Sarah Stealey Reed
Published: July 17, 2013 | Comments (1)
What is amazement? Shep Hyken starts off his book, The Amazement Revolution, with that very question. What is amazement? According to him, amazement is, “Service that is consistently and predictably better than average.”
That doesn’t actually sound very amazing. Or does it? Consider how Hyken continues his definition - “Amazement is not necessarily about ‘Wow!’ levels of service, although sometimes it may be. It is about an all-of-the-time, I-know-I-can-count-on-it, better-than-average experience.”
Now THAT is starting to sound pretty amazing. As contact center leaders, it is this consistency that is oftentimes the biggest challenge within our call centers. We have the right tools in place, but our processes don’t always allow the customer experience to imitate our desired intentions.
In The Amazement Revolution, Hyken describes seven customer service strategies to create an amazing customer (and often employee) experience.
1. Provide Membership
2. Have Serious FUN
3. Cultivate Partnership
4. Hire Right
5. Create a memorable After-Experience
6. Build Community
7. Walk the Walk
The good news is, as a customer service organization, you don’t have to be engaged in all seven principles at all times. You should though, be focused on one or more that make the most sense to your business and your customers. “At the end of the day, creating amazement is really very simple,” says Hyken. “Be consistently better than average!”
Alright, I’m in. I want amazing customer service and I want it all the time.
Providing the Membership Experience
Definition: Organizations that operate within the cult of amazement turn customers into evangelists by thinking of them as people with special status – as members.
As I was reading through the book, I could think of several organizations that routinely abided by one or more of these practices, but it was the first principle that really stood out to me. You see, we have a small restaurant in our town, the Wayfarer Delicatessen & Bistro that seems to fit the amazement definition. As loyal locals we feel like member, but are we? Can we actually be receiving a membership experience without having a special identification card, an affiliate number, or a formal recognition kit? According to Hyken, the answer is - yes.
“The membership experience has nothing to do with calling your customers ‘members’. As long as you deliver your organization’s unique membership experience, you can call your customers just about anything you want, assuming they like it!”
Hyken uses American Express as his primary role model in this section, and certainly they are world-renowned for their membership experience. For years, their tagline was in fact, “Membership has its privileges”. According to the book, the membership experience is what happens when you as a company consciously lay down a foundation and execute processes that create a ubiquitous sense of belonging or the feeling of ‘home away from home’. Every employee - be it a receptionist, a delivery driver, a waitress, or a call center agent - that a member encounters must deliver on that sense of being taken care of, and on that promise of accountability and competency.
There are two simple pillars that are correlated to the membership experience and both are essential to this principle’s success. Hyken suggests that you start with the first 1) recognition and then add 2) unique value. You’ll be able to best accomplish this best by asking, “What do my customers most value?”
Wayfarer Wows One Member at a Time
So let’s go back to my local establishment and see if they do indeed provide the membership experience. Can a small independent restaurant deliver that same sense of belonging, trust, and consistency as an American Express, REI or Four Seasons?
Let’s marry the Wafarer up against the implementation ideas that Hyken suggests, and see if they are truly providing the membership experience:
Launch your very first interaction with the customer with personal recognition, and then add value – Upon following them on social media, the Wayfarer will send you an automated message thanking you. The first time you walk into their restaurant, either the owner or the GM will boisterously greet you. The next time you walk in? Expect to be recognized.
Call your customers something other than customers – In the case of the Wayfarer, our membership moniker is ‘friends’.
Give customers a special “membership track” so that they get even more value from your organization – Again, the Wayfarer accomplishes this well through social media. By following them on twitter and Facebook, you get the latest menu additions, the daily happenings, and sometimes just a little unexpected burst of appreciation and inspiration.
Make access to resources, people, experiences, ideas and tools a benefit of doing business with you – Now, since the Wayfarer isn’t a call center and they aren’t providing a traditional product, the access they deliver is less around tools and access, and more around the people and experiences. Case in point - no matter what time of day or how busy the restaurant is, we will always be served by the same waitress. She is our people, and we are hers. She knows our preferences and is able to personalize our experience intuitively. And even though they don’t typically allow substitutions, our special requests are always acknowledged and delivered graciously. This is a value and a benefit of doing business with them.
Give customers a sense of belonging – Here’s another great example of the power of effective social media customer service. Each spring our town is overtaken by about 250,000 visitors for the annual Azalea Festival. And while the Wayfarer didn’t usually take reservations, they specifically targeted a message that week to the local community and suggested we call or email in ahead of time to ensure availability. It was a way to ensure that their members, their loyal locals, their friends, received the service that they had come to expect.
Help your customers send a message to the rest of the world about their experience – When I saw the postings that acknowledged and thanked the local community for their patronage over that Azalea Fest weekend, I couldn’t help but recognize the Wayfarer in return. I truly felt like a valued member.
I hope by now you see that yes, the Wayfarer is without question successfully providing a membership experience. They have identified what is of value to their customers, and they are consistently providing it. They have set the expectation, and meet it each and every time. While I may not be called a ‘member’, I am honored to be known as ‘friend’.
As Hyken reminds us, it’s the processes that help drive the consistency in the experience. And as contact center leaders, it is here that you can control the experience for your employees and customers in order to set yourself apart from the competition. “When you create processes that deliver personalized recognition to your customers, and you couple that with enhanced value that is difficult for your customers to obtain elsewhere, you create a special environment”, he says. “It’s a new world that your customers value, remember, identify with a deep level, and want to return to. You create membership.”
What Would You Do Differently?
An amazement revolution is possible within any organization, and absolutely essential within the contact center. And perhaps the membership experience is the right philosophy for you and your customers to follow. If you are unsure of where to begin, just simply start by thinking of your customers as members. Shift your mindset and that of your agents, supervisors, and managers. If you were to start serving your customers more like members, what would you start doing differently?