Ask yourself: When it comes to being a great leader within your company, where could you stand to improve? In today’s podcast episode, I’m revisiting two very special interviews that highlight concrete ways we can smooth out customer pain points, bolster customer dignity, retain impassioned employees, and leave strong, positive, lasting memories of above-and-beyond service encounters.
The previous featured guests in question are Christopher McShane, senior VP of customer experience at Serta Simmons Bedding, and Jon Picoult, founder of Watermark Consulting and author of From Impressed to Obsessed: 12 Principles for Turning Customers and Employees into Lifelong Fans. Both of these savvy business leaders share a bevy of insider knowledge, but I’ll boil it down to three major pieces of advice they both touched upon in our conversations: listening to customers and employees, motivating your staff and board members through storytelling, and simplifying your strategies.
You Can’t Listen With Your Ears Painted On
For both customers and staff, having a leader who actively listens is a major green flag, one that both Jon and Christopher underline heavily in their episodes. Christopher emphasizes the importance of making sure the customer always has “a seat at the table.” The simple act of listening can make a world of difference. As Christopher notes, “Customers are always bowled over that you took the time to just listen.”
Jon, similarly, is a big proponent of customer dignity, and hearing their feedback—good or bad—is a major factor in preserving this sense of dignity. “Something that has long upset me in all of my roles, as head of Watermark, and in corporate roles, was that businesses subject customers to all sorts of indignities… people are subjected to long waits, hidden fees, poor responsiveness, unhelpful staff, if you can even find them.”
So what can leaders do to help?
“I don’t think there’s any substitute for going out into the wild, and observing your customers in their natural habitat, and, speaking to them,” says Jon.
The Importance of Storytelling to Motivate Change
Do you use the power of storytelling (maybe in the form of customer journey mapping) to propel business success? And why does it work? For one, stories tap into our emotions, makes us care about the issues, and evoke empathy.
As senior VP of customer experience at mattress giant Serta Simmons, Christopher knows that intimate customer stories have the ability to drive change. If a person suffers from sleep apnea, or insomnia, for example, their personal accounts of sleepless nights or daytime exhaustion would likely move you—and motivate you—to deliver the best product… and the best experience. Christopher explains that bringing these customer realities to the C-suite through storytelling gets us “out of the data and the numbers,” while pushing the ‘so what’ of it all to the forefront.
Jon, on a similar note, suggests going through exercises with your team in which you tell them a story based on a real customer encounter, showing them where the customer started, where they were bounced around to, where they ended up… the whole run-around that led to their frustration. And you get emotional reactions. “People just look at it and say, ‘You got to be kidding. We did this?’”
You need to use stories and vignettes that illustrate the ridiculous horror that customers go through, just to do the simplest things, because none of those executives is going to feel good about that.—@JonPicoult #CX #Storytelling Click To Tweet
Simplify, Remove Roadblocks, Don’t Over-engineer
One of the 12 principles in Jon’s book is about simplification. He says, “What’s really effortless in the workplace is not creating simplicity. It’s creating complexity. That’s why there’s so much complexity in businesses. Because it’s effortless to create complexity. Where you really earn your pay is when you distill things into simple form.”
There's so much complexity in businesses because it's effortless to create complexity. Where you really earn your pay is when you distill things into simple form.—@JonPicoult #CustomerExperience #leadership Click To Tweet
Next, are your best salespeople wasting their time answering customer questions like “Where’s my order?” This is a roadblock that prevents rock-star employees from making sales. Christopher poses the question, “Are you identifying and deploying technologies to help customers self-service where possible?”
There’s so much more I could say about my interviews with Christopher McShane and Jon Picoult, but I’d rather you do yourself, your business, and your customers a huge favor and listen for yourself!
About Christopher McShaneThroughout his career, Christopher has built a reputation as a high-energy transformation executive with a disciplined approach to operational execution. He is laser-focused on connecting strategy and operations, resulting in significant value creation. Christopher does this by leveraging his entrepreneurial and execution-oriented mindset, breaking down silos and mobilizing teams built on trust and commitment. He also has experience in the United States Air Force and has years of management experience in startup and tech-based organizations.
About Jon PicoultIn addition to being the founder of Watermark Consulting, Jon is an advisor to CEOs, an acclaimed author, and keynote speaker. He helps companies invest in creating fans that drive business growth. Jon’s insights have been featured in media outlets including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review, and Forbes.com, where he is a contributor.
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