows they have a role in the customer experience. All team members work in the customer service department as part of their induction and know their role in the organizations mission of “delivering happiness”.
- Design the customer experience and enable your people
– Design the customer experience to be a seamless and easy experience. Focus on and design the customer experience through the eyes of the customer. Map the entire customer journey through customer-driven processes, and people. Take the time to understand your customer through customer insights and architect a plan for delivering exceptional customer service, and then empower your team to deliver it. Give your team everything they need to be successful including the tools, the technology, equipment and most importantly, processes that have been designed with the customer in mind first and foremost.
- Focus on recruitment and induction
– I once heard the quote “You have to recruit people with service in their souls” and it is critical to hire team members with a strong service orientation and positive attitude towards taking care of customers. Induction into the service culture is pivotal, as is sharing the vision, mission, values and customer service strategy of the organization with everyone in the organization in leadership, customer-facing and support roles. Provide an induction program that sets the team up for success with structured check in points after the first day, week, 30 days, 60 days, 90 days and thereafter.
- Provide customer service training to everyone within the organization
– Customer service training should be delivered to everyone within the organization, from the Executive and all levels of leadership, all frontline and internal teams. Everyone within a business has a customer and this training should reach everyone within the organization to ensure everyone is aligned with the strategy, vision and purpose. Training also needs to be followed up with ongoing coaching and support to ensure the team has the mindset, behaviours and skills to deliver exceptional customer experiences.
- Empower your team
– Empowerment can be around decision making, discretionary spend or ability to give feedback and share suggestions and innovations for improving the customer experience. I once worked with an organization where one of the major blocks to service delivery was empowerment and the number of hoops and levels of leadership the team had to deal with to fix an error for a customer. Once this amount was adjusted, it resulted in a more seamless customer experience, reduced complaints and a much higher level of team member, leadership and customer satisfaction.
Finally, Leaders need to take the time to celebrate success and create a culture of recognition.
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?
It is so important organizations have ways they can capture feedback and compliments — be it through a website or social media channel, and make it easy to provide a compliment. I recall having a fabulous experience and tried to call to pass on a compliment, I was transferred to three people and then told to email them as they couldn’t find anyone for me to speak with. Having simple and easy ways to capture positive feedback so it can be passed on through the organization, (this is great for internal customers as well) is so important, as is then taking the time to share the feedback.
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. 🙂
I want to continue my movement for all Leaders to ‘take care of your people so they can take care of the customer’. My goal is to work with and reach as many leaders as possible to help and support them to help their people and workplaces to be the best they can be and to build customer-centric cultures which creates positive impacts for customers, organizations, leaders and team members. This is the topic of my next book which will be released in 2021 which I am looking so forward to getting out there. Great customer experiences genuinely make the world a better place for everyone!
How can our readers follow you on social media?
I would love to connect with your readers on linkedin.com/in/monique-richardson-customerservicetraining and they can also subscribe to my weekly newsletter for tips and insights at my website www. moniquerichardson.com.au
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
Thank you so much for having me, Kristin!