Measurement — Once you’ve made a commitment to achieving exceptional customer service, and everyone is clear about how to do this, it mustn’t be left there. Independent and regular assessment will determine areas for improvement so that you continue to make progress and deliver on your customer experience promise.
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 Rebecca Jenkins. Having grown a logistics business to achieve sales of over 65 million dollars, Rebecca Jenkins understands what it takes to succeed and grow a business in a highly competitive market. Later selling the business to an international plc, Rebecca became the company’s Sales Director before embarking on her next business venture.
Her business, RJEN works internationally with ambitious businesses from large corporates to SME’s, in developing their business strategies, transforming their results, and expanding their competitive advantage. Whilst leading her company, Rebecca is also a non-executive director of a retail organization and a regular speaker at academic institutions and businesses. Her business experience has culminated in her book “Winning Big in Sales”, recently published on Amazon.
Rebecca lives in England with her family and runs regularly so that she can enjoy chocolate, guilt-free!
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?
My career has been focused on growing businesses, yet it was my grassroots experience of truck driving that taught me a lot about customer experience. Starting in this way, I realized the importance and impact the driver provided to the business, not only delivering the products in good time and in perfect condition but most importantly, delivering great customer service, too. The driver is the frontline of a logistics business and it’s the driver’s performance on the road and while making the delivery, that reflects how the entire business is perceived, from a customer service perspective. Receiving a delivery from a grumpy or unhelpful driver tarnishes the reputation of the company and the product.
On realizing this, I knew how important it is that every single employee in a business must understand exactly how to delight customers and demonstrate a company’s brand values. There can be no weak links in the customer service chain if you are to deliver a ‘wow’ factor experience.
This set me on a mission to make exceptional customer experience, a top priority in my business.
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, I was invited to speak and share my entrepreneurial experience with a group of businesspeople at an evening event. It was my first public speaking engagement. Thinking that it would be a relaxed event, I opened with a joke about banks. It didn’t go well and everyone in the room started muttering. I had lost the audience and worse, I didn’t know why. It wasn’t until after the talk that I discovered that the guest of honor was the CEO of a UK investment bank! My joke was inappropriate, embarrassing and I wished the floor had opened up and swallowed me. It took me a long time to be able to look back at it and see the funny side of it.
I learned some big lessons from this, never to be forgotten or repeated:
1. It’s basic but vital — always know your audience before any talk!
2. Don’t tell jokes unless you’ve tested them on others and you are confident you can pull it off.
3. Share your talk with others and consider their feedback, before you go live.
4. Learn from others who can help you improve what you do — I enrolled on a few public speaking courses after that incident.
5. Encourage and be receptive to feedback after your talk as this improves your skills for the next one.
6. Get comfortable with giving talks by committing to do as many as you can. Practice really does make perfect!
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 am hugely grateful to my family and my team who support me through the highs and lows of growing a business.
In addition to them, there were two people who really helped me grow the logistics business and that was the late, great, Dame Anita Roddick, CEO of The Body Shop, and her Supply Chain Director, Ian Pond. Together, they helped shape my entire philosophy on delivering the difference in customer experience.
The story begins when we won a contract to manage The Body Shop’s UK supply chain. It was an account that we had targeted for three years and during that period we took the initiative to get to know their business inside out. Eventually, the opportunity came to bid for their logistics contract. This was what we had waited for and despite being up against some of the industry’s biggest players, we were successful.
A year later, despite meeting all the key performance indicators and in providing what they agreed was a fantastic service, Dame Anita and her team completely shocked us. They told us that we were boring and if we didn’t change, they would look elsewhere for a service provider.
This was a hugely important account for our business, with both reputational and financial implications if we lost the business. I remember wondering what we could possibly do. We were doing a great job, but they wanted more. Instead of repeatedly asking what more we could do to improve their delivery service, we realized we had to ask more challenging and much smarter questions to get the answers we needed. We had to focus on the bigger picture of what was important to The Body Shop. I’m pleased to say this approach worked and we kept the contract for many years.
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?
Providing a good customer service is the baseline these days, we all expect it. When we don’t receive it we often share our experiences widely through the internet and social media. This can have the potential to influence whether or not others will engage with and purchase from that business.
To deliver an exceptional customer experience is a big step up from good or even great customer service. Creating that ‘wow’ factor customer service, will set your business apart from the competition. It leads to increased awareness of your brand and products, as well as a higher level of reassurance to purchasers. It’s challenging to deliver such a level of experience and the best way to achieve it, is with client collaboration. For this to work successfully, you need to have a culture in the business of striving for partnership status with clients.
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?
Achieving the highest level of customer service all stems from the senior leadership team and the culture they set throughout the business. If the leadership team believes that their operations, brand, or product are sufficient on their own to delight customers, then customer service will not be a priority for the business. This is good news for their competitors who focus on both quality products and who look to provide exceptional customer service. Delivering on this does take consistent effort which can often be a factor as to why many businesses do not make it a priority. I have never known a focus on delivering exceptional customer service not repay the time invested in it, especially when you take into account the longevity of the client retention that it can bring.
However, it can’t stop with a commitment from the leadership team, they have a responsibility to communicate it effectively and to ensure that everyone in the business knows what great customer experience is. Everyone needs to be clear and understand how what they do in their day-to-day work matters — how they speak, behave, and interact with others in order to live and breathe the service culture of the business. Then there is another step which is to ensure that it doesn’t just happen once, but it is delivered consistently. It also requires measurement; this can be achieved through formal feedback from customers in the form of surveys and review sessions. Assessment of the feedback is vital to analyze shortfalls and decide on an action plan to improve performance.
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?
Having grown a business in the highly competitive logistics sector, we had to stand out. Providing a ‘wow’ factor in customer experience, was one way we did this. However, I can think of examples where there is a lot of competition and service is poor. Just the other day I waited to be served at a retail store with over 20 different makeup brands. The brand I was at had two assistants chatting together as if I wasn’t there. I walked off to another brand. For me, it’s back to the company’s overall ethos and culture towards customer service and the priority they give it, rather than the amount of competition they face.
One of the external pressures today which is making companies react quickly to unacceptable customer service are poor customer reviews. Companies don’t want prospects to see these, as it dents their credibility and the likelihood of gaining a new customer. If a company doesn’t bother to respond to comments about poor customer service, it says such a lot about their business culture and highlights that they really don’t see this as an important aspect of their business.
Can you share with us a story from your experience about a customer who was “Wowed” by the experience you provided?
After being challenged by The Body Shop, as mentioned earlier, we had to think deeply about how to improve what was already an excellent customer service, otherwise, we risked losing a significant and profitable contract. There was no choice, we had to find a way forward. It was difficult, as we struggled to think about what more we could do. With a ticking time frame to get back to the client with a plan, we held many brainstorming sessions, trying to come up with new ideas. It was when we moved our focus from ‘how can we provide a better delivery service’ to ‘what is important to The Body Shop’, that we got traction. A team member came up with the idea of supporting The Body Shop’s green values and aspirations. This led us to a collaborative project to put the first natural gas delivery truck on the UK roads. That was a ‘wow’ customer experience and Dame Anita Roddick was delighted with it. It was a big step in being their logistics partner of choice for over 15 years.
Did that Wow! experience have any long-term ripple effects? Can you share the story?
We learned considerably from this situation. From being precariously close to losing a key account when we were already providing a good customer service, to retaining and growing the account as a partnership over the next 15 years. It made us step up our customer experience for every existing and new account, finding ways to deliver a transformational project that would create that ‘wow’ experience. It enabled the business to grow and win other big accounts such as one with a large kitchen manufacturer, who had a full circle customer experience commitment. We discovered that the delivery part of that commitment was currently disappointing customers as products arrived damaged and without all the necessary parts, resulting in the installation dates often being delayed. Not good when you have already dismantled your kitchen! By providing a way to transform this part of their business, we won the contract, reduced the cost of damages, increased the productivity of their kitchen fitters, and provided the ‘wow’ customer experience that went well beyond transporting their goods.
To be able to achieve an exceptional customer experience you first have to know and understand the client, their strategic goals, challenges, aspirations, and their sector. Without this knowledge, you can’t determine what will achieve that key difference to their business.
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. Leadership — It has to be led by the leadership team, making it a top priority and an unwavering commitment to make exceptional customer service part of the natural way you do business. Executives spending time on the shop floor or working in a different role for a few days will gain fresh insights and a different perspective. This helps to find new ways to improve the customer experience.
I worked with a business that we’re committed to delivering a ‘wow’ customer experience. When I asked them, who are their clients, they all focused on the external paying customer. They did not consider other departments as internal customers, reliant on them as part of the chain to deliver an exceptional customer experience. This is important for teams to appreciate and to broaden their perspective on how they ultimately influence customer service for the paying customer.
2. Clarity — The customer experience goals have to be clear, specific and understood by everyone in the business, making it relevant to each person’s role. It’s crucial that each team member appreciates that a poor individual customer experience can have a knock-on effect on the overall customer experience the business provides.
As part of learning about providing a ‘wow’ customer experience, I had the privilege of learning from recognized world leaders in this area. I arrived late to stay at the Ritz Carlton Atlanta and decided to ordered room service. It arrived perfectly laid out on white tablecloth and it looked delicious. On closer inspection, I saw what looked like stains of blood on the tablecloth, napkin, and cutlery. Could it be blood or was it raspberry coulis? Too tired to call room service, I decided to discuss it with a reception in the morning. It would be interesting to see how they handled it, in line with their reputation for exemplary customer service. As I left the room the following morning, I met the housekeeper in the lift. She asked me if I was enjoying my stay and I explained what I had experienced with room service. She apologized and made a note saying she would sort it. By the time I got to reception to check out, the receptionist asked what she could do to put it right. I was completely taken aback that she already knew about it, within minutes of me mentioning it to housekeeping in the lift. That was exceptional and the Ritz Carlton demonstrated a ‘wow’ customer moment.
3. Transform — Strive to go beyond providing just ‘good’ customer service, because that’s a baseline. This can be done by exploring ways to transform an aspect of the client’s business strategic goals or drivers. A good way to do this is to get business teams to think creatively about an initiative that could lead to a collaborative and transformational project with their client.
My favorite example of this is the experience we had with our client The Body Shop. By developing the first natural gas truck and putting it into operation, we helped them realize an important aspect of their green goals. By significantly reducing CO2 and particulate emissions by using this new vehicle, it reinforced their position as an innovative and disruptive business. There was significant publicity around the project, both in the industry and for the consumer, which was a huge bonus for both businesses. This led to a strong, long-lasting, and valuable relationship between both companies.
4. Think Differently — It requires different thinking to find creative ideas for a client’s transformational project that leads to a ‘wow’ customer experience. Finding an experienced facilitator who can develop and lead a team with a live project helps it gain momentum and results. From the first-hand experience with The Body Shop, I know how challenging it was, in the beginning, to think outside the box in order to take the customer experience to the next level and make it ‘wow’.
Trying to visualize your client’s future environment by obtaining deep client and sector insights, is a highly effective method in order to think differently. I facilitated this approach with a company, and their team came up with an innovative concept store for their retail client. The project was later commissioned, delighting the retailer as it led to a substantial increase in sales. That was a ‘wow’ experience for them as they were struggling with falling sales and this was a dramatic turnaround with a highly creative and successful solution. At the start of the project, no one considered such a transformation, let alone making it a reality.
5. Measurement — Once you’ve made a commitment to achieving exceptional customer service, and everyone is clear about how to do this, it mustn’t be left there. Independent and regular assessment will determine areas for improvement so that you continue to make progress and deliver on your customer experience promise.
I have the privilege of working with many different companies and it is very interesting to see reactions when the executive teams see for the first time, the results of a detailed customer experience rating undertaken by an independent body. What clients say is meaningful and should be given due consideration. From the survey, they are able to cut and dice the results by business unit and department. Those responsible for the business units can see for themselves how their division has performed, in hard facts. Like a set of management accounts, it brings accountability and the need for an improvement plan. This works well when the organization is committed to improvement in a supportive and cohesive way. If this information is used as a stick to beat the leadership team, then it leads to a demoralized team and has the opposite effect on delivering a ‘wow’ customer experience.
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?
When clients have a ‘wow’ experience, we invite them to collaborate with us on case studies, awards, testimonials, and help win new business. We reciprocate, by offering something of value in return. Delighted clients are happy to speak with prospects who are close to making a decision and need some external validation to support their decision-making process. This has a very positive impact on helping them to reach the right decision.
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. 🙂
The movement that I’d like to create is to help people realize that by shifting their mindset they can change their perspective on life and reality. I’d particularly like to do this for people who sleep rough. Very often they have lost all hope and can’t see a way forward. I do appreciate that the number one priority for those without a home, is food, clothing, and shelter. After that, helping them see that they have the ability to create a better life, starting with how they think about themselves and their own self-belief. I believe this would be hugely beneficial. When your mindset is strong, you have confidence in yourself and see the world in a positive light. On the contrary, when your mindset is filled with worry and doubt, your whole perspective of life is often negatively affected. This shift in mindset would be an incredible step forward for humanity.
It would be to show
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This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!