• Bill Leinweber

  • About Bill Leinweber

    Bill Leinweber's mission is to help businesses and organizations grow by combining efficient processes with great customer and employee experience.

    Bill is the Chief Experience Officer & Owner of Landmark Experience LLC, a consultancy, where he loves to help business leaders walk in their customers' shoes and devise memorable and meaningful experiences for both customers, guests, visitors, employees and business partners. After all, have you ever heard of customer loyalty and business growth without GREAT customer experience?

    Bill's 30 year career spans retail and office products distribution operations in both small, family-owned and global mega-businesses. He has managed customer service operations, sales support, customer on-boarding and business intelligence teams while also serving as an internal consultant and subject matter expert. Bill has helped his past employers improve their customer engagement processes and achieve their goals of customer experience excellence and loyalty.

    Bill loves to talk and speak about customer experience as well, so don't be afraid to ask!

    Bill Leinweber
    Landmark Experience
    513-227-9037
    www.LandmarkExperience.com

What Are You Doing to Your Customer’s Memory?

A Drive Down Dogwood Lane

I grew up on a great street in Mentor, Ohio, about 25 miles east of Cleveland. My parents picked a terrific location to raise six kids. Our street was exactly a half-mile long with long straight-a-ways and a couple of serpentine curves. Back then, we used to say it was a “dead end” street. The houses weren’t very fancy by today’s standards, three bedrooms and two baths for eight people.

The cool thing was that our house was fourth from the end of the street so the only people driving past our house were the Martinson’s, the Phelp’s, the Staebler’s, the senior and junior Douglass’s and Mr. Hockenbrach. Mr. H drove pretty fast but otherwise, for a kid on a bike the traffic was practically nonexistent. It was awesome when they re-paved our street into a smooth, asphalt “raceway.” Our lot was one of the few that didn’t border woods or a fence in back. Our backyard was like a meadow, blending seamlessly into the neighbor’s yard on the street behind us. Beyond the cul-de-sac were our elementary and junior high schools, playgrounds, football stadium and a big woods with a pond. There were tons of other kids in the neighborhood of all ages.  At the corner of our backyard was the biggest maple tree around, well over a hundred years old. And you could see it from the end of the street, even from the school yard. I have very fond memories of growing up on Dogwood Lane and I can still remember the smell of the grass, aromas of dinner from open windows, the breeze, and the feeling of safety, although at the time, I didn’t know I felt safe. I just did.

Memory Shock

About six years ago I was visiting my family in Cleveland and decided to take a drive down good ‘ole Dogwood Lane. It was nothing like I remembered. My mind’s eye contained frozen snapshots of time. But on Dogwood Lane, life marched on as it has everywhere. The trees and shrubs had grown unbelievably, to the point where once exposed houses are now totally hidden. The houses no longer looked new and fresh. In fact, some were pretty run down. One driveway had a car up on blocks. Revisiting Dogwood Lane was a shock to my system. My “memory self” was out of alignment with my current “experiencing self.” I regretted taking that drive. Maybe Dogwood Lane was never as great as I remembered.

The reminiscing drive down Dogwood Lane made me realize how different the experience may be from our memory of it. Truth is, there’s the experience and then there’s the memory of the experience and they’re not necessarily the same.

How does this translate to customer experience?

You often hear me say that the best customer experience is memorable and meaningful. Memorable. That’s critical.

Now, I get it. A single customer interaction isn’t going to etch a memory the same as 18 years of growing up on Dogwood Lane. However, THAT a customer remembers the experience at all is as important as WHAT the customer remembers about the experience.

If you have time, here’s a wonderful 15-minute TED talk by Nobel laureate and founder of behavioral economics, Daniel Kahneman about happiness (“experience”) vs. memory.

WordPress:

Customer Memory In Your Business

Here are 3 things to consider about the customer experience and memory in your business:

1) Design: When you design and shape your customer’s experience, are you asking yourself, “What will the customer remember?” And as part of the design of the experience, are you deliberately creating a memory at all?

Example:

At my local grocery store, they have a little “mini clinic” inside the store. You can get flu shots, have minor injuries checked, and other non-emergency treatments. Today when I walked into the store, there were several very ill patients, heads in their hands, waiting for treatment. This is not particularly something I want to see when I first walk into the store to buy my food! I couldn’t get the image out of my head. Unpleasant memory.

2) The Ending: We’re most likely to remember the very end of the experience and that memory will shade the entire experience. In your customer’s experience, what is the ending like?

Example:

At the end of her voice mail greeting, my colleague Melissa doesn’t say, “Have a nice day.” She doesn’t say “Have a good day.” Melissa says, “I hope you’re having a splendid day.” Now splendid is not a word you probably hear every day, or even every week! But Melissa came up with a way to express her wishes in a unique way that stands out. It’s different and that makes it memorable. So, you’re not  comfortable with the word ‘splendid.’ No problem, come up with something else.

3) Service Recovery: How you handle customer issues when something goes wrong cannot be understated. Whether it’s your customer service department, your sales rep, technical support or other customer-facing staff, the customer will surely remember this “ending” interaction. Here’s a hint: Better to have the memory of the bad experience fade and the customer left with the great memory of how you resolved the issue.

Example:

My colleague’s web hosting company accidentally wiped out his About Me page – and couldn’t recover the content! He had to reconstruct the content and re-load it into his website. Aside from a humble apology, the hosting company gave him a generous credit toward his next renewal which just happened to be later that week. Small cost for the vendor and left the customer with an upbeat memory.

I regularly preach that a distinguishing customer experience doesn’t have to cost a lot. Sometimes by just making the experience different, you make it memorable and better.  Just ask yourself, “When this interaction is over, what will the customer remember?”

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I help business owners improve customer service, create memorable customer experience and engage employees, through evaluation, benchmarking and training. If you have a business problem you’re trying to solve, let’s talk.

Bill Leinweber
Bill@LandmarkExperience.com
(513) 227-9037

Why Not Leverage What Your Employees Enjoy?

In a recent training I conducted for a technical support team, the questions I asked of participants when we began were, “Why do you do what you do? Why did you accept this position? What do you like aboHands Raisedut your job?” The purpose of these questions in a training context is to be able to tie the training content to what is important to the participants. It answers the participant question, “What’s in it for me?”

The answers were pretty cool and included:

  • I like to help our customers
  • Solving a challenging problem for our customers is very rewarding
  • I like creating a happy outcome
  • Educating our customers is gratifying
  • I enjoy when our customers think of us as a resource and a partner

Keep in mind, I didn’t ask, “Why do your customers buy from you or why do your customers like you?” My questions were solely focused on the employee experience, the experience of these technical support specialists. Once I had their answers, I was able to explain how the training would help them to fulfill their role and help to support the “why” they like doing their jobs.

It Gets Handed Down

The quality of your customer experience is inextricably linked to the quality and enjoyment of your employee experience. Many companies just don’t get this. Now, I’m not saying that you have to spoil, pamper and baby your employees. What I am saying is that if your employees enjoy their workplace and if they enjoy serving your customers, that enjoyment will permeate the customer experience. In other words, customers will FEEL it in their experience. It’s as simple as that. And isn’t it only logical that when we enjoy a task, we complete it just a little bit better, more thoroughly and with more enthusiasm then tasks we don’t enjoy?

Conversely, when you are the customer, you can always tell when the person serving you really doesn’t care or enjoy what they’re doing. The sentiment usually comes across loud and clear!

Translated To Your Team

So why not leverage what your employees enjoy to further enhance their experience and that of your customers? When was the last time you asked your team members why they do what they do and why they like what they do? If employees do their work well AND enjoy their work, then that is the definition of a strength.

  • If employees say they like to communicate with customers – then what can you do to improve and facilitate that communication?
  • If employees say they love to solve customers’ problems because it makes them feel accomplished – then what can you do to make problem-solving easier and faster?
  • If they say they enjoy educating customers because they have a teaching mindset – then what can you do to train and educate your staff to further support their desire to educate your customers?

Some companies focus a lot of energy on “corrective action” and on trying to improve employee’s weaknesses. Instead, take the bulk of that energy and magnify what employees enjoy and do well. Your employees will be more satisfied and loyal and your customers will be too!

I help businesses improve customer service, sales support and employee experience through analysis, feedback and implementation. If you have a business problem you need help with, let’s talk.

Bill Leinweber
Bill@LandmarkExperience.com
(513) 227-9037

Photo courtesy of Kittikun Atsawintarangkul and FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How to get your Sales Reps out of Customer Service and back to SELLING!

In my last post, I wrote about how and why it hurts your business when sales reps spend too much time doing customer service tasks and not enough time selling. If you missed that post, click 5 Reasons why your sales reps should not be order managers.

In this next post, I promised to answer the question, “How do you move from a culture of sales rep as part-time customer service rep to a culture of sales rep as full-time sales rep? I’ll start by saying; it’s not going to happen overnight. I’ve been there. It’s going to take commitment but it will be well worth the effort in greater efficiency, a bigger sales funnel and a culture of cooperation. And full disclosure – my background is strong in B2B so I do see things through that lens. However, this advice will work in a B2C environment. There is more that is similar than is different.

But before I get into some of the cool things to put in place, you need to understand this one point:

Sales people will stop selling the moment they lose trust in your business.

Need Help PhotoThe moment you jeopardize the sales reps word (promises they made to customers) or their income (commissions), they’ll take their eyes off the sales ball and move into babysitting and triage mode. They’ll hand-hold orders and customer setups, they’ll double-check accuracy and process steps and generally poke their noses into every other department’s business. They’ll insist on being the sole communication point between the customer and the business. You’ll see them in the office more often rather than visiting or on the phone with customers.

And frankly, I can’t blame them. Your sales reps won’t let go of the reins and go out and sell more until they trust that everything works as it should and that customers will receive the service they expect. The sales organization has to TRUST the operation, trust your quality, and trust that people will do what they say they’re going to do. They need to believe that customer service and other support staff won’t only do what the process says to do but will also make good decisions on the customer’s behalf when the process doesn’t fit the situation. If a culture of trust doesn’t sound like your company, start there. Otherwise, nothing else I share here will matter.

It’s the Numbers after the Decimal That Really Count

A word about quality. If you tell me your order accuracy is great and that 99% of orders are accurate, then you’re in big trouble. That’s because it’s the digits after the 99 that really matter. If you ship 1000 orders a day and only 99% are accurate, then every day 10 orders go out wrong. If I’m your sales rep, I’m losing sleep. That’s 50 orders a week that go out wrong and how many of them are for my customers? You’re pushing your sales reps to butt-in and hand-hold the order process because they won’t trust it. You don’t need Six Sigma or some big complex quality program for this one. When gauging accuracy, look at the digits to the right of the decimal and put something in place to get those digits into the 9’s. You’ll also be saving your company boatloads of money in re-work.

Develop a Customer On-Boarding Program

Formalize your customer on-boarding. When you get a new customer, every department should know about it. When the first order ships, everyone touching that order should know it’s the customer’s first order. Internally, everyone needs to handle that order just like the sales rep would because remember, your sales rep is now out selling and not babysitting orders. If I’m the shipping dock supervisor, I want to know it’s the customer’s first order. If I’m the billing supervisor, I want to know it’s this customer’s first invoice. There are many ways to implement an on-boarding program, from automated to manual. Code the customer as “new” for 90 days. A formal customer on-boarding program does the following:

  • The extra attention ensures new customers have the best experience possible
  • You build trust with the new customer at the most critical stage in the relationship
  • Sales reps will have confidence that their co-workers have their eyes on new customers
  • And not the least of which, you celebrate new customers with your employees!

Integrate Sales Support Into Customer Service

When your sales reps call with a customer issue, they shouldn’t call your admin or the warehouse manager. They should call customer service just like the customer would. After all, the sales rep is really calling on the customer’s behalf, aren’t they? Otherwise, the customer would be making the call. Channel sales rep calls into customer service so they follow the same process with the same people who have access to the same information. Within Customer Service, you could even establish an “elite team” who handles sales reps calls. Whatever approach you use, integrated sales support accomplishes the following:

  • All customer issues follow the same process flow and tracking
  • Prevents duplication of work
  • Ensures a faster more efficient resolution
  • Gives the sales rep the same level of “service” as you give your customers
  • Builds on a culture of collaboration between customer service and sales

Establish a 2-way Communication Channel

Sales reps can focus more time on getting sales and less time micro-managing the operation when there is 2-way communication between customer service and sales. If customer service encounters a customer issue or question that warrants the sales rep’s attention, they need a consistent way to get that information back to the sales rep. If I’m a customer service rep and a customer just told me they were talking to a competitor, I want our sales rep to know that. Perhaps you can use your CRM, case management system or something as simple as email to get word to the rep. Train customer service when and how to recognize what should be communicated. The payoff is:

  • Sales rep (or Account Manager) is proactively alerted to possible issues. Better for the rep to hear it from an internal source than from the customer later.
  • Gives the sales rep confidence that co-workers are alert to potential customer issues.
  • Builds on a culture of “these are OUR customers” not “your customers.”

Flip the Switch

Finally, to get the sales rep out of the customer service kitchen, you may have to simply limit system access. If your sales reps can enter or modify orders, override pricing, change addresses and perform other system maintenance, you may want to give that a hard look. It’s not only a good idea from a process control standpoint (can you spell Sarbanes-Oxley?). It also removes the temptation to spend time in the system. You’ll have to overcome the sales rep’s objection that, “It’s just quicker if I do it!” View-only access should do the trick in most cases and it removes the last excuse for, “I don’t have enough time to sell more!”

When your existing sales reps can spend more of their time on sales tasks, your business has the opportunity to grow sales and profits with existing staff. If your sales reps are spending any time being order managers, shift their focus by giving them confidence the business will live up to your brand promise.

If you would like to discuss this topic, give me a call (513) 227-9037 or email me at Bill@LandmarkExperience.com.

Learn more at LandmarkExperience.com

Photo courtesy of pakorn and FreeDigitialPhotos.net

Little Billy Leinweber Breaks an Old Habit

Yes I had hair back then and the typewriter weighed more than I did

Nobody likes change. Well, at least very few people I know. Yet, one of the worst things for a business is to stay the same. Sure it’s easier to keep things just as they are and it’s certainly more comfortable. We like routine. Don’t rock the boat, right?

Business leaders, I want you to venture out into your front lines and pick a process or procedure and ask your staff, “Why do we do this? And why is it done in this way?” If you hear anything at all like, “We’ve always done it this way,” then you’ve just stumbled on a huge opportunity. An opportunity to improve and do things better. “We’ve always done it this way” is the worst reason in the world to continue doing something. I know. And just to show you how committed I am, I’m going to stop doing something I’ve done for the past 43 years. I’m going to do something differently.

I learned to type at the age of nine. It was summer school between fourth and fifth grade. I think it was a punishment because I don’t remember volunteering. I just remember I went to summer school and had Living Science (like outdoor biology) and typing class. That was the first and last time I ever went to summer school. Yeah, I can hear you laughing but how many of you have the courage to put a 4th grade photo of yourself on the internet? Anyway, I remember the day the News Herald photographer and reporter came into the class to take the picture. Definitely a slow news day in Mentor, Ohio. The newspaper story begins, “Little Billy Leinweber didn’t even look big enough to reach the typewriter keys…” And for those of you who can’t remember, that big metal object in front of me is called a typewriter. It’s what we used to type letters and envelopes and other documents before computers. You can stop laughing now.

The really cool thing is, by the time computers did become commonplace I already knew how to type and I mean using all my fingers and without looking at the keyboard. And all these years, I thought I was doing it right because “I’ve always done it this way.” Then about a month ago, I read a blog post somewhere and the author was saying, “Anyone who puts 2 spaces between sentences is doing it wrong!” What? Are you kidding? That’s the way I was taught to type 43 years ago. One space between words and two spaces between sentences. What the heck was this guy talking about?

As it turns out, the two-spaces-between-sentences thing was because typewriter characters were monospaced, meaning each letter took up the same amount of space. If you typed two sentences one over the other, the letters in the top row would line up in columns with the letters in the row beneath. A computer produces proportionally spaced characters (unless you use a font like Courier which mimics a typewriter font). With proportional spacing the letter “i” for example takes up only 1/5 the space of the letter “m.” With proportional spacing, there is no longer a need to put two spaces between sentences. Hmmm… I don’t remember getting the newsflash.

Do you have any idea how difficult it is to change a habit that you began 43 years ago? Well, it’s not easy but I’m going to do it. I’m going to re-condition myself to type only one space between sentences. Why? To be cool and “with it?” No, because it actually does look better in print and on-screen. It’s more pleasing to read. It’s a better way. Oh sure, I could say the heck with it, I’m going to just keep typing the way I’ve always done it. It would be much easier for me to not change a thing especially because I don’t even have to think about it. My thumbs automatically go tap-tap on the space bar every time I get to the end of a sentence so, it’s going to take some effort. But isn’t it good practice now and then to make a change for the better and not use “We’ve always done it this way” as an excuse to stay comfortable?

Customer experience in your business and your business in general will never be at its absolute best if you continue doing things as you’ve always done them because it’s simply easier. Take a look around your business. Be open. Turn on your peripheral vision. Why do we do this? Why do we do it this way? If the reason is “We’ve always done it this way” then start digging. Is it the best way? Are you willing put forth the effort to make your business better? You CAN do it. Take a hint from Little Billy Leinweber. If he can change something he learned when he was nine, you can make a change too!

Your Employees Are Your Customers

Here is a suggestion for you business owners and leaders:

  • Treat your employees as you do your customers.

Now, I suppose I should qualify that and say, if you don’t treat your customers very well then ignore the previous statement. Here’s another thought:

  • Your Employees Are Your Customers

Does this sound like some radical thinking to you? If so, read on.

Open any corporate annual report (and I’m serious, nearly any single one) and you’ll read somewhere in the CEO’s opening comments, “Our employees are our most important asset…” or some variation of that sentiment. And while the statement is probably true, it is a bit of a tired phrase. That said, if your employees are in fact your most important asset, why wouldn’t their experience be at least as great as your external customers receive?

To truly be “customer centric” (and from what I hear, everyone wants to be so), an organization needs to see the customer in all groups and the word “customer” must apply to all groups and everyone in your organization needs to feel it and believe in it. That, to me, is customer centric.

According to Deloitte LLP’s fourth annual Ethics & Workplace Survey, one-third of employed Americans plan to look for a new job when the economy gets better. Within the group who plans on looking for greener pastures, 48 percent cite a loss of trust in their employer and 46 percent say that a lack of transparent communication from their company’s leadership are their reasons for looking.

These statistics indicate you could be on the verge of losing essential talent in your organization. So how do you put your employees in a “customer channel?” Quite simply, apply the same rules of customer service, process improvement, Voice of the Customer and customer experience management to your employees’ experience. Sure, easier said than done but well worth the effort if you want to be and remain an employer of choice.

Take a hard look (literally) around your company and ask yourself, how easy IS it to be your employee? Look at your employee experience through the same lens you use to evaluate your external customer experience. When was the last time you conducted an employee climate survey – and took solid actions on the results? Are your employees enjoying memorable, meaningful experiences and feeling valued? Or do you see these types of examples:

Do you expect your sales reps to spend every waking hour in front of clients, scheduling appointments, making the sales pitch, honing their sales skills and “managing their time wisely” so they can exceed your sales targets? Then when the sales rep sits down to complete their monthly expense report, your clunky, ill-conceived expense reporting system is so cumbersome, bureaucratic and user unfriendly that the rep wastes two or three hours of their own time trying to get reimbursed for legitimate expenses?

Are communications in your company unfocused, unclear and fraught with hurried ambiguity only to leave employees feeling confused and suspicious?

On the surface, is your culture a happy, “team environment” with “mutual respect and accountability” but the obvious chief motivating undertone when employees engage with one another is, “This isn’t going to make me look bad in front of the boss, is it??”

Do you expect your customer service team members to sacrifice lunch or break time for your external customers’ behalf but when a team member needs a little break or time off, they get grief from their boss?

One company that is at least trying to drive the same external customer mission to their employee customers is office products giant, Staples. Who hasn’t heard of the “Easy Button?” Press the button and a voice says, “That was easy!” Well, when I sat across the table from their head of employee benefits during their vision benefits implementation meeting, she pointed to a poster on the wall in the conference room. “Do you see what that says,” she asked. “We want our vision benefits conversion and implementation to be ‘Easy’ for our employees.” Clearly that simple mantra has made it out of the marketing and public relations silos and across boundaries into employee engagement. Not always perfect, I’m sure, but the effort and awareness is there.

Focus on making your organization REALLY “customer centric” by recognizing all your customer groups, including your employees. Weave that message through your company culture and belief system. Your external customers will likely be treated even better by employees who feel they are within the customer circle.