Transcript of Why Customer Service Must Come from the Heart
John Jantsch: This episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by Gusto, modern, easy payroll benefits for small businesses across the country. And because you’re a listener, you get three months free when you run your first payroll. Find out at gusto.com/tape.
John Jantsch: Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch and my guest today is Jeanne Bliss. She pioneered the role of Chief Customer Officer, even wrote a book with that title and she’s held the first ever Chief Customer Officer job for over 20 years at places like Lands’ End, Microsoft, Caldwell Banker and Allstate. And she’s also written a newish book called Would You Do That to Your Mother? The make mom proud standard for how to treat your customers. So Jeannie, welcome back, I guess it is.
Jeanne Bliss: Yeah. Hey John. So good to hear your voice.
John Jantsch: I guess let’s just cut to the chase. How would your company act if every customer were your mom?
Jeanne Bliss: Right? It’s interesting. I’ve had a lot of people come up to me and say, “Well, you know, why didn’t you make it be about fathers?” I said, “This is an analogy for people who you admire, who help to mold you into what you are so that you go back and have a simple guide wire,” right? No matter who you are, if you’re the CEO of the organization, are you going to charge extra for pillows or, you know, all of these things? If you’re in the middle of the organization, are you going to make a spaghetti bowl of complexity so hard? And if you’re on the front line, even if you have to say no, maybe you would say it the way you’d say it to your mother when you were a teenager, but hopefully we’re all through that dark tunnel and we wouldn’t talk to our mom that way anymore. You know? So it’s just meant to be simple.
John Jantsch: Yeah, and I think, as you said, I think everybody, regardless of the relationship they had with their mother, I think universally people understand the concept of what you’re basically, I mean, let’s take mom out of it, you’re just saying what if it was somebody you loved, is that how you would treat them?
Jeanne Bliss: That’s right. And it’s interesting because it brings me full circle. To me it’s a conscience question. When I was at Lands’ End a million years ago and we were growing 80% a year and bringing in all kinds of new people who weren’t acclimated to our very special culture, Gary made me the conscience of the company and said, “Look, you need to help us steer our decision making because there’s good people coming in who are making decisions guided by legacy vertical practices or business as usual practices, and that’s not who we are.” And so it’s a conscience question, a very simple conscience question that anybody can embrace.
John Jantsch: Yeah. I think it runs very deeply to culture. The fact that a lot of CEOs outgrow the ability to kind of keep their eye on that, especially when they become public companies and things, but even somebody that gets 20, 30, 40 employees, they start … I mean, that’s an important part of their job, but they start losing the ability to do that. The Lands’ End example that you just gave, that was a conscious decision to make sure that somebody was focused on that. Is that really what we have to do as companies, it has to be somebody’s job?
Jeanne Bliss: I think that as you’re trying to simplify the complex, at least for a period of time, we’re finding that a CCO, CXO, whoever, or group of people, you need to think comprehensively across the organization. However, there then needs to be enough clarity of purpose that when people go back to their own corners of the world, there’s something that unites them. And that’s why this book also is broken into very practical dimensions. What I wanted people to feel, John, when they were reading this, is their own life as a customer. So it’s written as you as a customer so that you can feel and go, “Oh man, I know how that is. Why would I do that to anybody else?”
John Jantsch: Do you find that they’re, what’s the right word, certain sort of character traits that come into play here that makes somebody better at recognizing this across an organization? I mean, you can simply say, “Oh, be a good person,” which obviously makes sense, but what are the traits that we’re trying to hire for and train for?
Jeanne Bliss: This is also, I think it’s important to note, not just about the front line, it’s also about the decision making for how you’ll operate. I call it building your non negotiables, your code of conduct, but we can talk about that in a minute. The very first chapter is about enabling your people to thrive, meaning letting them live with congruence of heart, how they were raised in habit, what you’re encouraging and rewarding them to do at work. And there’s a whole set of foundational things that have to occur. You have to find a way to hire people so you’re hiring the human, not the resume, and a lot of organizations are now turning that into the combination of art and science. There’s people who are beautiful, beautiful practitioners at this, but there’s also companies who have figured it out.
Jeanne Bliss: For example, [inaudible] Service in Tennessee, they’re hiring teenagers to flip burgers, make hot dogs, et cetera, but they ask a psychometric survey in the beginning, which is things like, “In general, I feel pretty good about myself. When I meet people, I trust them right away. I raise my voice when I’m uncomfortable.” And so what I think is powerful about that is they get to know the human and then their senior leadership all spends 20% of their time per week, not coaching them on how to make hamburgers, but coaching them on their human instincts, and how to be a better person, and how to behave in a good way in terms of coaching their humanity. And I think that’s part of what’s missing. We’re focusing on survey scores and things instead of coaching and guiding and enabling people to rise instead of saying, “Oh, you took too long on that call,” or whatever it is.
Jeanne Bliss: The other part of it is getting rid of rules that get in people’s way. When we turn our people into policy cops, John, they’re defending rules they don’t necessarily believe in and every time they have to defend a rule to an angry customer, guess what? Their spirit diminishes too. So in that first chapter, which is called Be the Person I Raised You to Be, mom-isms, there’s the eight specific actions that are common to the most admired companies because of the way their employees sound, feel, act when they interact with them.
John Jantsch: You know, on that policy thing, and sometimes I get a little passive aggressive and I don’t mean to, but if I-
Jeanne Bliss: Well, we know too much when we interact with companies, right John? So we know kind of the inner workings.
John Jantsch: And so you will encounter somebody and they’ll say, “Well that’s the way it is. That’s our policy,” And I sometimes go, “Does that make sense to you?” If you were a customer?” And boy, to your point, you can just see them go, “Well, no, but [inaudible 00:07:28].”
Jeanne Bliss: They’re wincing. And here’s the other thing that’s silly about that is okay, you and I and most customers know now, if you don’t like it, you escalate. Okay. The minute you escalate, we’ve now cost the company more money, or you play service roulette, which I do all the time. You hang up and dial back in and hope for somebody who’s been there long enough to navigate it and do the work around. And so now we’ve diminished the spirit of the first person and we’ve cost the company more money. And in each of these cases it could have been avoided if we enabled our people, and that’s in there, to extend grace.
Jeanne Bliss: Alaska Airlines for example, has something they call We Trust You toolkit, which is an app with options. Their CEO says, “Look, we trust you. You’re in the moment. Engage with the customer, make the call, and then choose from the option that’s right. It could be miles, a bottle of champagne, a night at a hotel. Make it right. Don’t ask for permission.” But that takes a lot of work upfront, right John? To identify those 10 to 15 things, evaluate and understand what you can let people do, and then trust them to do it.
John Jantsch: One of the things I find in a lot of organizations, and this can be big and small, is that I think people underestimate how much everybody has impact on the customer’s experience.
Jeanne Bliss: That’s right.
John Jantsch: And so you’ve got all this training for the frontline people and then the leaders are back in the conference room talking about what idiots the customers are.
Jeanne Bliss: That’s right.
John Jantsch: And I think that people really underestimate that that has impact.
Jeanne Bliss: And that’s a big part of this Chief Customer Officer role. One of the things that people often don’t realize when they take the role, and there’s a whole chapter on that in my latest CCO book, is a big part of your job is to unite the C-suite. Not only in understanding the customer, but in language and in their sentiment. So much of what we have to do is get them out in the field talking to customers, being human. If you’re going to talk about something that’s not working, give them homework to try to download that thing or sign up for an account the week before. Yesterday in my podcast, I interviewed the chief customer officer of TGI Friday’s. It was fascinating because when they began, every C-suite member had to go to restaurants and sit in booths and talk to customers. And I’m telling you what, you get more religion from that then presenting 50 million pounds of survey results.
John Jantsch: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. You present a lot of great case studies, you just shared one that you’re continually working on. Did you have a couple of favorites that you wanted to share, mainly as they relate to the impact that this change that maybe somebody may have had?
Jeanne Bliss: There’s a couple that really made me giggle when I saw them. There’s almost a hundred companies highlighted in the book and 32 specific case studies. One that I was just so fascinated by was Virgin Hotels that … And it’s all about the nickel and diming, how many of us haven’t winced when we’ve cracked open a bottle of Coke in the middle of the night and we know we’re going to be so mad when we get that $7 bill on our thing. And so they deliberately … And this is in the last chapter called Take the High Road where to your point, it’s all about leadership bravery, I call it. Raul Leal considers Wifi a right, not a revenue stream. They also don’t charge to deliver your meal. They haven’t factored in all those add-on costs as part of their revenue and so they’re never going to be tempted when going gets rough. Instead they’re going to earn the right to grow through service, not these add on fees.
Jeanne Bliss: And what had me giggling was, you know, you do so much searching on the internet as you’re writing these things, you know that, they have this thing called street pricing, meaning they have a little red old fashioned refrigerator in every room. And on the top of it is the chips and the Cokes in it and stuff. And their leaders, their managers, go out in the field with the clipboard and find out how much all that stuff costs at your corner market and that’s what they will charge you.
John Jantsch: Yeah, and that’s great because you’re right. That nickel and diming, particularly for people that travel a lot-
Jeanne Bliss: Yes sir.
John Jantsch: I can’t tell you the impact that the fact that I get two free bottles of water has. That costs them-
Jeanne Bliss: Oh yeah.
John Jantsch: What do you think it costs them, 69 cents to make me happy?
Jeanne Bliss: Maybe. Maybe. I hired a cartoonist and the cartoon for this one is, so the bottle was $7 and the caption says, “Only 30 times more expensive than gasoline, which needs to be located, drilled, refined, and delivered in tanker trucks.” And yeah, everybody knows how much Costco water costs, for example. It’s very, very powerful, and I think what’s important about all of this is all of these things impact your employees because they’re watching going, “Okay, this is the kind of company we are,” and it hardens your people over time because guess what? They’ve got to defend that too. And don’t you hate the ones where, especially like in Vegas, if you move the water, you’re charged $7 for it?
John Jantsch: Yeah, there is an element of sort of criminalizing customer activity isn’t there?
Jeanne Bliss: Yeah, yeah. I was in Vegas the other week for a speech and there was a coffee machine in the room, which was unusual, but then what wrecked it was there was a coffee cup and shrink wrapped inside the coffee cup was the pod with a $7 sticker on top of it.
John Jantsch: Of course, they have a little different objective than you having a nice day.
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Jeanne Bliss: The other one I thought was fascinating, which has become a darling of retail when other companies are failing, is Stitch Fix. Stitch Fix, for people who don’t know, is a delivery service. Think of it as Netflix for clothes and they’ve … Everybody’s talking AI, AI, AI, but this part of the book is about building what I call a respect delivery machine. Meaning, you know me and know who I am, is one of the foundational things we all would like to have as a customer but don’t often receive. So they’ve blended really specific practices for getting to know who you are, including asking you for your Pinterest pins, then they’ll gather AI information to collect other people’s behaviors common to yours, but then they have 4,000 stylists who then take all this and customize it and personalize it to you and learn from you.
Jeanne Bliss: Let’s say they send you six items and you return four. Every time you return something, they’re sharpening their saw on the dossier they have on you, personalizing and understanding you, and they do other things. My girlfriend Mindy was going through breast cancer. She’s fine now, but she said to her stylist, “I need comfy clothes for the next few months.” She got a box of comfy clothes and then a bouquet of flowers from her stylist. And it’s that humanity, but blending the high tech and high touch. 100% of what they sell is from recommendations. Now compare that to Amazon, for example, which is about 37%. They’ve grown to exceed $730 million in six years or more, where other retailers, we know what’s happening to other retailers.
John Jantsch: Yeah, yeah, that’s not a business I’d want. I wouldn’t want to have a bunch of real estate with the doors on them and merchandise in them right now.
Jeanne Bliss: Yeah, and there’s a lot of other ones throughout it. I worked really hard to not make these be just the big bang companies, but other industries and smaller companies and so much of this behavior, John, doesn’t cost anything. It’s an attitude shift and focusing and being deliberate and recalibrating what you do.
John Jantsch: Okay. That’s all lovely. But you know-
Jeanne Bliss: Okay, what?
John Jantsch: I know some of my listeners are out there saying, “Yeah, but how do I start to operationalize this?”
Jeanne Bliss: Throughout every case study, there is an action plan for you. Inside each one, it walks you through what they did, you have a mom lens to evaluate how you’re doing, and then there’s an audit at the back where you can audit where you are and prioritize and start taking action. It is a complete tool kit. It’s a five step toolkit. Each chapter is broken into the four key areas of business we need to improve. Number one, are you taking care of your employees? Number two, chapter two, are you making it easy or difficult for your customers? Number three, are you growing because you’re building and rebuilding your operation around customers’ goals? And number four, what bad business habits have seeped into your business that you should deliberately choose to get rid of? Every single one of those drives your growth engine. You don’t have to do all of them. You should just do the audit, pick three, and begin.
John Jantsch: One of my favorite things of visiting the website that you set up for this book, which I’m going to ask you to share, but you’ve got all these stories of moms and people submitting their moms, some very old pictures in cases, and kind of talking about this movement. Have you moved the dial with this movement, do you feel?
Jeanne Bliss: It’s interesting. People really are gravitating to it and being very personally connected to it, but what we know is … And I think it’s giving people hope and driving action. What we know though is we need to get leaders really personally engaged in this work and it’s happening. A lot of the CX work is not happening as fast as we’d like because it’s being assigned to someone in the organization instead of the leadership team saying, “We own this, this is our responsibility.” And I think inside of companies, until that happens, they won’t transform to the level that they need to.
John Jantsch: And it’s like everything too, especially if you’ve got to change some things, it requires an investment that sometimes is hard to drop to the bottom line immediately.
Jeanne Bliss: Right. But what this book is doing is letting people take personal ownership. We’re having huge impact with call centers and frontline driven organizations. And then some very large organizations I’m working with are using it because it shorthands it, right John? You don’t have to solve everything, but it simplifies the 32 things in your business, which you should have a magnifying glass to. And that’s really what I wanted to do.
John Jantsch: So what’s the one thing that would guarantee this will fail?
Jeanne Bliss: Making it be about red, yellow, and green dots and project plans instead of really understanding there’s a human at the end of your decision and embedding a regular cadence for understanding [inaudible 00:18:54]. This is not about those project plans. It’s about you deliberately choosing how you will grow and how you won’t.
John Jantsch: I think what trips a lot of people up is, they read a book like this and they think, “Yeah, this’ll help us,” but the bottom line is you actually have to care about the customer [inaudible 00:19:13].
Jeanne Bliss: It’s work. That’s right. I got a review on Amazon from my Chief Customer Officer 2.0 book, which took me 35 years to be able … I wrote one in 2006 and then rewrote it in ’15 because the world had changed so much, and there’s so much that you have to do, and they said, “Oh yeah, just everything I already knew.” Like really? Bless them.
John Jantsch: I was going to say that’s probably true. Treat your customers as you would like to be treated. Yeah, I knew that already. But are you doing it, right?
Jeanne Bliss: Well, yeah, and here’s 32 things. It’s like anything else, the harder you work, the luckier you get, and I think people don’t do the work.
John Jantsch: Jeanne, where can people find out more about, obviously, Would You Do That to Your Mother, but also any of your work?
Jeanne Bliss: Sure. My main website is customerbliss.com and the other website is Make Mom Proud.
John Jantsch: You had to go look that one up almost, didn’t you?
Jeanne Bliss: Well, I couldn’t remember if it was dot org or whatever because somebody owned …
John Jantsch: Oh yeah. [inaudible 00:20:17].
Jeanne Bliss: Somebody owned dot com.
John Jantsch: We got to lock those down before we name our books now, right?
Jeanne Bliss: Oh, I know. I really tried … Oh, it’s Make Mom Proud with dashes between it. That’s what I ended up doing because there was a little theater company who owned, Make Mom Proud and I called him and talked to him and he was like, “No,” and for good reason, he had built it for his mother who had passed away, so I couldn’t really fight with him for that one.
John Jantsch: Jeanne, it was a great visiting with you again and hopefully we’ll run into you there soon out there on the road.
Jeanne Bliss: Good to talk to you. Would love to see you again. Okay. Thanks everybody.