Creating Meaningful Customer Experiences

What sets you and your team apart in your company? What sets your company apart when competing with the competition? I conducted a simple survey on LinkedIn the other day. The majority of the respondents said the primary differentiator was customer service.

I’m guessing you are not surprised by this. I would be willing to bet that your teams would not be surprised. But how do our teams create a meaningful customer experience that leads to results? Do they just know or should they be trained on how to do this?

Too often, our team members rush to resolve issues especially if the customer is “energized” (upset). “Stuff” is made up to quiet or calm the customer. And then the next person who encounters the customer is forced to address that “stuff” before even getting to the initial issue.

I have led teams that were customer-facing as well as “back office”. A few years ago, I crafted the following to create the most meaningful customer experiences that lead to results – customer satisfaction, sales and cross-sales, customer loyalty, customer referrals, etc. It is, in my opinion, a common sense approach. A seasoned team member will be able to navigate this process to build solid relationships with your customers. A new team member will be able to understand this and become a successful customer experience provider.

Here it is:

From my experience, many team members want to ACT first. They are anxious to take care of the customer, meet needs, etc. But when they jump to ACT too soon, they miss out on so much that the customer needs. The process above puts the customer first, leads the team member to connect with them, provides information for the team member to ACT in a way that makes sense to the customer, and then follow-up/follow-through to further connect with the customer.

This process has been used in a financial institution. It has been used at universities with college recruiters. It works. It must be managed, observed, and coached. But it works. Customers will feel this. They will respond. They will grow more loyal. You will see results.

Try it. Let me know how it goes. I love hearing stories of success! Share yours here.

Taking a Moment to Connect

I am working near one of my groups this week. About 30 minutes ago, one of our newest team members walked up and asked if he could chat. He wanted to tell me what he was learning from a book I bought for him a month ago. He also asked what activities I had been involved with recently. I shared with him my experiences with our local Chamber of Commerce annual meeting as well as the leadership networking group I co-founded with my brother (www.firstfridaysfw.org). We talked of attending events together to get some networking experience under his belt.

Just a few moments, I was reminded of the power of staying close to your teams. I currently work in another building or at home most of the time. But this brief encounter reminded me how much touch points such as this one charges my batteries. Question: what do you do to connect with your teams?

Where Ideas Come From

Back in February, I challenged one of my teams with an initiative. I required each of them to share 1 idea or 1 area of improvement within our department and/or company. I created a OneNote folder where they would share these things every week. They had to include their name for accountability purposes.

Some took to the challenge immediately and some really great things are in motion today to bring their ideas to life. Some thought they really didn’t have any ideas. But through our 1-on-1 sessions when I got them thinking and talking, ideas flowed.

“But that’s a pretty small thing,” one team member told me after sharing an idea. And I reminded them I wasn’t looking for a cure for cancer. Just simple ideas that would help create less friction or would help others understand a necessary process better or that would create a better customer experience is what we were looking for. Small steps in the right direction compound to have a significant impact in the long run.

Do you know that your team has more to contribute? Do you know they have experiences that are extremely valuable and can be leveraged? Do you believe that ideas should come from all areas of your organization, not just the executive levels?

Give your team a challenge, encourage their participation, and watch them grow. You will see collaboration. You will see people stretching beyond their comfort zone. You will hear some pretty great ideas that you’ve never considered before.

And your team member, you, and your organization will become better as a result.

How to help a New Team Member | Team quotes, Business quotes, Leadership  quote

What I have Learned about Teams

For over 30 years, I have been privileged to lead great teams in various organizations. Together, we have pushed ourselves to continually become better. We have held each other accountable even if it became uncomfortable. We worked to have a one-mind approach to our success.

Over the years, I have learned some things about leading teams.

Care

I connected better with my teams when I got to know them better personally. I truly care about the people I serve. I have listened as they shared about their children. I have seen them worry before certain tests were going to happen that would determine long-term care for a child.

I have attended weddings, visited them in the hospital, delivered meals to their homes, and attended their funerals. Caring makes leaders vulnerable, but it is such an authentic way to connect with teams.

Coach

Team members want to be coached. They want to improve when they know they are valued. Coaching can pinpoint areas needing improvement as well as celebrating with them when they overcome an obstacle. Coaching means asking great, probing questions to get to the core of issues.

Communication

Team members do not like uncertainty. I’ve learned to be available via email, Skype, phone, or personal meetings. The team has not taken advantage of this. But they know I’m open to invest time with them in order to keep our communication lines open. I’ve learned so much from my teams by encouraging open communication.

And I have learned to model open communication.

Celebrate

My teams have accomplished great things over the years. They banded together to make what seemed to be impossible possible. They have reached out to those in need in the community in order to make someone else’s children have a dream Christmas. They’ve shattered expectations in sales and service initiatives.

And in my coaching sessions, team meetings, and on performance reviews I celebrate them. They love the retelling of their story of success.

I have been a promoter of the organizations I have served. I have liked working there. But I have loved my teams. Watching them grow and develop, advance in their careers, and triumph in personal trials has been a privilege for me.

What have you learned about teams from your experience?

Your Team – Emotions, Energy, Empowerment

I am looking forward to a new year. While I don’t have grand hopes that 2021 will be better than 2020, I am hopeful that we will apply what we have learned in the past 9 months to make the new year better.

What is your team experiencing right now? If they primarily work from home, they are experiencing a sense of isolation even if they are surrounded by kids doing school from home. They are isolated from teammates that probably have been a good influence on them. They are isolated from a routine that is healthy for them. They are isolated from stimulation from a job they enjoy and find meaning in.

And when people feel isolated, other feelings enter through that gateway.

  • FEAR – Fear of the virus. Fear of their significant other (or themselves) losing their job. Fear for their family’s wellbeing. Fear of the unknown.
  • WORRY – Worry about staying healthy. Worry about following health mandates. Worry about their future.
  • ANXIETY – Change can easily usher in anxiety. The work environment has changed. The world has changed. The political environment has changed. School has changed. Family activities have changed.
  • STRESS – The recipe for stress is all of the above. People’s emotions can be on edge. Patience becomes shorter. The news is hardly ever positive. Domestic violence, abuse, and suicide are on the rise.

So this is the world we are in right now. And this includes your team. You work hard to be connected via Zoom, Skype, etc. Your team meetings are as good as they can be. People say the right things. They seem engaged.

But how do you go beyond the surface to connect to your team’s emotions, energy, and engagement?

In coaching sessions, ask better questions. And listen. You do not need to become a personal counselor to your team members – in fact, don’t be. If you discover that a team member is struggling, refer them to your employee assistance program (EAP) if your organization offers one. Encourage them to seek help. It is healthy to seek help from a trained professional.

Give your team member something specific to focus on. For some folks, when they become stressed out, everything seems to rise to the surface screaming for attention. Help them find some clarity by helping them identify the truly important from what seems to be urgent. Again, ask questions to help them self-identify what personal projects, initiatives, tasks will make the most difference. Once they accomplish those, walk them through the clarifying process again. Celebrate their wins. Encourage them in their journey.

Pay attention to their energy. Working from home can, for some, be a time of burnout since they are “on” all of the time. Encourage healthy habits – walking 20 minutes a couple of times each day, drinking plenty of water, getting enough sleep, etc. Share inspiring articles, videos, or blog posts with your team.

Team members want to know that you are there for them. They are seeking validation in their work. They want to make a difference in the lives of the coworkers and customers. They want to know they can make a positive impact.

Identify with your team’s emotions. Help them sustain the energy necessary to do their work. Encourage engagement by asking great questions that make them think and then act in new, more effective ways.

Here’s to a better new year.

Confidence Can Be Learned

Below is a portion of an article was published in 2014 by Melissa Stephenson on Fulfillment Daily

What happens if a team member is not confident in their job?

  • Work is produced at a slower pace
  • Quality of work could suffer
  • Results could be lacking the detail needed
  • Your team member’s growth & development could stall out
  • and more…

Read Melissa’s post below to learn how to build confidence. Use this in an upcoming coaching session. Wait…what?…you are lacking confidence? This article will then help you! And be sure to click on the link at the end to read the entire article. There’s more insights from Melissa there.

Research on brain plasticity shows that our brains physically change in response to new experiences, thought patterns, and behaviors. This means that we can train ourselves to think differently about challenging situations—and, in turn, respond more confidently to them.

 

We can cultivate confidence by practicing thoughts and behaviors that increase our own self-belief. Try these:

1. Seek opportunities to practice success

Research shows that successfully mastering a challenging task strengthens our belief that we can achieve the same success in the future. A common example of this is public speaking: Although many people shy away from it, those who practice public speaking regularly get better at it, become more comfortable with it, and become more confident in it, too. Accumulating examples of success increases our confidence in a given area

2. Watch and learn from successful examples

Witnessing others succeed increases our belief that we, too, have the ability to succeed in a similar way. For example, the more we watch our friends run marathons, the more we begin to believe that we could also accomplish such a feat someday.

3. Build a positive support network

Social persuasion is a powerful tool for combating self-doubt. Encouragement from people we trust helps convince us that we have what it takes to succeed. So, when you’re facing a challenge, surround yourself with people who believe in you—their belief will help build your own awareness in your skills and abilities.

4. Recognize and redirect your unconfident feelings

How we perceive the way we feel about a challenging situation greatly influences how we feel about the challenge itself. For example, when we feel “butterflies in the stomach” before a presentation or performance, do we interpret the feeling as excitement or nervousness? This interpretation has a profound effect on how confident we feel in performing.

With these strategies to enhance self-belief, we can increase our power to confidently achieve our goals and overcome our challenges.”

Follow Melissa’s blog at: https://fourwellness.co/about

What happens to YOU when you become a better coach by Jim Johnson

If you lead a team, you are coaching (or, at least, I trust that you are). I gave a presentation a couple of years ago on why coaching is so important for our team members. I also shared the following on what happens to the COACH when he/she becomes a better:

  1. Your reputation improves in your company.
  2. Your influence expands on your team and in your company.
  3. Your voice/opinion is respected on your team and with your colleagues.
  4. Your future will reveal more opportunities for you.

There is no down side to working hard at becoming a better coach.  Yes, your team members will become better, but YOU have benefits when you commit yourself to becoming a better coach.

Remember:  “You influence from a distance.  You impact up close.”  Dwight Robertson

Commit to impact.  You will create a better world around you.

when leaders become beter

Don’t Tell Them

I have been leading people for over 30 years now.  I am passionate about it.  I love to see my teams succeed.  I love to watch them learn and grow and get results.  I love being a part of that process.

But I have to be honest.  In my exuberance, I sometimes “take over” situations.  I see the issue.  I understand the fix. I just do it or I tell someone to go do it.

And that’s not helpful.

I am continually learning to stop telling them to do something.  Instead, I challenge them to find the answer, the solution, the remedy.  Why?

When they are tasked with figuring something out, they will learn more, connect more dots, and be able to act on this new information more clearly in the future.  And their resolution may be far better than what I think it should have been.

I love my team.  I love to get involved.  But I continue to have to remind myself to challenge them to think and act vs me simply telling them what to do.

Train your team.  Provide them feedback along the way.  Listen to them.  And give them opportunities to grow.

challenges

Get Better in 2020

As we prepare for 2020, take some time to ask yourself some key questions.  When many think of goals, they become overwhelmed by the sheer number of goals they believe they “should” have.

I’ve asked my own leadership team these basic questions.  Try them on for size…

What things have you identified that you need to change to make you a better manager of people?

    • What plans do you have in place to improve on that?
    • How can I help in that process?

What are 2 to 3 things your team – if they really focused on – could make the most positive impact in 2020?

  • What will be your role to help them achieve this?
  • How will your team learn about these focal points?

Take time to document your answers to these questions.  If you lead managers, ask them how you can support them in this process.  Then in coaching sessions, regularly review these questions with your team to keep them on track.

Your doesn’t need dozens of goals. They need focus.  And your support.

Make 2020 a great year for your team !