Creating a Client Experience that Wows… Every Step of the Way
First impressions are crucial to creating a memorable client experience. In this exclusive interview, John Evans Jr., Ed.D., Head Strategist of Knowledge Labs™, speaks with Teri Yanovitch, customer service keynote speaker, author and regular trainer for Walt Disney World, about how to make every aspect of your client service sincere and memorable.
Creating a Client Experience that Wows… Every Step of the Way
John Evans Jr., Ed.D.
- You are sending a message before clients even meet with you. Does everything in your environment – including your website, lobby, waiting area and receptionist – convey the message you’re trying to convey?
- Research shows it takes 12 positive interactions to negate one negative interaction. What do you do when a service breakdown occurs and how do you repair it?
- By anticipating and satisfying a client’s unstated needs, you can create a client experience model that is relationship-focused versus task-focused.
John Evans: Hi, everybody, I’m Dr. John Evans. I am just delighted about this show today. I have a very special guest, Teri Yanovitch. And Teri has an incredibly unique and distinguished background when it comes to this idea of helping us as professional services people, as financial advisors, as CPAs, as philanthropic teams, on creating a tremendous client experience. Teri was VP with Philip Crosby and Associates, and she is one of the great gurus on quality control. We’re talking about making missiles for the U.S. government, quality control matters a lot there. Also, Teri has been a regular keynote speaker and trainer for Walt Disney World on client experience. She has written a tremendous book called “Unleashing Excellence: The Complete Guide to Ultimate Customer Service.”
Teri, I want to start with a thought. Okay, success is not who you know, rather success is who knows you and what they are saying about you when you’re not in the room, right? Talk to us about client experience. What are the one or two things that professional services teams must implement immediately to really have impact in a commoditized world?
Teri Yanovitch: Two things that I would highly recommend, because as you say that, when they’re not in the room, what are they saying about you? So it’s all about your reputation and the image that you have projected. So the first thing is to remember that everything speaks.
Evans: Everything speaks.
Evans: Including my shirt right now.
Yanovitch: Absolutely that Hawaiian print shirt. Yes, yes, that you are sending a message before they even talk with you. So looking at your website is their first impression in most cases. When they come to your office, then sitting in the lobby, the waiting room, waiting to get in to see you. The receptionist and the tone and the manner in which they are treated at that first point of contact to when they come into your office, and they look around, and they see what it looks like. And does it convey that message that you are wanting to project?
Evans: Yeah, if I could stop you right there, Teri, that, our great friend, the CEO, Johnny James, he says, based on your work, your tremendous work with him, getting great results for the team, you’ve got to do an audit, you’ve got to take this very earnestly about what … how everything is sending a message, right? This is painstaking.
Yanovitch: Yes, yes. And I would recommend that you have people that you don’t know come do this walk-through with you of your areas, because sometimes we become complacent, and we see that pile of boxes that we don’t see anymore, but somebody else walking through is like, “What the heck?”
Evans: Okay, so action step number one, so getting third parties…
Evans: …somebody you trust, you trust their judgment…
Yanovitch: Yes, to be honest with you.
Evans: And their sensibility, they’re going to be honest and give us…
Yanovitch: Do a walk-through.
Evans: …do that walk-through. And what are they doing on that walk-through?
Yanovitch: They’re looking through the lens of the client, putting themselves into the shoes of that client that you’re looking to work with and walking through to see what do they see, what are they hearing, what do they smell and what are they touching? So it’s all communicating subtly and not so subtly. And I call those disconnects between the message you’re trying to send and what it’s actually sending a visual intrusion.
Evans: A visual intrusion. So we need to do an audit on that…
Evans: …how many we have?
Evans: How glaring they are?
Yanovitch: Yes, yes. Because while it may not prevent a client from doing business with you, it whittles away at the experience. And that’s not … you want to be creating those wows, like you talk about in your book “The Art of WOW” curriculum from Janus Henderson, is that it’s important to build up those wows, because research shows it takes 12 positive interactions to negate one negative interaction.
Evans: Yeah, that’s a great point, you know, and I talk about the client experiences bell curve, right? And on that bell curve, on the right tail, you have wow experiences, the extraordinary where you are making meaning with clients, when you and your team are making meanings. On the far left is the anti-wow, right? Service breakdown, and sure as rain it’s going to happen. What are we to do when the service breakdown happens? How are we to respond when the anti-wow occurs?
Yanovitch: As quickly as possible, that the research shows that if you can respond with a wow for service recovery, 96% of those clients are going to come back, because now they actually feel that they can trust you. Because if you handled it when something went wrong, then you’re going to be there for them to take care of them.
Evans: So you’re suggesting we can actually move from an anti-wow experience into a wow experience, we can catapult? Yeah.
Yanovitch: Absolutely, absolutely.
Evans: Being swift.
Yanovitch: Very swift.
Evans: And I may add, Teri Yanovitch, sincerity. I think sincerity is a point that has gotten by us in this commoditized world. We’re looking to keep it real, right? We want to find partners that keep it real, that are sincere.
Evans: Does that ring true for you?
Yanovitch: Yes, absolutely. I remember when I worked at Disney and when something would mar the guest experience, it had become where it was just routine to send the hotel guest a gift basket of fruit. Well, it was not sincere, it was, “Okay, guest is upset, let’s just send them a gift basket.”
Evans: Yeah, perfunctory.
Yanovitch: And so the guest, it did not create that emotional connection and therefore, it was not sincere and didn’t have the meaning. So eventually Disney decided to train and teach their cast members to be sincere, to look for opportunities to relate the service recovery that would have a meaningful gesture to the guest.
Evans: That’s awesome. Sincerity training when it comes to the art of wow. Teaching sincerity, really? Teri, how does that work? Give us an example of where that works well.
Yanovitch: The best example I have is from Chick-fil-A. And you know that when you go to Chick-fil-A, and you ask for an additional ketchup or whatever, and they usually respond with, “It’s my pleasure.” And it’s always sincere, it’s never robotic. Or I have never found it to be robotic, it’s always sincere.
And so in looking to find out how they do that, there is a YouTube video of … that they show to new hires, and in this video it gives clips of different customers that are sitting and eating in their restaurants, and it hones in on several different ones. And the one that I remember the most was of a dad who is sitting there with the Chick-fil-A nuggets and his son and his son is acting very unruly, running up and down the aisles and yelling and annoying other customers. And while most people would say, “Geez, why isn’t the dad gaining control of his kid?”
Yanovitch: …in this video, it then highlights that little did you know that this dad just came from putting his wife, who just passed away, at the burial service, and he’s now alone wondering what he’s going to do…
Evans: Oh my gosh…
Yanovitch: …with his child.
Yanovitch: And so it highlights looking through the lens of your customers, putting yourselves into their shoes, because you don’t know where they’ve been and what their life is like. So I think that that has really helped in creating that sincerity, because Chick-fil-A reinforces that over and over, putting yourself into your customer’s shoes.
Evans: Yeah, and then I would say from that is okay, now the information has come in, we’ve learned however we learned it, we learned about what’s going on with the plight of this family and the tragedy, let’s go even further, what can we do for this family to make meaning? Maybe it’s appropriate to send flowers, I don’t know. But I think your essential thesis is right on, with Chick-fil-A is, let’s get into the habit of seeing the world through the client’s eyes, what’s happening on their end. And from that information, we can act powerfully and have, perhaps, have impact.
Yanovitch: And I would think in the financial world, especially in the financial world, that you’re dealing with the situations that your clients come to, that empathy and putting yourself into their shoes would go a tremendous way in looking for opportunities to create little wows.
Evans: That’s right, and it all starts with information. You know, if real estate is all about location, location, location, this kettle of fish, what we’re after, Teri, is, you know, a great client experience. It’s all about information, can we get the information as it comes in, however it comes in?
Yanovitch: However it comes in.
Evans: Let’s get it to perform, right, let’s get that information to perform, to catalyze, to make meaning. And that is going to go right to the bottom line of the company.
Give us another example from Disney. I think before we started the show, we were talking about how when the youngster spills the ice cream cone, right?
Evans: That activates a protocol, right?
Yanovitch: Yes, yes.
Evans: Speak to that, please.
Yanovitch: The key is, is to recognize what is the feeling you want the guest to have, and Disney has determined that that’s going to be happiness. So they tell their cast members to always be looking for opportunities to create that happiness, and that that’s really the higher purpose to their job function.
So while they’re focused on the job task and getting it done correctly, such as a street sweeper who’s out sweeping the streets, but should he or she see a child who’s got that ice cream cone, and it’s just toppled over and fallen on the ground, that they are empowered to go get a new ice cream cone and bring it back to the child and make it sincere and make it a little fun by saying something, “Oh, Mickey saw that you dropped your ice cream cone…
Yanovitch: …and he wanted you to have another.” That’s creating happiness…
Yanovitch: …and that’s being relationship-focused versus task-focused.
Evans: And so when that family, let’s just say they’re down to Orlando from Wisconsin, they return to Wisconsin, what are they going to do? They’re going to tell a story about, what, about this ice cream cone and how it was replenished with joy.
So let’s unpack this for a minute. I want to get very focused, sort of assiduous, and what happened in that case study? You’re saying that we have to get teams, financial advisory teams, have to get clarity on why they’re doing what they’re doing, going beyond just the task at hand. Okay, we’re going to keep a clean theme park. No, if we’re operating like that, we just come over, and we clean up the ice cream cone.
Evans: Okay, that’s fine and well and good and nice.
Evans: Disney is suggesting, we’re going to operate from a different narrative, an elevated narrative, where everybody on the team, bouncing in between their ears is, “We’re going to create…”
Evans: Happiness. But that’s too simple, Teri.
Yanovitch: And that’s what makes it work. That’s what makes it magical.
Evans: And then when you live in that why of creating happiness and everybody’s inspired, then wows kind of have to happen, do they not?
Evans: Okay, how do we get the team to buy into this thing of we’re here to deliver happiness or joy or meaning making. How do you get the team to do that, Teri?
Yanovitch: Well, you show the benefits for it, you show the benefits not only for the client, but you also show it for themselves as operating and making the workplace more enjoyable to work within. And then you also start to look at how can we reinforce this and make it fun through recognition and appreciation when you see this happening and you talk about those wow moments and what you’ve done to create that engagement with the client, or the guest in Disney’s case, and you share those stories so they can be repetitive. And then habitually it starts to happen, and this just becomes how we do things.
Evans: And it becomes an upward spiral of positivity, right? Walt Disney World has an upward spiral of positivity and the stories are circulating. And here you and I are in the studio, and we are burnishing the reputation of Walt Disney World by telling the story about the ice cream cone.
Evans: Okay, Let’s move on here, I want to add one for our listeners. I want everybody to be thinking about this idea of anticipating and satisfying a client’s unstated needs. Anticipating and satisfying a client’s unstated needs. That’s a big part of our program with the Art of Wow at Janus Henderson. And Teri, you go into that, you talk about the importance in your book, again, “Unleashing Excellence,” of being relationship-focused versus being task-focused.
Evans: Being relationship-focused versus task-focused. Expand on that, please.
Yanovitch: Well, it’s very easy to come into the workplace every day and be focused and have your to-do list, your checklist of what have I got to get accomplished. And that comes out in phone calls with your clients or in those face-to-face interactions when you are perceived as we’ve got to get this marked off and this marked off and this marked off and ignoring that what people are going to build their loyalty to you is going to be more about that feeling and that relationship that they have with you versus the tasks. So the key is, is to be thinking about how can I build a personal relationship with this client, maybe it’s talking about their family, talking about their dog, finding something that would be a common topic to be able to go past just let’s get the task done.
Yanovitch: Because that’s what they’ll remember.
Evans: That’s exactly what they’re going to remember. And I… we talk about interpersonal creativity at Janus Henderson Labs, at Knowledge Labs, of really expanding our team’s capacity for great ideas to make meaning, because in the last analysis in this hyper-commoditized world, that’s who the clients are going to choose, the vendors that are making meaning with them on a regular basis. Right?
Yanovitch: The experience.
Evans: The experience.
Yanovitch: The experience.
Evans: The experience. So how you get that… do we engender that, this idea of, because I do have my tasks, I have my work, we don’t want to shortchange that, right? We don’t want to give short shrift to the importance of getting the job done very well.
Yanovitch: Right, right.
Evans: So this is not “but,” this is not the conjunction “but,” this is the conjunction “and.” We’re going to do our jobs very well, and we are going to look for opportunities to connect. Is that fair?
Yanovitch: It is fair. And I can give you an example. I called my insurance company not too long ago, and it was an issue that I had that I’d had difficulties getting resolved and had been passed around and passed around. Finally, I got this one individual and was ready to begin to re-explain my situation when all of a sudden, my dog started to bark in the background.
Now I have this big, beautiful chocolate Lab who’s the love of my life. And when the representative on the other end of the line heard the barking said, “Oh, oh, I hear a dog barking in the back,” and I said, “Yes, excuse me, I’m sorry, somebody was just at the door.” And she says, “Oh, not to worry,” she says. “What kind of dog is that?” And of course I said, “Well, that’s my beautiful 90-pound chocolate Lab.” And she said, “Oh, I have a German shepherd, and he’s the most gorgeous creature there is.”
So then we spent the next 60 seconds talking about our love of dogs. And then she brought the conversation back to the situation at hand. Now, how do you think that conversation went from that point forward?
Yanovitch: Was it task-focused? Yes, we got the task done.
Yanovitch: She resolved my issue, but the tone, the emotional connection that we had generated by that 60-second…
Yanovitch: …interlude, that’s being relationship-focused.
Evans: That’s relationship-oriented, and that representative was satisfying an unstated need, because you didn’t raise your hand, you didn’t put in any marketing data that, “Hey, you wanted to talk about your dog,” which is one of your passions in life. You didn’t nominate that information, she intuited it…
Yanovitch: Yes, yes.
Evans: She brought it in, and she made a choice at the line of scrimmage, because she’s operating from a relationship-focused mentality as opposed to a task-orientation. And now you and I are talking about it in the studio.
Evans: You’re recounting it as a story. Teri Yanovitch, okay, everything speaks, you’re underscoring how important this is, marketing wise, PR wise. Give us a horror story. Tell us a story about where everything speaks.
Yanovitch: Well, I will never forget when I worked with the Hertz Corporation, and I was in the regional headquarters office, that’s where I was located. And we were having an audit take place, and so the auditors from the organization would come in in the morning, and they would go straight back to this conference room that we had set aside for them to do their work. And they wouldn’t speak to anyone, they wouldn’t say hello, they just had this stern face. They walked back in there, they would drink all the coffee, never replace or refill the coffee pots, which was a shared coffee pot for the office. At the end of the day, it was trashed. They wouldn’t clean up their mess, the papers were all over, the trashcans were filled.
And then the other part of it, too, is that when they had a request for information that they were seeking, they would come out and ask the administrative staff to go find some data, but they wouldn’t say, “Hello, my name is Teri, and you are?” They would just simply, “I need this,” and, you know, “Get this information for me, I need it.”
Well, everybody was already all intimidated anyways that this whole audit was taking place, so it just exasperated the whole situation. So they were left, it left everyone in the office with a terrible impression.
Evans: An anti-wow.
Yanovitch: An anti-wow, for sure.
Evans: Wow, wow, okay. So, two takeaways for our listeners today. Everything sends a message. Everything speaks, right, Teri Yanovitch?
Yanovitch: Everything speaks.
Evans: And we are to do an earnest, complete audit on everything that’s going on in the office and also with our folks?
Yanovitch: Yes, in our office, this is focused on the physical environment…
Yanovitch: …what do your clients, what are their first impressions in terms of what they see, if they’re in a phone conversation, then be thinking about the background noise or the music that you play when they’re placed on hold. But the idea between, behind everything speaks is that your physical environment is communicating messages. Are you sending the messages that you want to be sending? And you’ve got to take a critical look at your environment.
Evans: That’s fair. Okay, and number two is, again this idea of being relationship-focused. And that seems to me, that’s going to come from regular dialog, like in the Art of Wow, we talk about expanding the team’s capacity for meaning making, right? We want to make meaning. So we have to be talking about this within the culture on a regular basis. Culture is not the main thing, culture is the only thing. Here’s one of my favorites, Teri, I think you’ll appreciate it, culture eats strategy for lunch. Isn’t that dramatic?
Yanovitch: It does.
Evans: But it does, oh and by the way, it does.
Yanovitch: It does. I agree, it does. Yes, yes.
Evans: Culture is the whole shooting match, so if we can get into this otherness orientation, we’re going to create that, these moments of impact that are going to drive extreme client loyalty and get our clients to talk and replicate themselves, right?
Yanovitch: Exactly. And I think that by sharing stories that others will then tell stories, and they can then follow along. So who knows, next time you’re talking to your insurance company, and your dog barks in the background… but that’s what we do is to create that environment.
Evans: And it’s so simple, is it not? It’s, like we started at the top of the show, it’s terribly simple. But at the same time, we do need to be appropriate, right? Because we don’t want, if that’s… let’s go back to your example, just the simple 60 seconds you spent talking about canines, right, that created this emotional connection.
Evans: But if you were to go and say to all your service reps, “Okay, every time a dog barks, talk about the dog,” you might be missing the mark here. And this is where this is the art, this is not just science, there’s art here. So we want to hire people that have this high emotional intelligence, don’t we?
Yanovitch: And that’s where the culture of tomorrow begins, is [with] the people that you hire today.
Evans: Say that one again, please.
Yanovitch: The culture of tomorrow begins with the people that you hire today.
Evans: Okay, how do you hire well for this for client experience? Tell us about that.
Yanovitch: You start in the interview process. Everything speaks in the interview process. Are you conveying the message of your organization upfront, so that when potential applicants come through, they can see that you’re serious about your culture of wow service? And in the interview process, asking questions that identify is this person client experience-oriented, or is it that they are more just focused on how do I get my job done?
Evans: Yeah, yeah, and I think interviewing, and we’re actually working on a diagnostic at Knowledge Labs to determine who’s really good at wow. I can’t wait to get your thoughts on this, Teri. I think it’s going to be an incredible tool, because you want to be wary of somebody just saying, “Well, I’m good with people.” Well, that’s nice and well and good, we hope you are. We’re in a professional services situation here. I also want to see somebody who’s going to be bold, who’s going to get results, who’s going to, like, let’s go back to the ice cream cone, who’s going to go over, clean that ice cream cone up, right, come back and say something witty, say something appropriate, say something impactful to that 9-year-old. Somebody who has the intelligence, the emotional intelligence to come up with those ideas. That’s the power right there, you know. So that’s incredibly important. And I just want to finish up on, boy, I think in keeping the dialogue going about why you do what you do. You know, Disney talks about creating happiness, so simple, right? And that needs to be underscored and repeated over and over and over and over within the organization, because when that happens, we are catalyzing wow. Is that fair to say?
Yanovitch: That is definitely fair to say. And that is how they get the repeat guests on and on and on again and I know you have written this book called, “The Takeaway,” which is a raucous tale about the art of the sale. And that is really what it is about is if you can get the guests where they are going out and becoming your marketing and your advertising arm for you, then you are a winner.
Evans: Teri Yanovitch, thank you so much. Life is not about how many breaths you take, life is about how many times you take somebody else’s breath away. And on behalf of Janus Henderson, Knowledge Labs, just delighted to have you, Teri Yanovitch. Thank you all very much.
Yanovitch: Thank you.
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