Samantha McCreery: “The main disconnect is natural”

Ask for Feedback: Craft your experience based on customer feedback. Customers are happy to tell you what they loved or would like to see different. Use that information to alter your procedures to better the experience. It’s important to keep that data for the future too. A simple form can give you some excellent information […]

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Ask for Feedback: Craft your experience based on customer feedback. Customers are happy to tell you what they loved or would like to see different. Use that information to alter your procedures to better the experience. It’s important to keep that data for the future too. A simple form can give you some excellent information on areas of improvement.

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 Samantha McCreery. Samantha McCreery grew up in Wilmington, IL, a far south suburb of Chicago. Directly following high school, Samantha started her event production business with former dance educators Kimberly Larson and Jennifer Rosenburg. Eight years later, Samantha has a flourishing national brand where she specializes in client relations.

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 knew from my Junior year in high school that I did not want to take the traditional college route. I had been traveling for work with the hair care company Aquage and quickly realized you can jump ahead by working hard and making connections. One year after graduation, my former dance instructors and I started a national dance competition. It was a vertical move considering I grew up competing in dance myself.

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?

The funniest mistake and one in which I tell all my employees is quite embarrassing. It still makes me laugh to this day. I was on stage in front of a large audience announcing our dance awards. We had made the decision to read the awards of an Ipad instead of paper print offs. It was the first time this would take place. The glare from the bright stage lights was making it difficult for me to clearly see. One of the winner’s routines was titled “Enigma”. Of course, I do not know this and am squinting to read the word. Without pausing to think, I announce into the microphone “Enema”. Cue laughter and confusion.

Lesson learned: practicing in the correct environment is so important. I had practiced reading off the Ipad a dozen times prior. One small change, such as lighting, can really throw you off. Also, mistakes can happen and are not the end of the world. This story made me much more relatable and is something we love to review with our new team members.

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’m most grateful for my parents. They supported my decision in skipping out on college and backed up my thought process for it. They never pushed me in a certain direction and we’re very open to me traveling at a young age to explore different avenues I may be interested in. I’m not sure I’d be in this position if they had required traditional paths from 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?

Simply put, without customers, there is no successful business.

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 main disconnect is natural. Everyone is thinking about themselves. That doesn’t make you a bad person, it’s rather an instinct. You must flip your perspective. It is much easier to make decisions that enhance the customer experience when you view situations through their eyes.

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?

Competition does force improvement on the customer experience. It gives the client somewhere else to go if you don’t fulfill their needs. That threat will make anyone up their game. Another external force that promotes improvement reviews on social media. Tweet at a company and you will surely get a response. Companies do not want to go viral for a negative reason.

Can you share with us a story from your experience about a customer who was “Wowed” by the experience you provided?

One of our clients had her 4-year-old son with her all weekend long at one of our events. He was dying to go dance on stage even though he was not enrolled in the competition. During a break we let him go up there and shake it. He was so happy and ran over to our stage manager and asked, “where’s my trophy”. Without missing a beat, she handed over a trophy. Our client couldn’t have been more grateful.

Policy would say, nobody is onstage during break and only one trophy per routine, but it is well worth bending the rules to add joy to a little boy’s weekend and give mom a small break. Sure, awards’ inventory will be off, but again we won’t be missing that well-deserved trophy. The smallest things make a big difference in customer experience.

Did that Wow! experience have any long term ripple effects? Can you share the story?

It absolutely did. That client immediately reviewed us and told all her social followings the adorable story of her son. She has referred multiple friends and has come back every year since.

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. Authenticity: Let customers know the real you. You can be professional without being scripted. Industry jargon can come off as belittlement and is not comfortable for all customers. Speak as you would to a friend unless you know that customer prefers something more formal. I often use words like “hey” and “totally” because that fits my personality. We encourage our staff to do the same.

2. Manage Expectations: An easy way for customers to have a great experience is to tell them exactly what that experience will be. If they must guess, they could easily infer something and then be disappointed when that is not something you offer. For example, we offer free photos and videos when you attend our event. I let them know they will have access to it 48 hours following the event. They will not be let down when they don’t receive it directly following their performance because I managed their expectation ahead of time.

3. Flip Perspective: I mentioned it before, but again think of every situation through your customers’ position. It makes handling conflict much easier. Often, a great review can come from poor beginnings. If I have a customer show up to an event and they are upset about the prop storage space, I ask myself why would they be upset about this? It could be because they spent hours making this prop and don’t want it to get smashed by another prop because it’s a crowded space. This allows me to find get creative to accommodate the customer instead of saying “this is all that’s available and your prop will fit”.

4. Communication: When it comes to a wow experience, the more personal the better. You can easily do this via communication. There have been times when a dancer has become ill and the next routine must move up a time slot. Instead of just telling the performers, I like to go out in the audience and let the instructor know. It’s an extra step in communication and now the customer has an additional touchpoint with you.

5. Ask for Feedback: Craft your experience based on customer feedback. Customers are happy to tell you what they loved or would like to see different. Use that information to alter your procedures to better the experience. It’s important to keep that data for the future too. A simple forum can give you some excellent information on areas of improvement.

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?

If you followed one of my five points, the customer should feel a personal connection to someone on your team. A referral with a name and company is much stronger than just the company referral. Make contact information accessible and easy to refer to.

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. 🙂

Of course, it would be something with dance! Dance is inclusive. No matter who you are or where you came from, the dance world will welcome you. It’s hard to be mad when you are dancing.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

LinkedIn & Facebook: Samantha McCreery

Instagram: @samiamccreery

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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