07 Nov November 7, 2019 – SHRM John Taylor, iLife Nelson Lee and Customer Service Guru John DiJulius
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Companies need to do a better job investing in their people
management. The idea that everyone knows how to be a
manager is awfully naive.
Johnny C. Taylor, Jr. is President and Chief Executive Officer of SHRM, the Society for Human Resource Management. SHRM drives social and economic change in the workplace and fosters mutually beneficial work environments that serve both business and employees. As a global leader on human capital, culture and leadership, Johnny is a sought-after voice on all matters affecting work, workers and the workplace. He is frequently asked to testify before Congress on critical workforce issues and authors a weekly column, “Ask HR,” in USA Today. Mr. Taylor’s career spans over 20 years as a lawyer, human resources executive and CEO in both the not-for-profit and for-profit space. He has held senior and chief executive roles at IAC/Interactive Corp, Viacom’s Paramount Pictures and Blockbuster Entertainment Group, McGuireWoods LLC and Compass Group USA. Most recently, Mr. Taylor was President and Chief Executive Officer of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund. He is a member of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s American Workforce Policy Advisory Board and Chair of the President’s Advisory Board on Historically Black Colleges and Universities. He serves on the boards of the University of Miami, Jobs for America’s Graduates and the American Red Cross and as an adviser to Safe Streets & Second Chances. He is licensed to practice law in Florida, Illinois and Washington, D.C.
Nelson Lee – CEO and Founder of iLIFE Technologies
The first problem we solved in the insurance industry is
that everyone, almost universally has a bad experience.
Nelson Lee developed an understanding of finance and insurance industry practices at a prominent investment bank, and quickly made a jump to Pacific Advisors (a Guardian Life company) in 2016, where he closed a complex $117 million contract and became the youngest employee to ever win Advisor of the Year, out of 3,000 employees. He went on to build his own company where he created a $2 million revenue stream in under 18 months. Despite this success, Nelson felt consumers were not getting the authentic support they deserved and felt the industries were ripe for a significant shift. He is now focusing on developing a platform to ensure consumers are matched with the best policies (without commissions motivating sales), the insurtech platform, iLIFE Technologies.
John DiJulius – President of The DiJulius Group – Author of The Relationship Economy: Building Stronger Customer Connections in the Digital Age – Read interview highlights here
The one drawback when you are known for customer service is that
your reputation now over-promises. That’s a good problem to have,
but you better make sure that you can live up to it.
John DiJulius is president of The DiJulius Group and a sought-after authority on world-class customer experience, working with companies such as The Ritz-Carlton, Lexus, Starbucks, Progressive Insurance and more. In his new book, The Relationship Economy: Building Stronger Customer Connections in the Digital Age , he shows how to attain meaningful, lasting relationships with customers. By 2025, AI will power 95 percent of all customer interactions. But despite advancing technology, the disruptive force happening in business today is relationship building. John expertly makes the case that customer personalization and relationships are more important now than ever.
Highlights from John’s Interview
I don’t think it’s possible for any company to be perfect. I call that zero risk. But if you drop the ball and pick it up, make it right, that’s good service.
If it’s consistently bad the first time, like McDonald’s, then that’s a different story. McDonald’s is better today than they were a year ago. They’re working hard. They’re also remodeling quite a few in our area, which they needed. We’re in a tough area. Every McDonald’s is next door to a Chick-fil-A here, so that’s hard.
It’s surprising to get poor service at Disney. The one drawback when you are known for customer service, like the brands you’ve mentioned, is you overpromise. Your reputation now overpromises. I’m sure there are listeners and viewers that haven’t had the luxury of being at Disney, but they’ve heard about it. You almost go to Disney with a chip on your shoulder, saying they can’t be this good. That’s a good problem to have, when your reputation is that good, but you better make sure that you know you can live up to it.
We’re living in the digital age. Today’s illiterate are those who have an inability to make a meaningful connection with others. We’re living in a touchscreen era, and the touchscreen era is not generational specific. We’ve got grandparents using devices on social media. Every generation is impacted by the technological revolution out there, and as a result, we have less and less people skills. Technology is not the enemy, using it to eliminate the human experience is. It’s about marrying the digital with the human touch to create a world class experience.
Apple, who’s not a client of ours, is just stellar. I’ve unfortunately had to visit them a lot in the past 10 days, just because my laptop needed some repair work. It’s great because I can go on their website, schedule an appointment electronically using their artificial intelligence, and get them all up to date on what I need. Then when I physically come in, someone is there and they’re able to focus on what’s most important to me, building that relationship, getting to know me, making me feel better about it, giving me a loaner. As you know, a lot of professionals are out of business if you take their computer away from them; I can’t I can’t be without a computer, but they needed to send my computer off for 72 hours to be repaired, but they immediately had a loaner there. There are certain tasks that we can use self-service kiosk channels to free up the employees to focus on what’s most important, building that relationship, sharing that expertise, and making it right.
In the relationship economy, where’s the primary currency? It’s the emotional connection made with employees, with customers, with your vendors that allows your organization become the brand people can’t live without, and ultimately makes price irrelevant.
Technology is going into areas… it’s like wealth. You have the haves and have-nots. So many companies are getting on the technology train and creating mean, high tech, low touch or no touch experiences. For instance, there is a wireless company in Canada, Fido. They’re probably equivalent to Verizon that we’re familiar with in the States, and they are charging their customers $10 if they want to call in and speak to support or an agent or pay a bill online. That’s where it gets way too far over to technology becoming the enemy, and using it to eliminate the human experience.
As a result of the touch screen age, you will use devices and technology more than we ever have before. Grandparents are using it. As a result, every generation is lonelier, every generation has significantly less relationships and friendships than previous generations did 25 years ago, and that’s causing a lot of digital dementia. Digital dementia is the deterioration of the brain when overusing devices. Right now, this is more prevalent in younger ages, but we all can fall prey to this and doctors have discovered in digital dementia, the brain looks similar to a patient who’s sustained brain injury. As a result, our devices, our social skills, our people skills have dramatically reduced. And make no mistake about it, that problem is a business leader’s to solve, because we have to hire these generations. Each generation is progressively getting worse at no fault of their own. We’re raising the Millennials, and we’re handing them iPads to keep them occupied. We can do whatever it is that we want to do, but it is business leaders who have to teach them and train them for it, because they’re not going to get it.
One of the few advantages of mom and pop businesses today is personalized service, and if they’re not using it, they’re not going to be able to compete with the giants. The Giants have economies of scale that mom and pops may never have, or it will be decades before they can get on that level. So as mom and pops, we have to dominate where the Giants the elephants can’t, and that’s in personalization. Get to know your client better than anyone; worry about their business, not only what you sell them, but things that you don’t sell them. Become a real Source broker for them.
As we want to grow and leverage ourselves, we need to be able to have employees that can replicate the art of relationship building. We have to remember it all comes down to their service aptitude, and most employees don’t have high service aptitude. We’re asking employees that have never flown first class, never stayed at five star resorts, didn’t drive a Mercedes Benz when they turned 16 to give that type of an experience to those types of clients, patients, tenants, whatever our customer may be, and it’s not realistic, so we have to teach them what world class looks like. That’s why the soft skill training is so critical to have.
Every business model’s different. If that client is worth it, we get on a plane and go visit them. At the very least, something that we’re doing right now is a zoom call in my business so that the DeJulius Group 95% of our communication is electronic. It’s via email or a conference call. What’s mandatory is we can’t have just a conference call, it has to be Zoom.
Zoom is critically important to what we’re seeing right now. Because with just a voice, that’s very numb. It’s very stale. Typically, the Zoom calls make both parties pay attention. I see you, you look like a really nice guy. I see your expression, your jokes. A lot of times, you’re going to get someone in their office. I’m going to see your eight year old, or I’m going to say, “Hey, that looks like a beautiful beach.” And you can say, “Oh yeah, me and my family just got back from Maui.” You’re collecting a lot of customer intelligence. The number one reason why I need to be in a Zoom call is if I’m not, I’ll start multitasking. I’ll start picking up my phone and seeing my son’s blowing up my phone asking me something I’ve said no to 600 times. And then you tell me how your grandmother just had a stroke, and I’m not really paying attention, so I say, “Oh, that’s good. That’s really good.” With Zoom calls or any way that you can, pay attention. Even when you’re replying in an email, I’m not just replying not just saying, “Yes,” but saying, “Hey Bob, it’s great to hear from you. I hope Texas is cooling down a little bit for you. Here, the answer, and please don’t hesitate if there’s anything else I can do for you.”
If you’re telling me that was just ABC hotel, I’d be like, yeah, they’re not training. It’s unfortunate to hear about poor service from an institution like Disney. It happens that their employees can become robotic, and they were trained just to repeat what the customer says that she wants. It’s almost like you’re in marriage counseling. “I hear you honey, I hear you. You want me to do the dishes.”
The two most important words in a customer service mindset is compassion and empathy and to train your employees in that. There’s the biggest disconnect with customer facing—I don’t like to call them frontline customer facing employees, because accountants are customer facing employees, lawyers are customer facing, but anyone that deals with the customer is a customer facing employee. Receptionists, salespeople, support are all customer facing employees. Typically, they are not their customer. Receptionist Brooke, she doesn’t know what it’s like to be a business traveler or parents with kids who just came in after traveling, getting up at 4am, getting the shuttle to go through security to get on and off a plane to get your Uber to finally get to the hotel when the only thing keeping you from collapsing on a bed or getting a screaming child to stop screaming is getting your room key and taking the kids over to Magic Kingdom, and to see Mickey Mouse. She doesn’t relate to that, because that’s not something she’s probably done yet. Typical customer facing employees could be 25 or 26, but their average customer is 45 to 55 years old. And so the answer isn’t change who we hire.
Just like the valet parking your car at the Ritz Carlton is a 19-year-old driving a Prius, but he’s parking, you know, Mercedes and Audis and beautiful cars. You’ve got to get them to understand. Walking for a day in the life of a customer’s shoes, seeing what it’s like to be a business traveler, having all that craziness. It doesn’t mean that if the room isn’t available, you can make the room automatically. You can’t control inventory, late checkout, housekeeping, but what happens is when you know Mr. Beach arrives and his room isn’t available, and he’s upset, we could say, “Mr. Beach, let me ask what is it that you need right now?” And he might say, “I have a conference call; I have an interview. I have a podcast.” We could say, “Listen, you can have this office.” He didn’t really need his room. He just needed a place to do it. Or he has a meeting in an hour and you know, he isn’t in his travel clothes. He needs a shower. He needs a shade. “Oh, Mr. Beach, we have a beautiful spa.” It has a locker room, all the toiletries, problem solved. When you have compassion and empathy, you can be a lot more creative. It’s not the room that he needed.
I always say there’s two things to this. Number one, a lot of people are paranoid, and they think the customers are trying to take advantage of them. I always say don’t punish 98% of the customers for what you’re afraid 2% are trying to do. I’m okay getting taken advantage of 2% of time for what I get back from the 98% that can’t believe how well we handle it.
I don’t think you have to go to a crazy extreme. I don’t like when they haven’t made my Starbucks right, but what I do like is if my order is screwed up, or the delay was a little longer, they always give me a drink. I’ve already paid for it. But they give me a card that says you know your next drink is on us because the experience was that I don’t even know if I use the card but just that they are demonstrating that they are realized that wasn’t the experience I supposed to get is enough for me.
You can get the book at Amazon, The Relationship Economy. It just went live officially yesterday and hit number one in the Customer Service category. TheDiJuliusGroup.com is our website. Check out the short video clips you can share with your team, all free. We have weekly blogs, a little inspiration, and little vignettes of stuff that we’ve been talking about.