Stephynie Malik: “Ask, Listen, and Engage”

Ask, Listen, and Engage The best source of information on customer satisfaction, dissatisfaction, and improving the customer experience is direct customer feedback. Be proactive in getting their feedback and make it simple and easy to respond. I always find time to contact at least five clients each day. Asking for their input makes them feel valued, appreciated, […]

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Ask, Listen, and Engage

The best source of information on customer satisfaction, dissatisfaction, and improving the customer experience is direct customer feedback. Be proactive in getting their feedback and make it simple and easy to respond. I always find time to contact at least five clients each day.

Asking for their input makes them feel valued, appreciated, and respected. Listening means using information to improve the experience.

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 Stephynie Malik.

Fresh on the heels of a 25+ year successful career in which she was an award-winning CEO of a global consulting firm for over a decade, a serial entrepreneur that spearheaded multi-million dollar acquisitions and mergers while working with more than 11 start-ups globally, and a business transformation and crisis specialist, Stephynie Malik formed SMALIK Enterprises with one single goal in mind — to help others and promote change through her proven strategies and methodologies.

Stephynie founded SME with the same intention she had in mind when she started her first company MalikCo, a highly successful global technology consulting firm. The goal is to build a customer centric business consulting, executive coaching and crisis management services organization that changes the industry’s business model for service delivery and creating sustainable improvements to individual or organizational performance, productivity, and profitability globally.

Hailed as an expert negotiator and skilled crisis management consultant in the industry, Stephynie is helping top-notch athletes, executives and businesses take their careers and organizations to the next level while also resolving high conflict and crisis cases for individuals and companies globally.

In addition to bringing her wealth of knowledge, undeniable experience and proven track record of success to SMALIK Enterprises, she has also established a team of world class experts to ensure SME delivers the highest level of service and results to its clients globally.

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 had the great fortune of being able to grow up in the Silicon Valley which afforded me the opportunity to work at some of the best companies in the world and do so at a time in which cutting edge technology was at the forefront. After holding several Director and Vice President roles and gaining invaluable experience along the way I founded what would become a highly successful global consulting firm. After nearly 15 years as Founder and CEO I didn’t just want to ride off into the sunset as I knew deep inside that there was so much more that I wanted to do and so much more that I wanted to give back to others. It was then that I founded my most recent venture, SMALIK Enterprises. SME is a Crisis Management, Executive Transformation and Business Consulting firm that was founded with the deliberate intent to promote change, make a greater impact , give back and to ultimately transform not just companies, but the also the lives of those we work with.

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?

Just one? I was in the middle of a presentation to several hundred people one day and somehow managed to go from my feet to my face in a matter of mere nanoseconds. I later learned that I created a few minutes of sheer panic and chaos after my fall. I had to take their word on that as I was distracted by a monster headache and unicorn-esqe bump growing on my forehead when I regained consciousness.

After a trip to the hospital, it appeared I simply passed out. I used to get a little anxious when I had to present to large groups. I compensated by over preparation and practice. I still over-prepare, but I always hydrate and eat a little something to help make sure I stay conscious and upright.

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 have had many people in my life who helped motivate, educate, and inspire me to succeed and excel. At the top of that list is my daughter. She was born when I was 22, and we were on our own after my divorce at 23. I had no idea what this person held for me in my future. She tells me these days that I shaped her and gave her so many gifts. She has no idea that she was my teacher. She taught me unconditional love, preparation, kindness, giving without expectations of receiving. She taught me to prioritize how and when pivot, not sweat the small stuff, slow down and smell the roses, and taught me how to laugh. She often coached me on parenting skills. For example, she pointed out that all bad days were not solved solely with compassion, understanding, and ice cream and suggested that I add more a few more tools to my parenting toolbox. My success isn’t a “me” thing. It was and is a “WE” thing.

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?

What a great question. A business exists for a particular purpose. Many exist solely to make a profit. Some have a broader goal of providing a service to benefit society and contribute to the greater good.

Regardless of the reason, you must generate revenue to fulfill your purpose. Companies that provide a product or service that meets and exceeds customer expectations will generate far more revenue than a company that doesn’t. More revenue can translate into more profit or increase your capacity to benefit society.

An unwavering commitment to both customer service and the creating a great customer “experience” is truly the key to success.

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?

One word. Leadership.

I don’t say that in a negative, judgmental, or disrespectful way. I have held leadership positions from frontline manager to CEO and experienced firsthand the challenges leaders have to deal with daily. I have also spent tens of thousands of hours on client sites observing how they operate at every company level.

The bottom line, however, is a simple one. Those who make the rules own the consequences.

Employees don’t have control, or in most cases, any meaningful input over workplace processes and policies. Employees don’t have the authority to allocate resources for training or re-training, nor are they significantly involved in developing hiring or disciplinary process. Every customer-facing team member has some readily easily actionable and readily available feedback that could improve customer satisfaction and customer experience. Too bad no one ever asks them for it.

Their ability to deliver an exceptional customer experience is based on the quality of their training, the coaching and development they receive, and work processes that enable them to be an effective customer advocate.

Who is responsible when they don’t have the resources needed to meet performance expectations?

That would be leadership.

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?

More competition should force companies to improve. Social media platforms where customers can rate and review your company, products, and service delivery process should force companies to improve based on negative feedback. Do they compel companies to improve? I’m sure some do.

It all goes back to how leadership reacts and responds to the results their company produces.

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

One of the reasons I was confident MalikCo would succeed despite the economic downturn in 2002 was that I had a long list of previous clients in many companies who wanted to do business with MalikCo and me. I had earned an excellent reputation based on the work I had done for them, and they wished to continue the working relationship. I am so grateful for their support as it was pivotal to our early success.

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

We billed and collected 2.5 million in our first quarter and had to say “no” initially to about 80% of those who wanted our services and support. We continued using the referral list to gain traction and grow in our first couple of years but there is no doubt that our commitment to the customer experience and our loyal clients were the key to our success. When you create a client first organization and are committed to serving your clients it will most definitely create a ripple effect throughout the company.

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.

One- “Begin With the End in Mind”…Stephen R. Covey

Dr. Covey believed all things get created twice. You see things first in your mind and then use that knowledge as a blueprint to make your “vision” a reality. Think of it as an exercise in reverse engineering.

What exactly is a Wow! customer experience? You have to define it, explain in detail the steps you will take to achieve or deliver it, and establish specific and measurable performance standards to assess how well you are doing as an organization to meet your goals.

You know what they say…a goal without a plan is just a wish.

Two- Take care of the people who take care of the customers

Wow! Customer Experiences are a team effort. Those who build the product, deliver the service, provide the support, or interact directly with the customer create the Wow!

Who creates the capacity and environment that enables them to Wow! your customers? Leadership.

Equipping your team members to excel is the responsibility of every leader, at every level, in any company. Capacity is built through high-quality training, effective coaching and development, and having the time, tools, and technology to do their jobs to deliver the Wow.

The ability to work in an environment where people feel “safe”, respected, valued, receive feedback on their performance, and recognized for doing good work is also essential.

Culture matters.

Three- Ask, Listen, and Engage

The best source of information on customer satisfaction, dissatisfaction, and improving the customer experience is direct customer feedback. Be proactive in getting their feedback and make it simple and easy to respond. I always find time to contact at least five clients each day.

Asking for their input makes them feel valued, appreciated, and respected. Listening means using information to improve the experience.

Four- Be Easily Accessible and Rapidly Responsive

Valuing the customer’s time is critical to a Wow Customer Experience, particularly when they need support or complaint resolution. The more touchpoints you have, the faster the issues can be addressed or resolved.

Five- Show Appreciation and Gratitude

Gifts, discounts, reward programs, a note, or a phone call are gestures that can convey your appreciation and gratitude for their business. The more personalized the gesture, the more valued they feel.

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’s amazing how the internet and the various social media platforms have made this process so much easier. Many will offer a testimonial, write a review, or share their experience with their friends and contacts without being asked or prompted. If all else fails, of course, you can always ask them if they would be willing to share their experience and suggest ways to do it.

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 would organize the largest, the loudest, the most energetic, and omnipresent grassroots group of mental health advocates on the planet.

Mental health disorders impact 1 in 5 adults in our country. 51.5 million adults reported they experienced an event in 2019. The number of people affected who did not seek treatment is incalculable.

Mental health professionals need our help to increase awareness, change laws, raise funds, outreach, and many other initiatives to support those impacted by mental health challenges and disorders.

How can our readers follow you on social media?


Twitter: @StephynieMal

Instagram: @StephynieMalik


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

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