Please. Thank you. Treat others like you'd want to be treated.
The lessons we learned as children resonate deeply. It's why reflecting on mom's guidance is the perfect parallel for how to behave in business. Jeanne Bliss, author of "Would You Do That To Your Mother" joined us to explain how these important maternal lessons can help positively shape your customer service and empower frontline employees.
In this webinar, Jeanne Bliss and Taylor Pipes chatted about the following topics:
- How to hire people who care
- The importance of empathy
- Dare to rethink what's been done
- Take the high road with radical transparency
Jeanne Bliss is a best-selling author and an expert on customer-centric leadership. She pioneered the Chief Customer Officer role and has deeply applied her experience in writing and research from time spent working at companies including Allstate, Coldwell Banker, and Microsoft.
Her fourth, and most recent book, is titled, very fittingly, "Would You Do That To Your Mother?" Very interestingly, this book uses our mothers as a lens to illustrate how life changing maternal lessons can help not only improve customer relations, but also enhance and improve employee experiences.
Taylor Pipes: I'd like to welcome to our webinar, Jeanne, it's a pleasure to have you and we really appreciate you coming to take the time to talk to with us today.
Jeanne Bliss: Hey, Taylor. Thanks so much. I've been on the road with a book tour, but it's great to sit down and talk to you. I'm really honored to be with you guys.
Taylor Pipes: Excellent. I think a lot of our attendees may have the same question that I do. For a customer service and experience book, this is a super interesting title. I'd love to get a little bit of background on not only how you came up with a title of the book, but then also kind of explain how you decided to segment the book. I think it's very important to the people that are listening.
Jeanne Bliss: You bet. I've been doing this work for almost 35 years. I started at Land's End in 1983, training 2,000 phone operators. Every part of my body is about customer experience. I've written the detailed, how-to do it books. My Chief Customer Officer books are the user's guide, every newly-minted CCO, every C suite trying to get the work done, uses that book as the mechanics of it. But, every other book I do what I call an inspiration book and a "1, 2, 3" tactic book, which takes us back to why we're in business in the first place, which is to improve a human's life at the end of our decision.
Jeanne Bliss: What's interesting is that as customer experience and all this work is getting more in the limelight, we're also making it very complicated with methodologies and processes so I need to get us back and make business personal. The most personal metaphor there is, is your mom. "Would You Do That To Your Mother" is the lens through which, you know, ask yourself before you're about $7 for that bottle of water, "Would you do that to your mother?"
Taylor Pipes: I think that's a fantastic parallel to make. I mean, if you know nothing about how to properly run a business or engage with customers, you do have these maternal instincts, which should kick in. If you just step back and analyze them for a second, you will have the answer to how anybody, regardless of experience, should be able to treat a customer and treat them the right way and have them come back.
Jeanne Bliss: That's right. You know, even if you're ... You know, everybody has a mother figure in their life. It's really about personalizing. The other thing I love about that question is, Taylor, is that it really connects to every level of the organization, right? If you're on the front line, it can make you pause and re-evaluate your own personal behavior with the other persona across the counter, across the phone, across the chat box. You know, we talk a lot about chat. Well, for me, it's not ... It's the tone of the chat. Are you writing as if you're writing back to somebody who you care about?
Jeanne Bliss: If you're in the middle of the organization and dealing with the spaghetti bowl of process, and experience, and rules, and policies where all of these are created, you can ask that question. If you're at the leadership level of the organization where you're determining the fundamental behaviors and the fundamental ways in which you will or will not grow, like the $7 bottle of water or allowing extra fees to be attached to your revenue model, that can make you pause. It's about a conscience, right? It's the conscience question sitting on our shoulder, helping us to guide and be deliberate.
Taylor Pipes: I think you ... In like the legal world, it's a question of, it's not necessarily the law, it's the spirit of the law. I think that's kind of how I took some of these maternal questions that you talk about. Can you set up a world in which a front line employee can waive a fee if they're a few days beyond, let's say, the policy that your company has decided for what ever reason to arbitrarily enact? That sort of thing.
Jeanne Bliss: Right. You know, that thing about waiving a fee or whatever, this isn't about throwing company profits willy nilly out the door. It's about enabling people. We'll talk about it in a minute; hiring the right people, giving them the right information. Your mom, who's three days out of warranty may be a 20 year, multi line customer. Give people the information to make an informed decision with much more rigor and humanity than these blanket policies, and then you have to trust. It's core values, but then setting them up or operationalizing humanity into the business model. It's hard to do.
Taylor Pipes: Yeah, one of my first jobs when I was high school, I worked at McDonald's and I had a manager who absolutely espoused the tactics of customer service. That particular manager got the permission from the general manager of the four restaurants that they owned in Southeastern Wisconsin to basically ... You know, rules are rules, but also the customer's the most important person. If you ... If I, as a person running the cash register, got an opportunity to make that customer's day in any way possible, then I was given the permission to do that. I remember those were some of the best lessons I ever learned in my career.
Jeanne Bliss: That's right. You know, where were you in Wisconsin? I love that you're from Wisconsin.
Taylor Pipes: I grew up outside of Milwaukee in Elkhorn.
Jeanne Bliss: Oh, okay. Well, you know, I spent 10 years in Dodgeville at Land's End. Sometimes I tell people that's why I snort when I laugh.
Taylor Pipes: Gotta love the Midwesterners.
Jeanne Bliss: That's right.
Taylor Pipes: Well, so you kind of have a good segue there. For our purposes at Branch Messenger and the work we do at Shiftonomics, it's very employee-focused.
Jeanne Bliss: Yes.
Taylor Pipes: Hiring people who care is the message that, for us at Branch, really stood out. I could talk about this for two hours, but I'd love to hear a few minutes of you talking about your experiences about hiring people who care and why is that important for a company?
Jeanne Bliss: Sure. If I could context that, that's in the very first chapter, the very first chapter on purpose. Each of the chapter titles are kind of momisms. The first chapter is called "Be the Person I Raised You To Be." That's really one of the most important stories is how you hire and who you hire has to start becoming one of the most decisions of an organization. At Land's End, we used to call it "Finding people with the light behind their eyes". The story in the book is about Pal's Sudden Service, it's a hamburger and a hot dog chain, a fast food restaurant. I think they have over 20-30 locations. They're located in Tennessee.
Jeanne Bliss: They won a Malcolm Baldrige award for quality, for how efficient their processes are. Here's what's amazing is they find a way to, yes, be good and fast, but also find good humans that are going to sit and work together and grow within that organization. Look it up. They're ... Maybe you could throw a picture up there some time. Their actual outlets have a big hot dog and a bun on the outside of them. They're hilarious. Here's what they do: They want to hire and understand the human behind the resume. What we know as the best companies, are observing people as part of the process. They're throwing them in situations where they see their instincts at work and see what's occurring.
Jeanne Bliss: They put these folks, these are teenagers, many of them are teenagers, through a 60 point psychometric survey. Some of these questions are amazing. They include things like, "In general, I am happy with myself. I find it's important to trust people who I first meet. I raise my voice so I can get my point across." There's the snort. I think that's important and a great lesson. The other thing they do is they mentor. Again, getting down this path of enabling. You can't hire people and just lob them into your call center, or your operational area, or whatever it is and say, "Sink or swim." The leaders in the middle of the organization dedicate, I think it's 10-20% of their time to mentoring these folks.
Jeanne Bliss: They want to make sure they serve up a little bit of humanity at that window and that they're a team. Now, what I love is, of course, the numbers kick in. Every single one of my case studies I show in impact, their revenue per square foot exceeds their competition. They've lost seven general mangers in 33 years of business.
Taylor Pipes: That's unbelievable.
Jeanne Bliss: Yeah, right? Hamburger and hot dog stand. I put that one in here because, look, you can say we can't get it done, but this is a hamburger and a hot dog stand with high level of transient teenagers. So, voila.
Taylor Pipes: I think that's an interesting one. We ... Internally at Branch, we reviewed ... There was, I think a Harvard Business Review article about just how into the weeds ... I wouldn't even say into the weeds, but how tactical and how strategic this organization is. It starts at the top with the CEO.
Jeanne Bliss: That's right.
Taylor Pipes: In an industry where employee turnover is so high and also where a seasonal employee for young teenagers and young workers is so high, it's remarkable that they have rates of turnover that they do.
Jeanne Bliss: Yeah. I love that story, again, because what I tried to do in the book is give people deliberate actions they could take. This isn't some kind of hovercraft, quantification of certain things. Every case study includes two or three action items. There's this mom lens that helps you evaluate. After the Pal's story is this mom lens that asks three or four questions, are you interviewing in the same way to find human behind your resume?
Taylor Pipes: I think that's a great point for our audience is that the questions that you ask are really great. I mean, you can take these case studies and you can start to implement these at very low effort to take these questions and start to implement them very easily into your onboarding flows and your hiring flows for your company, regardless of your industry.
Jeanne Bliss: That's right. Can I show kind of the interior of the book? I made it very visual on purpose.
Taylor Pipes: Sure.
Jeanne Bliss: Can you see it?
Taylor Pipes: I sure can.
Jeanne Bliss: Okay, so what you'll always see is it's a tool kit. There's 32 of these. Each of them has a case studies on the left page and then the mom lens where you can reflect and ask those questions. Each of the case studies also, which I was just having the most fun with, starts with a custom created cartoon because what we know is humor can be both an anecdote for us understanding. If you're going to use these as tool kits, you throw that down for the first part of your huddle and have a conversation about that customer experience. The other way I wrote the book is we've got to see our own life in this to be empathetic toward what we're inadvertently doing to others.
Taylor Pipes: On that note, I'd love to get you to chat for a few minutes. You've mentioned that in other articles as well and previous articles, but I think it's very topical to the point we just talked about. It's realizing the importance and ... Understanding the importance of how the first line of communication is really key. These are the front line employees that are going to be the first voice that your customer sees, whether they've come to the store for the first time or the hundredth time. You have this thing called The Congruence of Heart and Habit.
Jeanne Bliss: Yes.
Taylor Pipes: I'm wondering if you could talk a little bit about that and how important that is.
Jeanne Bliss: Sure, you bet. You know, it's interesting because every organization on the planet, if not ... Every organization is saying they want to be customer focused. It's etched in crystal balls and on walls of mission statements and everything, but it's your behavior towards your employees that proves to them that there's a congruence. Congruence of Heart and Habit means enabling employees to do at work what they were taught to do at home, have congruence of heart what they know is right what habit would enable you to do.
Jeanne Bliss: Here's an example, let's say in a call center environment you say to everybody, "We want you to be customer focused," but you pin them in with the talk time, you give them a script versus educating them and enabling them, you give them such a small sphere of influence that they're constantly putting their customers on hold or having to ask for permission, you put them through a phone tree where by the time they get through the phone tree and to you, they're so frustrated that you've got to spend the first minute apologizing or apologizing for asking them for the information they just put into the phone tree. The employee says, "Baloney," right?
Jeanne Bliss: That's congruence. What you do and what leaders ask you to do has to line up with what they say and it has to line up with your own internal core value system. That's why this chapter "Be the Person I Raised You To Be" is all about leaders and leaders who lead the front line, their job is to let you, enable you to be the person you were raised to be. I call it "Bring the best version of yourself to work."
Taylor Pipes: You also give them a little bit of a wiggle room to make that right call. When I've worked in hourly jobs and for fast food restaurants or whatever when I was younger, there was nothing worse that I had to do than to give bad news to the customer. I hated it because it made me so uncomfortable because that's the antithesis of the goal of the restaurant or the goal of the job. Again, it's putting some of these to test that you talked about.
Jeanne Bliss: Well, and you know, it's going to be different by vertical. For example, what we know is if you're in a fast food restaurant, the hiring, and the people, and the human becomes even more important because you're going to ask them on their feet to make judgments and decisions without a lot of information in front of them. If you're in a call center, or you're with an insurance company, or you've got ... You're in front of a terminal and have information, the impetus is also on the organization to give that front line person the information about their lifetime value, who they are as a customer, how many other lines of business, how many other people they had to talk to before they got to you, so that you're wiring in.
Jeanne Bliss: That's the true value of high tech blending with high touch is to make your people smarter so they can be better humans to your customer. Then again, to train them on how to use that judgment. There's some great case studies in there, for example, Mercedes Benz of the US manned their front line people with the ability to make decisions. There's a great case study in there around Alaska Airlines. They created a We Trust You tool kit. This is for baggage handlers all the way through pilots. They all have a whole arsenal of things that they can do for and with customers based on reading who they are an understanding the situation they're going through. It's deliberateness.
Taylor Pipes: You also touch on Wegmans is another fascinating company that we look up to a lot in terms of the brand, and there's not much to complain about what Wegmans has been doing. You talk about how they train teams, how they make the conscious decision to train teams to act appropriately.
Jeanne Bliss: Mm-hmm (affirmative)
Taylor Pipes: I think this speaks to how you can give management the keys and the opportunity to espouse these things onto their front line employees. I'm wondering if you could talk for a minute about that.
Jeanne Bliss: Absolutely. You know, what I did was that the standards that we know and love to be the beacons of customer experience and customer service are in there. Of course, Wegmans had to be in the book and that's why I also found people like Pal's, as well, to create a really wonderful, disruptive blend. What Wegmans does, which is brave, this is about bravery and leadership. They will hold opening a market area until they've found the people with the core values that meet their requirements. Then, many of them are internal ... Let's say they open a new grocery store 50 miles away from an existing one, the will pay for the commuting, the lodge, and the per diems for people over six week to eight week period for them to start working as a team and gelling in the operational processes before they open that store.
Jeanne Bliss: Again, it's bravery, it's deliberateness, it's enabling, and then it's trusting. They don't ever want you to ask somebody and then have that person have to turn and say, "Let me find my manager."
Taylor Pipes: You're talking about really, big cultural aspects here.
Jeanne Bliss: In that one, mm-hmm (affirmative).
Taylor Pipes: Yeah. We hear ... Often hear about these stories about culture and how Silicon Valley companies operate and how they're audacious, and brave. But you don't hear that much about other verticals like retail and manufacturing. What if somebody's listening and they're like, "Gosh, my culture is never going to allow that to happen." What would you recommend to them?
Jeanne Bliss: Well, the reason why I wrote the book the way I did was there's ... In some of these case studies, a "1, 2, 3" action plan. For example, it doesn't matter if you're a hospital or not. Cleveland Clinic wanted to find a way to convey caring to their patients, their family members, and to the community in general. When they started their journey toward becoming the number two hospital in the U.S., based on U.S. News and World Report, Toby Cosgrove, their CEO said, "People come to us for quality of care, but they don't like us very much." So, they created first a simple rule. When I say this, you can figure out your version of it.
Jeanne Bliss: Their simple rule, they call it No Passing Rule. Meaning, any patient in a bed with a red light on, no one, whether you're a florist, a therapist, a technician, a janitor, you can't walk past that room if there's a red light on and finding out what that human in the bed needs. Start small. That's one thing. What's your version of the No Passing Rule? They then elevated people's role to caregiver. Now, that's where leadership has to kick in more, where it's not just about a simple rule, but giving people more latitude to extend care. Yes, you might be going into clean the bathroom, but if you see somebody's pillows need fluffing, fluff their pillows, take the time, you're a caregiver.
Jeanne Bliss: In the past in the hospital system, the only people named caregiver were the doctors. Then they took care of the operational organizational divide by doing what they call Managing the 360, they travel to every bed with the whole team so the poor patient in the bed isn't repeating their story over and over again to 15 people. But, just the No Passing Rule, that's a way to start. What I say in the beginning of the book is that one action leads to another, leads to another. You just have to begin. There's over 85 companies and their individual actions in here, as well as 32 case studies with an ROI on each one of them. It's a tool kit of actions. Figure out which ones are right for you. Then it's organized, like you said, around these four dimensions of our lives as customers.
Taylor Pipes: We deal with this a lot at Branch. A lot of our customers are using our products in a million different verticals. That's what I thought was so inspiring is that there are little nuggets that you can apply to your daily routine, your weekly routine, and you can implement them in your work flow really, really simply.
Jeanne Bliss: That's right. Can I walk through the other chapters so people will know what else is in there?
Taylor Pipes: You sure can.
Jeanne Bliss: The first chapter, as we talked about, the most important initial chapter, of course, is about enabling people to bring the best version of themselves to work. The second is around what we know is fundamentally important. I named the chapter "Don't Make Me Feed You Soap" because not everybody is old enough to remember that, but we certainly know the phrase now. This is about getting rid of the things that make it hard to be a customer, that create a duke's up, and what identified were the top eight ones we've all experienced in our life as a customer, you need to do an audit and see if those exist in your customer life.
Jeanne Bliss: As well as, there's about 35 other companies in their with their nuggets of inspiration. The next chapter is called "Put Others Before Yourself", right? I call this No Strings Attached designing your operation. Is what you're asking your customers to do when they walk in the door about your paperwork and process or about their life? We've got it backwards sometimes. We put the other of things, more about what we want to get from customers versus achieving their goals. There's, again, about 35 companies in there, wonderful action items, as well as eight case studies and eight stories around design and designing pain, fear, worry, out of the life of the customer, out of what's happening in our lives as customers.
Jeanne Bliss: Then, the last chapter is called "Take The High Road". That's all that crazy, the policies, the nickel and dime-ing, the fine print at the bottom. It's a great chapter because that's really about leadership. That's where we see companies like Virgin Hotels who have gotten rid of mini bar pricing and a wonderful place in San Francisco called Luscious Garage that's completely changed the car repair experience so it's one of transparency, communication, and partnership; not fear and worry. How many of us have sat by the phone and waited for the phone call of how much that repair is going to be?
Taylor Pipes: I think everyone listening. It's the phone call you don't want to take.
Jeanne Bliss: That's right. The last chapter, again, because this is a tool kit, is called "Stop the Shenanigans" and that's your quiz. What you'll see here is it's the mom lens questions summarized. There's a ... Can you see that? There's a Make Mom Proud-O-Meter. There you go.
Taylor Pipes: Yep.
Jeanne Bliss: Yep. A Make Mom Proud-O-Meter after each question. There's about four or five very operational questions so that's your audit. You can start with the audit or you can start with the chapters. You can really customize the way you use these tools. Later on, I'll let people download the cartoons and other things as well.
Taylor Pipes: Excellent. Yeah, it's a fantastic work book. It's a fantastic case study. You talk about many of the companies that are doing really, really great things in the world of advancing customer service and exceptional customer service. I want to talk quickly about ... Well, actually, the one that struck me was Cole Haan.
Jeanne Bliss: Oh, yes.
Taylor Pipes: This calls, I think, under the umbrella of clarity and purpose.
Jeanne Bliss: Yes.
Taylor Pipes: I think you can also touch on ... There's a story from Land's End that I'd love to have you talk about, too.
Jeanne Bliss: Oh, okay.
Taylor Pipes: Because it's interesting to hear about ... Well, I want to first ask about Cole Haan. What Cole Haan is doing is designing for people's lives in a real interesting way.
Jeanne Bliss: That's right.
Taylor Pipes: High end. Can you explain how they're doing it?
Jeanne Bliss: Yeah. That's in the "Put Others Before Yourself" chapter because the whole idea of this is that the paradoxical realization has to kick in that you're only going to achieve your goals as a company if you start with what customer's goals are. Cole Haan, the global shoe manufacturer, has built a whole experience life, where they imagine your life in shoes. They have come up with really innovative ways to make a women's pump ... You probably don't wear women's pumps.
Taylor Pipes: Nope, but my wife does.
Jeanne Bliss: Exactly. Making women's life in pumps more comfortable because they've worn them and they've tested them. I think somebody even said they make the men wear them sometimes too, because at a certain point if it's not manufactured correctly, the back of your leg starts to be in pain. That's where they came up with all their air cushioning and all these innovative things. They think about ... They are one of the first ones that innovated around wearing sneakers as day shoes. If they imagine your life in shoes, then that's going to give you goal-driven growth. They've got a whole experience lab where they do nothing but imagine your life in shoes. Their whole point is, "We are here to improve people's lives. If your feet aren't comfortable, not much else is." I love that, right?
Taylor Pipes: Yeah. It shoes to the customers that they're taking the time to not only build a quality product, but they're also thinking about who the product is being designed for. It's that level of transparency and empathy that I think a lot of customers right now today are really looking for in a company and a brand that they are spending money and time on. I think that's important.
Jeanne Bliss: Well, and a lot of it goes back to, especially in this chapter to, what Steve Jobs used to talk about, which is, "Look, we could have never asked anybody a survey to design the iPhone. We needed to instead observe people's behaviors, understand their needs, really go to school on the shifting of how people communicate and how they might like to communicate, and then add in a little bit of our own pixie dust and innovation." That's why surveys can get you to a point, but this kind of customer goal led innovation, really starts with knowing people's lives, understanding their frailties and their vulnerabilities and what's important to them, doing ethnography, watching them. Out of that comes the inspiration.
Jeanne Bliss: Another great story in there, before we get to Land's End, is called Careem, they're the Uber of the Middle East. They noticed that their ridership was going down for a certain segment of the population. When they went out, and watched, and observed, and talked to them, it was people who were having kids. They're not going to hail a ride sharing service without a car seat. That inspired Careem Kids, which has now exploded. It's like over a third of their business.
Taylor Pipes: Wow. That's pretty incredible.
Jeanne Bliss: Yeah, so the Land's End story. Which one did you want me to talk about? The box one?
Taylor Pipes: The box one was my favorite because ... I mean, I grew up in Wisconsin so I know about Land's End, but I think the testament to the longevity of that story is important. It's important today because I think there's a lot of, whether it's Stitch Fix or Bonobos or whatever you're ordering in the mail, that product that gets to you, you may not have interacted with a person on the phone, but the end result is you get the package in the mail.
Jeanne Bliss: That's right.
Taylor Pipes: It should look the part of a company and a brand you are ... That has that same values that you're talking about, whether or not you're in person or not.
Jeanne Bliss: That's right. A lot of this stuff we were able to do during the magical time of Land's End. I was working directly for Gary Comer, and the founders of the company, the executive committee of the company. It was the late eighties and we were launching the kids business so there was a group of us, and our job was to rethink everything we did through the lens of a mom or dad. I grew up in a family of seven kids and I just started thinking, "Oh my gosh, that refrigerator box. Do you remember the refrigerator box? We would use it as a sled on the snow. We would do-" It became a toy as important as whatever was inside ... The packaging was.
Jeanne Bliss: I was in a company where they enabled us to dream and think of things and I said, "What about if we turn these boxes into something?" We got permission to reprint the flaps. It cost $15,000 back then. That's all. Of the largest shipping box and there was a note to the parents. It said, "We know you might remember in your memory-" So we grounded a human connection and so they could turn their shipping box into a cow, a sheep or a horse that kids could ride all over the house. We made sure ... I'm going to try and hold it up. Can you see it?
Taylor Pipes: Yep. It's so great.
Jeanne Bliss: We made sure we got the big Land's End logo on the side there and we got, oh my gosh, thousands of pictures. People were feeding their horses hay, they had glued cotton balls to the sheep. We did other other things, too. When it was ... We sent kids pumpkin seeds around Halloween so they could grow pumpkins and then we had a contest. When it was Fall and Spring, we sent instructions on how to make a kite. Well, guess what the tail was? A piece of Oxford cloth from our shirts. You know, but you have to be in a company that enables you to have whimsy.
Jeanne Bliss: One of my favorite stories, which was really around the customer experience, which was when we started the women's business as well and were building women swim suits. A swim suit for a woman is one of the most really bad pieces of clothing on the planet. We ... Gary Comer had gifted to all of us a whole activity center and it included an Olympic sized pool. We brought in women from all over the country. We asked if they would come, best customers, put them in our suits, and we watched them swim up and down that Olympic-sized pool.
Jeanne Bliss: Where they tugged, we fixed, and where they pulled, we changed. It was joyous. It was the joyous, wonderful, very human experience. It was way before ethnography. It was just, "Hey, we don't know what we're supposed to do here. Let's bring some people in and have them swim around for us."
Taylor Pipes: Wow. We've got time for one more quick section.
Jeanne Bliss: Sure.
Taylor Pipes: If you have questions, please submit the questions and we will answer. We also have drawn two winners of attendees today that will receive a copy of your book.
Jeanne Bliss: Here it is.
Taylor Pipes: We will be sending it on behalf of Branch that we purchased from Jeanne. We will send those to you so stay tuned and we will send it at the end of the webinar. What we're going to do is kind of talk to you a little bit about purpose. You have a really fascinating study with Vail Resorts and what Vail's done to build a culture of joy for their employees. I can't think of a more appropriate place to do this than on a ski hill. I'm wondering if you could talk a little bit about that because I think it's a fantastic way. It was one of my favorite stories in the book.
Jeanne Bliss: Oh, I'm so glad. What's interesting is that it's in this story about policy cops because when we give our employees so many things to do, we remove them from the purpose of the business. Instead of making them part of the experience and customer memory creators, we just put them into a box. Vail's whole purpose is the "Experience of a Lifetime". As part ... I found this actually in a slide share that they were using to train employees. In that slide share, was a whole series of phrases that they're not allowed to use and one of them is, "Our policy is," and their whole point is, you get up there on that hill and you provide your version of joy.
Jeanne Bliss: Again, it's less about rules, it's more about joy creation, to have spontaneous joy, experiences on the hill, they give joy buttons, and things on the hill. Again, the point is to hire people in the right way and then enable them. You see a mom and her four bedraggled kids coming in cold and winded, give them a cup of hot chocolate and hot dogs for the kids if it's the right thing to do. Somebody like me not making their way down the hill very much, offer a mug, maybe a day on the slopes or help them down the hill. It's, again, that humanity that I think changes things, and elevates. Vail Resorts is one of the most expensive ski resorts, if not right near the top of the ski experience, but they continue to be one of the most profitable. I think it has a lot to do with those people on the hill.
Taylor Pipes: That's unbelievable. With that being said, we've got a few questions.
Jeanne Bliss: Okay.
Taylor Pipes: Let's see what we've got. The first one from Tom.
Jeanne Bliss: Hey, Tom.
Taylor Pipes: Jeanne, how often should a front line employee hear this message from corporate to help reinforce the goals of customer service. We have experienced big workshops and initiatives, and then, poof, they're gone.
Jeanne Bliss: Then nothing, yeah. I think what happens, Tom, is that it's that. It's this one thing and the organization doesn't make it be a part of the cadence of how leaders lead. You've got ... It's got to really move from the corporate workshop to whoever you are working directly for. You know, this gets right back to, how are you hiring leaders, especially in front line leaders? A lot of the metrics used to be around talk time and operational metrics. Now we know the best companies are around, are you good at coaching? Are you good at motivating? Are you good at enabling? To me, it's like a daily, weekly, it's part of the language of the leaders on an every day basis. It shouldn't be a mantra, it should be how somebody leads. So yeah, good question.
Taylor Pipes: Another question from Stacy. Is it necessary for corporate leaders to have worked in similar customer facing roles, and do you suggest that they go on-site if they have not?
Jeanne Bliss: Stacy, that's a really important question. One of the most important things that I do with my companies of every vertical is called Live the Customer's Life. You need to know the life to serve the life. We need to get out of our corporate offices and definitely take calls, do ride alongs. One of the things that we've done with every industry I've worked with is we've taken everything we've required the customer to do, you have to sign up for an account, you have to try to download that thing. If you have to be ... You have to try to go through onboarding.
Jeanne Bliss: If we don't have leaders in the middle, and you guys are the frontline know this already, it becomes so removed. That's the whole point of the mom book. The other thing is, they need to listen to you guys. You are experiencing this on an every day basis. One of the things that we actually do is by stage of the journey, we bring employees in and we say, "Tell us what's getting in your way of delivering value in this part of the journey." They have to believe your words, by the way, too. That belief kicks in over and over again.
Taylor Pipes: I worked at a company and one of the things that they had was called nuclear subtraining, which was basically like modeled on if you're on a nuclear submarine, everybody needs to know everybody else's roles so you have the ability to rotate around and learn other teams, whether you went product, or you know, just like shadowing. I thought it was pretty cool.
Jeanne Bliss: Yeah, you know, again, you've got to kick people out of the corporate offices and get out into the field. The best companies that's part of the regular cycle of what people have to do.
Taylor Pipes: Great. We've got one final question from Sharon. With technology automating replacing many customer facing experiences, how do we find the right balance between tech and talent? That's a million dollar question to end on.
Jeanne Bliss: Yep. Hey, Sharon, such a good question. Here's what's interesting. A lot of people were pretty fearful that with so much high tech, the need for interaction or people wanting interaction with humans is going to decrease, but I actually think the opposite is happening. In some ways, what's old is new. Especially in a world of self service, if your self servicing your way through, but you hit a wall, that human better be the right human, they better have the right information. It's that blend.
This is a statement everybody uses, but you need to use high tech to enable high touch. That means, don't make you toggle between five screens to find who that customer is, give you that information. I also love, you may have read this story about Danny Meyer in the book. Danny Meyer is an icon in the service industry. He's behind the Union Square Hospitality Group. What he said is, "Look, people in my restaurants have two reason to wear Apple Watches; one is they should know so they need to go top off wine, and two, the valet should know so they know when to pull the car around." The rest is about hiring the right people and then using it to enhance service, not to replace humanity.
Taylor Pipes: That is awesome. Well, I'd like to announce the two winners of our book giveaway - Guylaine Roquort and Lucy Plumley, you both will be getting a copy. We will reach out to you to arrange proper shipping. We hope you enjoy Jeanne's book. Jeanne, can you tell everyone where they can find you online, whether you're on Twitter, Facebook, and also more importantly where they can find a way to buy your book.
Jeanne Bliss: Sure, of course. The book is on Amazon and everywhere you can buy books. My web site is called customerbliss.com and there you can actually, under the books tab, download the first chapter of the book. We also have a wonderful website called make-mom-proud.com and there we've got people uploading pictures of their mom and how they're inspired to do good in business by her. I'm on Twitter (@jeannebliss), all over LinkedIn, and Facebook, of course as well. Yeah, reach out to me. I'm constantly getting questions. If you link into me and ask me a question, I promise I'll respond personally. We eat our own dog food here.
Taylor Pipes: Excellent. Well, speaking to you was a blast. We will be following up the webinar with a transcript that we'll be posting on our blog. We're also going to be creating lots of content from your webinar, as well as Shep's, because customer service and experience is going to be an ongoing topic we're going to explore throughout the summer, so look out for that. I know you're really busy. This has been so much fun. You're a blast to talk to.
Jeanne Bliss: Thank you. Thank you so much.
Taylor Pipes: Yeah, and we'd love to have you guys come on again. I'd love to get a webinar with you and Shep going at the same time. That would be fun.
Jeanne Bliss: Shep and I have done webinars before together. Yes, we'll definitely do that for you.
Taylor Pipes: Thank you very much and appreciate you time.
Jeanne Bliss: Thanks, everybody.
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