Tag Archives: Customer Loyalty

Monday Morning Moment – Are Customers Loyal to Your Company or to Your Employees?

OK, any of us familiar with Chick-Fil-A restaurants know the yummy goodness of their chicken sandwiches and waffle fries. However, the stand-alone deliciousness of the food can not actually be separated from the quality of customer service. If I lived in Lenoir, North Carolina, for instance, I would drive across town to dine at operator Mike Sheley’s Chick-Fil-A. His character, kindness, and community commitment infuse his staff. “It’s my pleasure” is part of their heart language and also our customer experience.

My loyalty to Southwest Airlines is similar. The free bag check and cheap fares definitely matter as I choose what airlines to book.  Then there is the customer service as fleshed out in Southwest employees like Candace Hewitt. She reached out to me, sitting at the gate, in a time of grieving over two years ago…and she still does from time to time.
That’s the kind of employee that inspires customer loyalty to a company.

Companies these days are often focused sharply on business processes that streamline innovation and the quality and availability of the product or service. Competition is a constant stressor.

What if we are missing the opportunity to nurture our hidden customers? The employees themselves.

Thought leader Michael Lowenstein researches and writes extensively on this. This making employees “ambassadors” of our companies. For those interested in exploring what he and others recommend, I’ve included links below.

In brief, if you’re thinking this might be an issue to address, here are Lowenstein’s recommendations for building such a workplace philosophy and ethic:

Some years ago, my colleague Jill Griffin and I identified nine ‘best practices’ for generating employee behavior which extends beyond loyalty to contribution and commitment.

1. Build a Climate of Trust – That Works Both Ways
2. Train, Train, Train and Cross-Train
3. Make Sure Each Employee Has A Career Path
4. Provide Frequent Evaluations and Reviews
5. Seek To Inform, Seek To Debrief
6. Recognize and Reward Initiative
7. Ask Employees What They Want
8. By All Means, Have Fun
9. Hire The Right Employees In The First Place

To build more of the first best practice, employee trust and empowerment, into the company culture, consider the following:

• Insure staff trust and empowerment are key values in the firm’s mission and vision statements
• Practice effective story-telling
• Create company rites and rituals that help reinforce the rewards of employee trust
• Maintain a free flow of information between management and staff to reinforce the trust factor and help prevent negative communication and gossip.
• Actively expose all employees to customers’ perception of experience value
• Teach senior managers the importance of ‘walking the talk’ and inspiring employee trust. – Michael Lowenstein

Whatever our company or organization, cultivating practices which enhance employee loyalty will yield the fruit of customer loyalty. Whether or not we can measure that, in the end, the former is a worthy goal all on its own.

Research: Are Clients Loyal to Your Firm or the People in It? – Joe Raffiee

Why Managers Should Care About Employee Loyalty? – Timothy Keiningham and Lerzan Aksoy

Does Employee Loyalty = Customer Loyalty? And, Did It Ever? – Michael Lowenstein

World-Class Customer Service – The Key Is Caring – Horst Schulze on a Culture of Service – Deb Mills Writer

Eyes on the Customer Experience Prize: Will 2016 Be the Year of the Emotionally-Driven Employee Ambassador? – Michael Lowenstein

Jeffrey Pfeffer: Why Companies No Longer Reward Loyal Employees – Eilene Zimmerman

8 Reasons to Keep Your Customers Loyal – Rama Ramaswami

Monday Morning Moment – Empathy – Key to Creativity and Innovation – What?!

Photo Credit: Andy Orin, Lifehacker

Empathy is no soft skill. In fact, it can be a rare commodity in today’s workplace where we are competing for jobs, customers, time with the boss…pushing for that edge which makes us stand out over the guy down the hall.

We have seen empathy in corporate culture. Amazon immediately comes to mind, as does Apple. These companies have studied the wants and needs of their customers and they have put that research into play in their service and products. Customer loyalty is a huge outcome of feeling understood and valued.

Empathy and sympathy are two very different human experiences and expressions. To sum up the differences between the most commonly used meanings of these two terms: sympathy is feeling compassion, sorrow, or pity for the hardships that another person encounters, while empathy is putting yourself in the shoes of another. [read more at Dictionary.com]

Our neighborhood is in the middle of a huge engineering project being done by our local electric company. The wires are being put underground thereby keeping our service from being interrupted by windstorms. Various technicians and contractors have come to each of our front doors to let us know, courteously and apologetically, what disruptions must happen to eventually provide this service. The sub-contractors, moving throughout the neighborhood, have worked quickly and quietly, keeping disturbance at a minimum. Their work will all be completed soon with 1) only what disruption was absolutely necessary and 2) with a high expression of empathy for their presence on our streets and in our yards.

Disruption devoid of empathy is no business process anyone wants in their workplace…no matter what the outcome or benefit. Unfortunately, when it happens (and it does), we put up with it for what comes out of it, and because we have no other choice… If we are not careful our own empathy for one another suffers. Mark that.

Photo Credit: Lifehacker

For years, the word and process of empathy had become so common, it became almost without meaning. Something just ordinary. Nothing special. Now, it’s rising in favor again…probably, seriously, because of how competitive businesses have become. Too often, we err in business with putting innovation and technology as goals and standards without considering the customer or colleague. Decision-making proceeding ahead of information-gathering and analyzing impact on those most affected is not the way up.

Marla Gottschalk says it well in her piece Disrupting Organizations With Empathy, Forward thinking organizations hold great empathy for their potential customers. They design products that not only appeal to our emotions and senses, but address the problems we wrestle with in our daily lives. In each product, process or service — there is a little of us represented.

As long as we have empathy, I believe we’ll have innovation.

The same truth applies to the developing frameworks that support our employees. With empathy, we can achieve significant advances not only the way we work, but how we ultimately feel about our work lives. Whether we are considering leadership (See how empathy affects perceived leadership here), feedback, career development or work spaces — empathy matters.

Viewing work life from another’s perspective, can reap powerful results. We need to follow behind our employees and support their journey...Measuring our workplace problems is simply not enough to encourage healthy workplaces.” – Marla Gottschalk

Photo Credit: Brian Solis

I watched an episode of Chase Jarvis Live where Jarvis interviews Brian Solis – author of What’s the Future of Business: Changing the Way Businesses Create Experiences and X: The Experience When Business Meets Design. Brian Solis is one incredibly smart individual, and what captivated me the most in that 45-minute interview? What he said about empathy: “What do you want somebody to feel after they’re done with you in every moment of truth?…Who am I really trying to reach? What’s a day in the life of their world? What could I do to have an impact in their world?…What does a relationship really mean? When you see the world outside [from their side], then you see the role you’re going to play…Empathy unlocks a whole new level of perspective…It’s not good enough to be good enough…or the best. You have to now understand the impact you want to have and the role you want to play in someone’s life and then who that person is and design for that. It’s so inspiring.” – Brian Solis

Marcel Schwantes lists empathy is one of the 10 leadership habits found in the world’s best leaders. Empathy is a discipline. It is hard skill that every leader and every person equipping themselves to lead must see and seek as valuable to leading well. Otherwise, the lack of empathy will eventually have a pervasive effect on the workplace and the service and product. Don’t let this happen to you or your team.

Finally, I want to close on a much-loved classic TV show episode. It is Star Trek, The Original Series. This episode is titled The Empath.Blog - EmpathyPhoto Credit: tos.trekcore.com

In the YouTube video of one of the episode’s scenes, Captain Kirk, Dr. McCoy and Spock are in captivity. The humanoid woman Gem is with them. She is unable to speak but has extraordinary empathic powers. She can feel the pain of another and take it into herself, thereby healing the other person, at a cost to herself. She is also learning from these three what genuine care and self-sacrifice are.

YouTube Video – “Empath” Episode – Star Trek – The Original Series

The Empath Episode – Plot summary, quotes, & other Trekkie details via Memory Alpha

Not the sort of topic we often toss around in our conference rooms or strategy meetings. Still…if we want to offer the best and be the best in our organizations, the lessons are clear…as are the warnings.

Empathy is Actually a Choice – Daryl Cameron, Michael Inzlicht, and William A. Cunningham

Why Genuine Empathy is Good For Business – Jeff Booth

The Importance of Empathy in Everyday Life – Video – Andy Orin

The Key to Creativity and Innovation is Empathy – Brian Solis [Video from CreativeLive – Chase Jarvis Live]

YouTube Video – Brené Brown on Empathy

These 10 Leadership Habits Have Been Found in the World’s Best Leaders – Marcel Schwantes

The Invention of Empathy: Rilke, Rodin, and the Art of “Inseeing” – Maria Popova

World-Class Customer Service – The Key Is Caring – Horst Schulze on a Culture of Service

Blog - Horst SchulzePhoto Credit: Arnezzy.tumblr.com

Just the expression “5-Star Hotels” summons delicious images of ocean views and chic, comfortable rooms and all those tiny touches to insure your return. Though never a guest in such a hotel, I have enjoyed 4-star treatment, and I have been a customer of Chick-fil-A  and Southwest Airlines. All through our days, we are administering and receiving some sort of customer service.

A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege of learning about customer service from Horst Schulze, a world-renowned leader in the field of luxury hotels. He gained his wisdom and expertise, up through the ranks, and his counsel is applicable to any peopled workplace or organization. Schulze puts caring at the foundation for world class excellence – not just caring about the customer or client (albeit extremely important) but caring for all people (the employees and all who interface with each other in his industry).

Mr. Schulze talks about the service process as three parts: delivering an excellent product (without defect), in a timely manner, with genuine caring. Genuine caring. Not silly over-friendliness, or with casual sloppiness. Genuinely caring for the customer’s personage, time, and purpose for that interaction.

Since his presentation, I have intentionally looked at service very differently. Whether we’re talking about a small business or a large franchise, a school or university, or even such a thing as a church connection team. We can enhance customer satisfaction and loyalty by intentionally and comprehensively setting our culture.

Mr. Schulze is people-oriented – with his employees, vendors, and customers. He manages this in his hiring and training practices and through a vigilant daily (industry-wide) practice of his canon of customer service standards* (definitely worth a read- click on the link below to read the 24 standards). As I listened to him speak, his whole demeanor was that of one who joyfully delights in excellence and bringing it to bear in improving the lives of those around him.

No matter how well we think we’re doing in providing services or responding to the needs of our clients/customers, we would do well to look at the practices of such businesses as the Capella Hotel Group, Chick-fil-A, and Southwest Airlines. You will see this common thread of caring in their philosophies, culture, and standards.

“I dreamed of hotels where every employee comes to work not just to work but to create excellence, where every employee is committed, and where it’s not about creating rules but about every customer being taken care of the way they want to be taken care of.” – Horst Schulze**

“Focus on creating an organization of excellence and have processes where you can transfer excellence. That starts by finding out what is excellent in the eyes of the customer – what the guest really wants from us – based not just on what they said they wanted but what they were really thinking.” – Horst Schulze**

“It’s my responsibility to set standards. I have no right to accept mediocrity or limitation. If you don’t point out flaws, mediocrity will set in. It’s my business to do what is right and not make excuses for mediocrity. I agonize when I make a decision that it is good for all concerned; if it’s not, I don’t do it.” – Horst Schulze**

[Leading by Culture] “Southwest was the first to create a position entitled “Vice President of Customers.” For many years Colleen Barrett held the position. She understood that Customers always come first, and that in order to have a Customer service mindset you cannot separate the importance of the internal Customer (Employees) from the external Customers (passengers). If the internal Customer is happy, it will naturally flow to the external Customer in the form of good service.” – Lessons in Loyalty, Ian BrooksBlog - Southwest Airlines - Customer Service Culture - leapq.orgPhoto Credit: leapQ.org

 “Every life has a story, and often our customers and our employees, need a little grace and a little space when you deal with them because they are either experiencing a problem, just finished having a problem, or are about to have one. The word ‘restaurant’ means place of restoration. We think of Chick-fil-A as an oasis where people can be restored.  We’re all people with a lot of emotional things going on that don’t necessarily show on the surface, so we try to offer amenities and kindness that minister to the heart.” – Dan Cathy, President, Chick-fil-A***

Blog - Customer Service - Chick-fil-APhoto Credit: jyontheroad.blogspot.com

“Forty years ago, exceptional was a glass elevator in the lobby; then it became real paintings and fine marble and so on. Now it’s coming back to doing what the individual guest really wants: personalized and individualized service geared not to the market, but to the individual. True luxury today is about responding to each individual guest.” – Horst Schulze**

*Capella Hotel Group’s Canon service standards conceived by chairman and founder Horst Schulze

**Defining Luxury – LEADERS Interview with Horst Schulze

YouTube Video – Horst Schulze- Presentation on Customer Service

Global Leadership Summit – 6 Take-Aways from Day 2 of #GLS15

Summaries on All Speakers of Global Leadership Summit 2015 by David M. Arnold

Notes from the GLS15 – Creating World Cass Service – Horst Schulze

****A Lesson in Customer Service from Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy

The Chick-fil-A Difference: Why Customer Lingo Matters

Thank you. My pleasure.

What You Can Learn from Southwest Airlines’ Culture

***Lessons in Loyalty: How Southwest Airlines Does It – An Insider’s Point of View

Southwest Airlines – the Airlines with Heart – and One Heart I Know Well

Global Leadership Summit – 6 Take-Aways from Day 2 of #GLS15

Blog - Global Leadership Summit - thecrossingchurchnj.orgPhoto Credit: thecrossingchurchnj.org

Below are my take-aways from Day 2 of the Global Leadership Summit. Register now for 2016. Life-transforming.

Horst Schulze (Chairman/CEO, Capella Hotel Group; Founding President & Former COO, The Ritz-Carlton Group):

Mr. Schulze gave the Summit audience a primer on how to create and lead in world class service.  Foundational to his philosophy is that people matter – ” we are to care about people (our employees and our customers) and we work with excellence”.

He has a canon and  24 Standards of service* that all the Capella Hotel Group employees are expected to execute.  Not just as part of the function of their job, but because they matter – the people and the service.

In terms of service, we want 3 things:

  • No defect – You want the product to be defect-free (subconscious expectation).
  • Timeliness – You want timeliness. [In old days, check-in was 4 minutes to be good; today it’s 20 seconds.]
  • Caring – You want the people who give you the product to be nice to you (that’s why we call it service).

“The #1 driver of service and therefore customer loyalty is being nice.”

Service starts at the first contact.


Comply with caring [give the customer what he wants]


You can move a customer very quickly from satisfaction to loyalty.Blog - Global Leadership Summit -2 - Horst Schulze - liberty.eduPhoto Credit: liberty.edu

Sheila Heen (Founder, Triad Consulting Group; Faculty, Harvard Law School; Co-Author with Douglas Stone of Thanks for the Feedback: The Science & Art of Receiving Feedback Well):

Ms. Heen talked about feedback and the skill of receiving feedback well. A Harvard Law School professor, she also speaks/consults internationally on negotiation and conflict resolution. With this background, she gave the Summit audience helps on how important feedback is and not to miss it, even in the tension of a difficult or unfair situation.Blog - Global Leadership Summit - Sheila Heen

Photo Credit: triadconsultinggroup.com

“Feedback is my relationship with the world and the world’s relationship with me. Part of the problem with feedback is that it sits at the junction of two core human needs. On the one hand, we do want to learn to grow. On the other hand, we need to feel accepted, respected and loved the way we are now.”

“3 Different Kinds of Feedback with Very Different Purposes (we need all three kinds to learn and grow).

Evaluation – rates or ranks you against a set of criteria or against your peers. Defining the relationship. Cholesterol. Performance review.

Coaching – Anything that helps you get better or learn. Mentoring. Advice. Suggestions. Correction.

Appreciation – says ‘I see you.’ ‘I get you.’ ‘You matter around here.’”

“The [feedback] model for us is Jesus Christ. He accepts us just the way we are right now, in all our brokenness, and at the same time, he challenges us to learn and grow.”

Brian Houston (Founder & Global Senior Pastor, Hillsong Church; Author of Live, Love, Lead: Your Best Is Yet to Come):

Pastor Houston was my biggest surprise of the day. As a mega-church pastor with campuses not just all across Australia but all across the world, I thought he would be a polished, fine-tuned speaking machine. [Forgive me that, Brother Brian.] There was a gentleness and humility in him birthed out of hard times, struggle, and loss…filled in by God’s matchless grace. He shared some of his life story through a Q & A with Bill Hybels. It was a beautiful tribute to the love and power of God reflected in a life fully surrendered to Him. We will be buying his book Live, Love, Lead.

“I love what I do. I love the Lord and I love the church. I love people ultimately. That motivation has never left me. Even on the darkest days. In the biggest challenges. If you keep showing up, even when you get knocked down, God will be with you. Longevity is the greatest thing you can have for the glory of the Lord.

Sam Adeyemi (Founder & Senior Pastor, Daystar Christian Centre in Nigeria):

Pastor Adeyemi talked about growing up in a culture of leaders and followers where a hierarchical (or power) distance was common. Then He spoke of Jesus’ leadership and how God means for us to lead, including closing the gap between people.

“You will not find the definition of success for your ministry or organization until you help the people [God] sent to you to succeed. The object of leadership for many leaders is their own success, but the object of Christ’s leadership was the success of His followers.”

“Following you, [as a leader], should hold the promise of life change for those who follow you.”

“God calls us to create new power structures where power is used appropriately. Jesus gave his disciples authority and power. He gave power away.”BLog - Global Leadership Summit - Sam AdeyemiPhoto Credit: preachit.com.ng

Liz Wiseman (President, The Wiseman Group; Author of Rookie Smarts: Why Learning Beats Knowing in the New Game of Work):

Liz talked about the upside of being a rookie in the workplace.

“As Rookies – We operate in simple, small, gritty and powerful ways.

With experience comes knowledge, responsibility. Once we have knowledge, we tend to make assumptions, and we can make bad assumptions. Our minds sometimes fill in what is not actually there.”

“Leaders who master the art of pivot – as leader and learner (regaining your rookie smarts). Experiment – Throw away your notes. Ask the Questions (shift from knowing and operate from a place of inquiry). Operate from a mode of curiosity. Admit what you don’t know. Let someone else lead. Disqualify yourself (put yourself at the bottom of a new learning curve). Lead your team into the unknown. Set the stretch. As you grow as a leader, don’t forget to be a learner.”

Craig Groeschel (Founder & Senior Pastor, LifeChurch.tv):

Late on a Friday afternoon, full of words from all these other great leaders, Craig Groeschel powerfully and graciously took the stage. He encouraged us on how to build capacity. [This is actually a recent favorite topic of mine with the Lord and those I love.] Taking his text from Ephesians 3:20-21, Pastor Groeschel spoke from experience of how God will work in lives available to Him in ways we can’t even imagine. With that introduction, he dug into some exquisitely practical counsel on how to increase our leadership capacity.

5 Different C’s to Expand Your Leadership Capacity – Choose one to work on.

  1. Build your confidence.
  2. Expand your connections.
  3. Improve your competence.
  4. Strengthen your character.
  5. Increase your commitment.

Groeschel gave plenty of examples from his own life of what these might look like, and honestly, his teaching was so clear, we knew right away which one’s we would be working on, in the days ahead.

The Global Leadership Summit was also punctuated with videos of “Grander Vision” stories – people from all over the world who took seriously what they’d learned at previous Summits and went out and changed their worlds. We also enjoyed stirring worship moments, including a song set that Bill Hybels introduced as music soothing to our leader souls. Sometimes when nothing else seems to help, Hybels said, music can remind us of the nearness of God. Blog - Global Leadership Summit - SongSetListPhoto Credit: Twitter.com/wcagls

All this….and Michael Jr.

Thank you, Bill Hybels, and the Willow Creek Association, and all those leaders – who help make the many host sites possible and who demonstrate how possibilities can become realities when we lead well.

Blog - Global Leadership Summit - Carl & Bill HybelsPhoto Credit: twitter.com/michaeljrcomedy

*Capella Hotel Group’s Canon & 24 Service Standards – established by the founder and chairman Horst Schulze

Slideshare – How to Give and Receive Feedback – The Triad Consulting Group – Sheila Heen & Douglas Stone (authors of Thanks for the Feedback)

Global Leadership Summit – Register for 2016

Grander Vision Stories & Videos – Follow the GLS – Willow Creek Association

Twitter Account for Willow Creek Association – for #GLS15 comments and quotes and links to videos, articles, resources