Although The Office is known for its cringeworthy, politically incorrect comedy, I realized during a recent binge that there are actually quite a few CX and EX lessons we can take from the series. I capped my list at 5, but please send me more scenes that I may have forgotten!
1. Use Your CRM – but use it the right way.
The least believable part of The Office is that the employee with the lowest emotional intelligence is the top salesman at Dunder Mifflin. Dwight is abrasive and ill-mannered and doesn’t understand how to connect with his customers… yet he somehow outsells everyone else. In this scene, Dwight is trying to get back on his client’s good side by recalling some of the notes he took to prove that he cares about him as a person. This leads to him bluntly asking, “How’s your gay son?” 🤦♀️ 🙉
A CRM will make you more successful. A CRM will make you more money. A CRM will free up more of your time. But, only if you use it — and use it diligently. Take notes about the conversations you have and the insights your clients offer into their lives so you can follow up appropriately. Key word: appropriately.
Leverage technology to set reminders and follow-ups to make sure you aren’t depending on your memory for important dates and details. Like Michael Scott, you can color-code the notes in your CRM to guide your follow-ups, but make sure it’s not overly complicated otherwise you won’t want to use it!
2. Show your employees you care about them as real people
While Michael Scott is certainly not the model manager, one thing he did get right is that it’s about the people. Pam eagerly invites all of her coworkers to her art show after work one night but is disappointed when nobody shows up. However, just as the event is about to wrap up, she gets a surprise visit from Michael who is blown away by her artwork. He even insists on framing the watercolor painting she created of their office building. Pam is nearly brought to tears as she finally receives the acknowledgement and support she’d been looking for.
Remember, superfandom is a two-way street. If you want your employees to care about your company, you’ve got to care about them first. Not only do employees want to be recognized for their hard work, but they also want to be acknowledged as real people with families and hobbies outside of the workplace. If you treat them as just another number on an employee badge, they will likely reciprocate that same replaceable feeling toward their job.
3. reward your mosy loyal customers
In the Season 5 episode “Golden Ticket,” Michael Scott dresses up as Willy Wonka and decides to randomly distribute golden tickets — AKA 10% off coupons — to a few lucky clients. Since Michael didn’t realize that an entire pallet of boxes was going to Blue Cross Blue Shield of Pennsylvania (one of the company’s largest clients) he accidentally gave them all five of the coupons. At first, corporate was angry with Michael because the company took a huge hit by discounting 50% of their biggest account; however, Blue Cross was so thrilled with the surprise offer that they decided to make Dunder Mifflin its exclusive supply provider.
Although Michael handled the situation poorly, his CX instincts were correct. Dunder Mifflin went from being just another supply provider for Blue Cross to a category of one by rewarding a loyal customer and exceeding their expectations.
Pet e-tailer Chewy is the mastermind of surprising and delighting its customers by employing people whose sole job is to send birthday cards, holiday cards, or custom paintings of your pets. Just because you already have someone’s business does not mean you can stop trying. Thanking your customers for their loyalty and letting them know that you appreciate them will only make them more loyal!
4. The right gift at the right time can elevate your relationships
When Dunder Mifflin realizes they lost seven clients to their big corporate competitors, Michael insists on winning them back with gift baskets because they’re the “essence of class and fanciness.” To Michael’s dismay, his clients thanked him for the goodies and declined to reconsider their accounts.
I always say that strategic gifting is one of the most powerful ways to create a “wow” experience for a customer. In fact, it checks every SUPER Box: It’s a way to connect your story to each customer’s in a personal way. When done correctly, it will exceed expectations, which is why you should repeat the practice with all your customers. One important caveat: it has to be the right gift at the right time.
Here’s where Michael ultimately got it wrong:
- Don’t only show gratitude in December (or worse, when the client has left!). Surprise your clients with cards or gifts throughout the year on less popular holidays or anniversaries. If Dunder Mifflin had shown their appreciation during their relationship, perhaps they wouldn’t be in the situation they’re in now.
- Do not use your gift as a bribe, bring it up in the future as a quid pro quo, or expect anything in return for your generosity, now or later. How do you think the client felt after Michael demanded the gift basket back? There’s no way that client will ever return or refer anyone else to Dunder Mifflin going forward.
- Never take a one-size-fits-all approach with gifting. Michael should have taken the time to pick out personalized gifts (or items in the basket) for all seven of his clients to better connect his story to theirs.
5. Be super clear on your story
In season 2, Michael and Jan take an important prospective client to lunch to try to close a deal. To Jan’s disappointment, Michael pushes off any business talk throughout the entire lunch and instead bonds with the client over margaritas.
Finally, as the meeting is winding down, Michael doubles down on his story and why he’s uniquely positioned to serve the client. He doesn’t tout Dunder Mifflin’s prices or products; rather, he explains that he’s been in Lackawanna County for his entire life and he’s never leaving. Michael knows every business in the area and the challenges that face his county, whereas the big corporate competitors don’t care about their clientele at all. This finally gets the client to agree to a deal.
The best salespeople know that the customer is buying them as much as they’re buying the product or the service. It’s about creating an experience and building a relationship.
When you get super clear on your uniqueness, it helps your customers understand what sets you apart from the consideration set and why YOU are the right person to serve them. Well done, Michael.
Next time you find yourself binging The Office and you come across another great CX or EX lesson, send me a message!