It’s no secret that we are experiencing a moment in history that is uncertain and distressing. The coronavirus pandemic has affected millions of businesses around the country, leaving employees and leaders in a state of panic. Executives at these businesses hold a heavy responsibility on their shoulders to remain calm, adaptable, and resilient. As the world changes drastically around us, we are looking to these c-suite leaders to step up and set an example.
Damon D’Amore, C-Suite Advisor and Elite Performance Mentor, works with executives every day to help them build their legacy, meaning the clear and consistent message the stakeholders in his clients’ lives and businesses will share when they are gone. While he believes we all have to focus on tactical and immediate business needs, the only way to secure a legacy, the narrative of which you control, is to make tradeoffs with time and dedicate resources to focusing on what matters most. This is done by focusing on these three pillars:
Create filters to determine what time and resource demands are worthy of focusing on. You are the one who prioritizes your time, not your employees, customers, or board. The result is establishing confidence that you are focused on what matters most.
Emotional: Resilience as a Lifestyle
Resilience is not about surviving one challenge or trauma. It is being an optimist in the sense of waking up everyday knowing things will go wrong but you have the tools to survive and thrive. Knowing you will be ‘OK’ combined with the confidence that you are focused on the right priorities, you will be equipped to lead effectively.
Narrative: Share Your Story
Use the data points of your life and career to tell a unique and compelling story. Your story will gain advocacy for your goals from all of your stakeholders like your company’s board, customers, investors, family and friends. You need to know your story, believe it, and learn how to communicate it.
For executives out there that are still at a loss for how to cope with the changes that coronavirus has brought, and will continue to bring, Damon says to compose yourself and take stock of what you have and what you need. If you’re safe and have food, shelter and whatever medical supplies you need for a couple of weeks, you’re likely in a good place. You should also find a way to be present and focus. That can mean learning to meditate, breath work, or practicing gratitude. You don’t need to travel to a mountaintop in a faraway land to learn to do any of these. You can watch a video online, listen to a podcast, or download an app.
Another helpful tool is to find an accountability partner or group. Even if it’s just 1 hour per day, get on a video chat with coworkers or peers. Set an intention or goal for the next hour, mute your video, put on headphones and do the work. Just seeing others being productive will alleviate some stress and help you to focus. The reassuring news is that many of us are in the same boat and there’s no need to be embarrassed about sharing your feelings with your peers.
As we all navigate this new reality, let’s not forget that this is an opportunity to build a legacy that we are proud of. Getting your mindset right, being resilient, and having the confidence to share your story in a vulnerable way sets you apart from the masses. As an executive, your responsibility is just as large as the impact you are capable of creating.
Financial services might not seem like the most emotive industry, but consumers tend to have some of their most emotional moments connected with their finances—things like going to college, buying a house or saving for retirement. So when Citi performed an audit a few years ago and realized it wasn’t coming across as emotive, it knew it needed to make a change to better connect with customers.
According to Jennifer Breithaupt, Citi’s Global Consumer CMO, the company switched its aim to lift people up with purpose-driven campaigns. One of its major components was storytelling. Breithaupt says Citi created a simple recipe for purpose-driven marketing:
1. Stop talking so much. Up until that point, Citi was known for talking at its customers through every second of a commercial. It started using big, beautiful visuals instead of constant words to share its story.
2. Put people at the center. Storytelling is all about people, and one of the strongest ways to connect people to a message and purpose is to involve other people. Sharing stories and inspiration became the focus instead of just giving a sales pitch.
3. Use music. Citi started using large, sweeping melodies to elicit emotion and drive home that connection.
The move to purpose-driven campaigns allows Citi to build better connections with customers. It shows customers that the brand cares about more than just making sales and opening accounts, but that it really wants to support its customers and build relationships. Internally, the switch gave employees a renewed sense of purpose to do their best work and improve their customer interactions.
Modern customers want companies, especially financial brands, to do more than just make money. They want them to have a purpose, share a message and contribute to something bigger. Citi’s switch to purpose-driven marketing allows it to position itself as a life partner to walk alongside customers during their ups and downs. It also helps the company give back and contribute to charitable organizations around the world.
Emotion plays a huge role in customer experience. To feel invested in a company, customers want to connect to a purpose. Citi’s switch to purpose-driven campaigns demonstrates that showing emotion instead of sales pitches can lead to big gains.
In the fast-paced tech world, it’s tempting for companies to rely on their products. But Logitech, one of the world’s largest hardware companies, knows the importance of being customer-focused instead of just product-focused.
The company takes a unique approach by having its CIO, Massimo Rapparini, also lead customer experience. But the connection between technology, information and customer experience works as Logitech builds a customer-focused company that delivers quality tech products and forward-thinking digital solutions. Marrying IT and CX helps the company lead the charge for innovative support solutions that serve customers. Rapparini points to Logitech’s growth in VR, chat and a worldwide omnichannel experience as success behind the integrated design of technology and customer experience.
Logitech's CX principles drive a customer-focused culture. Employees are encouraged to think through the design of every step of the customer journey. The core CX principles are known in the company as the 5 E’s:
Each principle puts the customer at front of mind. Rapparini says that starting with an empathetic mindset puts all Logitech employees in the shoes of the customer and helps them see things from their perspective. From there, they can work to clear set expectations, make the experience as few steps as possible, build customer relationships and remove errors.
Logitech’s diverse customer base comes from creating a wide range of products, from gaming headsets to enterprise technology accessories. Focusing on the customer instead of just the product helps the company grow. The core principles are timeless and applicable to all customers, no matter where they are in the world or what products they purchase. Logitech uses design thinking to create consistent experiences that consider every interaction a customer may have with the brand.
Products may be a draw for customers, but what really keeps them around is the experience. By building a customer-centric culture and focusing more on people than products, Logitech has built a successful and sustainable company with a loyal group of customers.
More than 150 million Americans will file their taxes in the coming months. But how many of them will have a good experience doing it? H&R Block aims to create a smooth experience for its customers that both instills confidence and wows them. And that comes from continually evolving the customer experience to leverage both technology and human connection.
H&R Block’s 20 million customers run the gamut of what they are looking for in an experience. According to CMO Vinoo Vijay, the first wave of customers files early because they want to get their refund as soon as possible. Later in the tax season comes the second wave who just want to get their taxes done. Each group has different needs and emotions relating to their taxes, which means the company needs to offer a wide variety of services. But no matter if a customer is doing their taxes themselves online or sitting down with a tax professional, H&R Block aims to create a steady experience with consistent vocabulary and a singular narrative. Customers will hear the same terminology and receive the same level of service no matter if they file online in January or in person in April. Vijay says that focusing on the tiny parts of the customer experience accumulates into a great experience that wows customers.
At its core, Vijay believes marketing is about experience. In recent years, H&R Block has focused on experience as a core value to drive business. Connecting with customers on an emotional level builds the relationship, which is then strengthened with technology-supported services. In its continual evolution of the tax process, H&R Block is rolling out new services this year, including the ability for online customers to chat with a tax pro about questions and a digital drop-off program for customers to send in their tax forms electronically so that their taxes are already in process for their in-office appointment. The overall goal is to not only simplify the tax process but also provide great service and meet the needs of all types of customers. Some customers just want to file their taxes as quickly as possible, while others want to learn about the process and have a conversation with an experienced professional. H&R Block provides services that hit all points on the spectrum.
Companies across all industries, especially H&R Block, have to balance the push for new technology and automation with the natural urge for human connection. Vijay says H&R Block’s goal is to make sure human connections are more tangible and valuable. Even with all of the new technology and automation, it doesn’t want to lose sight of human relationships.
“It would be terrible for us to forget that our human needs are greater than speed,” Vijay says. “We need to find ways to serve the fullness of our communities and our people.”
Helping customers file their taxes in a convenient, simple and personalized manner comes down to continually evolving and adopting new technology without letting go of what makes us human—those connections with other people. By tapping into all areas of the equation and building emotional connections, H&R Block can continue to improve its customer experience.
When Sascha Mayer had her first baby, she realized a common problem for working moms: not having a good place to breastfeed or pump for their baby. Especially when she travelled for work, Mayer had difficulty finding a dignified place to use a breast pump and often found herself pumping in the bathroom. In talking with other moms, she realized she wasn’t alone and that the problem was rampant across the country.
Mayer kept expecting someone else to solve the problem, but when no one did, she and her colleague Christine Dodson accepted the challenge. Using their backgrounds in design, they created Mamava, a portable lactation suite.
Every aspect of the Mamava pod is designed with mothers in mind. Mayer is a strong believer that empathy leads to great design. From her own experience, she was able to design a place that appeals to mothers while meeting their needs and providing a dignified place to feed their babies.
Mamava suites are now in airports, conference centers, arenas and offices around the world. Every aspect of their design is intentional to not only provide a great experience for users but also to stand out and normalize breastfeeding. The curved walls are deliberate to make the pod look different than anything else in the area and provide a feminine touch. Users unlock the pod via an app and enter the clean area that holds benches, a table and chargers, plus an overhead fan to regulate temperature. The pod is designed to be comfortable and convenient without being a place where people want to spend all their time so other mothers can have a turn.
By thinking through the entire experience, even down to the type of non-porous materials that are easy to clean, Mayer built a product that resonates with mothers. She has been surprised by how many customers quickly become advocates for the brand and even take pictures of themselves inside the pods and share them on social media.
Design thinking and empathy play a huge role in customer experience. By putting herself in customers’ shoes, thinking of her own experience and working through every detail, Mayer was able to help build a transformative company and a great experience for busy moms.
The mattress industry definitely hasn’t been sleepy in recent years. With the success and growth of online, direct-to-consumer mattress companies, industry stalwarts have had to undergo major transformations to innovate and stay ahead of the competition. Melanie Huet, CMO at Serta Simmons, says the company’s reset has renewed its focus on consumer-led innovation and put customers at the heart of everything the company does.
According to Huet, Serta Simmons’ success comes from its three recent transformations: digital, marketing and product.
The digital transformation involved putting more resources and focus on consumer targets and insights. Serta Simmons used data analysis to better understand its customers. Instead of getting most of its insights from retailers as it had in the past, the company shifted to listening to customers to better understand what they want and need in a mattress. Serta Simmons also uses an innovation team to pilot new ideas, especially related to technology, to create a smoother internal and external experience.
Serta Simmons’ marketing transformation involved shifting from the goal of satisfying customers to delighting them. The company built out its marketing team to better understand and connect with customers. One group that it found was missing from any mattress company was Gen Z and younger consumers. This is the group that is starting to or will soon be moving out of their parents’ house or finishing college and moving out on their own. Serta re-launched its 150-year-old Simmons brand for Gen Z. The idea is built around a crash pad—a basic first mattress that serves as a place to sleep and hang out. The mattress is part of a lifestyle, and the company’s effective new marketing approach is all about having fun and connecting with younger consumers.
Serta Simmons’ research found that most consumers don’t understand the differences between mattresses or think they are really that different. But a renewed focus by consumers on getting quality sleep has led the company to create new products. Serta Simmons’ product transformation completely changed how the company thinks about its products to focus on issues most important to consumers, such as comfort and temperature, to create amazing sleep experiences. Huet says sustainability is a huge issue in the industry and one that mattress companies in general haven’t embraced. Serta recently launched its first sustainable Beauty Rest product to reduce the amount of plastic in oceans.
Like all industries, the mattress business is constantly evolving. In order to stay ahead of the curve and avoid being disrupted, Serta Simmons underwent multiple transformations. Successful companies will follow in its footsteps and continually adapt.
When you think of your interactions with brands, you likely find yourself experiencing some kind of friction. In physics, friction is anything that slows down progress, like a block trying to move across carpet. In customer experience, friction is any unnecessary effort to complete a task, and it can hurt the experience and how a customer views the brand.
Roger Dooley is the author of Friction: The Untapped Force That Can Be Your Most Powerful Advantage and my podcast guest this week. He says that although friction is a relatively simple concept, it’s obvious that not everyone is aware of it because of how much friction we face every day. Friction is anything that slows customers down. Reducing friction often doesn’t involve huge changes. In many cases, it’s the small changes that remove friction and create a compelling customer experience. Roger shares the example of Amazon’s one-click ordering. The simple button simplifies the check-out process and removes friction without completely uprooting the shopping process.
In the podcast, Roger shares more examples of companies that have removed friction and how every brand can find ways to create a friction-less experience. Every aspect of friction lessens the customer experience. Reducing friction through small actions creates a seamless customer experience and offers a powerful advantage over the competition.
This podcast is sponsored by Fujitsu Computer Products of America, leader of the document scanning industry and a subsidiary of the world's third largest IT products provider.
How do you create a great experience for customers of different generations? That’s the challenge faced by children’s hair salon Pigtails & Crewcuts, which has two very distinct and different types of customers: children and parents. According to CEO Wade Brannon, the key is creating a personalized and comfortable experience for everyone.
Haircuts can be stressful for both children and their parents, so Pigtails & Crewcuts aims to create a relaxing atmosphere that is inviting for everyone. Children appreciate going somewhere that is designed for them with child-sized furniture and activities. The salons are also designed to be comfortable for parents with a colorful environment that isn’t too over the top. The salon also has plenty of places for parents to sit nearby so they can also have a comfortable experience.
For children, the main goal of the salon is for them to be comfortable and enjoy their haircut. That’s done through employees who are trained to interact with children and create a safe and calm atmosphere. Instead of rushing children through their haircuts, employees are encouraged to take their time to make sure each child is comfortable. According to Wade, parents look for a salon that makes their kid look good and takes out much of the stress of giving a child a haircut. When children are happy, parents are more likely to also be satisfied with the service.
Pigtails & Crewcuts creates a controlled environment where both parents and children know what to expect. Every time a customer walks in the door, they are greeted by an employee, who explains the entire process from check-in to wait times and even takes new customers on a tour of the salon. Being clear with the process helps customers of all ages know what to expect and helps things move more smoothly.
Both children and parents are involved in the haircut process. Employees work to make sure children are comfortable, and they regularly check with parents throughout the haircut to make sure they are creating what the parent had in mind. Afterwards, parents receive an email follow-up to ensure their expectations were met.
Pigtails & Crewcuts aims to take a sometimes painful activity and improve the experience with a controlled and personal environment. Focusing on both children and parents and being clear with expectations and service creates an environment fit for all groups where both children and parents look forward to returning.
The supply chain isn’t typically a strong consideration when building a customer experience strategy. But at Nordstrom, the supply chain is a critical element of delivering quality customer experiences. The company recently re-imagined its supply chain with customers at the center to create a delivery and logistics process that gets customers exactly what they need, when they need it.
In order to build a new approach to the supply chain, Nordstrom had to let go of the historical concepts of what a supply chain can do. According to Ngoc Phan, VP Supply Chain Systems and Engineering, Nordstrom set out to create a system that can evolve with changing customer demands and help customers engage with the brand on their terms. One size doesn’t fit all, which means the supply chain needs to be customizable for each customer.
Phan says Nordstrom looked to optimize its supply chain for customers instead of the traditional cost or transportation considerations and looked at three opportunities:
With these opportunities in mind, Nordstrom’s revamped supply chain leverages its existing physical space, as well as new technology like robotics and automation, to quickly deliver products to customers. No matter if a customer wants to pick an item up in store, browse the racks the find the perfect item or have it delivered to their home, Nordstrom’s customizable supply chain helps meet their needs and provide great service.
Nordstrom shows that the supply chain is a crucial aspect of customer experience and a piece that shouldn’t be overlooked by companies that want to provide consistent experiences to their customers from all sides.