In this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, I interviewed Micah Solomon, an expert on customer service, hospitality, and the customer experience. He delves into the unique concept of anticipatory customer service and its powerful potential to enhance brand loyalty and drive business growth. He’s a bestselling author with a fresh perspective on how businesses can transform their customer service strategies to foster enduring loyalty.
In his latest book, “Can Your Customer Service Do This?: Create an Anticipatory Customer Experience that Builds Loyalty Forever,” Micah delves deep into the intricacies of customer service, making it an indispensable read for entrepreneurs eager to elevate their customer relations and propel business success.
Anticipatory customer service is not just about reacting to a customer’s needs; it’s about predicting them. By serving even the unexpressed wishes of customers, businesses can create an unparalleled customer experience that fosters brand loyalty and catalyzes growth. In an era where customers crave personalization and a touch of anticipation, this approach proves to be a game-changer in the marketing and customer service sectors.
Questions I ask Micah Solomon:
- [00:50] Define anticipatory customer experience.
- [01:44] Some suggest that no matter how great your services, loyalty is dead. Can you comment on that?
- [02:33] Is providing a great customer experience a type of referral tactic?
- [02:48] What is the secret shopper role?
- [04:38] How did you decide to specialize in this particular aspect of customer experience?
- [08:35] How do you recommend handling both unhappy and unreasonable customers?
- [12:11] How do you view customer service as a competitive advantage or even a profit center?
- [14:13] How important is community feedback in enhancing the customer experience?
- [17:22] What impact do you see AI having on customer service and experience?
- [18:52] How can people reach out to you or get a copy of your book?
More About Micah Solomon:
- Discover the insights and strategies in Micah’s newest book, “Can Your Customer Service Do This, create an Anticipatory Customer Experience that builds Loyalty Forever”.
- Micah’s website
- Connect with Micah on LinkedIn
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Connect with John Jantsch on LinkedIn
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John Jantsch (00:09): Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch. My guest today is Micah Solomon. He's an expert on customer service, hospitality, and the customer experience. He's a bestselling author, consultant trainer, e-learning trainer, producer, training producer. It's a lot of training and a keynote speaker, and we're going to talk today about one of his newest books called Can Your Customer Service Do This?: Create an Anticipatory Customer Experience that Builds Loyalty Forever. So Micah, welcome back to the show.
Micah Solomon (00:46): It was so great to be with you last time and this is a pleasure to return.
John Jantsch (00:51): So let's get right down to it. Define anticipatory customer experience.
Micah Solomon (00:57): The basic, I guess, equation for customer service is you ask for something, I give it to you assuming you paid, but anticipatory customer service is another level. It's where I am serving even the unexpressed needs and wishes that you may have. And it's a great way to bind customers to you to make them feel like this is my place.
John Jantsch (01:23): Yeah, I mean, we've probably hopefully all been at a restaurant. That's an example I love to use, where the server brought something you didn't even ask for because they knew you were getting, I mean, simple as water, right? I mean, you didn't have to ask for it. They thought, well, you've drank your water, you're going to want more, and they bring it. I mean, that's a pretty simple example, right?
Micah Solomon (01:42): Absolutely.
John Jantsch (01:44): Go for it. I was going to pile on now using more words out of the subtitle itself. There would be some that would suggest that no matter how great your service is, loyalty is dead. I'll let you hit that one out of the park.
Micah Solomon (01:57): Well, if you believe that, then it is right. The thing to remember is in the olden days we would talk about customer lifetime value,
John Jantsch (02:08): And
Micah Solomon (02:08): I think it is hard to prove that figure now because John, as you pointed at it, is a lot easier to switch vendors. So I'll suggest you think about something called customer network value. So if you're delighting a customer, you number one, get their business and you number two, get all their recommendations. So it's a pretty big deal.
John Jantsch (02:35): It's almost like thinking of providing great customer experience, great customer service as a referral tactic almost. Right?
Micah Solomon (02:43): Absolutely. I like to say customer service is the new marketing.
John Jantsch (02:48): Yeah. And I remember from our last conversation, I know this is something you've done for years, but you start this book out with your secret shopper role. Talk little bit about how you've done that. I mean, maybe even just give a story about doing it like you do in the book. I'll be happy to. You need to put a disguise on though, right? First,
Micah Solomon (03:10): Do you want to show that picture? That'd be funny. I can grab it. Hang on. So this is one of the more extreme disguises I might or might not use. So I don't mystery shop anyone except my customers and they ask me to do it because they want to know an overall feeling I'm getting for the service. So I start out with this wonderful day that I'm having at a five star resort, one of the greatest places in America, and I wake up on the 33,000 thread count Egyptian pizzas, and I head down to the spa and all the while I'm making notes. Now the spa's a little tricky because to make notes on my iPhone or whatever it is while they're facially me is a little challenging, but it's nice work if you can get it. At the end of the day, I order room service and one of my tests is I ask them for cocoa not to hot, and only the best people will get that. Most hotels won't even notice the instructions. The ones who do either forget to do it or they give me this ridiculous, it seems like they cooled it down with ice. So the not too hot, I mean it's because it's my Goldilocks challenge. Then when I'm done, I send my confidential report to the c e o or whoever the boss of the division is and they can make use of it.
John Jantsch (04:38): So do you ever find, and again, I know you've done that for years, right? I mean that's something you've kind of made one of your sort of signature applications. How'd you get into this work? I mean, I think a lot of people you've sort of specialized in one aspect of it. I think a lot of people customer experience got some talk in marketing, but it's not seen as a whole area. How did you come to find this to be your life's calling?
Micah Solomon (05:05): So there are two stories, two explanations, and both of them are true. So the PR friendly one is, I created a manufacturing company. This is some years ago, and our widgets were no better than anyone. They were also no worse. So as time went on, I realized that what differentiated ourselves was the customer experience. So when I sold the manufacturing company, I thought, well, this is what I do. And I called a friend of mine, Leonardo, who did all of this stuff on the hospitality side, and I had done all of it on the business to business and so forth side, and I said, Hey, all this, I know all this. Let's write a book together. And he said, no, I think I'm going to write my own book sometime. So I was like, okay, good luck with that. So maybe a couple months later I call back and I say, Hey, Leonardo has that book coming.
(05:58): And he's like, oh, this is how optimistic, let's say he was. He says, I think I'm going to go off one day and write it all. So I was like, okay, good luck. One minute later he gets back on the phone and he sounds like he has his tail between his legs and he says, Micah Solange overheard my side of the conversation and she said, you absolutely have to write that book with Micah clearly not getting around to it yourself. So that was my first book, exceptional Service, exceptional Profit. It was co-authored by the two of us, and I kept learning more and more things, writing more and more books, working with more and more companies, and that's what I do. So that is the PR friendly official story. The other story is he was born, or at least from a very early age as an excessively particular person. So in the book, I have a reconstructed letter from my counselors at camp, which tells you a lot, and it's something like, dear Mr. And Mrs. Solomon, we have had the arduous pleasure of having your son Micah at summer camp. Usually the suggestions and complaints we get are along the lines of that old Hello Mata, hello father song where it's raining too much and there are alligators in the pot and everything.
John Jantsch (07:18): She silverstein, right?
Micah Solomon (07:20): Yeah. And so one of those guys, I think his one that's similar is I'm being eaten by a boa constrictor, which is a great one also. But Micas were much more specific in advance. They were like the two whistles at the waterfront aren't quite in tune with each other. The sloppy joes doesn't pair well with the orange juice and the mess hall and so forth. We have enjoyed having Micah for this summer, but we were also happy to return him to your care.
John Jantsch (07:48): So that's when you didn't realize it at the time, but that was your signal that you were meant for this. So I actually find that Google reviews are really helpful because not just as a consumer, certainly they're helpful for that. Somebody's got terrible reviews, you don't go there. But as a marketer, I really find them helpful because the words that people actually use voluntarily really say a lot about what's going on at that business. However, no matter how good a business is, you see everybody gets one and two star reviews for some reason, and maybe it's deserved every now and then it's deserved, but sometimes people are just odd. You're never going to make everybody happy. Nothing is truer than that. So what do you suggest people do? I guess I'm asking a two part question. Obviously with upset and unhappy customers, but then also just with unreasonable customers.
Micah Solomon (08:45): So I spend a lot of time in the book with the first category customers who are upset, unhappy, frustrated, and I have a service recovery framework which all great companies have, whether it's Nordstrom or whether it's Carleton or Zappos, mine, which I'm kind of famous for spells mama m a, and the reason it spells mama, actually going back to Leonardo, my co-author, he's Italian through and through. So we're talking about how companies tend to be too legalistic when they're trying to work with us. They're like just the facts and blah, blah, blah. And we said, well, why don't we make it sound like your mother or a quintessential Italian mother? And he said, well, my mom's really not the right model. She was kind of tough, but let's say this stereotype. And she's like, oh my bambino, you hurt, you're ouchie. Let me put a bandaid on it. Maybe here's a lollipop. Rather than just the facts ma approach where we're like, let me see, young man, were you wearing the crop
John Jantsch (09:46): Protective
Micah Solomon (09:46): Head gear before you had it out and so forth. So the first thing is to make time to listen. We are all such good troubleshooters that we kind of think we know the solution before our customer has even spoken. So let them vent and then it has some different aspects, but basically agree with your customer what you're going to do and by when, and then do it. Now I think if you look at the unreasonable Google reviews or TripAdvisor, a high percentage of them are from people who never or customers. That's
John Jantsch (10:18): So true.
Micah Solomon (10:20): If I get a one-star review for my book, which thank goodness I haven't yet, it can be like, I ordered this from Amazon and they said it was out of stock,
John Jantsch (10:30): Right? I've gotten some bad reviews. It's like the cover came in tattered. Well, you bought it from a third party, it was used. That's, it's really rough. So
Micah Solomon (10:40): If they're a semi reasonable person and if you are able to figure out how to reach them,
John Jantsch (10:45): Then
Micah Solomon (10:45): Work with them. And when it's all over, personally, I have no problem saying, Hey, do you think you could update that review? And some people will, and some people are just so lazy that they won't. Now, I will tell you, some of my clients, or even people just friends of mine operate, let's say a restaurant and they call me and they say, Hey Micah, I just, it's horrible review, and I'm sure it was my competitors down the street. So I'm like,
John Jantsch (11:07): Okay,
Micah Solomon (11:07): Lemme look at the review. But it's so specific. Clearly this is someone who's eaten at the restaurant. So I'm like, it's never the restaurant down the street, just like on the show a Sherlock, it's never twins. The solution is never that. There's two twins with the same
John Jantsch (11:23): Characters.
Micah Solomon (11:24): So by and large, it's not your competitor. Certainly there are famous examples where it is, there is this horrible thing. The Mark is a wonderful hotel in New York, and there was this kid who was very, very abusive to them and started this social media campaign against it. But those are really, except
John Jantsch (11:41): Yes, I actually over the years, had a business one star review and it was like, that's the competitor's wife. It was a construction company. It was very obvious that it was, and Google to their credit removed it. But yeah, it is goofy what people do. Oh my goodness. You talk a lot about, and I know a lot of people who talk about customer experience being a real competitive advantage, particularly in one of those where it's like, you sell this, they sell that you're about the same price. You're about to say price. I mean, talk a little bit about that idea of really viewing it as a profit center almost, or certainly as a true competitive advantage.
Micah Solomon (12:19): So it's getting very commoditized out there. So how do you distinguish yourself? Well, maybe you're lucky and you have an astonishing product nobody else has. Maybe you have, let's say suites that are literally over the water in Aura. So you can have a great location or the first frick location for gas station, but most of us don't have that.
John Jantsch (12:41): Most
Micah Solomon (12:41): Of us, the default is that we're pretty interchangeable with our competitors. So customers will leave because they found a better price because someone else has a better website or seriously for no discernible reason at all. So how do you get out of this? Well, you have to become memorable, and you could do that with amazing advertising and marketing. I don't want to dismiss that, but the thing is that great marketing only resonates if it's true, right? There have been campaigns that were really clever, but the reality of being that customer wasn't like that.
John Jantsch (13:19): So
Micah Solomon (13:19): You got to get the customer experience and then they will be become ideally loyal. A loyal customer is less price sensitive, and believe it or not, they're more forgiving of your minor foibles, believe it or not. And if something goes terribly wrong, they will give you the courtesy of reaching out to you. So they're also more open to any line extensions you have and they will become an ambassador for your brand. They'll do what I like to call word of thumb marketing on their phones. So loyalty is very valuable and the customer experience is one of the ways to get there.
John Jantsch (13:57): I know for a fact that you talked about less price sensitive. I mean, I know that in some cases I'm paying more, but I'm like, I don't care because the cost of the hassle or the cost of not having them know my name when I come into the store to me is high and I'm not alone. I've seen surveys as high as 90% of people surveyed saying they'll pay more for a better experience. What role does community feedback play? I mean, getting that feedback, just like you went in Secret Shop, you told the C e o, this and this, but what role to actively asking your customers, are they getting what? Could you do something better? Could you provide a better service? Do you advocate that?
Micah Solomon (14:41): Well, certainly you want to be surveying your customers, but you got to do it really quickly and you have to not hound them if they don't want to
John Jantsch (14:50): Reply. In
Micah Solomon (14:52): Fact, and this may not be true anymore, but a few years ago, Ritz Carlton was not only the highest on chip advisor in the luxury category, they were highest in any category. And so she told me, well, our secrets are two when we do a great job. Number two, I never hound customers to leave a review. I never solicit that. I don't have a thing on the counter saying, please leave a review. So the people that leave a reviews are really passionate about us.
(15:20): Now, if you are going to survey people, number one, 80% of surveys are written completely wrong. If you want to write a perfect survey, look in my book, it's there. If you are so impious or cheap that you don't want to buy my book, then I think the best thing to do, well, you probably don't own Apple products either, but if you own a couple products, look at their surveys, they're pretty good. So what makes a survey good? Well, number one, you want to ask the most important question first, how satisfied are you with that? Then you get to the itty bitty Diddy was a bathroom cleaner, so forth, because if you ask was the bathroom clean and oh my God, you have the most clean bathrooms ever, like McDonald's pride itself on, then that's going to tint the rest of the survey or especially the next question that you ask.
(16:09): Or if your toilets are horrible, that's going to have excessive weight. So first, ask their overall impression, then get into the smaller areas that you want them to talk about. When we have five, or I heard a clever argument for having four or six levels, the idea of using four or six is that there is no middle point. So you can't be lazy in your hands. Don't give them 10 and don't ask them on a scale of one to 100 because customers shouldn't have to do math for you. And so there are a few, but one thing I would say is if you are surveying your customers leave at least one blank space where they can vent or they can give very specific feedback. So that's tip number one. Tip number two is you've got to scan them right away because if you've got an really upset customer and they write all about that, you need to get back to them right away. You can't wait until the end of the month when you're batching these and reading them. And that's a mistake that a lot of companies make.
John Jantsch (17:10): Yeah, it's funny. I think most people can forgive a mistake taking care of what they can't forgive is doing a really bad job of taking care of it or ignoring it. It just makes it even worse. We've gotten, I can't believe, 19 minutes into the show and I haven't said ai. That's awesome. I haven't said AI yet. Let's talk a little bit about how you see AI impacting this kind of arm of the marketing world of experience and service.
Micah Solomon (17:37): Well, it's both early days and boy, things are changing quickly. I have a triangular model of AI in customer service. So at one Vertex, I'm going to use up my geometry training in a moment. One vertex is the customer or the prospect, and the next is the agent, and the third one is the ai. So a customer can come in using the ai. In fact, the best search engines on websites are AI powered. That may take care of them. If it doesn't, then they'll reach out to an agent. But when they get there, the mistake is to think no more AI should be involved. The customer's going to keep using ai. I mean, they're going to go on the thing that my mom calls the Google and look around. I know it's really funny if she's not your mom and they're going to keep looking at Google and the agent is going to keep using the ai. AI is great at turning a generalist agent into temporarily a specialist when they're answering a call.
John Jantsch (18:33): Yeah, yeah, I think, I mean I've even heard reports of people saying that they're able to really get less experienced agents, less trained agents necessarily who have the right sort of spirit, who now have all the answers at their disposal as though they've been there for years. So I think it's a win for everybody. I appreciate you coming to by and spending a few minutes with us. How can people contact you, find out about your work? Obviously get a copy of the book, Micah.
Micah Solomon (18:57): So to reach me, you can come to my website or just Google my name, but it is the challenging extremely biblical name. So it's Micah, m i c a h at Micah Solomon, m i c a h s o l o m o n.com. If you want to email me, there are no a's in Solomon or my website is a little easier, it's micahsolomon.com, but you can just use Google and misspell my name. They'll get you to me. I'll get you to just
John Jantsch (19:27): Customer service expert. There you go.
Micah Solomon (19:30): To buy my book. There'll be a link on my site, which will give you a free sample right away, but if you go to Voldemort's site, oh, I'm sorry, Amazon site. It's there, it's available. They are shipping it now, and you can read a pretty long and pretty fabulous sample there before you decide to buy it.
John Jantsch (19:46): Yeah, awesome. Well, Mike, it was great catching up with you, just having you spend a few minutes on the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, and hopefully we'll run into you one of these days out there on the road soon.
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