Many companies strive to provide great customer service. However, few companies deliver the kind of customer service that makes an emotional connection with customers - the kind of connection that fosters loyalty and willingness if not an eagerness among customers to recommend a company to a friend.There are four core competencies of world class customer centric companies such as The Ritz-Carlton, Starbucks, Zappos, and the Pike Place Fish Market, according to Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D., a keynote speaker at inContact's ICUC 2012 conference in Salt Lake City. These competencies include the ability to deliver operational and emotional value. Listening and leveraging customer information. Measuring emotional engagement and building customer centricity into the culture of a company.
"Our job is not to just be accurate today," says Michelli, a renowned speaker, organizational consultant, and author of best-selling books such as The Zappos Experience and The New Gold Standard. Companies that focus too much on operational efficiency and fail to make emotional connections with their customers ultimately stand to lose them to companies that are willing to give customers the love they need to nurture their growth and development, argues Michelli.
During his presentation, Michelli shared a deeply personal story about how he and his wife tried to obtain a line of credit with a home improvements company so that their contractor could buy materials for the construction project as needed. The home improvements company made the process very difficult for Michelli's wife who is suffering from late stage terminal cancer.
"In the end, I told them that I can't be in a relationship with a company that treats my wife this way," says Michelli.
One very effective way to treat customers is by treating them like rock stars. Michelli shares the story of Pike Place Fish Market. The fish market wasn't always renowned, nor was it always successful. In fact, the fish market continued to struggle for years after it was purchased in 1965 by former employee John Yokoyama. According to Michelli, Yokoyama was convinced during the early years of his ownership that he could distinguish the fish market from 4 others in Seattle by providing a higher quality of fish. But that approach didn't really resonate with consumers.
It wasn't until 1986, with the fish market in financial straits, that Yokoyama brought in some consultants to suggest some new approaches. One consultant suggested that the market try to make itself "world famous" by having fish mongers personally engage with customers, make them feel like celebrities, and play games with them. By making its customers feel world famous, the fish market itself has become world famous and wildly successful without an advertising budget, says Michelli. How successful? The combined revenues of the 4 other fish markets in Seattle don't even approach the sales generated by Pike Place.
Listening and responding
Listening and responding to customer information is another way to forge close customer ties. The Ritz-Carlton is famous for this, as Michelli himself knows first- hand. Michelli makes an annual trip to New York each summer with his daughter Fiona. They always stay at The Ritz-Carlton near Central Park and take in Broadway shows.
When Michelli called a few months ahead of his most recent trip to book a reservation, the agent not only recognized him by name but also his daughter, noting their frequent trips to New York. When Michelli and his daughter pulled up to the hotel upon their arrival, the attendant who took their car recognized them and greeted them each personally, starting with Fiona. Then when they arrived at their room, music from The Lion King was playing. Michelli believes he must've mentioned to the agent what show they were planning to see during this visit. Needless to say, Michelli and his daughter were blown away by this highly-personalized treatment.
During his presentation, Michelli also shared stories about the over-the-top customer experiences that are delivered by Zappos and Starbucks. The point that Michelli was trying to get across is that companies that make the effort to demonstrate that they're listening to their customers and truly care about them are able to build the kind of loyalty and buzz that can differentiate them in the market and drive successful business performance.