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CHIEF CUSTOMER OFFICER : GETTING PAST


LIP SERVICE TO PASSIONATE ACTION (Unplugged)
A conversation between Jeanne Bliss & Moe Abdou
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Chief Customer Officer: Getting Past Lip Jeanne Bliss with Moe Abdou
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About Jeanne Bliss & Moe Abdou

Jeanne Bliss

Third of seven passionate Italian kids raised in Chicago, Jeanne Bliss


learned first-hand at her family owned shoe store, Buster Brown, about
humility and grace in business. In the early years of her career, she felt
fortunate to be at Lands’ End, working for founder Gary Comer, where
she developed her passion for the customer and be a “Customer
Crusader. ” Bliss went on to be Senior Vice President of Franchise
Services for Coldwell Banker Corporation and was Chief Officer at Allstate
Corporation.

Moe Abdou

Moe Abdou is the creator of 33voices — a global conversation about things


that matter in business and in life. moe@33voices.com

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I think it doesn’t take long when somebody picks up your book and reads it
to really know that 1, the personality of the individual who wrote this
book immediately comes across. Number 2, we’re inundated with customer
service books, you know, how do you provide the customer experience and
so forth. I think what you hit upon is really something that’s completely
different than the practical theory that’s out there. You really have hit a
chord of here is how it works in action and here is what you can do. I’m
interested in just diving in with you and trying to explore some really
important things that I’ve uncovered in here that I think will be very
valuable for everyone else.

Terrific, I’d love to do that

Let’s take this love letter. In the beginning of the book you say that the
common denominator amongst the successful and beloved companies is
that they consistently find their way to weave their humanity into the way
they make decisions. I stopped when I read that. I said, you know that
makes so much sense but yet, it’s so difficult for people to do especially a
lot of these businesses out there. Since I’ve read your book, I’ve just been
much more conscious of how the services in the world that we’re living in
today. I’m just curious as to your perspective, why when it’s so simple and
it makes so much sense, why is it so difficult for companies small and large
to implement?

Think about your day. Think about all of our days are not comprised of thinking
and considering the lives of the people we’re introspecting with. Instead, our
days are comprised of tasks and actions lists. Those tasks and action list
accidentally cut out the people on the other end of those tasks. We’ve become
so focused on getting the action done that we block ourselves from the overall
impact or effect of the action it’s supposed to have. Even in small business.

I love the small entrepreneurs and even the medium sized companies that are
constantly in contact with their customer because it’s a constant reminder that
there is a human being, a person at the other end of these decisions. It
becomes more difficult inside of large corporations because a lot of times the
people in the middle of the company who are making the engine and the
wheels of the engine turn are so far from the people at the end of those wheels
that they lose sight of why they are doing the work they’re doing.

Let’s assume we’re at the top of the pyramid now and we’re dealing with
the executives of a company whether it’s a small company or whether it’s
a larger company. This is really more of a common sense decision from the
standpoint. When I ran my organization, it wasn’t significant by any means

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but I had about 550 financial advisors. One of the first things that I felt is
that as a leader of an organization, the lives of these 550 people and
everybody that they touch is really critical for me. So how I treat them
certainly is going to have an impact on how they treat their people. So
from the top of the pyramid, do you see that that’s still not a common
denominator?

I don’t think it is a common denominator. You’ve got two ways of thinking


about how you can grow your business, you can cost cut and try to drive profit
into a business that will earn you fast top line growth or you can make
decisions that are right for your customers and employees that you know long
term will earn you a sustainable pack of profitability and growth. It’s a
different kind of decision. It takes a more specific deliberate and really
conscious choice to say, I’m going to grow my business by understanding at the
end of the day, I’m here to serve customers.

And prior to that, at the end of the day, I need to hire people, honor them, and
enable them to serve those customers versus how can we do it cheaper, faster,
better, and not think about the people who need to deliver it and the
customers you’re delivering it to. So that’s why I connected it back to the
humanity because it’s about being sure and constantly being passionate about
the fact there is people at the end of the each of those processes that we need
to help and support.

If no one gets anything other than that one sentence out of the book I think
it’s paid for itself right then and there. I want to dive into the formula
here in a second. I want to give you two specific examples since I read your
book that have come up in my life that really has continued to really get
me to think how critical a topic you’re addressing.

About a month and half ago, my transmission went out on one of my


Mercedes. It only has 60,000 miles on it. I’m going to just cut to the chase;
I had just paid a lot of money to get it serviced prior to the warranty
running out. After every service, I’m dealing with this dealer for the last 5
years since I moved to Southern California, the first thing they want me to
do is; somebody is going to call you, please give us 5 stars because it’s
really important. I feel, you know what, I’m going to do that and as a way
to — these service managers don’t make a lot of money and if I can help
them, I’ll help them and I always do. When it came time to serve me, one,
they wouldn’t cover it. Number two, they sent me over to Mercedes of
North America. It took me three weeks to have two conversations with

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somebody there. Their number one objective is to be rated number one by


JD Powers.

It’s Pavlovian. What we have done to people has driven bad behavior.

And that’s Mercedes Benz.

That’s so sad because the brand erosion that’s occurred because we’re all —
with all of these surveys and all of these things that have been created to try
to so-call improve the service experience of customers, what it has done
instead is reinforce and drive bad behavior. We create these inadvertent scores
people are going against and then we ask our customers whether we’ve earned
it or not to give us these scores because it’s tied to whether our kid gets braces
on their teeth or we go on vacation or put in a new roof on our house.

Absolutely. Here is a specific example. Let me give you the second one and
then we’ll kind of get to the tangibles of the book. The second one is at
AT&T a week ago. I’m on a waiting list. I guess I’m scheduled to get my
iPhone, the new one, on the 7th or 8th of July. In the meantime, my wife’s
battery on her Blackberry, I guess died so her phone died. So I went into
AT&T the other day and I said, “I’m on the waiting list. Can I get a
battery?” I’ve been with these guys for literally over 20 years. I’m
scheduled to get my phone on the 7th.

“Do you guys have a battery just so my wife can use her phone until we get
our iPhones?” They huddle up and they say, “No, we don’t sell batteries.” I
said, “Okay.” So I left to go find another place and they ran back at me to
my car and they said, “Come back in. We think we found one and we’ll sell
it to you. We’ll sell it to you for $49.” I said, “Forty-nine dollars for a
battery for three days?” Twenty years, I’ve been with these guys and I
said it’s easier for me to just buy her a new phone and ditch the phone
when her new one comes.

And ditch you?

Is that remarkable?

It is so silly because companies are so short sighted. That’s what this whole bad
profit is about. Instead of thinking about you are a 20-year customer, the
investment you’ve made in their company and the investment that you can
make to ensure that you continue to do work with them and tell other people
about your experience. They could have turned you into an advocate by

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bending over backward. And instead, you’ve now got a negative story you’re
telling to hundreds of people right now.

The cool thing about it is we can now help everyone who is going to be
listening to this podcast and reading the text of this on how not to do what
these two examples have done.

I don’t know what you’re thinking process was when you came up with
these decisions but they are fabulous. That deciding to believe, deciding
with clarity of purpose, deciding to be real, deciding to be there and
deciding to say sorry are so simple that ever since I read your book, I have
them on a little index card that just gives a trigger for me. I know you got
a lot of cool things coming out but I felt what we could do is tackle each
one of those and talk about, you know, there is a lot of things to remember
in a book and a lot of stories.

What is maybe one thing that we want people listening to this to not
forget when it comes to this particular decision? And then I want to share
with you the companies that have stood out to me and maybe you can kind
of dive into it a little bit of what you learned about these companies with
each one of these decisions.

I would be happy to do that.

I believe in you, means I trust you. Yet, trust is very, very difficult these
days whether it’s with what’s happened in our country and what’s
happened in the world economy but it seems that that’s a very difficult
word. What you say in there with those three words, we honor the
recipient. In your experience, what makes people, companies believable
and others not?

This starts with being deliberate about hiring people who share your values.
And then first of all knowing what your values are. Many companies are in
business without being clear. So that’s why clarity connects. I always say this
isn’t blind belief. This is around hiring the right people then training them and
developing them so that they can bring the best version of themselves to work
and then getting out of the way and believing that they will do what’s right.

So the beloved companies believe their employees and they also believe their
customers by getting rid of all of these as much as possible; extra rules,
regulations, and policies and procedures. They create this wedge between
ourselves and their customers where we got our shoulders hunched up before
we call into our financial advisor or we call our insurance company or we do

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something as simple as returning a blouse to a store because we know that


there is a gotcha somewhere on the other end of the line of some rule or policy
that we didn’t know about.

There are fabulous examples in your books, fabulous examples for


anybody to learn from. The one that jumped out to me was Wegmans Food
Market and their decision to say that no customer will leave here unhappy.

That’s true.

Do you have some triggers there that you can share with us?

You mean examples of why they got to that?

Yes.

It’s interesting that you picked at one because that goes directly to what I just
mentioned which is Wegmans is so deliberate about who they will and will not
select to go into their stores. So because they are a food store, they will hire
first, people who are passionate about food and then they give them three to
four X the amount of training that other grocery store folks might have.

So for example, you could walk into Wegmans and go up to a guy stocking
garbanzo beans and ask him if he knew how to poach a fish. The guy comes
down off his ladder and will tell you how to poach a fish. Or, if you walk into
Wegmans and ask someone a question, there is not that back and forth which
you just encountered at the AT&T store. The guy on the floor — let’s say there
is a true story in the book about a woman who bought a turkey too big for her
oven, nobody asks permissions, he just says, “Hey, bring the turkey in. We’ll
cook it for you in the back here for you.”

It’s fabulous.

So they get rid of the rule book and just say, “No customer can go away
unhappy. We’ve hired you for who you are. We’ve trained you now go do
what’s right.”

Is the layer of bureaucracy as the companies get larger a problem that — I


mean, I can’t imagine a business who wouldn’t want a very simple rule like
that; ‘No customer will be unhappy.’ I’m just wondering is it perhaps the
layer of bureaucracy that starts to emerge as the company increases in
size that makes these things so difficult?

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Well, you know, Wegmans is a 67 billion dollar grocery store chain now I
believe. They’re the fourth and fifth largest grocery store chain and retailer,
one of the largest retailers in the world. They’re just huge. These are
deliberate decisions. The whole concept behind this book is you can’t
accidentally become a beloved company. You have to be deliberate. What’s
interesting is a lot of companies that started out being beloved have to look at
that as an inheritance that needs to be nurtured, developed and defended with
their life as they grow because as you grow, you bring in people from lot’s of
different companies that haven’t had those same principles in purity in terms
of decision making.

So these companies lose their mojo as they grow because they forget what got
them there in the first place and they stop defending those things. They stop
pounding their fists on the table. And it gets lost in the silos, in the
spreadsheets, in the chasing after the survey scores etcetera. That’s why you
know, big companies that are beloved even though they are large, they retain
that passion but they have to be operational to do it. That’s why this book is
not Kumbaya, pie in the sky. It’s look, you know, believing is not blind belief.
It’s creating operational processes for hiring the right people. It’s creating
deliberate training and development. It’s being specific about who you will and
will not hire. But then after that it is believing.

The happiness and the culture that develops within a company becomes
very obvious when you walk in or even if you’re an observer.

It’s true because wouldn’t you rather be in a company where you’re trusted?
Because once you’re trusted, here is what happens, that hunch of your
shoulders goes down. You look forward to going to work everyday because you
know you’re part of something greater than yourself. You know, one of the
great joys of my professional career was being at Land’s End. I got there in
1983 and it was basically okay, let’s sit on the floor and figure this thing out.
We were believed to make the right decision based in our corner of the world
all guided by the fact that everything we sold and every experience was
guaranteed and so we all have to had to live up to that promise to customers
and to ourselves.

I observed that first hand with several companies. But more importantly,
last year, I had the opportunity or I guess now it’s almost two years ago,
to attend President Obama’s inauguration. It was really a fabulous
experience. A friend of mine, during one of the sessions, he said, “I want
you to lead a group of people who are just very special.” I think it was
Collin Powell speaking. I said, “Well do it after the speech.” It turned out

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to be Tony and his group at Zappos. It takes literally like a minute to see
how this young group of people who is so passionate about life and about
being together and so happy and smiling. I had no idea who Tony was and I
had no idea who they were. When we met and he started to see throughout
the whole event, this is a special group of people. It’s not a façade what
they do in the company. This is how they live.

Well yeah, you know, I mean, you’re in a place where — I call it congruence of
heart and habit. We learn things about how we want to treat each other, how
we should be treated when we’re young. Then we take all that, the golden
rule, we strap it to our back and we try to take into business. The companies
that encourage, enable, and defend our ability to be congruent between the
heart, what we learned when we’re kids and the habit, the operational
decisions we make in business are the companies where there is energy, or
innovation is the highest, and where employees want to stick around. And then
it becomes magnetic force for customers then because they feel that and they
want to be in interaction with those people again. It’s self-fulfilling in terms of
what I used the word prosperity. It’s prosperity financially, yes, but also
prosperity of the human spirit. Who doesn’t want to be there?

When I start to think of entrepreneurs and small businesses in particular,


this does not seem to be a difficult task. To say that you believe in a
customer and you believe in the people you work with because there are
not a lot of them.

And if you want to get financial about it there is another example in the book
which people have really gravitated towards called Zane’s Cycles. Zane’s is a
small business. They sell actually interestingly about 15 million dollars of bikes
and parts from a single store. But what really guides their decision making is
that they know the lifetime value of their customer.

So if AT&T for example, knew how much you would bring or have brought to
them in your lifetime, they might have made that decision differently. At
Zane’s they’re very deliberate about knowing that. So when you go into Zane’s
for the first time to take a test ride of a bike. Let’s say even a 6-thousand
dollar bike. They just say have a nice ride. They don’t ask you for your keys or
ID or anything else because they don’t want to jeopardize that long term
potentially fruitful and prosperous financial relationship by questioning your
integrity at your first interaction with them.

Funny that you bring them up because I selected them for the second
decision about purpose and the importance of understanding first and
foremost who you’re not going to be and then understanding who you’re

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going to be and that was my choice was Zane’s. Can you talk a little bit
about their sense of purpose and what guides their decision to say, “Hey
you know what, we’re not going to ask you for your keys”. Having
observed that that must have been very refreshing for you.

It really is. Their margins are higher. Their profitability is higher. They have
been deliberate about being the place in a bike lover’s life where you will
always be an island in a storm. From the time you buy the bike — if there is any
part less than a dollar or whatever that breaks, they have a deal no matter
what. Anybody comes in, they’ll always give that away; simple little things.
They guarantee the rest of the experience because they don’t want a nickel
and dime you.

Zane’s and like other companies, they recognize that those inflection points
where you need them and they have a choice to either deliver or not. Based on
how they respond to your needs at that time has everything to do with whether
you’re going to come back and the story you’re going to tell people. We know
more than ever that the story customers tell each other is more important than
your own marketing messages.

No question about it.

The customers are talking to each other more than reading and paying heed to
marketing materials.

I think there is another example too here with clarity and purpose that
jumped out at me was Lush Cosmetics about hiring a hundred products a
year. I think that’s a fabulous strategy for anyone to consider especially
nowadays.

Lush is a store, it was a UK based store. They make all natural soaps and other
things. You walk in there and the cacophony of smells is just remarkable.
Driven and grown by a very passionate guy Mark Constantine. Previously to
starting to Lush in very successful other bath and body works kind of
organization that started to lose the principles from his point of view. So he
began Lush.

The draw of Lush is always going in to see what’s new and how fresh the
ingredients are. They are deliberate. Again, these are purposeful deliberate
decisions. They hold something — I love the name of this — called the Mafia
Meeting every year, and they kill — because they kill a plan where it’s not
theirs, it’s not mine — they kill a hundred products a year. Even some that
customers defend with their life that they love because they always want to

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make sure that their customers will come back for the new. That’s their way of
constantly refreshing and making sure that they’re not resting on their laurels.

I love that. That’s a fabulous idea. I had a little mastermind group meeting
about a week and a half ago and I brought this very point up when I
brought your book up to this group of entrepreneurs, I had mixed signals.
Some people kind of set my passion and thought this was really, really
cool. Others say, what if we had products that people really love as you
just mentioned. Are we chasing away customers when we get rid of those
products? How would you respond to that?

I would say this isn’t just about products. So they took it very literally. It’s also
about services. It’s also about your experience. It’s also about how you deliver.
For example, if you are a software company, how do you do installation? This is
around letting legacy practices and processes guide you because you’ve always
done it that way. It’s also about making sure you know what business you’re in.

For example, when I tell the story of this book in speeches I talk about drinking
Cup Company. So let’s say you’re in the business of making drinking cups for
children. A traditional drinking cup company, an everyday company in my
parlance, would first of all get their product development guys together and
say, “Okay, we need to create three prototypes of cups.” Then they bring
women together, usually moms and say, “Tell us which cup you would pick?
Pick a cup.” Maybe the mom needs a cup with a little indent on the side or a
straw. The everyday company is selling cups. The beloved company starts with
the mom is supporting parenthood.

So they start with the mom and talk to the mom about the day she has how
meal time should be and use how customers live their lives to inform the
processes, the policies and the procedures that are developed. So if you’re
selling cups, your operations processes cost cutting. If you’re supporting
parenthood, you’re going to do things differently and approach things
differently and invest in different ways to earn the right to that long term
loyalty because it’s not just the mom then you become a grandmother, then
you become an aunt. It’s all of that they know they need to earn the right to.
So that clarity grows the business.

Well doesn’t that also move to your next point about being real? I mean, to
me being real is being you and this should be one of the most fundamental
decisions as human beings we make. Yet, again, when I look at the
examples, you know now, I’m very fond obviously of what Tony is doing at
Zappos, it’s just their openness and the ability to say, you know what, we

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all have Twitter accounts, we’re going to share our lives with you. It says
a lot.

Well it does. Here is the thing; everybody is jumping on the bandwagon of


Twitter, Facebook, you know, any of these media accounts. If you haven’t
preceded that with an honest relationship, it will feel like a campaign. The
reason why Zappos exploded the way they did was because they already earned
the right to honest genuine relationship. So this was an extension of it. You
know, gosh, yeah, we already feel like we know the phone reps because they
encourage us to call in. They give those phone reps, you know, it starts with
believe. They give them enough training. They hire people who are passionate.
They don’t put talk time so when you call them in, Zappos actually looks at the
calls as an investment in the future of the relationship not a cost to manage. So
yeah, I know Mary, Sue and Bonnie and Joan and all those people and it would
be fun to follow them because they’re real people.

Is there a common denominator that you see in the companies that you feel
are more real than the others specifically during your research for this?

I think there is humility around the leaders in the organization. They take the
business seriously but they don’t take themselves seriously. You look at
Southwest, Zappos, Trader Joes, The Container Store, the biggest award
people love at The Container Store is being Gumby. They are very specific and
deliberate about doing what’s right for their customers but there is no pomp
and circumstance. They don’t see themselves as big muckety-mucks, too big
for their bridges. I would say that’s the big common denominator is the leaders
never loss site of who they were as a person even as they grew or they guide
people toward that path.

You give a fabulous example when you talk about Rack space and the tech
support individual. I think I believe his name was Simon. Who on a date
with his intended or future wife, his fiancé, he received a call from a
customer who was panicking because of server issues and you talk about
that whole process that in four hours, he did what ordinarily takes 24
hours in the middle of the date with his fiancé. I mean, that’s a fabulous
example. You rarely ever hear about anything like that.

Well and that was again, a very deliberate and expensive potentially set of
decisions that Rack space made actually around the decision of being there
which is they align their teams of people to the client not down the operational
silo or area of expertise. So when Simon got that call, there was none of that,
“Oh, I’m busy. I can’t help you” that normally exists sometimes inside of
businesses, the little competition. He knew he could call in an IT guy. He knew

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he could call in a backup support person, a systems person, whatever he


needed to meld together with him to serve this client because they were all
rewarded, recognized and their prosperity was directly linked to this client
prosperity. So if their client was done and he wasn’t growing and prospering,
they had a role in that.

Where does the decision start for a company? Again, I want to focus more
on the entrepreneurial companies to be there. Does it become part of the
value system? Is it inherent to say that especially as an entrepreneurial
company or an emerging company, this is a huge element especially in the
environment we live in today?

I think that growing companies have this wonderful opportunity to think about
the different points of contact they have with their customers. We call them
touch points. So if for example, your dry cleaner let’s say, let’s do something
very simple. We know that there are several points of contact that you have
with your customer and you can be deliberate about orchestrating an
experienced and an emotional connectivity at each of those touch points.

So let’s say, the first time someone comes into your dry cleaner, we know
that’s a wonderful opportunity to start the relationship off right and so there
maybe certain things that you could do to punctuate that and have your first
time customer feel great. But if you don’t identify the opportunity of the first
time customer, it’s just going to be the vanilla transactional experience. Then
when you pick up your dry cleaning, what if something is late? What if
something is damaged?

It’s around really being deliberate and thinking about those opportunities and
then creating processes and operations inside your business to deliver on those.
If you don’t think about it that way, our interactions with our customers are
just collapsed down to our action item and task list. That may not be delivering
an experience, it’s just doing what we think needs to be done to run a good dry
cleaners or to open the door, or to close the door or the get the clothes in a
pile.

That’s so commonplace. I think when you mentioned that, it really takes


me back to when you are a first time customer at least in a reliable
business you’re treated terrific. As you become more of a loyal customer,
they kind of lose sight of how important it is to still almost continue to act
like you’re a first time customer. It’s like when we’re first on a date and
when you get married there is a certain level of passion and then 50 years
into a lot of marriages, that doesn’t exist. It’s like, “You know I love you, I
don’t need to say it anymore.”

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I agree a hundred percent.

It’s very interesting. You mentioned Thread-less and Zip-car. Zip-car in


particular for me is fabulous. But I’ve watched the evolution of Thread-
less and I’ve watched their passion, which is really, they’re completely
redefining an industry. Everybody can be a fashion designer.

Yes, I agree.

Do you see that type of customer participation accessible to most


businesses out there that you deal with?

No, I mean, I think this whole idea around involving and engaging your
customers, what’s interesting is it kind of connects all the way back to belief.
If you believe and honor your customers that they know their mind enough that
you can participate them and give them a seat at your table at designing
what’s important to them then of course your customers are going to be
invested in that and buy more of your products and services.

Again, it goes back to, are you an everyday company selling cups or are you a
beloved company supporting parenthood or creating peace of mind if you are
an insurance company or delivering on the American dream if you’re a home
builder or, creating customer escape if you’re a spa. What’s your higher
purpose and then bring your customers in to help you deliver on that. You
know, its not rocket science but it’s hard to be deliberate about implementing
it.

It is not rocket science but I also start to think when you think about the
whole customer experience piece and getting your customers involved.
How much interaction do you think becomes too much for a small business
or an entrepreneur? Do you get to a point to where you’re bombarding your
customers and asking for too much advice?

I think you got to use your good judgement. I think you got to use your good
judgment. You don’t want to ask for too much advice and I don’t think its
advice as much as, “Gosh, we know you love the company.” We’ve done things
that are really wonderful. For example, we’ll bring customers in for a cocktail
party and we’ll layout the stages of the customer experience. We’ll say,
“Here’s what we’ve been thinking about.” Here is kind of how you move
through the relationship with us. Is this right? They’ll be like, “Yeah, but its
more like this and that.”

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So it’s this conversation. I much rather have it be conversations. I’m not a big
fan of always doing the mirror behind the scenes, old fashioned focus group
thing. I want to talk to you face to face and talk to you and have a
conversation because I want to see the emotion in our eyes. I want to feel the
pain behind your words because that emotion is what drives innovation. So you
know, you just pick different people. You don’t have to turn into this big
production. And don’t forget to reward your best customers for example. Have
a party in honor of you best customers. People love that.

Give me an example of that. Like identify your top, you know, 5% of your
customers and just unsolicited party?

Or have them come in to help you figure out how to continue to improve. As
much as having a party, they also want to have a seat at the table helping you
develop new products and services because they are the ones who are
passionate about you.

The other thing that companies don’t do enough of and we get so much
attraction from this. I can tell you, more than looking at a million customer
satisfaction or net promoter surveys or whatever which are very helpful, call
customers who left you or have stopped doing business with you. You need to
have the voice of that person in your ear to jog you out of what you might
think you’re doing or delivering to help you take it to the next level or really
fix something that you may not know was driving people out the door and it
maybe something little. Like you should be open until 2 o’clock on Saturday
instead of 12 o’clock, you know, who knows.

But that’s also I think a fabulous idea that will lend an element of
appreciation to the loyalty that whether it’s a one time customer or
repeated customer, certainly, it’s sending the right message.

And then if you’re nervy enough, post some kind of thing on the front of your
building or send it to your customers saying, “Hey, we’ve been calling
customers who left us and here are the things that bother them the most and
we’re working on these. Here is what we’ve done to improve this and improve
this and let us know.” Now you’ve got a real dialog going. That says, “Wow,
this company cares.” A, they’re being transparent enough to tell us, to show us
their worth, and B, they’re working on it and C, they’re letting us know. And
they’re asking me to tell us how it’s going. That’s fundamentally different than
call me up and give me five stars.

Yeah, slightly different. First of all, I love your passion. It seems like the
executives at BP forgot to read your last chapter. Do you want to talk a

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little of that? Why is it so hard for people to apologize especially


companies?

I don’t profess to understand the rat’s nest of legal mumbo jumbo and finger
pointing that’s going on over there. But those people should have their mothers
sitting in the room when they’re making these decisions. Again, I know these
people are under tremendous pressure but how do you explain your decision to
your children? I don’t know, it’s very disappointing to watch.

A lot of executives still fear being wrong especially the higher you go up in
chain, the more important it is to be certain than to be right and to speak
properly. Sometimes, that’s really the kiss of death. They have some very,
very serious reputation damage work to do.

You know what, here’s the deal. At the end of the day, I don’t care how high
up the food chain we all become, if we’re king or muckety-muck of the world.
We’re still at the end of the day, a person. The companies that are loved the
most are the ones that when they make a mistake they face up. Because,
remember growing up, we make mistakes but what happens is — do you have
brothers and sisters?

Yes, two - one brother, one sister.

So you know, when you were a kid and your brother or your sister punched you
or pinched you, your mom or dad would take that kid by the shoulders and say,
“Say you’re sorry!” Well, you know, the response you got with that would be
“umm I’m sorry.” But you knew you would be pinched and punched another
day. These hollow apology letters going out or even these kind of sorry but not
really sorry shrouded over legal layers of conversation and talk and paperwork,
don’t get to the root of the problem and don’t say to the people affected, we
made a mistake, we admit it and we’re going to fix it. At the end of the day,
that’s what people want; humility and swiftness.

You give a terrific path and blueprint for people to follow in your book in
that chapter about saying I’m sorry where you talk about delivering a
swift response, you talk about making sure that it shows humility and
empathy, accepting responsibility, give them an honest explanation and
extending, I think you called it, the olive branch. That’s a fabulous
formula for anybody who wants to send the right message to be able to do
so.

It’s interesting. We have all kinds of IT recovery systems for our businesses
now. Why don’t we do for example what Southwest does and know everyday on

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an ongoing basis, you have to have deliberate processes for this. What
customer’s lives did we interrupt in the wrong way? How are we going to rescue
them? What are we going to do when X happens or Y happens or Z happens?
How do we get things in place?

There is a company in the book, I don’t know if you were going to highlight
them, but I just love this example. It’s a company in Vancouver called Nurse
Next Door. They’re a small growing company. They’ve become the largest
home healthcare company in that area. Like any small startup company, every
once in awhile, you’re going to make some mistakes. What they did is
something that is wonderful. It shows humility. They’re swift in their response.
They have partnered up with a company called Acme Humble Pie. When they
make a mistake, they send to their clients a freshly baked apple pie that comes
in an Acme Humble Pie box saying, “We are so sorry we made a mistake. Here’s
where we stepped in it. Here’s how we’re going to fix it. Please accept our
humble pie.” You know, they spent $1500 on pies and saved a $150,000 in
business.

I love that example and I think it’s a fabulous concept. I’ll tell you, the one
that really rang a bell with me was the next one where again, the Zane’s
Cycles where the guy volunteered a week of his pay to save a customer.
That’s real. You want to elaborate on that a little bit?

What happened was Zane’s frequently would help women, men, whoever with
gifts. In this one incident, one woman was buying a bike for her husband. It was
on a down payment so she couldn’t deliver it to him on his birthday but they
had agreed they were going to put the bike in the window so the woman could
take the husband past the window and there was going to be a happy birthday
sign and all these other stuff.

The young whose job it was to put the bike in the window must have gotten
that busy that day and he just forgot to do it. So there was this whole group of
people going to the window for his birthday to have a celebration, champagne
and they got there and there was no bike in the window. So Zane’s
automatically forgave whatever balance was due on the bike and the deliver
the bike free of charge to the customer the next day. And then the young man
whose responsibility it was to do this went to Chris Zane, the owner, and said,
“Look this is my responsibility. I am going to give up a week of my pay to pay
for that balance you just gave that customer” and wrote him a personal check.

That is fabulous. It reminds me of one of the mottos of Rich Carlton where


they empower each one of their employees to spend up to $2500 I believe

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on a customer to try to enhance the experience. You would never ever


think of buying another bike from anybody else.

It’s true. Of course Chris never cashed this young man’s check. This is the
folklore of these companies. They have all kinds of folklore that surrounds
them. The one thing I’d like to leave folks with especially as your growing a
business is that you have an opportunity to deliver memories. Memory creation
is really your currency. So think about with each interaction or the most
important interactions, what are you going to be deliberate about and what
decisions are you going choose to make so that you can leave your customer
with a memory about who you are and what you value.

Well, speaking of leaving everyone, your last chapter is a tremendous


blueprint of exactly how people can take and implement each one of these
decisions. How would you recommend literally, a small, large, medium
sized, any business out there who is going to be listening to this, how do
they use Chapter 7 as a guide to not let any of these stuff slip through the
cracks?

Thanks for bringing that up because I really wanted the book to be a resource,
not something you read and put down. So what I did in Chapter 7 was every
single one of the — way the book is organized is that it’s 8 to 9 case studies in
each of the decision chapters, each of the five decisions and then a challenge
question after each case study. So that you can hold a mirror to yourself and
say, this is how this beloved company made the decision, how would we make
it?

What I did in the last chapter is I summarized the case studies in just a couple
of sentences and then the challenge questions. So you can actually work
through your organization, decision by decision or you can in your daily
huddles, or your weekly or monthly meetings, bring these different questions
up and start challenging yourself on how to operate to these decisions.

In addition, what I’ve done is I really wanted to make this accessible so on my


website, www.CustomerBliss.com, — funny, I married a man named Bliss. It
kind of all turns out in a great way — www.CustomerBliss.com, there is a
button on my website called ‘Customer Culture Audits’. For free, it’s an
animated wonderful, it’s got a lot of animation, it goes through each of these
five decisions and asks you those questions and then you can kind of evaluate
how you’re doing.

And then finally, one of the things that I also did was turn the book into a deck
of cards. So that these challenge questions actually have the questions on the

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front and then guidance for how to hold a meeting around each of those
challenge questions. So it’s 45 cards to help change your culture and you can
buy those on my website.

I know that this is a beginning. When I start to think about this whole issue
of service and experience this is a beginning. It’s the beginning of a
fabulous conversation that could completely reinvent any business who
decides to at least explore some of the concepts that you have. I
personally am so excited about the opportunity to collaborate with you, to
spread your message and to also try to engage others out there to tell us
what it is that they would like somebody like yourself with the talent that
you have to help them think through because I think that’s how great ideas
will evolve. This is an issue that in my opinion certainly defines a business.

Thanks. It’s just been a joy to write it. It’s so hard to straddle the Kumbaya
what it feels like, the soft with the hard. You need to be deliberate about
making operational decisions to earn the right of your employee and your
customers feeling that you’re worth doing business with. So hopefully that will
help people with that formula on how to get there. Thank you so much. It’s
such a pleasure to spend time with you.

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