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Posts Tagged ‘customer’

Experiencing a Customer Service Culture: From Flambé to Yoko Ono

October 5th, 2010 by The Forum Corporation
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The board members of one of GE’s financial services brands recently challenged us to arrange an experience of customer service for them that would leave “nobody in doubt that creating a service culture can become a systemic force for good.” No mean feat then.

The experience we came up with served to convince not only the board, but me as well.

After calling all manner of organizations with well known service brands (and doing some seriously desperate pleading), we chose the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in London. So powerful is Mandarin’s approach and management philosophy that even new members of the hotel staff (including many who do not speak English as a first language) immediately get how the guest experience and guests’ personal preferences shape the whole operating model. The Mandarin people were thrilled to immerse the GE board members in the hotel’s guest experience as well as its employee experience.

And immersed they were. The GE CEO valiantly attempted to flambé dinner in the kitchen. The CFO, in role as a doorman, helped Yoko Ono out of her car. These experiences drove home (for the board members and myself) the importance of creating a customer experience that pervades the entire organization. The experiences also exposed how the pursuit of insight into customer preferences, as instilled into the organizational climate, can lead to a continuous cycle of improvement.

Following this outstanding experience, we were able to go confidently back to GE’s board and say (to quote Yoko Ono’s late husband), “I hope we passed the audition.”

It’s often talked about, but rarely do you actually feel the extent to which a customer experience climate bangs the drum to which everyone dances (to nearly be poetic).

It’s just the way they do things.

Do you know any others who have genuinely cracked “it” from the inside out?

Social Networking: A productive endeavor or an attractive distraction?

May 6th, 2009 by Forum Corporation
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By Matthew Allen, Project Coordinator

There is no question that expanding both relationships and networks is an important activity for any sales leader.  However, as businesses attempt to deal with the forces of today’s economic climate, these two like-minded initiatives quickly jump from important to imperative

Countless studies implicitly connect these two actions (relationship building and network building) to customer retention and customer expansion.  Forum’s extensive research tells us that out of the hundreds of things sales organizations deal with regularly, finding and winning new customers along with keeping profitable customers are two of only 14 actions that have a statistically positive correlation with performance—in other words, these 14 actions differentiate top-performing sales organizations from moderate and low performers.  peoplethrucomputer2

So while it is clear that businesses must continue to invest in specific sales initiatives, the current economic crisis has siphoned business cash flows, leading to cuts in travel budgets and an increasingly watchful eye kept on “client expenses.”  As a result, traditional methods of expanding networks and relationships (attending trade shows, conferences, and face-to-face meetings) are quickly being replaced by webinars, podcasts, social networking … and even Twitter.

Yes, that’s right:  the micro-messaging revolution has recently hit the corporate stage, where the immediacy of the connection and communication created by this free service lends itself to cost-efficient large-scale networking.  With the advancement of technology, building (and sustaining) a large professional network suggests that you are not only “LinkedIn,” but that you “tweet” every now and again as well.  For those of you who have yet to tap into this social media tool, a “tweet” is a short message that keeps your followers up to speed on what you are thinking or doing at any given moment.  

A growing number of companies, the likes of Dell, Southwest Airlines, and Zappos (the online shoe seller whose CEO’s Twitter followers have increased from 1,300 to 373,000 over the past year), use Twitter to foster communication among customers and employees alike.  (Dell recently reported that its Twitter account has led to more than $1 million in revenue.)  These three companies epitomize what it means to be customer focused, and they have begun to tap into social networking to increase visibility and strengthen both customer relationships and experience.

 A tech-savvy and nervous flyer friend of mine took his initiatory Southwest Airlines flight about 3 months ago and then received the following “tweet” from the airline:  “Hope you enjoyed your first-ever Southwest flight!  We can’t wait to see you onboard again.”  Using social networking as an additional tool to enhance the customer experience, these companies are building customer loyalty and providing customers with yet another reason to suggest their services to peers.

 blue-headA step beyond text-messaging, which requires you to address people individually, updates via Twitter are broadcasted to a person’s entire group of followers.  While I may be getting a bit ahead of myself, I believe that this dynamic interaction may very well be on its way to replacing e-mail for certain types of communication, such as client correspondence and general customer relations.

 Twitter is not all business, however.  Many “tweets” are not only personal, but downright trivial—what someone had as an afternoon snack or what songs make up her latest iPod playlist.  Being able to focus your efforts in the world of social networking is key to successful navigation.  Luckily, the ability to focus is an asset that you control, and it is the vital link between your social networking strategy and your end results.  

Twitter is just one example of a plethora of valuable social networking tools that not only drive traffic, but also have the potential to enhance relationships and expand networks.  Twitter, in particular, is taking off because it mirrors how people work and think … which is apparently 140 characters at a time!