3 employee experience takeaways from the NFLPA's team report cards

3 Employee Experience Takeaways from the NFLPA’s Team Report Cards

It’s officially March, which means that the end of Q1 is rapidly approaching. Here’s your official reminder to collect employee feedback before the month ends — and then set a calendar reminder to do it again at the end of June! Neglecting to collect employee feedback can have negative consequences for both the employees and the management as a whole. Without regular feedback, you cannot have an accurate understanding of how your team feels about their job responsibilities, company policies, or workplace environment. When you consistently ask your team for their honest evaluation, you can get ahead of blindspots and make improvements before issues fester.  If that reminder isn’t enough to make you prioritize employee feedback, maybe this will… Last week, the NFL Player’s Association (NFLPA) published team report cards for the first time. More than 1,300 players participated in a survey that asked them to grade several aspects of their team experience on a scale of A+ to F-. Players rated the treatment of family members, nutrition, weight room, strength staff, training room, training staff, locker room and travel. If your employees gave you a report card today that rated all of the different components of your employee experience, what do you think you’d get? Would you be surprised about the results, or do you have a general sense of how your employees feel about their experience?  More importantly, would you be willing to have the grades published and compared against all of your competitors? 🤔 Anyone who’s ever built a team knows that reputation is even more important to potential employees than it is to customers. While customers give you their money, employees give you something far, far more valuable: their time and their talents.  A better reputation makes it easier to recruit new prospects to join the team. It’s no coincidence that the NFLPA published the report cards two weeks before the free agency period begins. On March 15th, unrestricted free agents are officially allowed to sign with new teams. Undoubtedly, players will think twice before signing a long-term deal with a club that received more F- grades than As and Bs.. 🫣 So, what were the biggest takeaways? Which teams did an endzone dance on Report Card Day, and which ones were totally blindsided? And more importantly, what can you do to ensure you don’t finish at the bottom of your metaphorical division? Invest in the Development of Your Employees The Washington Commanders came in last place overall (32nd), with three F- grades and one F across the eight categories. They performed the worst in the treatment of families, training room, locker room, and team travel.  Many players felt like ownership wasn’t willing to invest in facility upgrades, citing lack of space, poor shower drainage and water temperatures, and significant understaffing as common issues. (Remember when FedEx Field partially collapsed last year, nearly injuring opposing quarterback Jalen Hurts and several fans?!) Some players even refused to rehab at the Commanders’ facility due to the understaffed department. Without enough trainers and physical therapists, the players weren’t getting the attention they needed. When you play for the 8th richest franchise and have the 32nd-ranked facility, it says something about ownership’s values. In a business where compensation and job security are directly tied to on-field performance, players must have the proper resources and environment to help them play at their best.  The Arizona Cardinals didn’t do much better: They finished in 31st place overall and got an F- for their weight room due to complaints of health and safety risks. Many athletes pointed to uneven floors and floorboards that are peeling up.  They’re also the only team that charges its players for meals by deducting money from their paychecks. When your body is your asset, and management does not prioritize the strength room or nutrition, you’d probably feel like the team isn’t investing as much in you as you are sacrificing for them.  Your Play: Make sure the expectations you set for your team align with the resources and training you’re able to provide. Acknowledge Your Employees’ Families The Jacksonville Jaguars finished 28th overall, and it’s not just because of the rat infestation they had. Players complained that their wives had to breastfeed their babies on the floor of the stadium’s public restrooms. The 27th ranked Bengals players also made the same complaint. Luckily, 95% of the Jaguars believe owner Shad Khan will make the necessary changes. Only 44% of the Bengals said the same of owner Mike Brown. On the other hand, the top-ranked Minnesota Vikings had a great family area, including a daycare and post-game gathering place. The Houston Texans finished in 4th place overall, with one of their strongest areas being the travel philosophy. The players were especially grateful that they did not have to sleep away from their loved ones in team hotels the night before a home game. Many other teams require players to sleep in a hotel near their stadium. Athletes, like all employees, want their managers to acknowledge that they’re more than just a member of your organization. They have families and lives outside of the workplace. When you acknowledge the commitment their families make, it makes their loyalty to the team stronger.  Your Play: Your employees exist outside of their relationship with you. Demonstrate that you care about the people and the things they care about, and they’re much more likely to care about the people and the things you care about. Bonuses and Perks Don’t Compensate for Poor Working Conditions While the worst-rated teams, the Commanders and Cardinals, both had losing records during the 2022 season, no amount of winning can compensate for the lack of support. Players want more than just a competitive salary or playoff appearances. They want to know that their bosses care about them as human beings and they need the proper resources and training.  The Kansas City Chiefs, fresh off their second Super Bowl victory in four years, came in 29th place. Perhaps the

3 Employee Experience Takeaways from the NFLPA’s Team Report Cards Read More »

Featured Blog Image for Customer Service Week Celebration Ideas - Brittany Hodak

Customer Service Week Celebration Ideas

Happy Customer Service Week! Every year, companies celebrate Customer Service Week during the first week of October. It’s the perfect time to honor your employees who serve and support customers on a daily basis. Customer service agents are a critical component to your brand’s success. By interacting directly with customers, they can have the biggest impact on your reputation. According to HubSpot Research, 93% of customers are likely to make repeat purchases with companies who offer excellent customer service. And, after one bad experience, 80% of customers would rather switch to a competitor, according to ZenDesk. Since customer service associates will never treat customers better than they’re being treated internally, you’ve got to show your employees that you care about them all year long. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t use this week as an extra special way to thank your associates. ideas for celebrating customer service week Here are a few suggestions of how you can make your associates feel extra special during Customer Service Week. Whether you are running on a low budget or working with a remote staff, there are endless ways to celebrate. Big Budget Ideas: MEDIUM BUDGET IDEAS LOW BUDGET IDEAS employee gifting: the do’s and don’ts Gifting for large teams can be difficult. You probably won’t end up pleasing everyone. Here are a few additional tips to follow when trying to choose the best initiative for your employees. What are some other ways you can express your appreciation for your employees during Customer Service Week? Be sure to save a few of these ideas to use throughout the year so you can show your employees how much you care.

Customer Service Week Celebration Ideas Read More »

Featured Blog Image for Digital Employee Experience - Brittany Hoadk

The Importance Of A Strong Digital Employee Experience

When the pandemic first hit, many companies were forced to work remotely overnight. Without any precedent or warning, HR and IT departments had to find ways to adapt their internal systems and make it work.  However, now that we’re two years post-pandemic and many companies are committing to either remote or hybrid arrangements, leaders are forced to address the Digital Employee Experience for the first time. What is digital employee experience?  What is Digital Employee Experience? Digital Employee Experience (DEX) refers to an employee’s overall experience with the digital workplace tools and technology provided by their company. This includes webmail services, project management software, instant message platforms, learning and training portals, HR systems, laptops, phones, and more. In short, Digital Employee Experience is the sum of the User Experience (UX ) for your organization’s internal applications and technology infrastructure.  DEX is a key component of the modern employee experience and can impact productivity, engagement, retention, and profitability. According to NextThink research, 77% of HR & IT leaders think that poor or unreliable IT services and equipment play a significant role in employee burnout or turnover. When remote employees feel disconnected from their companies or frustrated with ineffective tools, they’re more likely to lose motivation and disengage.  Just as you would optimize your digital customer experience, you need to improve each digital touchpoint with your employees to create a trusted relationship. It’s not enough to provide your teams with the programs and machines they need to succeed. You’ve got to make sure that your digital tools are easily accessible, up-to-date, customizable, and interconnected wherever possible.  Do your employees have to create separate logins for each platform they use, or can they apply a single sign-on tool so they never have to reset another password? Is your company utilizing many platforms just for the sake of it, or does each program actually add value to your business? Can employees access their documents from anywhere they choose to work? These are just a few of the questions your company should be asking when it comes to evaluating your digital employee experience.  Aside from eliminating unnecessary stress and frustration for your employees, what are the biggest benefits to a strong digital employee experience? Let’s take a look: 1. It increases productivity When employees are equipped with intuitive digital tools that make their jobs easier, they tend to be more productive and therefore more engaged at work. It seems like common sense, and yet according to Forrester Research, only 34% of companies say that they’ll be able to support fully remote or hybrid work needs in the next two years with their current capabilities.  When your platforms don’t offer self-service options to fix tech issues, your IT department ends up wasting much of its time on common problems. Raise your hand if you’ve ever called IT and they told you to restart your computer and magically your problem was fixed?! 🙋‍♀️ According to the Forrester report, 55% of respondents claimed that only 10% of their service tickets are solved through self-service. By ensuring your employees have the ability to fix or troubleshoot their own issues, you can reduce their distractions and eliminate unnecessary work for your IT department. The ultimate win-win! In addition to properly functioning technology (which is the bare minimum!) your digital tools should be customizable for all of your employees’ preferences. Does your project management software offer multiple viewing settings for different organizational styles? Can your employees set their own active working hours, status messages, and notification preferences? When the line between home and work is already blurred for remote employees, the ability to set personal boundaries can increase well-being and ultimately productivity.  2. It provides greater flexibility for employees With the right digital systems in place, your employees can seamlessly switch between the office or their home without any gaps in technology. I remember a time when I was working in-person for an agency. In order to finish some work from home later at night, I had to grab certain documents off the company’s server and drag them onto my desktop before leaving the office. Now, with cloud-based software, employees can easily access their files no matter where they are. Lee Arthur, the Managing Director of the NY Institute of Finance, had to address his company’s DEX when 50% of the staff became permanently remote. Without access to their desk phones, employees were having a harder time connecting with their colleagues and customers.  Now, they use DialPad, a cloud-based communications network that allows users to access their calls and messages from anywhere. By eliminating desk phones, NY Institute of Finance immediately saved $45,000 and estimates that they will continue to save about $20,000 per year in operating costs.  3. It increases employee collaboration With so many employees working from home, it’s harder to stay in touch with other teams within your organization. Because of this, so many departments end up working in silos. Are you relying on company-wide emails and Zoom meetings to disseminate important information, ideas, and status updates? With a focus on digital employee experience, companies can implement communication platforms that foster collaboration. Digital programs can allow employees to join group conversations based around similar interests, task forces, or specific projects. Moreover, when your communication platforms seamlessly integrate with your other tools, employees can easily share documents and multimedia presentations and work together.  To take it a step further, MangoApps helps companies improve their digital employee experience with employee profiles. Employees can create their own profile pages with pictures, bios, work history, and more. New employees can quickly put faces to names and connect with their colleagues on a more personal level. As a virtual employee, it can feel unnatural to constantly communicate with someone without ever knowing who they really are. Advanced digital platforms like Mango can unite teams and help colleagues build relationships in ways that email or instant message can’t.  4. It shows your employees that you care about them As Ari Weinzweig once said,

The Importance Of A Strong Digital Employee Experience Read More »

Featured Image for How to Promote a Culture of Empathy on Your Team - Brittany Hodak

How to Promote a Culture of Empathy on Your Team

This article originally appeared on ThriveGlobal.com on November 23rd, 2020. Considering everything happening in the world, empathy has never been more important. Amid a global pandemic that has caused people to worry about their own well-being and the well-being of others around them, we all need understanding and compassion. This extends beyond personal relationships, too. Consumers want compassion and empathy from the businesses they frequent. When they find it, both parties benefit. One study showed that increased empathy results in better customer experiences, company innovation, and business success. When innovators worked to understand their customers’ problems and needs, that empathy helped them make better strategic decisions in sales, production, and leadership. And leadership is really what it’s all about. A culture of empathy starts at the top. It can’t be taught or forced. Instead, leaders have to encourage and set the standard when it comes to self-awareness, compassion for others, and listening. When they show their teams they care, it fosters a similar mindset throughout the business. In a recent survey, 80% of CEOs said empathy was the key to success. Cultures of empathy led to stronger collaboration, better morale, less stress, and enhanced resilience during challenging moments. Here are three ways leaders can create a culture of empathy and place caring at the core of everything they do: 1. Highlight the right norms. There is power in drawing attention to behavior that exemplifies empathy. When you see people in your organization showing compassion and working together, shine a light on them. Identify the people who connect with others, and recruit them to champion that cause. As people lead by example and showcase the power of empathy, it will become a norm that other team members embrace. You can even create incentives and recognition programs to move people to adopt empathy in everything they do. 2. Set the example yourself. Empathy and caring start with you. Sheldon Yellen, CEO of BELFOR Property Holdings Inc., crafts hand-written thank-you notes, anniversary cards, and holiday letters to his employees. He even writes to employees’ children when they’re sick, all of which he believes helps create a culture of empathy in his company. “It’s also something that doesn’t have to cost a thing,” Yellen said. “When I learn of random acts of kindness being performed in the field, I take it upon myself to, again, reach out in writing. I send a thank-you card so that person can know they are appreciated and that their efforts don’t go unnoticed.” 3. Make empathy a business practice — not just a motto. Finally, don’t just talk the talk. You have to walk the walk. Chewy, one of the largest, most recognizable pet supply websites in the country, has established itself as a brand built on kindness. The team goes above and beyond to express empathy when customers lose a pet by sending flowers, refunds, and condolence cards. When customers are ready to someday adopt their next pet, Chewy has already shown them how much they care — and positioned itself as a brand that consumers will return to down the road. There is no better value than a genuine compassion for others. Compassion might not be a core element of business school curriculum, but companies that find ways of genuinely empathizing with their customers will be better equipped to handle challenges like recessions and pandemics. Ultimately, business success is rooted in showing customers compassion and understanding. By weaving compassion and empathy through every layer of your business, you’ll end up making decisions that boost your productivity, morale, and resilience.

How to Promote a Culture of Empathy on Your Team Read More »

Featured Image for 4 Support Systems to Ask for Help When Times Are Tough - Brittany Hodak

4 Support Systems to Ask for Help When Times Are Tough

This article originally appeared on ThriveGlobal.com on November 9th, 2020. Asking for help is difficult for anyone, but it’s even harder for leaders. When you’re a founder or CEO, it’s completely normal for investors, stakeholders, employees, and many other people to look to you for solutions. Pride causes many leaders to fake it until they make it, even though they aren’t always sure they have the right answers. Ultimately, going it alone can have negative consequences on your mental health and the success of your business. If you’ve historically struggled to ask for help — for any number of reasons — it’s time to start reaching out. One of the rare silver linings of the pandemic is that it has normalized the need to lean on our networks. As the world continues to juggle new employment circumstances, childcare responsibilities, and the requirement to stay socially distanced through it all, neighbors are helping neighbors however they can. There’s no such thing as a “big” or a “small” ask for help — in a sense, all needs are created equal. Like many people, I haven’t resumed my regular schedule of eating out or having my housecleaner stop by since the pandemic began. I’m so thankful that my mother-in-law lives nearby and is always happy to pitch in, whether it’s watching one of my kids for a few hours or by jumping in on cleaning or cooking while I work or play with my kiddos. Having someone take those seemingly small tasks from your plate to free up your focus and energy for things that only you can do (in my case, giving virtual presentations or helping one of my consulting clients) is actually a huge help. The sentiment that we can lean on each other extends to the workplace and beyond, where these four support systems are waiting to step in when the going gets tough: 1. Your Team Leaders are doers, so they naturally take on a substantial share of responsibilities. In many cases, however, companies suffer when leaders attempt to shoulder too much of the burden. Meanwhile, one study has shown that companies with a strong culture of helping have better employee retention, customer satisfaction, and profits. Thomas Smale, the founder of FE International, explains it well: “You hired people to help you do more and achieve more. Let them. … Trust your teams and the unique expertise they bring.” One way to make it easier to ask your team for help is by normalizing the process. Host a weekly roundtable where team members can discuss ongoing projects and obstacles that they’ve encountered. That way, people don’t have to feel like a burden when they need assistance. 2. Mentors A good mentor can have an incredible impact on your career, helping you climb the corporate ladder while improving your personal and professional satisfaction. They aren’t only there to help you get ahead, though; mentors can help you reduce anxiety, visualize a path forward, and even cope with psychological challenges like imposter syndrome. Being vulnerable by approaching a mentor with your fears can be uncomfortable. But trying to seem like you have it all together won’t help you overcome problems — being your authentic self (problems and all) is more compelling and allows your mentor to help you develop real solutions. And don’t let the ongoing pandemic stop you from forming new connections. While you can’t get together in person, there’s strong evidence that mentorship meetings using videoconferencing tools can accomplish the same thing. In short, don’t hesitate to reach out to a mentor for advice. 3. Entrepreneurship Communities Being a leader and entrepreneur can be lonely, which is why it’s important to find a network of people who are on the same journey. These individuals know exactly what you’re going through, and they can offer valuable guidance and wisdom based on their experiences. According to a Harvard Business School study, asking peers for help can make you appear more competent and goes a long way toward earning your colleagues’ respect. According to Corey Blake, founder and CEO of Round Table Companies, admitting we don’t have all the answers can be challenging. “It was for me,” Blake said. “But that refusal slowed my learning. As a result, it delayed our company’s growth. Asking for help from other leaders with aligned values not only helps us solve current issues but also paves the way for opportunities we could not have strategized.” 4. Superfans I define superfans as customers or collaborators who advocate on behalf of your company merely because they have a strong belief in your product or service. They aren’t interested in any form of payment or compensation. Instead, superfans share real and organic opinions in the hopes that the people around them can derive the same benefit from your company that they enjoy. Superfans are an excellent support system to tap into because they have already identified what makes your company great. Rely on them for unique insights, and embrace their favorite things about your brand if you’re struggling to communicate your business’s value. Someone around you has likely experienced just about any struggle you might be facing, and their insight can help you navigate the situation far more easily than you might manage on your own. Lean on the people around you when times are tough, and you might be surprised at the wisdom that emerges.

4 Support Systems to Ask for Help When Times Are Tough Read More »

Featured Image for Superfan WAVE Video Course Companion Blog - Part 5 - Brittany Hodak

Connecting With Your Customers: How To Boost Client Engagement To Drive Purchase Decisions

When you think about client engagement, did you know that increasing customer retention rates by 5% has been proven to increase profits from 25% to 95%? How about that customers will spend 17% more to do business with companies that deliver excellent customer service? Whether you’ve heard these figures before or not, the math is clear. If you want to create customers that love your brand so much they share it with others, your business has to first find ways to engage them at any cost.  The good news is that the “cost” is almost always more affordable than you think. In fact, people remember the way you made them feel long after they’ve forgotten everything else. In our personal lives or in business, the iconic Maya Angelou quote rarely isn’t true: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”  That’s why this guide, part five of my Superfan W.A.V.E. blog series, is all about how to ensure customers want to engage with your brand and your team. Here, we’ll break down the basics of a client engagement strategy including how and where to best reach them. We’ll also break down how to ensure they feel engaged at every stage in the buying process. If you missed the previous four blogs, no worries! Sign up for my free five-day W.A.V.E. video course and receive all four with videos to match! In each video, you’ll find proven and sea-riously awesome strategies for boosting client engagement (and, yes: the ocean puns continue in the videos, too 😁 ). The Importance of Engaging Your Customers Although it comes in many forms, client engagement centers on the idea of relationships or, according to Forrester, “creating deep connections with customers that drive purchase decisions, interaction, and participation, over time.” In other words, building a connection with your customers isn’t simply a way to earn their trust. It also has direct impacts on your monetary success as well as your reputation.  Let’s think of it in terms of a romantic engagement, for example. When two people are engaged, they aren’t looking for anyone else because they’re committed to one another. When a customer is engaged with your brand, it’s a similar dynamic. They love your company, product, or service and aren’t seeking competitors, because you’re “the One.” This means more sales and more referrals during the period that individual is a customer. Engaging customers looks different for every company, but if you’ve been following my content up to this point – and following the Superfan W.A.V.E. strategy of welcoming, appreciating, and validating your customers – engagement will almost inevitably follow.  For many businesses, client engagement is as simple as connecting regularly with customers where they’re already active. This can be in person, over the phone, via email or newsletter, or social media. It’s also about creating and sharing content that your customers will enjoy (you had to see this coming) engaging with. Alternatively, when in doubt, ask what they love most about your business. Customers love to share their experiences. Plus, it will help you engage more deeply with them and provide insights on how to reach new customers.  How To Make Your Customers Feel Engaged To start building your client engagement strategy, first map your customer journey, including the communication touchpoints along the way. Ads, webpages, emails, automated texts – all of these are important “touchpoints” before and after a customer faces a purchase decision. Once you’ve laid it all out, look for gaps and opportunities to improve customer engagement. Ask yourself the following questions:  Does the communication make your customers feel welcomed, appreciated, validated, and engaged?  Are there points in the customer journey when your company experiences a drop in customer engagement or a spike in customer churn?  What can your team do to streamline communication, follow the W.A.V.E. strategy, and exceed customer expectations when they interact with your brand? This exercise will take more time than most that I’ve shared here, but I guarantee that every brand you’ve aspired to emulate has done some version of this project with their team to build the customer engagement strategy you’ve come to love.  I could also go on for another several blogs about how to best engage customers, but the answer truly depends on your customers: what they value, what they need, and what they think you could do better. That said, if you’re unsure how to boost your company’s client engagement, below are three things you can add to your workflow right now.  Engage with customers after their first purchase.  First and foremost, make sure you are engaging with customers immediately after they make a purchase. If it’s their first purchase, make sure to include a “welcome” message of some kind. If they’re an existing customer, recognize their ongoing support for your brand. In either case, your goal should be to (a) be authentic to your brand’s voice and (b) appreciative of the purchase they just made. That way, the customer knows you see them as an individual and value their opinion of your product or service.  In my own experience, one of the best examples of this practice is Chewy. A few years ago, I landed on Chewy while looking for prescription food for my dog, Bear. (Yep. That’s a thing.) Admittedly, most of my decision to purchase came from the “welcome” discount and the “free shipping over $49” deal. However, I didn’t know that I would receive a personalized “welcome” email – from an actual human being, no less – as well as a handwritten card a week post-purchase. I even receive yearly Christmas cards and birthday addressed to my dogs! In short, even though I initially signed up based on price and convenience, it’s Chewy’s client engagement efforts that turned what could have been a one-time purchase into recurring orders of more than $150 every month. Plus, when a pet owner in my network asks what pet

Connecting With Your Customers: How To Boost Client Engagement To Drive Purchase Decisions Read More »

Featured Image for Superfan WAVE Video Course Companion Blog - Part 4 (2) - Brittany Hodak

Satisfying Unhappy Customers: How To Right Inevitable Wrongs For Your Clients

Regardless of how great you are at a job, you — or someone who works for you — will, at some point, stumble. It’s inevitable. And, regardless of how well you’ve performed in the past, or are currently performing for other customers, there’s one key word you need to remember when it comes to turning unhappy customers back into superfans of your brand and your products or services: Validation. This blog is the fourth in my series on The Superfan W.A.V.E., which is an acronym to help you remember to be great in all of your customer-facing interactions. Today’s post is all about the “V” in “W.A.V.E.” or Validation. But, before I tell you why it’s important, take it from Oprah Winfrey: I’ve talked to nearly thirty thousand people on this show, and all thirty thousand had one thing in common: They all wanted validation…They want to know: ‘Do you see me? Do you hear me? Does what I say mean anything to you?’…Try it with your children, your husband, your wife, your boss, your friends. Validate them. ‘I see you. I hear you. And what you say matters to me.’ Although Oprah’s words are true in a personal sense, they’re also true when it comes to your customers. Let’s talk about why and how validating unhappy customers’ concerns can turn them into lifelong superfans of your company. The Importance of Validating Customers’ Feelings & Concerns Have you ever had to express dissatisfaction to a customer service representative? If you have, you already know how unhelpful it is to hear something like, “We’ve had ten thousand happy customers, and no one has had this issue before.” in response to your concern. In situations like these, nothing is worse than hearing about someone else’s experience, because it does not matter to you. You’re there to have your problems solved and improve your experience. Likewise, when you’re approached by unhappy customers in your own business, their experiences are the only ones that matter. Don’t conflate one person’s experience with anything else, including your brand, your products, or the experience of other customers. Additionally – and perhaps more importantly – don’t assume that because this is the first time you’re hearing this particular complaint, other unhappy customers haven’t experienced this issue, too. All it means is that one customer took the time to share their concern rather than put up with it.  With these “don’t”s in mind, the best way to handle customer questions or complaints is to validate their concerns. It may sound ambiguous, and validating customer concerns can come in many forms as long as you’re actively listening, asking questions, learning from the experience, and thanking them for their time.  Often times, making customers feel validated is simply showing that you take them seriously. What may seem like common sense or an easy fix to you can be confusing or intimidating for someone else. Through validation, however, you can show customers that you understand where they’re coming from. You’re not there to judge, just to own your mistakes and work together to make things right! How To Make Your Customers Feel Validated Like the other aspects of the W.A.V.E. – making customers feel welcomed, appreciated, and engaged – validating customer concerns is largely about planning. All customer service varies a little, simply because of each individual’s preferences, but in the background, everyone on your team should be on the same page. When a customer is concerned about price, you should know what to say. When a customer is unhappy about a store policy, you should know how to explain the changes. In part, it’s about being able to calmly and clearly solve the problem, but it’s also important to outline your expectations for your team. That way, no matter which team member a customer contacts for help, they’re ensured the same empathic, patient, and validating response.    To start crafting a customer retention and validation strategy, start with your own experience. Think of a time when you were dissatisfied with a service or product, contacted the company’s customer service about it, and came away from that interaction feeling validated enough to recommend that company to your friends. Break it down step by step, and answer the following questions:  What did the company do to make you feel validated?  What steps did they take to make amends?  How can you implement those same steps into your business’ customer care process to make your own customers feel validated? From there, for each of these answers, think about how you can implement these strategies in your own business. Things like empathy, attention to detail, and a dedication to customer satisfaction work in every industry and, combined, they’re a sure way to boost customer retention. Plus, if you need some ideas to kickstart your brainstorming, below are three that are sure to do the trick. Remember that the customer always has a right to share their feedback. First, remember that the customer isn’t always right. In many cases, a customer complaint starts with miscommunication or a simple misunderstanding. In this case, all the customer needs is an explanation. However, in all cases, even if they’re mistaken, every customer has the right to share their grievances. Who knows? Maybe there’s a part of your signage or website that’s creating the miscommunication, and you don’t even know it yet. When that’s the case, sometimes the only way to find out is because of a customer complaint. On the flip side, if there isn’t an easy fix, it’s also perfectly okay to just let unhappy customers vent. They could be dealing with challenges in their personal life or problems at work. Maybe they’re just a negative person and tend to look at everything in a bad light. Either way, showing empathy and validating their frustration will always be a good choice in the long run. Even if the answer is firing them as a client or having to refund their purchase, taking the high road on your end makes it

Satisfying Unhappy Customers: How To Right Inevitable Wrongs For Your Clients Read More »

Featured Image for Superfan WAVE Video Course Companion Blog - Part 3 (2) - Brittany Hodak

Customer Retention 101: Do You Make Your Customers Feel Appreciated?

Rather than kick off this blog with business, let’s get personal for a moment, and think about your best friend. If they told you they felt perpetually unappreciated by their partner, what would you tell them? You’d tell them to end the relationship, that they deserve to be with someone who treats them like they matter, right? That’s because appreciation is crucial to building a healthy relationship, and, when it comes to customer retention, your relationship with your customers is no exception. Just as in a personal partnership, your customers want to be sure that they’re investing in a partnership that truly values their support. If they feel like their patronage doesn’t matter – as if they’re just another number – there’s a strong chance they’ll look for a partner who treats them better. In this guide, part three of my Superfan W.A.V.E. blog series, we’ll cover three ways to avoid this all-too-common occurrence including the importance of systems for collecting and reviewing customer feedback. We’ll also break down the math behind customer retention and how a simple “thank you” to your customers can make a world of difference. If you missed the previous two blogs, no worries! Sign up for my free five-day W.A.V.E. video course to help you get started! Each video is jam-packed with tips and tricks to inspire your team in the sink-or-swim world of customer service (and, if you’re wondering if the videos come with puns, too, they absolutely do! 😁 ). Recap of the Superfan W.A.V.E. Before we jump into the “appreciation” aspect of the W.A.V.E. method, let’s look at it from a bird’s eye view. For anyone jumping in without having read the previous two blogs, the Superfan W.A.V.E. starts with the term “superfan.” Like the word “fan,” superfans have had great experiences with your brand and your products or services. However, rather than simply keeping those experiences to themselves, super-fans share those experiences with their network, sending more potential superfans your way.  Likewise, the “W.A.V.E.” acronym represents ways to create these superfans, including making customers feel welcomed, appreciated, validated, and engaged. Although they sound simple enough, consistently reinforcing these emotions for your customers doesn’t just result in happier customers. It also builds a relationship between them and members of your team. That way, they know they can come to you with questions or concerns (and still be taken seriously) and you know you can rely on them for honest feedback and referrals. It’s a win for you, your team, and your customers, and all it costs is some extra care for your customers in the first place.  The Importance of Appreciating Customers Appreciating your customers may sound like common sense or the old Golden Rule of “treat others how you want to be treated.” However, real appreciation isn’t simply a “thank you” card once a year or a holiday gift in the winter. It’s consistent and meaningful words and actions to show that you care about your customers well beyond the point of sale and that you value your investment, whether it was a one-time sale or an ongoing subscription. A great example of what not to do can be seen in many satellite, cable and/or internet providers. Although there are exceptions, many of these companies are notorious for treating customers like nameless faces in a crowd. They value your money, not your individual questions, concerns, or feedback, and justify their poor service with empty arguments or scripted apologies. As a result, they’re often among the lowest Net Promoter Score benchmarks. In other words, customers don’t feel loyal to these types of companies, and it shows. In fact, feeling unappreciated is the number-one reason customers switch products, services, and companies, even if they were initially satisfied.  On the flip side, there are a plethora of other businesses to mimic if you’re unsure what appreciation looks like. Take Chick-fil-A, for example. Based in Georgia, this fast food chain is well-known for its clean restaurants, polite staff, and delicious food. At almost every location, you’ll hear “thank you”s or “my pleasure”s from employees as a common response. They’ve made customer appreciation a core competency of their culture, and it has helped them become one of the most profitable and fastest-growing franchises in the world.  Likewise, showing appreciation isn’t just sure to give you a good reputation. It’s also certain to create superfans time and time again.  How To Make Your Customers Feel Appreciated If you want to provide customers with exceptional service, the first step is asking them what that appreciation looks like. I’ve talked about this before in my outline of the Superfan System, but it’s worth repeating. Businesses should operate on the “Platinum Rule” (or “Treat others the way they want to be treated”) rather than the aforementioned Golden Rule. After all, you create products and services with your customers in mind. Shouldn’t your customer service efforts be structured in the same way?  That said, before contacting your current superfans, it’s also important to look at your company from your own position. Consider your existing appreciation efforts, and reflect on the following questions:  What would it look like if you made appreciation a core value of your company?  Which specific systems and processes can you establish to instill appreciation at every level of your company? What steps can you take to automate it, so that appreciation becomes a company habit? Between your answers to these questions and your customers’ feedback, you’ll be able to construct a plan for how you can show appreciation that not only makes you look attentive and caring but also truly means something to your customers. And, who knows? Even one small change, whether it’s training employees or updating a confirmation email to thank customers for their purchase, can have a profound impact on customers’ perception of your brand and their loyalty to it. Gift strategically to show that you care.  One way to build customer retention through appreciation is simple: gifts! Strategic gifting is a given

Customer Retention 101: Do You Make Your Customers Feel Appreciated? Read More »

Featured Image for Superfan WAVE Video Course Companion Blog - Part 2 (2) - Brittany Hodak

The Foundation Of A Great Customer Experience: Making Your Customers Feel Welcomed

In any business, creating a culture of superfandom – and improving your average customer experience – first comes from making people feel welcomed.  It sounds like a given, but I’m sure you can think of times–plural!–when you were made to feel unwelcome in a business. I know I can. On more than one occasion, I’ve felt unwelcome in a place where I had planned to spend money, whether it was intentional on the business’ part or not. Whether it’s a rude look from an employee, being ignored by waitstaff at a restaurant, or a distasteful meme on a business’ Facebook page making a “joke,” – it doesn’t take much to make a customer feel like a rug is being pulled out from under them, rather than a red carpet being unfurled before them.  Because of this, the importance of creating a welcoming environment for new and existing customers cannot be understated. Here, in part two of my Superfan W.A.V.E. blog series, we’ll break down three easy ways to create this environment in your business and ensure that every customer feels welcome, no matter which team member they talk to and no matter what they purchase.  Want to start back at the beginning? Sign up for my free five-day W.A.V.E. video course as a companion to these blogs! It’s full of practical tips and tricks to keep your customers happy as a clam (And yes: the puns continue in the videos, too. Sorry, not sorry! 😜 ) Recap of the Superfan W.A.V.E. Before we get into the nitty, gritty details of welcoming customers, let’s quickly recap the Superfan W.A.V.E. as a whole. The first part of this system, the word “superfan,” references the customers that consistently advocate for your brand. Although these clients aren’t getting any monetary benefits from sharing their love for your company, they’re excited about it and, as a result, can’t help but share that love with others. They’re not just fans of your products and services. They’re super-fans. In the second half of the name, the W.A.V.E acronym, each letter stands for a different component of creating superfans, including making customers feel welcomed, appreciated, validated, and engaged. Over the years, I have found that if your brand can consistently instill these feelings in your customers, everything else will fall into place. You’ll make more money, find more success, and become more relevant. What’s more—you’ll become “uncopyable,” all while enhancing the lives of your customers, and more and more of those customers will turn into superfans. Talk about a win-win! The Importance of Welcoming Customers That said, before you can turn a customer into a superfan, you have to first make them feel welcome. Whether it’s through the atmosphere of your business or the manner in which your team members address potential customers, even seemingly small details can make a customer feel like they don’t belong, and, when customers feel unwelcome, they take their dollars – and their influence – elsewhere. Take the 1990 classic Pretty Woman, for example. Early in the film, employees at a clothing store reject Julia Roberts’s character based on her attire and her language. However, she later returns, draped in shopping bags from stores who welcomed her business rather than judging her appearance, culminating in the scene below.  Even more than 30 years later, this scene is iconic, largely because most of us have felt that feeling of rejection before. In fact, our brains process the emotional sting of feeling unwelcome, excluded, or ostracized very similarly to how physical pain is processed, prompting us to avoid situations that bring on that feeling of separation. You don’t have to be a neurosurgeon to know that causing your prospective customers pain isn’t a smart business practice.  The solution to this problem is ensuring your customers feel welcomed from Day 1. The simplicity of this can feel deceptive, especially when you consider that everyone at your company will at some point almost certainly be responsible for someone’s first impression of your brand. Consequently, it’s imperative that every member of your team is on the same page about what “welcoming” looks like and how to make customers feel welcome, even in the smallest ways.  How To Make Your Customers Feel Welcomed Creating a welcoming company culture is more complex and interconnected than it seems. Depending on the size of your team or your brand offerings, it can be a challenge to outline a uniform vision for the foundation of your customer experience strategy. In light of this, it may be worthwhile to reflect on these questions: What specific steps are you taking to make potential customers feel welcomed in the places they interact with your brand online? Over the phone? In person?  What specific steps are you taking to help your employees create a welcoming environment for your customers? Do your employees feel welcome, too? For each of these questions, your answer shouldn’t be a simple “yes” or “no” but, rather, a list of existing practices or practical ideas to make a welcoming environment a staple of your brand.  Admittedly, if you’re struggling to get started, that’s understandable, too. It can take time to implement a regular system for your business, and that’s what this guide’s all about! Plus, to get you started, below are three simple ways you can begin today, even if you’re starting from scratch.  Have a clear “welcome” strategy for every customer at every touchpoint. First and foremost, outline a clear and simple plan for welcoming customers at every point of the customer experience. When they first come in contact with your brand, they should feel welcome. When they’re considering a purchase, they should feel welcome. Even if they’re not your ideal client, they should feel accepted and encouraged to look around, literally or figuratively.  To create this atmosphere, you can start with something as simple as a “hello” in-person or a “welcome” email. From there, as the customer considers your offerings in greater detail, you can match their interest with more

The Foundation Of A Great Customer Experience: Making Your Customers Feel Welcomed Read More »

Featured Image for Five Lessons From My Shark Tank Appearance I Still Use Five Years Later - Brittany Hodak

Five Lessons From My Shark Tank Appearance I Still Use Five Years Later

Five years ago today, I was anxiously awaiting the airing of my appearance on ABC’s hit series Shark Tank. My co-founder Kim and I hadn’t seen a final edit of the show — which we filmed several months earlier — and we were hoping for the best while scurrying around, doing lots of last-minute press and putting the finishing touches on a party for a few hundred of our closest friends, clients, and colleagues. On that April day, my thoughts were mostly focused on the night ahead: What parts of our hour-long conversation with the Sharks would make the roughly eight-minute TV edit? Would our recently-revamped website hold up to the surge of traffic, which we had been told would top one million? What new potential clients might we garner? And, to a lesser degree of importance, would people have a blast at our shark-themed party?  To mark the occasion, I reflected on some of the strategies I used to prepare for the show’s filming. I still use these all today in my career as a professional keynote and virtual speaker. I hope you’ll find them useful, too… whether you’re preparing for an important Zoom call with colleagues or a primetime TV appearance that will be seen by millions. 1. Be prepared for everything you can… From the time we received a call from a casting director inviting us to appear on the show, my co-founder and I prepared like crazy. As a superfan of the show, I was familiar with most of the episodes from the first five seasons. Still, I rewatched several as research, just as an athlete reviews game footage before facing an opponent. With the help of a few interns, I put together a very in-depth spreadsheet analyzing data from everyepisode’s contestants, including things like deal value, equity concessions, and even what the founders were wearing (company shirts or business attire?). My co-founder and I also wrote out answers to more than 200 different potential questions, which encompassed the universe of all questions previously asked on the show and dozens we thought could be reasonably posed to us. In short, we felt ready for anything. I’m still a big believer in the art of preparation today. That’s why, before every keynote speech I deliver, I have multiple calls not only with the executive team of the client hiring me, but with members of the audience who will be in attendance. This research is critical for me to get a great understanding of the organization or association I’m helping. Whether you’re a professional speaker or someone giving a one-off presentation, don’t ever think your advice is so universal that it can help people whose situations you aren’t intimately aware of — get to know the people you’re serving so you can deliver personalized recommendations that lead to measurable results. 2. And chill about everything you can’t. Although Kim and I thought we had prepared for everything, there were — of course! — things beyond our control. Because our company, ZinePak, worked with celebrities, we were working on getting permissions to include (and even talk about) our products until minutes before we filmed the show. Literally, minutes before! One of the final approvals we were banking on came while we were in hair and makeup. I frantically chased down a producer and said, “We can include this after all! Here’s the email approval from the artist’s personal account!” as we made last-second adjustments to our pitch. We also had no control on when, or even if, our segment would air on TV. Like most reality shows, Shark Tank routinely films way more than it shows to ensure it can curate the best viewer experiences possible. When we finally did find out we had been slated for air (roughly six months after filming), we were ecstatic! Then, a few days later, our hearts sank: the episode had been bumped for a super-secret Diane Sawyer special. (Which, as it turns out, was her groundbreaking interview where Bruce Jenner announced he was transitioning to a woman.) For about a week, we (and even the show’s producers) were unsure if ABC would reschedule the show or simply scrap it. We were told about how, following the Boston Marathon bombings, an episode had been discarded, never to re-air. The odds were 50/50 that the same would happen to our episode. Luckily, ABC ultimately made the decision to simply air the show an hour later, and the Diane Sawyer lead-in provided a big bump in the ratings.  In every presentation, there will be things beyond your control. If you’re presenting live, your support screens or microphone may stop working. For virtual meetings, you may lose internet connection or hit other technical snags. Or, your client or boss may say, “Hey, let’s go in a totally different direction!” after weeks of work, forcing you to ditch a well-rehearsed presentation to make up something on the fly. All you can do is control what’s in your control (like having back-up plans for when technology doesn’t cooperate), and roll with what life throws you for the rest of it. Even if it doesn’t seem like it in the moment, you’ll get through it… and probably even learn something important in the process (See: 2020 COVID-19 Quarantine). 3. Get SUPER clear on your message What makes YOU the best you in the world?  If you don’t understand what special thing you’ve got to offer the world, how in the world will your audience ever understand? This goes not just for presentations, but for anything you do in life. I’m always surprised by how many people who’ve been in sales or marketing for years — or even decades — who can’t tell me why they’re the very best at what they do, and the obvious choice their customer should be making. You’ve got to be able to answer this question before any communication will be effective, whether you’re telling your story on national TV or in an Instagram story. I believe part of why Kim and I received a favorable edit

Five Lessons From My Shark Tank Appearance I Still Use Five Years Later Read More »