Tag Archives: Word-of-Mouth

Do you have an “Open Door” Policy with Your Customers?

Portrait of several business associates sitting on chairs by office door
Portrait of several business associates sitting on chairs by office door

We have all heard the term…“Open Door Policy”…it is common place in just about every company. It was designed for employees as a way to speak their mind openly to the leaders in the company. But what about the people who actually pay for your employees to be at your business…your customers? Do you have the same policy for them?

It helps create harmony, avoid unrest, keep small issues from becoming big issues, improve employee morale, allow for listening, and many other advantages…which is why we have this policy in place for our employees. We want them to be happy and give them a way to express their concerns at any time. We listen to them…when they want to be listened to.

Should this be any different for our customers?

Many companies give their customers an opportunity to talk through survey’s and feedback forms, or at the end of a phone call by pushing one button to say what they think. But why don’t we give them the same consideration we give our employees? Why don’t we offer a way for them to interact with us at the time when they want to interact with us? Why don’t we give them the same “Open Door” policy we give our employees?

The biggest reason…the number one issue…the one thing that leaders say scares them…


But what most don’t realize is that this is actually already happening…either in a small or large way for companies today and it is only going to escalate. It’s called Social Media. Social Media has given every customer an “Open Door” to say whatever they want about your company on the internet. They can say you rock or you suck…or anything in between.

Here’s the problem…they are sharing it with the world…their thousands of connections, friends, and followers. They are broadcasting to everyone else what they would have told you if you had an “Open Door” policy.

Think about this in a positive and proactive way. What if you had a way where your customers could go directly to you FIRST and before they decided to talk to the internet and share it on social media? What if you had a specific mechanism to handle “Open Door” with your customers where they felt they could be heard directly by someone in your company who could do something about their issues?

Here’s another issue to consider. Typically, an open door policy for your employees allows them the ability to go all the way to the top person if they desire to discuss their issues…it’s an open door to air their concerns and frustrations. But where do we send our customers…usually they start with the lowest level possible in the organization…the customer service representative we just hired 2 weeks ago to handle complaints. They start at the bottom of the organization and if they are angry enough and pushy enough, they might get to the proverbial “supervisor” in the organization. And this person is trained very well to never let them talk to anyone higher…they never get to anyone who could really do something about their complaint and change the company.

Yet customers are the only ones paying us so we can have the employees…to support them.

Why not create an “Open Door” policy in your company…make it truly open for both employees and customers. Do you think that would create an awesome, incredible, remarkable, and memorable experience that would get talked about by your customers? ABSOLUTELY!!

Most will read this and say it could never happen because they would get bombarded with issues and complaints. Others will consider this an interesting idea and kick it around but do nothing about it. Only a few, the ones who want to lead their industries, will not only consider this idea but figure out a way to put it into practice. These are the ones to watch. These are the ones you will look at and say they are building a remarkable company because they truly obsess over their customers and try to find more ways to give them a totally awesome experience. Those are the ones that get talked about…a lot…on social media…for all the great and positive things they are doing.

What will you do? Will you decide to create a “Customer Open Door Policy”? Share your thoughts…why or why not.

Social Media Tools…simply the “Cars on the Train”

train-yard_MJ5r3vduEver see a train go by…everyone has at least once in their life. If it was a nice long train, you noticed the red ones, blue ones, orange ones, new ones, old ones, specialty cars, and of course the caboose. It was fun watching it go by. It was entertaining. It was colorful.

But one comment everyone makes when they see the train go by…

I wonder what’s in those cars.”

It’s a mystery, we wonder, we guess, we ponder what the train could be carrying and where it is going. It’s the mystery of every train and every car on the train.

Social Media Tools are just like the cars on the train…only we call them facebook, twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, and over 300 more just like these…just like the cars on the long train. We see them on the internet and ask the same question…

“I wonder what messages these tools have in them.”

Social Media Tools are just like the cars on the train…it isn’t about the cars…they are just “shiny objects” going by us on a daily basis. What is valuable, interesting, thought provoking, and helpful is what is in the cars…the cargo and the messages they are bringing to us.

If the messages (like the cargo) are garbage, we ignore that particular car. If we kept seeing the car carrying garbage, we would eventually stop watching and wondering…we would know it isn’t worth waiting to see what’s in the cars. We would ignore the content.

What is inside the “cars” on your “social media train?” In the end, that’s all that really matters to your audience. We don’t really care about the color or age of the cars any more…we care about what they are carrying. If they carry garbage, we ignore them…we call that “promoting your company” today.

But when the car has something that is very interesting, exciting, and helpful…we call that “engaging with your audience” today. This is what gets read, consumed, and ultimately shared with thousands of others who are also interested in the content inside the cars of your train.

And your train is the same as everyone else’s…it’s just a bunch of cars (the same social media tools everyone else uses). It’s what’s INSIDE THE CARS that matters to the audience. Ship them garbage, they won’t care about the train any longer (your audience leaves). Ship them something that is exciting, interesting, and helps them in whatever they are doing and they can’t wait to see your car over and over again (your audience is becomes both loyal and an advocate).

What is in the cars on the train you are sending down the tracks to your audience and why would they care? This is the question every leader should be asking…not the color of the cars in our train. When leaders start asking the right questions, they help their teams focus on the right issues…the message…not the tools.

The “Concept” Everyone Agrees with…and is a True Differentiator

different-person_Mkf5oIuuIt isn’t rocket science and it is something everyone agrees with…

“IF we gave our customers an incredibly awesome, surprisingly delightful, and remarkable customer experience, they would want to do more (and continue doing) business with us…and would probably tell someone else about us.”

The concept is easy…conceptually, everyone gets it.

The execution and delivery of the concept is where most hit the wall…

Understanding how to execute and deliver this is not so easy.

IF it was easy, everyone would do it. And if everyone did it, it wouldn’t be a differentiator.

Therein lies the issue or the magic…it isn’t easy…not everyone (very few actually) will do it…so it remains an incredible differentiator.

Maybe it’s time to move from “concept” to “delivery” and separate your company from the pack of undifferentiated businesses.

The RIGHT Customer is Always RIGHT

The customer is ALWAYS RIGHT…ever hear that before…only a million times probably.

There are 2 issues with this statement…

First…if we put a group of business owners in a room together behind closed doors and asked them who believes this and who doesn’t, the room would be divided. It has always been a controversial topic. There are many who would clearly and passionately support that this is not a true statement.

Second…even if you are in the group that believes this statement to be true, then the real question is, “are you living this inside your organization?” Once again, the actions of the organization fall well short of them saying this to their employees and customers.

So what’s at the core of these issues? One key issue is the customer. More often than not the problem starts with having the wrong customer in mind so this statement doesn’t really work. We are offering apples to someone who wants to buy oranges. We are serving a ‘high-touch’ customer with ‘low-touch’ processes. We are organized around our product/service rather than the customer. We have a culture that is not ‘customer centric.’

Best Practice Puzzle Shows Effective Habit And Successful Training
Best Practice Puzzle Shows Effective Habit And Successful Training

Allow me to give you one of the simplest answers you could ever find to help lead you to more success in dealing with both issues. FIND THE RIGHT CUSTOMERS AND OBSESS OVER THEM.

Life is much simpler and easier and a lot more fun if you are working with customers who are right for you and your products/service and experience. When you designed your products/services, you had some specific customers in mind. Hopefully you developed “Personas” around these customers (if not we should talk soon). These were the customers you knew were right for your products/services, right for your company, right for the experience you wanted to deliver, and right for helping you grow the organization. But then something happened…

A customer showed up with money falling out of their pockets and wanted to buy your product/service. Seeing the money, you probably said, “Well they aren’t exactly our type of customer, but they have money so let’s work with them.” HUGE MISTAKE.

This is a customer that will probably never be happy or cause you and your employees much more work and much more grief. This is the proverbial ‘bad apple’ in your customer mix. As you work with them you realize their demands are greater/different than what you are designed to deliver. If you don’t deliver these, they are unhappy and you can’t make them happy…unless you ask your employees to do things that you didn’t design and now they are unhappy. And even worse, these “wrong” customers go out and tell others how awful you are to deal with…a lot.

This is a slippery slope…and one you almost always end up sliding all the way down to the bottom. It is a dangerous place to live when it comes to your customers and your organization. Mostly bad things happen when this starts.

For example, you will start changing how you treat your ‘right’ customer because you have to for the ‘wrong’ customer. They notice and start to realize you aren’t really there to help them the way you were. Or…you start adding the wrong processes to your organization to be able to serve them. Or…you ask your employees to do things they don’t understand because this isn’t how they planned to serve the ‘right’ customers and now they are confused, unhappy, and deliver a poor experience to every customer. Or…you change so many of the processes to serve them that they become your primary focus to try and make them happy and your ‘right’ customer ends up getting frustrated and goes somewhere else.

Have any of these happened to your company? Are any of these the way you would like to run your company? Do any of these sound like fun? They aren’t. And I see this all the time with the majority of leaders I talk to in one form or another.

But it doesn’t have to be…you can actually live the mantra that “the customer is always right,” when you have the “right customer.” And these two issues go away when there is a specific, ‘customer obsessed’ strategy to make this happen. Obsessing over the ‘right customer’ is pure joy inside the company and people are happy to find ways to help the customer in the ways they need. It becomes the culture of the company, not something you have to do…it’s something you want to do and are excited about doing.

The customer IS ALWAYS RIGHT…when it’s the right customer!

Taking FUN to the next level…a MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE

Having fun is part of life…it is, well, fun. It’s an emotion we have that makes us feel happy and is something we generally want to repeat. Everyone wants to have fun…but does just having fun create a memorable experience? Not really…it is fun but not necessarily memorable. It may have a short life, meaning it was fun but now the fun is over.

For example, let’s take a normal ride at Disneyland. You go on the ride and you thoroughly enjoy yourself…it was a lot of fun. But if something didn’t happen that was surprisingly delightful, it probably won’t be that memorable. It will be enjoyable, but not memorable.

What is a “memorable experience”? It’s one that keeps replaying itself in your head and touches you emotionally to a point where you are also anxious to tell others about it. The experience can be something you see, hear, or actually participate in along the way. It touches you in such a way as to cause your brain to want to replay it and experience it again and again. It has a long life to it and as such you are generally more inclined to want to tell others…share the experience.

For example, think back to the movie “BIG” with Tom Hanks when he played the huge piano in the toy store. This was unusual…incredible…amazing…surprising…delightful…and memorable. If you ask someone about this particular segment of the movie, people will remember it and talk about it with a great deal of excitement.

Yes, it was fun…AND it was memorable. This combination takes FUN to a new level…a MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE.

What about your business or non-profit or other type of organization? How do you create a “memorable experience” that will capture your audience, get them talking about you, spreading word-of-mouth, and wanting them to tell others on a regular basis? There are lots of examples of this out in the market (leave a comment, DM me, or shoot me an e-mail and I’ll send you some links). I have one you might enjoy…fun, yes…an experience…absolutely! Less than 2 minutes of fun and a memorable experience…

How many memorable experiences are you creating today in your company or organizations? Are you even creating any? Are they consistent and repeatable? Are they planned out with Customer Experience Maps? This is what separates the very best companies from the pack in their industry.

How is your company creating “musical steps” for your customers? Are you doing things that create “memorable experiences” with your customers and employees? Regardless of whether you sell a product or provide a service, there are many opportunities to deliver “ah-ha moments” to your customers that they will share and tell others about. This is what creates differentiation that gets talked about and allows your customers to “do your marketing for you.”

Is Chipotle Missing a Huge Opportunity?

Chipotle-Mexican-Grill-Inc-logoChipotle is a well-known success story…created a new place in the market with good food designed for a specific audience. But their story isn’t quite as rosy today as it was a few years ago…changes have happened and now they need to make some adjustments. But are they making the right adjustments or are they missing a huge opportunity? I believe they are missing an opportunity…here’s why.

There was a recent article in Adage where they talked about the challenges Chipotle was having today…lower revenues in the 3rd quarter and slowing of sales in existing locations. As they face some challenges, they are focusing on at least half the answer…they are significantly reducing their marketing ­

In the article, “Chipotle Deliberately Spends Less on Marketing to Afford Higher-Quality Ingredients,” their Chief Creative and Development Officer Mark Crumpacker said…

“We deliberately spend less on our marketing so we can afford these higher-quality ingredients. That’s essentially the main marketing ­benefit to our customers. We have recently shifted our focus more to telling the basic story about where our ingredients come from and how they’re made.”

So what are they betting on to win this battle and come out on top?

They are betting on a commodity…and that is dangerous territory. They are betting on providing better ingredients or as they call it, “Food with Integrity.” While that might sound great on the surface and a good bet, it’s still a commodity. All their ingredients and products are commodities. What happens when someone else comes up with slightly (or significantly) better ingredients or a better recipe using the ingredients? Unless there is something else to the Chipotle story, they could lose.

While the audience today thoroughly enjoys Chipotle food, they could just as easily be gone tomorrow if someone enters the market with something even better or more attractive to their target audience. Then what…do they go out and try to “one up” them and come up with even better ingredients and food…and at what cost? This is a never ending cycle in the commodity world and one that is very tough to compete in and win consistently and over long periods of time. Unless you are unquestionably the very best and can offer it at the lowest price, you are subjected to “commodity wars.”

So what is the opportunity they could capitalize on and avoid being a commodity?

Their CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE…this is the opportunity they are missing. Rather than investing in a commodity, why not invest in their customers and in themselves…not ingredients and products. They have established a great market presence (especially among millennials) and reputation for their food. They have a great following today. Now is the time to strike! Now is the time to significantly enhance the total offering…great food and an awesome customer experience. They have a solid foundation and a step up on the competition…now is the time to take Chipotle to the next level.

What if they were to create an unparalleled customer experience today, right now, to go along with their solid reputation and quality products? Would they need to keep searching for different ingredients and competing solely on these products if they offered the most incredible experience to their target audience? I don’t think so…they could carve out a niche which combines an amazing experience with great food and win. Today they have a solid experience…but it isn’t awesome, incredible, remarkable, or WOW.

Not putting their marketing funds back into their customers via the customer experience is a lost opportunity. They already have word-of-mouth working for them…why not put it on steroids through their social channels and get their audience raving about them? Why don’t they create a WOW, incredible, remarkable, and memorable experience with high quality ingredients and food? This combination could put them in an entirely new place, somewhere they could compete well above their competition. This is a combination that would get talked about, shared, and spread…word-of-mouth on steroids.

And based on the research, an awesome customer experience is not easily copied and is one that can endear a customer to you for a very long time. It also gets talked about more than products or ingredients. It becomes your differentiator…it becomes your new word-of-mouth. It allows you to invest in your customers and create something that can’t be taken away by another fresher ingredient that might show up tomorrow.

It would put Chipotle in a completely different place…one that changes the game for them and their customers…and would, I wager, drive higher revenues than more focus on ingredients. I hope they are reading and listening…I would love to see them be even more successful and hang around for a long time.

Sharing is NOT Word-of-Mouth

social-network-green_zkYshP5Oshare-icon_zk9F24d_I know this will be controversial but it needs to be differentiated…

When someone purchased the deal of the day or other such offers (from Groupon, Living Social, Amazon Local, or a host of other similar sites) and then shares them with their friends, they are not using true Word-of-Mouth…they are simply sharing timely deals.

Here’s the difference…


When a deal (or content) is offered by Groupon (or others) on their site, it is because it is discounted and at a place that you might want to try or repeat…only at a discount. The same goes for content you might see on the internet that looks interesting. You believe your friends might also be interested in this bargain or content so you share it with them as well.

What you are doing is being a “reporter” and letting others know about the deal. That’s it. You aren’t endorsing it, you aren’t relating an experience, you aren’t telling them you explicitly TRUST this product/service, you simply wanted to share the deal or the information.


When you have “experienced” a product/service or content (and the people/company who offered it) and you are passionately supportive of whatever it was, you also want to tell others about it and share it. The difference in your sharing this time is that you are now telling your audience that it is an awesome product/service, content or company…and you TRUST them, and that they should TRUST your recommendation if they trust you.

Trust is the most valuable asset we have…if everyone trusts you completely your opinion and comments are highly valued. If no one trusts you, your insights carry no value (think about where Yelp and others are headed). Trust carries incredible power in the marketplace…more than ever before in history because of Social Media and the Internet.

Word-of-Mouth is all about…TRUST. Spreading the word is all about…Sharing.

You can tell everyone you know about something you like…but if they don’t Trust you, they won’t believe your opinions. It’s really that simple. But if you are a trusted resource, your opinion and comments carry a massive amount of weight. And your word-of-mouth becomes an incredibly valuable asset.

No one is willing to tell others they should experience you or your products/services or company if they aren’t passionate and if they don’t Trust you. They will share your deal or content…but without their passion or trust.

As a leader, which strategy does your company focus on…Sharing or Word-of-Mouth? Sharing will just happen because of your product/service deals or content…Word-of-Mouth (and their passion) will only happen if they trust you, your products/services or your company and your people. A company who desires the end result of word-of-mouth approaches their customers, their experience, and their products/services completely different than anyone else. They focus on the passion…the experience…and the trust they earn from each customer.

And from an economic perspective, word-of-mouth garners more margin because customers value what you are doing for them…not just shopping the lowest price they can get on the deal of the day or other offer. A topic I will be talking about much be deeper in another post…

WARNING…Mind Mapping might just Kill your Customer Experience

Mind Profile Showing Thoughts Ideas And BrainstormingYou walk into a store or restaurant or anywhere else and look around. The first thing your mind does is to see if it has anything in your memory banks that “looks similar” to what you are seeing. Someone comes up to greet you your mind does the same thing based on the words they are using. What sound similar to something you already know…this is mind mapping for an experience.

Based on what you are seeing or feeling, the business will benefit or be penalized based on your mind maps. For example, you walk into an average department store that tries to look like a Nordstrom store in its layout and ambiance. So you immediately mind map your latest experiences from when you were in Nordstrom. But in this store, no one comes up to help you and when you find someone, all they want to do is “ring you up” for your purchases. Wait…where is the Nordstrom experience? You mapped it in your mind based on the Nordstrom experience.

If you offer something less than Nordstrom, you lose…if you offer something better than Nordstrom, you lose. Meaning…if I expect it to be a Nordstrom with the personalized assistance for shopping and you don’t offer that, my expectations are not met and I leave feeling like this was a bad experience. But if you offer something even more personalized and greater than Nordstrom, the person might not see this and map you to the Nordstrom experience so you lose again.

Mind mapping is more dangerous than most think. In the majority of cases, you end up losing because what you are offering needs to look different in your customer’s eyes/mind. But if they see and feel the environment is the same, they will map it to these other places. If this is the case, how can you get around it and how can you prove your differentiation?

This is a huge question…opportunity…objective of your business if you wat to be differentiated today.

The answer…change the map. Change the language. Change the experience.

When you do this you move the customer away from a world they can’t easily map…and therefore you have the opportunity to create the experience you want. Without some type of disruption in the mind map of your customer, it is very difficult to break them away from their maps. This disruption, breaking the map, causing your customer to say, “Well this looks different,” is what sets you up to be differentiated…to WIN.

Break their Mind Maps and you allow them to see just how awesome and incredibly you are…and they can experience you in a fresh, uncluttered way. It is one of the keys when creating a differentiated and memorable experience and company…the kind that gets talked about…a lot!!

Metrics Drive Mediocrity…They Don’t Measure Everything

Financial report

Since I just wrote a post on the word “Mediocre” I thought I would take it one step further and talk about Metrics and Mediocrity. Mostly because I read a great post by Lisa Earle McLeod from Forbes called, “Why Metrics Drive Mediocrity.” But it also drives much more…some of which might not be so good for your business!

A great quote she uses from the master of leadership, Dr. W. Edwards Deming, actually says, “It is wrong to suppose that if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it – a costly myth.” That is a great quote because many get it wrong and assume if you can’t measure it then you can’t manage it. But not everything can be managed the same way.

Accounting, shipping, production runs, supply chain all have built in metrics that you can track accurately and measure. Make some changes, the measurements change and you can continually improve the process. The genesis of “lean manufacturing” everyone embraces today.

But what about the “qualitative” sides of the business? What about the passion, emotion, and of course the experiential aspects? There are ways to measure some of this, such as with a NPS (Net Promoter Score) and  other techniques, but they don’t do enough.

How do you measure the passion of an employee for example? Yet that passion is something that could be one of the most valuable assets of the organization…especially when it comes to the customer experience. And it is also one of the key elements that gets “talked about” on social channels and can lead to massive word-of-mouth. How is this measured? It isn’t…not in the traditional sense.

And what about the overall customer experience you give your customers. While there are many aspects of it you can measure and track and report on, it’s the emotional and commitment side that is sometimes the most valuable to a company. For example, at Zappos, their call centers don’t measure time on call…they focus on trying to ensure the customer has a WOW experience…regardless of how long it takes. How do you measure this…directly? It’s difficult.

One thing to keep in mind when it comes to measuring is to keep the big picture in mind. Sometimes we can get so narrow and focused on what we are measuring that we forget to step back and look at the bigger picture. For example, if we aren’t hitting all our conversion metrics for converting a lead into a customer, but when we look at it from a bigger picture and find out we have more customers coming in from word-of-mouth than ever before is that such a bad thing?

It’s great to measure…no argument. But sometimes the gold lies beyond the metrics and into other factors that the customer appreciates, recognizes, and talks about even more. Don’t forget about these “other metrics” when thinking about measuring the success of the business. You just might be surprised at the overall results you can achieve when you look at them in a different way.

“Mediocre” is NOT in our vocabulary

Average Survey Result Checked On A Clipboard
Average Survey Result Checked On A Clipboard

Customer Obsessed organizations have their own vocabulary. They use words most companies don’t have built into their lingo and dialog. They almost speak a foreign language when other companies listen to their employees and customers.

They use words like…

  • Awesome
  • Incredible
  • Amazing
  • WOW
  • Delightful
  • Surprising
  • Memorable

Mediocrity isn’t even an option because it is…well…mediocre. This word conjures up other words and companies who aren’t customer obsessed end up with words like…

  • Great
  • Reliable
  • Good enough
  • On-time
  • As good as
  • Competitive
  • No problems

These words don’t give you a significant competitive edge or differentiation. These are words that show you are doing a great job, but not one that causes customers to feel special and want to tell others. They are words that keep you in the game until a customer obsessed company comes along and takes over the industry and eclipses everyone else.

Choose your vocabulary carefully…your words lead to your actions. Walk around your company and LISTEN to your employees and LISTEN to your customers. What words do they use…this will help you see what words you and your company uses. Which list best represents your audience…this will tell you whether or not your company is customer obsessed.

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