The 1to1 Customer Champions annually spotlights executives whose time and energy is spent understanding customer needs and expectations, communicating them to employees at all levels, and helping to align how their organizations meet customer requirements with the overall business strategy.
- Jane Judd, Zappos
- Art Hall, Netbank
- Moya Greene, Canada Post
- Laree Daniel, Assurant Health
- Stephan Chase, Marriott
Jane Judd is passionate about the customer and believes in delivering "wow" experiences whenever possible. She knows that building trust among employees creates a loyal customer base.
Judd is no stranger to delivering quality customer service. As senior contact center manager with the Zappos.com Customer Loyalty team, she ensures that the eight-year-old e-commerce shoe and accessories vendor retains is position as a "service company that just happens to sell shoes."
The company, which grossed $597 million last year, attributes its growth to the repeat business and word of mouth fueled by its free shipping and a 365-day return policy.
Judd, who runs Zappos' 24/7, 300-employee service operation, ensures that growth continues by listening to and empowering employees. She starts with spending one hour a day walking the contact center floor and mandates that her management team do the same. She says it's nice to be able to associate names with faces, and says that if you take an interest in employees, you gain a productive workforce. "That's what our culture is about," she says. "We actually work for the employees. They're not there for us."
Each of her reps is empowered to do whatever they need to do to satisfy the customer. For example, if a customer receives a defective shoe, the rep can just replace it rather than escalate to a manager. "The customers feel confident that they don't have to be transferred or wait a long time on hold. Employees feel happy to make those decisions," she says. "That radiates to the customers and builds confidence that we are there to help them."
In one case, where Judd did step in to deal with a customer who was unhappy because
of something the company "didn't do correctly," she followed her service mantra to wow the customer. Judd realized that for this customer to be engaged again with Zappos, she needed to connect on an emotional level. She sent flowers; the customer was touched by this and sent a thank-you letter. "We go out of the box to make sure we're connecting with customers to make sure we treat them how they want to be treated," she says.
Despite the tools and strategy in place, maintaining customer loyalty as the culture grows is always a challenge. As a result, Judd continuously emphasizes the company's core values with employees and gets reps to think differently. She uses a recognition program to ensure that employees understand the culture by living and breathing it. In fact, every employee who joins Zappos, including top executives, undergoes the company's three-week customer loyalty training. "We want everyone to understand what customer service means," she says. "We want it in every department, not just in customer loyalty."
- Mila D'Antonio
To hear Art Hall talk, you might think he's an employee of FedEx or UPS. He's got a razor-sharp focus on delivery. But his delivery is not of packages. Instead, you'll find Hall delivering on customer expectations. To him, that's the driving factor behind everything he does.
"I never want to be in a position where I'm lip synching our way of delivering value to the customer without actually executing on it," he says.
As vice president of sales and customer care operations for online financial services firm NetBank, he drives the point home with all employees. "I set pretty aggressive expectations on what we should be delivering, and I'm keen to make sure that if we sign up to do something that we execute on it, and to the extent that we're not, that we close that gap pretty quickly."
Products and services will get you only so far. To truly champion the customer cause, Hall knows he needs to focus on trust and emotion. "Establishing trust in the hearts and minds of customers is vitally important, especially in verticals like financial services," Hall says. "You see instances of online breaches and data security problems, and customers are feeling like, 'Well if I'm going to invest myself, my emotions, and my money with you, then you have to be pretty reputable in my eyes in terms of trust.' If the organization says,
'We're going to do x,' then in the mind and heart of customers, they want x delivered."
To meet customer expectations, there needs to be a structure in place that operationalizes customer activities. At NetBank, Hall leads a cross-functional Customer Experience Manage-ment group, which analyzes all initiatives that touch the customer to figure out where the "moments of truth" are. The goal is to find out if the company's touchpoints meet customer needs, and if not, what can be done to close the gaps between expectation and execution.
Hall also takes a disciplined approach toward customer experience mapping-looking at the customer interaction processes across sales, marketing, and service. His team works to anticipate customer needs by learning from market research data, Voice of the Customer surveys, and other customer feedback.
And most important, he says, "measurements need to tie back to make sure that we're delivering on that value." Net Promoter, Return on Customer, and other line-of-business-specific measurements are critical. "We need to see how well the strategies that we're using today are resonating with the customers, and to the extent that they're not, how dynamic are we in our strategy to change that to make sure that we're delivering on customer value."
When it comes down to it, Hall sees the significance of meeting changing customer needs. "If we're marketing a message, product, or service more on a spray-and-pray approach [than] a one-to-one basis, clearly customers are smart enough that they will pick up on that pretty quickly," he says. "Customers are totally out of patience. They won't tolerate an organization making mistakes over and over again, or not delivering on the promise that attracted them to the company in the first place."
- Elizabeth Glagowski
Moya Greene knows that it doesn't take just one champion to change a company's culture; everybody has to be on board.
So when Greene started at Canada Post as president, CEO, and director in May 2005, she immediately began implementing a strategy to breathe life into the corporate value listed first in the firm's annual report: "Work to earn our customers' business."
She started with the front-line leadership because, as Greene states, "A front-line leader is four times more important in changing the culture of an organization than I am." A new training program helped these employees to understand what was expected of them, what competitors could provide that Canada Post couldn't, and their customers' expectations and buying habits.
The second step was bringing the customers' voice into the corporate strategy. The sales team visited B2B customers who rely on Canada Post for direct marketing efforts and audio recorded their views of the company. Greene says they broadcast the recordings-both negative and positive-throughout the mail depots so that the employees could hear the customers' comments. Greene says the effect was powerful, leading employees to think differently about how their work affects customer relationships. "Most people in the depot never heard from a commercial carrier because they never see them," she says.
Greene's next initiative was getting senior executives out to the printing plant. Each is expected to visit the plant quarterly to observe and talk to employees. "That is where our business takes place," she says. "It's their job to understand how we make and lose money."
Following that, Greene dismantled the way the organization had managed customer groups. Sales and marketing used to handle customer accounts. Now, every group within Canada Post is responsible for a specific customer account. "I always want our customers to have a back channel into the company at the senior levelsso that we can find out about things before they become a bigger problem," she says.
Finally, in attempting to reinforce the importance of customer relationships, Greene started a Customer Ambassador Awards program in all levels of the operation. Any one of the company's 74,000 employees can nominate any one of their peers at any level in the organization for the award if they see them going above and beyond for the customer.
Greene says the transformations have helped to change the conversations within Canada Post. For example, employees now discuss how the company might simplify product specifications or how to change processes to make them more accessible to the customer.
Canada Post will keep moving forward. This year Greene is working to deepen and broaden the strategy in place and to ensure employees stay on course. "We have to work to earn our customers' business. We can't rest on our laurels thinking we have a God-given right to be in the market, because we don't," she says. "It takes a proactive effort to make sure you are continuously meeting your customers' expectations."
She's been the senior vice president and chief administration officer of Assurant Health for less than two years, but that doesn't mean Laree Daniel hasn't already left her mark on the company's customers. Daniel has focused on building employee involvement, meeting individual customers' needs, and streamlining processes to increase first-contact resolution.
Daniel oversees the call center agents, including everything from quality assurance to training. She values the efforts those front-line members of her company make on a daily basis and the insight they provide to management. They are given a direct role in improving processes when changes are made.
"One of the things I strongly believe in is that your best ideas come from those who are talking to the customers, dealing with their issues, and interacting with them on a daily basis," Daniel says.
When she became senior VP and CAO in 2005, Daniel led a touchpoint mapping project to find out where the customer experience could be improved. She used that insight to rework processes and create a customer-centric attitude in the organization.
To ensure active agent participation, Daniel uses a program called "Don's Dollars," named after CEO Don Hamm. Agents who receive a perfect evaluation score during a month are given privileges ranging from breakfasts served by supervisors to casual days. "If you have motivated, happy employees who are engaged in what they do, that creates happy and engaged customers," she says.
She also takes a direct role in the process, often serving as a secret shopper by calling in and speaking to her agents. Experiencing the process from the standpoint of a customer lets her identify where to make improvements. Daniel focuses on behaviors, both of customers and agents, to improve service. "We try to identify behaviors that can be conducive to good service," she says. "In
our quality reviews we try to identify very specific instances or situations we can use
as examples of what to do."
Daniel's "one and done" policy is one result of that. Daniel identified ways agents can satisfy a customer's concerns in the first call, leading to less time spent on hold and greater satisfaction. Her hands-on philosophy and continuous process improvements have impacted customer experience, satisfaction, and loyalty. And she leads by example.
"I believe everybody wants to do the right thing," Daniel says. "We may not always know what that is or how to do it, but my job is to bring out the best in people by doing the right thing myself."
A frequent business traveler to any Marriott hotel has customer knowledge vice president Stephan Chase to thank for the amenities. From loyalty program rewards to 24-hour room service to free high-speed Internet access, all of this stems from Chase's obsession with knowing everything possible about what business customers want.
"I'm not often surprised by anything our customers want, and I'm rarely surprised by who our best customers turn out to be," Chase says. "We have a small department, but I think we have a lot of impact on many different customer touchpoints. Where our team really helps Marriott and helps our customers is in seeing the virtue of learning from our best customers and then using that learning to make changes in their experience. We use customer information in the customers' best interest."
A ten-year Marriott veteran, Chase has spent most of his tenure initiating customer intelligence programs and then finding new ways to spread that information throughout the organization. Not only has it led to better customer experiences, his team has led the hotel company into new methods of measuring customer value, marketing ROI, and, most recently, loyalty. In fact, during the past year Marriott doubled incremental revenue from its loyalty membership thanks largely to his team's effort in streamlining the company's direct marketing.
For all his work on such detailed formulas as net present value (NPV) and loyalty measurement calculations, Chase believes loyalty in the hotel business is best defined as "when someone goes out of their way" to stay at your property. He is particularly proud of the fact that Marriott Rewards members will travel an average of 17 miles to stay at a Marriott. He is obsessed with these details, which he says define true customer intelligence as well as loyalty program success. Loyalty is not price, or convenience, he believes. It is a virtue.
"What we aspire to here is to be the kind of department that explores what customers are likely to do," he says. "I would love to know more about the passions of our guests. What do they really care about?
Not just for today. What are they going to care about tomorrow?"