"Everyone always says the customer is always right—which I think is a bunch of crap."
That might sound like an odd thing for a 1to1 Customer Champion to say, but Aaron Cano does it with a laugh.
"It's cliché at this point," he explains. "It really is. But the customer is not always right. It's really about the customer experience. Everything that we do has to work towards improving the customer experience, and I try to live by that."
Of course, Cano allows, 1-800-Flowers.com isn't always right either. "Everything that we do is about providing the best experience possible," he says, "but it doesn't necessarily happen all the time. Whether it's using analytics, or process engineering, whether it's product development, or even in finance, fulfillment, operations, marketing, or even sending out email—we really go through the process of the experience of how the customer and the recipient react with us. Everything's about the experience."
Ordering flowers online or over the phone and having the correct order delivered on time sounds formulaic, but Cano says the company takes nothing for granted, and is always looking to improve what it provides.
"For me personally, it's about empowering creativity," he says. "Whether that be analysts who work for me or other folks in the pipeline, giving them room to grow, letting them feel free to take risks, is important, because unless we take risks we really don't learn."
As for the not-always-right customer, Cano says that occasionally someone will come to his attention demanding a level of service that the company simply cannot provide; it's then his job to calmly and carefully assuage him sufficiently that he leaves feeling satisfied. "Being in the gifting industry, not everything is going to go 100 percent perfectly," he says. "You're going to get some customers who don't get the deliveries or things get screwed up for whatever reason, and we do everything we can to correct the situation and make sure the customer is satisfied with the response. In more cases than not, our best customers, our most loyal, are the ones we've taken care of because they had an issue. And that says a lot about who we are as a company."
-- Kevin Zimmerman
It may be hard for a globe-bestriding colossus like Sony Electronics to be humble; it has, after all, been one of the most successful companies in its category for decades. And while it might seem logical for its CMO to be overly confident, such is not the case with Mike Fasulo. While the 23-year Sony veteran takes understandable pride in his and his company's performance, he's also been around long enough to know that meeting and exceeding his customers' expectations is an ever-shifting challenge.
"I try my best to be open-minded and embrace change as much as possible," Fasulo says. "I've been with Sony for quite a number of years, and I think my success and the success of the people I work with has been about embracing change because the world continues to change—embracing it is not only the best course but the most fun as well."
His personal philosophy "works rather well" within Sony. "Sony has in a very deliberate way gone through the transition of being a product-out company to being a customer-in company," he says. "That does not mean we've perfected it. But from a behavioral point of view, we made the...move toward a customer-in perspective." Today Sony continually seeks customer input, judges viral campaigns by responses to calls to action, and encourages user-generated content.
Teamwork is essential to getting that point across to the public. "I believe strongly in diverse views," Fasulo says. "I try my best to listen—I think there's a tremendous amount of value in listening to other people's thoughts as much as possible. But I also believe that managers need to provide clear direction and expectations, and I pride myself on doing that. Ultimately, I serve the teams we have by providing them the tools and freedom they need to succeed." Fasulo says he learned such values at an early stage in his career. "The core values of what I believe as they relate to customers have not changed," he says. "What have changed are experience and maturity. As you mature and become more experienced, you actually take these things more seriously and see what a great opportunity it is when you listen, observe, and pay attention to customers, and ultimately provide them with a good experience." At heart, Fasulo says, he tries to live both his professional and personal life by a quote from Albert Einstein: " 'Try not to become a man of success, but rather to become a man of value.' I'm a firm believer in that, and of trying to leave something positive behind."
-- Kevin Zimmerman
Shannon Hosford has a unique challenge: As director of marketing for Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, Hosford is responsible for marketing four very different businesses while managing customers who are also fans, she says.
"Fans are very emotional, and because we go through cycles of wins and losses consistency and engagement is a big issue," Hosford says. "You can't rely on having a winning team on any given day, and every person you meet is passionate about one of the sports."
Since 2000 Hosford has managed marketing services and media relations for the Maple Leafs (NHL), Toronto Raptors (NBA), Toronto FC (MLS), and Toronto Marlies (AHL). During her tenure as marketing director she has launched a CRM initiative and championed adding promotions for the teams. As part of managing customer relationships, she's emphasized using data and analytics when making business decisions. "We're still at the infancy [of CRM], and we're already seeing great benefits on the bottom line and to our customers," Hosford says. "Even so, I'd like to see even more analytics and gathering feedback from our fans."
She equates customer satisfaction with fan excitement, something her team strives to achieve more than anything else. She says it's easy to see when programs are working because everyone she knows shares their opinion. "I would say everyone I know is a fan for one of our teams, so I consider everyone I speak to a customer and I spend time interacting with them to make sure they're having a great experience with our teams," Hosford says. "And I consider myself one of the biggest fans of all our sports properties. Being passionate and putting myself in our fans' place breeds innovation and new ideas."
Among the innovative ideas her team implemented recently was a promotion during a lunar eclipse that focused on Raptor's star Jamario Moon. Hosford sent an email to fans encouraging them to come out to watch what their own Moon does every night. As a result, 103 fans purchased 254 tickets totaling more than $28,000 in revenue.
"That's the kind of thing that gets me going because we can conceptualize it one day and send it out the next," Hosford says. "Thanks to our new analytics we can also see the numbers right away and see how we did."
She's experienced highs and lows with Maple Leaf Sports, from being able to grant a terminally ill girl's wish of seeing her favorite hockey team play to organizing a contest that mistakenly indicated that about 500 fans in one area of the arena had won a prize (yes, all 500 received one). "I work in an industry where people would love to have my job," Hosford says. "It's a fun, exciting, dynamic business and it's a lot of fun being able to work with these brands and interact with these fans."
-- Jeremy Nedelka
At first glance Tom Insprucker's customer-focused leadership may seem out of place. His company, Schneider Electric, is a $17 billion global electrical equipment company that operates primarily in the B2B space—and neither manufacturing nor B2B are known for their customer strategy leadership. The company has operated a product-centric organization for more than 170 years. And he admits to leaning on science when making decisions.
But Insprucker, head of marketing operations for Schneider Electric U.S., is passionate about transforming a traditional B2B, product-focused culture into one where customer satisfaction and loyalty are on every meeting's agenda. Insprucker started at the company 23 years ago in field service. "I was with customers every day," he says. After being spit at by one angry customer and kicked in the ankle by another, he realized the importance of taking the customer's point of view.
Once in the marketing department he got the chance to take that philosophy to the entire company. Led by a "customers first" mandate from Schneider Electric U.S. CEO David Petratis and President Christopher Curtis (a 2005 1to1 Customer Champion), Insprucker seized the opportunity to bring the idea of the Total Customer Experience to senior management.
Groups of six senior executives are assigned one customer for an entire year. They speak to the customer about specific challenges and needs, and identify five loyalty drivers for each customer. The team then works collaboratively to address those drivers and make improvements.
"This forces leaders in non–sales, marketing, and service roles to have a very direct and personal involvement with a real customer," Insprucker says. For example, after talking to a few contractor customers about an electrical box, engineering executives redesigned it to match how customers preferred using it.
Insprucker and his team are also responsible for brand building, advertising, market research, online, and standardized corporate marketing tools. Regardless of the project he's working on, Insprucker takes a scientific and measurable approach to customer centricity.
"We love customer centricity, but we like to apply a scientific and fact-based filter that says 'Not every customer is a good customer,'" he says. "Those people who can answer the question 'What is a good customer?' are the people who win. Otherwise, he says, "Some customers can drive you into the ground."
Schneider Electric is four years into a culture shift from a product focus to a customer focus, and Insprucker fights the change management fight every day. Customer satisfaction metrics have been baked into the performance objectives of almost every employee, and "not a CEO broadcast or corporate town hall meeting goes by where customer satisfaction isn't mentioned," he says.
"Customer centricity is a journey," Insprucker says. "It takes three to five years to get the culture to accept it. It's the biggest shift you can make in a company."
Insprucker thinks of Schneider as an 8 on a 10-point customer centricity scale. His goal is to move beyond customer satisfaction measurements and into loyalty. "What attributes drive customer decision-making, and how can we predict customer behavior?" he asks. "We want to turn customer information into knowledge."
-- Elizabeth Glagowski
You could call Liliahn Johnson a ringer for the National Basketball Association. When the NBA decided it needed retention programs for its teams' season ticket holders and premium fans, it tapped Johnson, who was working at the Four Seasons, to head up its fan development program. Prior to that, her experience in hotels, and from working for Disney, prepared her for the pressures of dealing with sports fans, professional basketball players, and 30 very different team personalities.
"Right now my focus is on fan research, training teams to use service as a differentiator, and in-market strategy sessions," Johnson says. "When we go out to visit teams, we try to think like season ticket holders and look for opportunities to customize their experience to increase loyalty. I love coming up with game-changing ideas when we're brainstorming and strategizing."
One of the strategies she's implemented across the organization is using analytics to drive initiatives. She wants to turn sports from an intuitive business to one where data and strategy are the keys to decisions. "We've tried to turn the art of conversation into a science so we can optimize our fan interactions better," she says. "We even created a decision tree around the ideal conversation so our teams could see what the perfect set of touchpoint messaging looks like."
She wants all fans to feel like their favorite team is anticipating their needs in a way other sports franchises can't because they don't know the fans as well. "You create evangelists by connecting with your fans and understanding what's important to them," she says.
To that end, she's encouraged each franchise to embrace arena staff when making decisions that affect the season-ticket renewal process. She tells team executives that while they may see a fan four or five times during a season, the ushers, parking attendants, and ticket takers will see a fan 44 times each year.
She also realizes the importance of putting as many fans as possible into the arena on game night. It's the experience of being at an NBA game in their hometown that excites most fans. "At the end of the day," Johnson says, "for most fans it's about the games. However, we also want to provide a world-class customer experience."
-- Jeremy Nedelka
"Trendsetter" isn't a word you normally associate with a company that's been around more than 150 years. But for Janet LeBlanc of Canada Post, it's a daily part of the job. LeBlanc is director of customer value management for Canada's mail delivery organization. She and her team take a magnifying glass to the customer experience, identifying and measuring how customers interact and perceive their relationship with Canada Post.
You may recognize Canada Post as a recent 1to1 Impact Award winner. And one of last year's 1to1 Customer Champions was CEO Moya Greene. The company has led a turnaround the past few years from an internally focused, efficiency-based logistics organization into a flexible, dynamic, customer-focused company that competes with the likes of FedEx and UPS. Efforts from the top down have shown results, and the people -- like LeBlanc -- behind the processes make it happen.
A 10-year veteran of Canada Post, LeBlanc was a marketing professor when she came across the book Managing Customer Value by Bradley Gale in 1994. It ignited her passion for the concept, and she has led the charge to create and evolve the Customer Value Management program at Canada Post over the past five years. "My goal was to get people on the journey to improving the customer experience," she says.
LeBlanc created a Customer Value Index composed of three customer value metrics -- overall quality, overall value, and likelihood to recommend. Customers also rate Canada Post on overall quality for product offerings (features/benefits), product delivery, price competitiveness, service culture, and reputation and image.
The Customer Value Management Program clarifies for employees what customers expect, as well as what Canada Post is particularly accountable for: delivering a consistent and predictable customer experience from its 70,000 employees across Canada. Each employee has a role in that, from being timely in customer responses and creating the right marketing message to offering appropriate pricing and service delivery. As a result, Customer Value Index scores are included in employee performance scorecards throughout the company.
In fact, what's most important to LeBlanc is accountability among employees for improving the customer experience. "Everyone is accountable to the customer," she says. "It's my job to make sure individual employees know what they can do in their role to improve the customer experience." She explains that this strategy is much less daunting than throwing out the broad idea of being "customer-centric" without relating it to specific roles.
It was difficult at first for some employees who were content with the status quo to warm to the new customer value program, but the more LeBlanc's team correlated customer experience improvements to financial impact, the more people started listening. "There was a big reality check within the organization at first," she says. "We were in a state of denial as to how bad the customer experience was in some instances."
LeBlanc continues to grow the program by leveraging deeper customer insight and tying metrics back to the bottom line. "My main responsibility is advocacy at the executive level to make sure that the company recognizes the benefit of the program and will continue to support it," LeBlanc says. Members of her team put together customer-advocacy action plans for certain employee groups -- marketing, sales, service, postal carriers, operations, IT, etc. they meet with field employees on monthly phone calls to keep information like local office results, best practices, and action plans flowing. And LeBlanc has a dedicated person responsible for communicating internally customer-focused education programs about the insight the group collects.
"We need to understand what value we bring to the customer," LeBlanc says. "That's why I have been passionate about driving this program through and helping the organization understand what is value, what value do we provide, and what additional value do our customers want."
-- Elizabeth Glagowski