How to Improve the Customer Experience: Meet the Experts


How to Improve the Customer Experience: Meet the Experts

Ridiculously Simple Customer Experience

best customer service book ever written
Video Transcript:

CORY: Welcome to Meet the Experts, the show that introduces you to the thought leaders that can impact your business, your brand, and your bank account. I’m Cory Mosely, your host for today’s show.

Do you remember this expression, the customer is always right? Well, it’s been quoted, the customer, in fact, is not always right, but they are always the customer. What if you could create a great customer experience where you never have to say you’re sorry? What if you could please the customer to the point where they go out of their way to do business with you?

Believe it or not, it isn’t hard. In fact, according to today’s guest, it’s ridiculously simple. And if done right, creating a great customer experience leads to greater revenue and profits while reducing marketing and other costs. It can also help business owners have more pricing power, lower employee turnover, and create greater customer satisfaction.

Here to explain how easy it is to do this, as Steve Stauning. Steve’s book, Ridiculously Simple Customer Experience, can help you transform your organization to quickly build and maintain a CX juggernaut. Steve, welcome to the show.

So, you know, customer service is an issue. Customer experience is an issue. There’s a lot of talk around this. There’s a lot of talk around speed, being friendly, the types of people you hire. Everybody wants to have a Chick-fil-A employee working for them, or back in the day, used to be the Nordstrom employee. What prompted you to first write this book as a result of your kind of interest in it, experiences with it? Tell us a little bit about that.

STEVE: Well, my main business is around automobile dealerships, right? As you know, and training car dealers and their salespeople. And the customer experience is sometimes an afterthought in that industry. And as I looked around, it’s really an afterthought in a lot of industries.

And then during the pandemic, during the labor shortages, the part shortages, things like that, the customer experience was actually just kind of thrown out the window where we talk about how to create a great customer experience in 2022. All you had to do was just not screw it up, right? You didn’t have to do anything special. All of a sudden, it was a five-star experience because I got what I wanted, and I got it at the right time.

The other thing that sort of drove me to write the book was all of the complications that people were creating around the customer experience. And I’m talking about the experts in the customer service field, right, from HR folks and beyond, and then also other authors. They were writing these books that just weren’t making any sense to people, right? It truly is ridiculously simple, and that’s why I decided to tackle that book next, I’m doing a series of ridiculously simple books. This is the second one. It wasn’t going to be second, but it got to the point where it was probably needed, right?

Yeah. Well, for people who don’t know you, you’re known for simple, straight to the point, not only observations, but training and just kind of things that are like, you know what? This makes a lot of sense. Why are we complicating this now? I want to get some clarity. Because you use the term CX juggernaut. What does that mean?

The easiest way to think of a CX juggernaut CX stands for customer experience is to think of Chick-fil-A. Right. I mean, they are a CX juggernaut. If I were to ask you to complete this sentence, Chick-fil-A restaurants are always BUSY. Alright.

Chick-fil-A service is always EFFICIENT. Right.

So, everything we say but notice how we use the word always, right? Now, if I said a Popeyes restaurant is always MAYBE YEAH. THE ONLY THING IS BODY SLAMMED. Right?

Well, that’s the point. If I said Popeyes employees are always YEAH.

If we were thinking always, we would never say they’re always friendly. We would never say their service is always efficient. We would never say their restaurants are always spotless.

That’s right.

And a CX juggernaut is just one where all of the pieces just fit together. Chick-fil-A doesn’t have a gigantic customer service center call center where they have to field all these complaints. They simply don’t have them. And that’s the thing that really struck out at me, is that all of these companies like Chick-fil-A, like Ritz Carlton, like Zappos, are all lauded for being these CX juggernauts. But the people who try to copy them don’t understand it’s just about getting things right the first time. I mean, when have you ever stated Ritz Carlton and had a true issue where you had to call some 800 number or complain on Twitter about them? It just doesn’t happen. Right?

Well, I’m sure we could agree that that’s also attitude. That’s starting from the top, right? Philosophy from the top. So, when you say ridiculous because your book isn’t simple customer experience, your book is ridiculously simple customer experience. Why do you say that? What makes it so easy to get it right when so many people do get it wrong?

Yeah, so the book is only 130 pages long, and I felt that was a little bit long. But the idea is that it’s only four things, right? All these CX juggernauts do these same four things. One, they make it easy, and it is whatever you’re delivering to the customer. So, if it’s ordering something on Amazon, it’s easy. If it’s returning shoes, Zappos makes it easy. So, they make it easy. They also manage expectations. And this is the one where even if you make it easy to do business with you a lot of companies will fall backwards on the manage expectations. They don’t just fail to under promise. They over promise ridiculously constantly, and it doesn’t make any sense. So we make it easy. We manage expectations, we keep the customer informed and we keep our word, and those four things take everything else out of the equation.

Well, it’s all about employee training.

Well, if we focus on those four things, then we know how to train the employees, then we know how to follow up. We know how to have checkpoints and things that keep us moving down that path. Now, we all know that it is correlative to a certain point, right?

So that philosophy. One of the things that always strikes me as interesting and you’re using Chick-fil-A as an example is when you go into another competitor, it is so just and I don’t want to turn you into an HR expert, but is that about wage costs? Is that about culture? Like, I don’t actually understand how I could go into a Chick-fil-A, have this amazing experience, go down the street and go into a KFC or Popeyes and have a completely different bracing myself for the attitude that may be there. Why it would seem that it’s not that hard. Is it just they don’t care in your opinion, or what are some of the drivers?

So and I use Chick-fil-A a lot in the book because the main reason is because they get it right all the time, right? And the other reason is that it’s easy for people to understand that comparison because they’ve either been to a Chick-fil-A or could easily go to a Chick-fil-A. I believe, and I wrote in the book that 95% of McDonald’s employees probably think they’re doing good enough, right? And good enough is good enough as long as the customer also has that same definition of good enough. Right?

Because if I have low expectations, right, I don’t expect this is funny. There‚Äôre certain chains that I go into that I don’t expect. I just hope they don’t mess up. Right. I don’t expect it to be.

We look at all of the companies that have tried to copy Chick-fil-A, and so what do they do? They get employee manuals. They get the mantra, the mottos, all of these things, and they put them all up on a plaque and they print up these new employee manuals and they say, this is what we’re going to do. Right? And that’s it. They check the box.

Yes.

Chick-fil-A never takes their foot off the gas. Imagine if the regional manager at Chick-fil-A stopped worrying if the bathrooms were clean. Imagine if we allowed the Chick-fil-A cashier to say no problem instead of my pleasure. It wouldn’t take long for it to just devolve into madness. It truly wouldn’t. And that’s the idea.

It’s about caring at the corporate level, truly caring about the customer. And then it’s about just being committed to that. This is our goal. We are a CX juggernaut. We’re never going to change. And look, not everybody’s a fit to work for, you know, it’s won’t back. Just like Ritz Carlton, they won’t back down from their values. Right.

Well, the other thing I think is interesting, I think it’s important to make a distinction between customer service and customer experience because customer service, when people tell me, oh, we have great customer service, well, that doesn’t really get tested until there’s a problem. Your point is let’s make it so there isn’t a problem to begin with, and that is customer experience and that’s a strategy, that’s a strategic decision.

Right.

And that’s some of the stuff that you’re talking about. Now, when I think about you use the term customer first, what are some of the benefits in your mind to being a customer first company?

Well, one of the greatest benefits that gets overlooked, and you said it in the intro, is lower employee turnover. It’s amazing. When you’re a customer first company, you might think, well, that means employees are second. Well, they might be second, but they’re very close second. Right. Herb Kelleher, the founder of Southwest Airlines would argue the opposite. Employees come first, they take care of customers, and I can see that as well. But a customer first company wants a great customer experience every time, and they’re going to do it by keeping their word, right. Managing expectations, keeping people informed, and making it easy to do business with. So when you have that customer-first strategy, all the other things fall in line. You make more money, right. You make more revenue and greater profits. We know Chick-fil-A outsells the average, what, McDonald’s, Subway and Starbucks combined, and they’re only open six days a week.

Right, right.

But beyond that, you can pay more for your people and so you’re getting better people and you have pricing power. That’s the other piece that others don’t understand about being customer first is that study after study shows people will pay more for a great experience and they really will. People don’t just say that they really do pay more.

Right. And I think it’s one of those things where you have to be in that frame of mind and taking an interest in it, right. Because it is just saying it doesn’t really get it done. Now, in the book, you also talk about the importance of keeping a customer informed and the idea of information through a process, maybe a process that’s not immediate, like going to the giving you money and then getting something back. And you cite Domino’s as an example of that in terms of what they do with their tracker, which people have tried to clone, but no one does it as good as they do. It also because you can even see where the person is in their thing. Talk to us a little bit about that as an example and the importance of those factors.

Yeah. So keeping the customer informed, if you think about it, in the extreme, when people don’t know what’s going on, they think the worst. So, parents will know what I’m talking about here. And that is that you’ve got a 16-year-old new driver who was supposed to be home at seven, and now it’s 701. Oh my gosh, she’s in a car accident somewhere.

Right.

That’s immediately where your head goes. But it’s the same thing with a company. When I don’t know where my order is in the pipeline, when I don’t know what’s going on, my anxiety level will go up, and I will think the worst. And so, keeping people informed where you can. Now, the Domino’s Pizza Tracker, some you say, it’s just a placebo I don’t watch as Jim makes my pizza and Angela starts to deliver it or whatever. I mean, I’ll do all of those things. We look at DoorDash and Uber and Uber Eats and all the others that have those trackers that keep people informed. That stops us when we think about restaurant ordering back in the day, or even ordering from Domino’s back in the day. Calling the restaurant physically on a phone. Millennials won’t know what I’m talking about.

And then it’s a 30-minute guarantee, but at 31 minutes, we’re losing our minds.

Right. And we’re calling the restaurant, looking out the window.

Yes, you’re standing outside.

Exactly. Right. And all of that changed the experience overnight. The Domino’s Pizza Tracker, say what you will about quality pizza. That’s all I’m talking about here. I’m talking about the ability to not have to staff three people to work the phones at a single Domino’s, because they’re not just taking inbound orders, they’re answering questions, they’re answering complaints. They’re doing all these things. And so that’s an easy one.

Right.

I mean, they’ve got technology that can do it, and they’ve been able to do that. The key, I think, for most businesses is how do we do that without technology?

So, you bring up a good point when you said the word technology, because where I wanted to go next before we let you go, because this is such good stuff and people need to have this book. I love the fact that it’s a quick read. It’s the same way I write my books. Like, you should be able to hop on a flight and go wherever you’re going domestically and get through a book and get the information. But technology from a technological standpoint, AI, all this stuff that’s out there, do you think it’s creating complication? Like, people are so excited about the idea of new tech that it’s actually creating problems that they haven’t considered yet?

Well, the early press is, yes. American Airlines just recently moved a lot of their customer chat to AI and reduced the size of the staff that was handling those issues. AI. Is not doing a great job right now. Long term, sure, we know it’s going to fix. But also remember that’s reactive customer service that’s staffing the AI piece so far, the jury’s out on how it’s going to help improve the customer experience.

Certainly, it’s going to help with what I call reactive customer service, and that’s the call center and companies are going to be able to reduce the size of their headcount, things like that, and still resolve issues.

Now, I literally, literally read this morning that Hardee’s Carl’s Jr. That group, Del Taco, that group are experimenting with AI at the drive through. So now you completely pull up and you’re talking completely to AI. It’s not a human being that’s doing your order. Thoughts?

My order will be right. It’s just like the kiosks in McDonald’s, right. So, I think a couple things will happen.

That’s a good point. Yeah, because I literally was at a restaurant yesterday. All these things are so fresh. So, I decided to have you on. And I asked for cheese on the fries. Right. Shout out to all the dieters out there and the health nuts, but cheese on the fries. And when I pulled up to the window, they gave me Au Jus sauce. Oh, sure. I don’t know how they got that from that.

Well, so the McDonald’s kiosks, they raised the average ticket order when you use it, and it increased order accuracy because I was hitting the buttons myself. I think the same thing is going to be true with these drive-through experiences. I think the thing with kiosks is they never forget to upsell. Right. I think it’s the same thing with the drive through because now, instead of it being someone just trying to get you through so they can get to the next person, that screen will show you. Are you sure you don’t want an apple pie? Are you sure you don’t want whatever.

And you guarantee it every time.

Every time.

It’s not Gary. Yes, Gary’s the top apple pie upseller. But Sheila, she don’t care.

Sure. But you also remember growing up, going to your drive through for the very first time, and what did you hear? (Garbled.)

Yes.

And that technology has gotten a little better, where at least I can understand that they’re mispronouncing words. But yeah, I think I’m excited for the fast food and fast casual for things like AI.

So, before I let you go, last question. Obviously, everyone needs to get this book in their hands. But for people that are looking at this and saying, you know what, maybe we haven’t taken this as seriously, and we need to examine this, how can a business provide a great customer experience every time without raising costs to do it?

You actually don’t have to raise costs. I mean, that’s the interesting thing. It’s not about gigantic programs. You said, I like to keep things simple. I do. I’m a simple-minded person. That way. And the solutions are always more simple, real solutions is what I mean. And so, they don’t have to raise costs.

You can do it with your existing staff, you can do it with your existing teams. The idea is that you can’t do what every company has done before that tried to copy Ritz Carlton or Chick-fil-A and that know we’re going to print up a bunch of manuals, we’re going to have a companywide zoom, meeting rah rah, we’re all gonna do it. And then tomorrow we’re on to something else. And all we did was we raised a bunch of cost for printing and distributing materials to our team and it feels like a program and a week later everybody’s onto something else and they trust us less the next time.

The book is written to be ridiculously simple, at the end of each book are key learnings end of each chapter are the key learnings from that chapter plus at least one chapter exercise and from everything from a small print shop to a large corporation. If their teams will work on that chapter exercise that week and then start a new chapter the next week, they’ll find out.

I mean, it’s 22 chapters. So, you might say, well, Steve, that’s 22 weeks. This is a permanent change we’re making. Where are you going to be in 22 weeks if you don’t do this?

That is a good question and we’re going to leave it right there. Steve, you are a true expert. We thank you for joining us today.

My pleasure, Cory. Thanks for having me.

Absolutely. For more information on Steve Stauning and his new book, Ridiculously Simple Customer Experience and how you can provide great customer service without ever having to say you’re sorry, you can email Steve directly at steve @ stevestauning.com. This has been another episode of Meet the Experts, the show that introduces you to the thought leaders that can impact your business, your brand, and your bank account. I’m Corey Mosley and I will see you next time. Thanks for watching meet the Experts, an exclusive interview series produced by Thought Leadership Studios.
best customer service book ever written