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John Jantsch: Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch. My guest today is Donna Cutting. She is the founder and CEO of Red Carpet Learning Systems and she’s also the author of a book we are going to talk about today called 501 Ways to Roll Out the Red Carpet for Your Customers. Donna, thanks for joining me.
Donna Cutting: Hey, John. It’s really great to be here. Thanks for having me.
John Jantsch: So, 501 ways. Don’t you think it would be great if you will just do one thing?
Donna Cutting: Oh, yeah, definitely for sure. It’s funny to me how people picked up on that 501 ways and find that amusing but what I’m trying to do is give people enough action ideas, tangible ideas that they can actually take right from the book and implement into their company or at least being inspired by some of these ideas so that they can raise the bar in the service in their organization.
John Jantsch: Yeah, and I think there are a lot of books that have a lot of theory in them and there’s certainly a place for theory and strategy. But I think there’s also a real need for these books that just … Give me a couple of ideas, give me a couple of things I can go out and do and see how I could do that in my business. And so that’s one of the things that really attracted me to want to have this conversation today.
Donna Cutting: Yeah, that’s absolutely right. And you’ll know in the book there’s actually a chapter called Get Red Carpet Ready and that’s because that theory is important and it is really important to have a strong basis if you truly want to give consistently excellent service to your customers. You got to be looking at who you’re hiring and how you’re encouraging them and all of that. But today’s midlevel manager or entrepreneur doesn’t necessarily have time to be as creative as they want. So why not look at what other people are doing and go from there.
John Jantsch: Before we get too deep. You are in Asheville, North Carolina. Is that right?
Donna Cutting: Yeah.
John Jantsch: I just visited there with my wife and we canoed the north broad right through Biltmore and went up on the Blue Ridge Parkway. It was a beautiful, beautiful country.
Donna Cutting: Yeah. The French Broad River, is that what you’re-
John Jantsch: Yes.
Donna Cutting: Yeah. Beautiful, beautiful area. Oh, I’m sorry I missed you but I’m glad you had a good time.
John Jantsch: A lot of companies think in terms of departments, marketing, sales and service. And I really think … It’s probably always been true but I really think today when there’s really nowhere to hide. If you have bad service, we’re probably going to see a YouTube channel dedicated to it at some point. I’ve come to believe that there really is no room for these departments anymore, that service quite frankly needs to run through the entire sort of outcome with the customer, doesn’t it?
Donna Cutting: Yeah. Customer service is so much more than a department. It really is the … Well, for one thing, there is a direct link between sales and marketing and service especially today because of the experience that you’re giving your customer, they have more choices and louder voices than ever before. Regardless of how great your sales and marketing is, you could lose that customer the minute they walk in the door if the experience they’re getting is not fantastic.
Donna Cutting: They have so many other places to go. And so customer experience is really part of that whole marketing and sales as well.
John Jantsch: Because you sell training that has a cost associated to it and certainly doing customer service well has a cost associated with it. How do you help people make the leap to being an investment rather than a cost, so to speak? What’s the value? How do you measure the value of good service. I think we all know a pissed off customer is a bad thing but how do you measure that doing the basics right?
Donna Cutting: Yeah. Well, I think it varies from the company. But it’s really understanding the lifetime value of your customer. And so understanding that we’re not just talking about one transaction here but how many transactions could they potentially do with you in a year’s time, in five years’ time, in the lifetime of that customer.
Donna Cutting: And I would even add to that how many new customers could they bring to you because they’re having such great experience. I don’t really see that in the typical measurements of lifetime value but I think that belongs there as well.
John Jantsch: Great point. I think that … We all know people that I’m sure you run into them and every company … Hopefully, every company has one or two of them. That person that is … They’re just nurturing. They’re just, “How can we serve you?” They’re just wired that way. But I suspect that you do a fair amount of teaching people that are not wired that way. Is it possible?
Donna Cutting: Well, first of all, you do have to have a heart to serve people to a certain extent. And I think when it comes to the customer experience, making sure that you have the right people in the right roles is very important because depending on the position, it is more important in some positions that you have the people who are the warm, fuzzy, going to make people feel good. And then in other positions, it may be more important that they have the technical piece that they know that job really, really well but they just have to have the ability to be friendly and caring to the customer.
Donna Cutting: Having said that, can you teach empathy? I don’t know that you can. I think that that comes with how they grew up and whether they have an empathetic heart. However, what I have noticed is that there are people out there in organizations that have empathy and they have a heart to serve but the leadership has not necessarily been really great about defining what the service experience looks like. And giving them the tools and the training that they need in order to deliver on that service experience.
Donna Cutting: A lot of times people said to me, “Oh, well, it’s just common sense.” Well, not necessarily. If you’ve got a young person who grew up in a home where they may have … In fact, I’ve met many, many people. They were warm, very warm caring heart but they didn’t grow up learning about the importance of eye contact and smiling and giving a good handshake and caring phrases and all of the things that you can teach if somebody has an open heart to receive it. Did that make sense?
John Jantsch: Yeah, absolutely, and I think that you kind of hammer home a belief that I have that is that service, good service, red carpet service is really kind of culture. And so, I think organizations that it seems to run throughout. They hire for it. That’s a qualification for the job is to maybe measure the idea of empathy but then they also empower folks.
John Jantsch: I was on a flight this week, Southwest Magazine always has stories about their people doing good and then we all know companies that really tend to empower their employees to do things. There was a layover that the person wasn’t changing planes but they’ve laid over ironically in my hometown, Kansas City, and the person was … Their son really wanted a Royals’ baseball hat but they just didn’t have time to get off the plane. And the flight attendant heard, went in, bought a Royals’ baseball hat at a shop, came back out, gave it to him.
John Jantsch: And of course, then the person wrote a letter talking about how great it was. I think that that flight attendant is empowered to make that kind of thing and rewarded for doing that kind of action. And I think that that has to run really deep, doesn’t it?
Donna Cutting: It definitely does. And it is. And getting back to that whole chapter in getting red carpet ready, that really is all about culture. The question that’s asked of me a lot is, “How do you get an hourly employee who maybe has never received the red carpet service to give that?” Yeah, you have to model it for them by the way you’re treating them and empowering them and encouraging that kind of behavior. So what a great story, I love that.
John Jantsch: One of the things that I think a lot of companies, they get it. Okay, customer service is great. We got to do something to really be over the top and it comes out sort of robotic. I think the best customer service is something like that story I told but it’s often very personalized and I think that’s even trickier, isn’t it?
Donna Cutting: Yeah, I think it is. And also, I wanted to say, I don’t necessarily think that it has to be over the top. To me, there are three areas of customer experience to pay attention to. One is that technical piece, so that is what the customer is buying for, the service or product that they’re purchasing that it works the way they expect it to work, all of the logistical things that go along with delivering that product and service. And you obviously want that to be proficient.
Donna Cutting: Then the next piece is warmth and hospitality, so how are you delivering it? Do you have a team of people who have that empathetic heart and are warm and hospitable. Really, if those two things are rock solid, people are going to feel like they have a great customer experience if it’s consistent, so meaning every employee is delivering that to every customer at every opportunity, every single time or close to it.
Donna Cutting: And then the third piece would be that wow or I call it movie moment, those moments you remember and want to repeat from the movies, making those kinds of moments for you customer. But to be honest, the first two have to be rock solid but before that over the top, wow, really makes a difference. And I think you’re right. That has to come authentic and that comes from just allowing your employees to come up with their own ideas about how to do that.
John Jantsch: Yeah. And I’m not sure you’re really saying this but I think you make a good point. In some cases, the bar is not very high. Just getting the basics right. Returning phone calls, doing things that people expect or unfortunately have come not to expect. That kind of part the basics are so important and many companies miss that even.
Donna Cutting: That’s exactly right. It is surprising to me when I ask my audiences, “Tell me about the best service you’ve ever received?” How many times people will just tell me a story about how they walked into a hotel or a department store and everybody was friendly and smiling and they’re bending over backwards to do what they can for you. I think that’s just what customer service should be, never mind the over the top stuff but that’s what people are wowed by today because unfortunately, we’re not receiving that as often as we could be.
John Jantsch: One of my favorite and I’m not even sure this is customer service. This certainly is marketing in my mind, but one of my favorite things is when somebody surprises me, when they do something I didn’t expect. I ordered some shoes from a running store and got some powerbars and socks thrown in there. And that had me targeted. In fact, you’re probably about the 10th person on air that I’ve told this story to. And I think there’s almost a product roll for that type of thing.
Donna Cutting: Oh, definitely. And I love … That reminds me of … I’m trying to remember the name of that company. One of the examples in the book is Retrofit and they are a company that sells sportswear. I’m sorry, RecoFit compression gear. And they sell compression gear for cyclists and triathletes and runners. And one of the things that she does is she came up with the idea of just thinking about that crackerjack box and remembering how exciting it was as a child to get that crackerjack box and while the caramel corn were delicious, that’s not really what we’re excited about. What we’re excited about are the free stuff, the little prize.
Donna Cutting: And so she does exactly what you were just talking about. Susan Walton, the owner of the company, she’ll just put something, a free little gift that people aren’t expecting in every single box. And that’s what people get excited about. That’s the little extra. I love it.
John Jantsch: Seth Godin actually had a book, you probably remembered called Free Prize Inside that really kind of talked about that whole concept. To give you a moment to define your red carpet phrase, how do you go about making people feel like stars and should you be looking at it as that over the top, kind of roll out the red carpet approach?
Donna Cutting: Well, to me, ultimately red carpet service is about making that person in front of you right now, so whether they’re physically in front of you or on the other end of the phone or even the other end of an email, feel like the most important person in the room or the most important person in that transaction.
Donna Cutting: And so it really does just start with being 100% present fair for them, making people feel like you … Even if you’ve heard and this is the challenging part. Even if you’ve heard this question 15 million times from every customer, delivering service in a way that I would consider the illusion of that first time. So like in the theater, we have people do the same dance steps, the same speech, the same lines 20 million times depending on how long that show goes on. And yet for every audience, it’s a new show. And so really looking at it that way. It is finding the fun things that you can do to really make them say, “Wow, you know I didn’t expect that.”
John Jantsch: So, I warned you about this before we started with the book 501 Ways, I’m going to ask you to pick maybe four or five of your favorite ones that you can tell us a little vignette about just to give people a sense of the abstracts of each of these kind of ways.
Donna Cutting: Sure, absolutely. Well, I’ll start it with Ruby Receptionists. They’re a company I actually give business with for many, many years. And I’ll start with them because there’s such a great example of those three areas that I talked about. They are a voice answering service but so much more than that. We referred to them endearingly as Call Ruby.
Donna Cutting: When they would pick up my phone messages, technically, it went perfectly, 99.9% of the time. They would get my message. They do their transfer right to the person it needed to go to on my team or we would get a voicemail and a followup. And it just worked perfectly. If it didn’t work perfectly because they were having software issues or something, they were communicating with us every 10 minutes until it was back up and running was amazing.
Donna Cutting: That piece is really perfect and then the second piece is I never had to worry about the receptionist that was answering the phone. They had many, many people working for them but they were all upbeat, friendly. I certainly secret shopped myself. My customers would talk about what friendly people I had working for me. It was just amazing. They had those two pieces rock solid. But then, they would add the wow and this goes back, John, to your whole piece of empowering employees because every person that works for Ruby Receptionists is empowered to practice wowism is what they’d call it but make these surprising delight moments for their customers.
Donna Cutting: For instance, when I had my dog, Snowball, one time they sent me a little package of dog treats for Snowball in a little frame with a picture on it that looked kind of like Snowball. And they would just do little things like this on a regular basis. I know other people who use them as well and that we’re always comparing the little gifts that Ruby Receptionists send us out of the blue. So, there’s such a great example of those three areas of service.
Donna Cutting: And then one that I was thinking of when you were talking about your airplane, the Southwest Airlines example, is this gentleman who worked in Tampa airport. And I loved this. When this little boy left his beautiful Hobbes, his precious doll, if you remember the old Calvin and Hobbes. He had a little tiger and he named him Hobbes and he left it at the airport, and one of the employees picked it up. And of course, they let him know, “Absolutely, you can come pick it up. Hobbes is here. He’s fine.”
Donna Cutting: But in the meantime, they took all kinds of pictures of Hobbes doing things at the airport working in the control room, working in flying the plane, all of these things. And they put it together in a little album so that when the parents came and they actually picked up Hobbes, not only did they get the doll but they got this album of memories that Hobbes shared. That’s such a great example again of an employee just taking responsibility and wowing the customer.
John Jantsch: As I hear you say that and after reading many of the tips or the ways in your book, I think a lot of ways the underlying thread or theme is fun. I think a lot of the companies that do this stuff is because they’re having a good time and so they look for ways to bring a little bit of fun and joy into people’s lives regardless of what they’re selling. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think that might be … If you’re going to nail sort of one emotion, that might be it.
Donna Cutting: No, I think you are … Absolutely, you just hit the nail on the head. I mean the next one I was going to share with you is the Village Coffee House in Boulder, Colorado. If you are there for the first time and somebody gets wind of it, you’ve been dubbed a village virgin and they announce that there’s a virgin in the house and everybody applauds and everyone’s kind of in on the fun even all the customers that have been there before. And then of course, there’s ways for you to earn prizes if you bring in new virgins to the coffeehouse. So, it’s definitely a marketing tool but it’s also just like you said, having a great time with your customers and for your customers.
John Jantsch: I’m visiting with Donna Cutting. She is the founder and CEO of Red Carpet Learning Systems. And she’s also the author of a book 501 Ways to Roll Out the Red Carpet for Your Customer. Thanks for joining us and hopefully we’ll see you out there on the road somebody.
Donna Cutting: Thanks for having me.