Theo Gilbert-Jamison is Chief Executive Officer for Performance Solutions by Design, a consulting firm headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia that helps organizations across all industries exceed expectations by elevating the customer experience from average to extraordinary.
She is also author of several popular leadership books to include The Six Principles of Service Excellence (published in 2005).
Prior to launching Performance Solutions by Design in 2003, Theo was Vice President of Training & Organizational Effectiveness with The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company where she enjoyed a successful 17 year career.
Theo was also a key contributor, instrumental in implementing and sustaining quality processes and systems that led to The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company becoming a two-time recipient of the renowned Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.
With extensive background in Lean/Six Sigma, Leadership Development, and Human Resources — today, Theo works closely with a diverse group of organizations, ranging from automotive, legal and financial services, to education, hospitality, country clubs, luxury retail, healthcare, technology, and non-profits.
On average, Theo’s books, workshops, videos, and webinars are viewed by over 150,000 people annually.
Intro: [00:00:00] Broadcasting live from the Business RadioX studios in Atlanta, it’s time for Customer Experience Radio. Brought to you by Heineck and Company, real estate advisors specialized in corporate relocation. Now, here’s your host, Jill Heineck.
Jill Heineck: [00:00:17] Good morning and welcome to this very special edition of Customer Experience Radio. I’m your host, Jill Heineck. And I’m a business owner, a real estate adviser, and a customer experience enthusiast. On our show, we talk to professionals who are dedicated to the customer experience, who understand that customer experience fundamentally changes the way it engages and interacts with customers.
Jill Heineck: [00:00:41] And today, especially in 2021, brands are facing intense pressure to stand for something bigger than the products and the services that they sell. So, through both effective team empowerment and strategic thinking at the highest level, successful companies know that they can positively impact the customer experience with their brand, their team, and making loyal customers for life.
Jill Heineck: [00:01:02] So, one person who has really stood out to me over the last several months, as an avid giver of the goods on this topic, is today’s guest, Theo Gilbert-Jamison. Theo is Chief Executive Officer for Performance Solutions By Design, a consulting firm, headquartered in Atlanta, that helps organizations across all industries exceed expectations by elevating the customer experience from average to ordinary. She’s also the author of several popular leadership books, to include the Six Principles of Service Excellence. Prior to launching Performance Solutions by Design in 2003, Theo was VP of Training and Organizational Effectiveness with the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, where she enjoyed a successful 17 year career. Theo was also a contributor instrumental in implementing and sustaining quality processes and systems that led to the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company becoming a two time recipient of the renowned Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. Welcome, Theo.
Theo Gilbert-Jamison: [00:02:03] It’s a pleasure. Thank you so much for having me.
Jill Heineck: [00:02:06] I’m so glad that we could finally connect and get you on the show, because we have so much to cover today. But I did want you to just expound a little bit more on your transition from your Ritz career into what you’re doing now.
Theo Gilbert-Jamison: [00:02:22] Yes. Thanks. And I absolutely love telling this story because it is uncoincidental. You know, many years ago, I stumbled on working in the hospitality industry and working in all things customer experience, all things service excellence. Right out of college, I moved to Atlanta, Georgia. And my goal after graduating from college was to be a professional model. I came up to work with the modeling agency, and I did that for a couple of months. And, you know, because I was so new, I had to have a second job. I wouldn’t make it enough to quite just do that. And a friend of mine, she worked at the Ritz-Carlton in Buckhead and she said, “Go and apply. They’re always looking for people.” So, I go down, I look at the list of things that they have available.
Theo Gilbert-Jamison: [00:03:17] You know, I was just out of college. I wasn’t looking for any hotel profession. So, I looked at the list and I said, “Okay. What can I do?” And I said, “Well, I’ll be a housekeeper,” because I was only going to do this, like, until my big modeling gig got going. And so, I go down to H.R. and I’m kind of, like, in a t-shirt and jeans because I wasn’t expecting anybody to actually interview me. All through college, I was a student assistant in human resources. So, when I graduated, I didn’t really think about that as being a career. But the interviewer saw that and said, “Oh. Well, we need a secretary. We need someone part-time until we can find our full-time person. Because you’re not going to do housekeeping, I can tell you that right now.” So, I chuckled because I really didn’t know what was involved.
Theo Gilbert-Jamison: [00:04:10] And I started as a temporary in human resources at the Ritz-Carlton Buckhead in Atlanta. And I did it for 30 days, and they still haven’t found anybody. And I had, like, good secretarial skills, and typing, and all that because I took all of that, you know, that was important at that time. And so, I did it for 30 days. They didn’t find anybody. I did it for another 30 days. And my modeling career was up and down. And they said, “We really like you. Would you like to take this job?” And I really had to think about it. And I said, “You know what? They really treat people nice. I really like the whole feel of this. Yes.”
Theo Gilbert-Jamison: [00:04:48] And I started as a secretary in human resources. I worked there 20 years in every aspect of human resources, secretary, benefits manager, employment manager, assistant director, human resources director, all the way up to vice president of Learning and Development for the Ritz-Carlton worldwide. That was my last role that I did. I launched the Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center, I did that for about three years. And then, after that, I went on to doing other things. But it was just kind of, like, not coincidental at all. And that was just a Ph.D. in customer experience. It was such a wonderful, tremendous opportunity. So, that’s how it all started.
Jill Heineck: [00:05:29] And then, tell us a little bit about your transition from the Ritz-Carlton to where you are now.
Theo Gilbert-Jamison: [00:05:34] Yes. Well, my last couple of years, as I said, I was running the Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center where people would come in because they want to learn all the secrets of the Ritz, and we would try and teach them. Our CEO always felt like, “They’re not going to do it all anyway, so just tell them.” And so, some companies would say, “Can you come in and consult because we really want to take this to the next level?” And when I went to my boss, who was the Senior VP of Human Resources, she said, “Nah. We don’t want to do that.” So, that was fine. I was loving what I was doing, getting to travel all around the world, and train and teach people around, ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.
Theo Gilbert-Jamison: [00:06:18] And when the organization was purchased by the Marriott Corporation, I decided that I wanted to – I just bought a house outside Atlanta. I didn’t want to have to relocate again and I decided to part ways. And that’s how I started, with a couple of friends from Ritz-Carlton, Performance Solutions by Design. And that’s what we did. We consulted and we still, today, consult organizations that want to raise the bar and elevate the customer experience from average to extraordinary. They wanted unparalleled extraordinary service. And that’s what we helped organizations try to achieve.
Jill Heineck: [00:06:53] Okay. I love this. So, that just parlays right into our next conversation, right? So, talk to us a little bit about what things are you doing that you can share to help companies do that? I mean, is there anything in particular that stands out to you at this moment that our listeners would really appreciate hearing from you in that regard?
Theo Gilbert-Jamison: [00:07:18] Yeah. You know, prior to the pandemic and so on, you know, organizations were kind of like on the strategic track where they want to elevate the customer experience. And I do agree, for it to be sustainable, it’s got to be more than just a nice smile class. Take everybody to a class, teach them how to smile. We used to laugh and jokingly call it, “Take them to a Kumbaya fest.” It’s not sustainable. So, over the last 12 months, I’ve been working on, you know, how do we create sustainability and help them to create this phenomenal level of service. So, I’ve been working on – what I call – getting to 90 percent, how to achieve and sustain 90 percent or higher customer satisfaction. And a lot of people laughed because they’re like, “That is not possible for you.”
Jill Heineck: [00:08:08] It’s possible.
Theo Gilbert-Jamison: [00:08:08] But, you know, it really is. It is. Jill, we’re just looking at some statistics day before yesterday, that even today, with all this benchmarking and just all the information out there about how to elevate the customer experience, still, most companies at most only experience around an average of 83 percent customer satisfaction. So, you know, that’s kind of like that’s barely a B.
Jill Heineck: [00:08:35] Right, exactly.
Theo Gilbert-Jamison: [00:08:35] Right? [Crosstalk] that loyalty. so, getting to 90 percent, that’s my new claim to fame.
Jill Heineck: [00:08:41] So, give us an example of what you would advise a client to do or a tweak that they would have to make in their service delivery to reach that?
Theo Gilbert-Jamison: [00:08:52] It’s simple and at the same time it’s easy. You know, again, what organizations want to do is bring in some fancy person that wrote a book that can come in and do a quick one hour webinar. And in order, really, to create sustainable change, I think it starts with – this is my process that I’m on to now – an organization has to look at where are we today, where are the gaps in our service process today, where do we want to be, what’s the desired state. So, that’s number one. You know, so many organizations never actually use their services, so they don’t realize how frustrating it is for a customer. Like, “Why are they upset? Why can’t we get beyond 80 percent?” “Have you ever used your process?” We’ve all been there. You know, technology is everything. You go on to order. You go on to do this and that. And sometimes the process is so cumbersome that you’re like, “God, I wish I could just talk to a human being.”
Theo Gilbert-Jamison: [00:09:53] So, you know, first you have to figure out where you are, where you want to go. Then, the next step is to kind of figure out where are the gaps, what’s preventing you from getting there. Here’s a big one I can tell you, a lot of people think that, “Our gap is training. We just need to train everybody to be nicer.” No. That’s important. But before that – and you know this, Jill – enough companies don’t invest in selecting the right people. Start with selecting the right people, then guess what? The training and all the other stuff after that is so much easier. You know, think about how often you go to the grocery store. The cashier barely wants to smile. Why is she even there? You’ve selected the wrong person. Everybody has a bad day. The selection process is the problem. So, you identify your gap, you find out where you are today versus where you want to go –
Jill Heineck: [00:10:46] So, let me back up one second. So, would you say that a majority of the time it is the talent selection that is a majority of the problem?
Theo Gilbert-Jamison: [00:10:56] I think that’s 50 percent of the time. The other 50 percent of the time is ineffective processes.
Jill Heineck: [00:11:03] Right. Which makes total sense. So, if you don’t have the right people and you don’t have the right processes, well, obviously, that’s bad. But then, if you have the right people with the wrong processes, you still can’t deliver. So, you know, one of the things that I love seeing – you know, what you’ve been posting lately – about really working on building that and building a great team that can deliver and that wants to deliver in a great way. But, also, empowering them to be able to do so. And that takes a long time. And I think companies, they feel like they’re racing to get through things instead of just slow down, back up. The process is slow. And to be effective, you have to pull it apart and then put it back together.
Theo Gilbert-Jamison: [00:11:53] So true. I’m working with a wonderful health care organization right now and we’ve been doing a gap analysis. And all along, the CEO thought that, “Oh, my people just aren’t nicer. They just need to be nicer.” The kindest people I have ever worked with. And what we’re finding out is that, there’s some processes that are inefficient and ineffective, so it doesn’t matter how nice and kind the person is. If the processes are flawed – bless their heart – the customer is still going to be frustrated and dissatisfied.
Jill Heineck: [00:12:28] And so, is the team trying to use it. I mean, that’s why they’re not happy and smiling.
Theo Gilbert-Jamison: [00:12:35] Yes. You’re so right. So right.
Jill Heineck: [00:12:39] So, that leads kind of into what you and I are both passionate about, and that’s employee empowerment. And so, let’s talk a little bit about what you’re doing in that space right now. Do you have any particular special programs that you implement? Or is there a process, like a Theo’s Brand program, that you share with clients when they’re really trying to get their teams excited about their service delivery or just to elevate their service delivery?
Theo Gilbert-Jamison: [00:13:11] Yeah. I love that, because, as you said, empowerment is so important. I have a program, I call it The Art of Listening, because that’s important. We’ll talk about that in a moment, The Art of Listening, employee empowerment and effective service recovery. Because to effectively resolve an issue, the person has to listen. And we can go down so many rabbit holes, most people don’t have good listening skills. So, that’s the issue. Secondly, most people just aren’t properly trained so that they can be empowered to resolve an issue.
Theo Gilbert-Jamison: [00:13:49] Let me give you an example that everybody has heard of before. You know, Ritz-Carlton – I don’t know if you hear this too much today – when I was there, people always raved about the fact that, “Wow. Ritz-Carlton empowers people up to $2,000 to resolve an issue before going to a manager.” How are they not bankrupt? But they weren’t bankrupt because a lot of training and development went into that process improvement so that you fix the problem. Because if a customer has an issue or problem, everybody’s taught, “Apologize. Apologize and give them something so they’ll come back.” So, you apologize, you give them a dozen roses.
Theo Gilbert-Jamison: [00:14:31] But then, guess what? Next time they come back, the problem is still there. So, with empowerment, not only are you empowered, I think you should be empowered to go ahead and take care of that issue. But you should also be empowered to resolve it so it doesn’t happen again. Because companies lose a lot of money, I can tell you, on refunding, and rebating, and giving away gifts because, you know, they’ve messed up. And nobody ever goes back to look at how can we fix that.
Jill Heineck: [00:15:00] Absolutely. When we had Horst Schulze in March of – I think it was last – no – the year before. Wow. Yeah. Because last year was a pandemic. That’s when the pandemic started. But when he launched his book, he actually did go into deeper detail on the empowerment piece. And I think that is one reason why Ritz has been so successful and why people keep coming back because they know – God forbid – you know, the one example he gave us was, a guest had left their laptop in the room and the employee, like, literally got on a plane and flew out to Hawaii to return the laptop. I mean, that’s insane. But that is such an amazing example of elevating that process and giving that employee and that guest that boost.
Theo Gilbert-Jamison: [00:15:51] And I’m so lucky to have worked with him. I’m glad that you mentioned Horst Schulze, because my entire 17 years, he was there too. And I love that, you know, he was so humble in his leadership. He probably said this, too, he would often tell us, “We’re the best of a lousy lot.” He would say, “You know what? On a scale of one to five with five high, we’re probably about three. But thank God the competition is a one or two.” This was at our pinnacle, Jill. This is at our pinnacle when we’re winning Malcolm Baldrige Awards and all this kind of great stuff. But guess what? That kept us humble and that kept our eye on the market. You know what? At any time, you can do something to create customer dissatisfaction that will disintegrate all of that loyalty and all that good stuff.
Jill Heineck: [00:16:38] It only takes one, right? So, it takes a lifetime to build your reputation and create a customer for life. But it takes one bad experience – and with social media now – it can just crush you.
Theo Gilbert-Jamison: [00:16:51] Yes. God, I love you. Can we just talk forever?
Jill Heineck: [00:16:55] I mean, you know, the basis of my business has always been about we are helping people transition in life. And whether it’s buying and selling homes with a job, relocating, et cetera, it’s a very touchy experience. And so, we want to make sure that, you know, every step of the way we are aware of that. We’re listening every step of the way, which to your point, the art of listening. I mean, that’s key in any business. But what we’re finding more and more now, particularly during pandemic times with the concerns of health and safety, you’re really having to listen to the client say, “You know what? I don’t want people coming in and out of my house. So, what’s the process that you’re going to implement to prevent that from happening?”
Jill Heineck: [00:17:39] So, I mean, most companies are really challenged with finding people to (A) do the work and (B) be excited about evolving as a team player. So, you know, in my business also when we’re trying to hire, I mean, it’s not easy to find that person who comes packaged well in terms of, you were talking earlier, it’s hard to identify nice people. So, most people inherently are nice.
Theo Gilbert-Jamison: [00:18:13] I agree.
Jill Heineck: [00:18:13] They want to be in a nice environment. And are you giving them that nice environment? You just made a point that it was so nice to work at the Ritz-Carlton Company. So, I think about that, you know, you have to create the culture that people want to be in there. That will bring the nice out.
Theo Gilbert-Jamison: [00:18:31] I agree with that.
Jill Heineck: [00:18:32] Along with all the other things you mentioned, like training and development and giving them the tools and the processes that are going to actually make the experience for them and for the customer an extraordinary one. So, I want to talk about how are you advising your clients right now on, you know, taking it to that extraordinary experience? Like, for example, are you working with mainly service companies? Are you working with point of sale? Like, where are you? What kind of companies are you working with and how are you coaching them there?
Theo Gilbert-Jamison: [00:19:08] Yeah. You know, I’m fortunate that I am working everywhere. When we started the company, we were focused mostly on hospitality and retail because those are very front facing. But I’ve been a lot in health care, a lot with private country clubs, a lot of technology and manufacturing. You know, sometimes people think, “Well, in manufacturing and technology, you’re not dealing specifically with the customer so you don’t have to worry about that.” But guess what? We have internal and external customers, and these are great companies that realize that.
Theo Gilbert-Jamison: [00:19:46] One thing I learned – and this is what they realized too – when I was in human resources or when I first started my career, I thought, “Oh, I don’t have any customers because I’m working in H.R. I’m only working with the employees.” But then, spoiler alert, somebody said one day, “Guess what? —
Jill Heineck: [00:20:02] They’re your customers.
Theo Gilbert-Jamison: [00:20:04] You have internal and external customers. You should treat everybody with the highest level of dignity and respect. So, you know, we’re working in all industries because, as Horst probably said too – and I’d say some things he says because I worked with him for 17 years – “The same customer that stays in a luxury hotel is the same customer that goes to the doctor, goes to the bank, goes to the gas station, buys technology. These are all the same people.” So, for someone to say, “Oh. Well, we’re not a hotel,” I used to hear that quite a bit. “We like your stuff but we’re not a hotel.” It doesn’t matter. Service is service. And when you get to a point that regardless of whatever your product or service is, you try to provide an unparalleled experience that’s personalized for that customer. They’re going to be a customer for life. Just like you said, only just one negative interaction and 50 percent or more people will never come back again.
Jill Heineck: [00:21:07] Yeah. People are very testy these days, right?
Theo Gilbert-Jamison: [00:21:09] Exactly. Yes.
Jill Heineck: [00:21:12] Listen, I’m not excluded from that. I mean, you know, it’s like I’ve been a customer of yours for X amount of years and then that one interaction where that particular employee treated me like dirt, I mean, I don’t understand. Obviously, it’s a management problem. Obviously, it’s a quality control problem. I get all that. And sometimes, you know, I’ve got to give grace where grace is due. And I give myself grace and I have to give others grace. But to your point, I mean, that could ruin it. That could ruin it.
Jill Heineck: [00:21:38] So, I wanted to talk a little bit about – if you don’t mind pivoting a little bit – you know, we hear so much about service versus experience. And I’ve always been an experienced person, much less in service, and it’s fine. I don’t know if you ever listened to Clark Howard, but he always talks about customer no service. And I laughed because a majority of companies, unfortunately, that’s where they live, in customer no service. So, how do you differentiate service and experience with your clients? And what’s important about that?
Theo Gilbert-Jamison: [00:22:13] Well, this is a great question. Wow. You have some good questions. When I think about customer service versus a customer experience, customer experience is kind of like in three more years, it’ll be another word. Customer service used to be acceptable. Then, we move to service excellence. Now, it’s customer experience. But when I think about customer service versus customer experience, because that’s what you asked, to me, customer service is like a department that you call when you have a problem. And that’s where Clark Howard says you get customer no service. To me, customer service is, they just do the minimum, meet your expectations, comply with your needs, just do enough just to get by.
Jill Heineck: [00:22:59] But do they? Do they meet your expectations? That’s always the question.
Theo Gilbert-Jamison: [00:23:03] No. Because guess what? No. Because the customer experience is where they’ll just do enough to meet and comply, but where you exceed expectations. Exceeding is just doing a little bit more. You know, just doing a little bit more. Maybe use that person’s name. Maybe you remember something that they like from the last time that they came so that you personalize it. It’s being accommodating and flexible. You know, if someone has an issue not saying, “No, that’s not our policy.” So, an experience is saying, “Well, I apologize we can’t do that. But let me see what we can do.” Or, “Here is something that might help you.” An experience just takes it to the next level. It’s something that people remember. Memorable experience is what’s coming to mind.
Theo Gilbert-Jamison: [00:23:50] Customer service is just, “Oh, plus A. Yeah, that was okay.” To me, too, without extending too long on this, it’s kind of like customer satisfaction versus customer loyalty. It’s like the customer, “You know, 80 percent, yeah, I’m satisfied.” But loyal is 90 percent or higher. And when you have customers with that level of satisfaction, they will not easily be swayed by the competition.
Jill Heineck: [00:24:18] I love that. I love what you just said. And that brings me to what your coin term here, which I picked up from you, is the effective service recovery. That, to me, kind of lands in the service department. But it could be avoided if it was already elevated and that team was already thinking experience versus service. You could avoid this altogether. But let’s talk a little bit about your effective service recovery. I was reading on your posts and going through all that, and I just love it. Not everybody, not every professional, not every company believes in this.
Jill Heineck: [00:25:01] But this has been since day one – I’m 22 years in the real estate business – in my very first contract, I made a mistake in the contract. Well, I had to raise my hand after, you know, a week of crying and say to my customer, “I made a mistake and I need to let the other parties know.” But I understand that this could be my first commission as good night because I have to pay for that mistake. But stepping up to that and owning up to it, and then already creating the solution to say, “Look, I’m just going to let them know. I’ll cover it.” And let me tell you, when the other parties came back and they heard that, you know, I said that I made a mistake. I understand the commissions on the line. They all came back and all four of us split it four ways. And it was my client’s suggestion to do it. So, I think, part of this effective service recovery is owning up to it. Which some companies, you know, the customer isn’t always right.
Theo Gilbert-Jamison: [00:26:03] Yes. This is funny, they say that Cesar Ritz – who was the person that developed the Ritz in early 1900 or late 1800 – he coined the phrase that the customer is always right, in his own mind. I thought that was so funny. No, but at the same time the customer is right. What I love is that you took ownership and then you apologized. You took ownership instead of placing blame. In doing that, you actually regained their loyalty and trust to the extent that they’re like, “No. We’re not going to let you suffer because of this.”
Jill Heineck: [00:26:44] Right. And then, they went on to buy – you know, we did four or five additional sales after that. So, that just really was incredible to me because I thought for sure that was the end of that story. And, you know, three years later, I get a call. And five years later after that, I get a call. So, I think it’s just showing your commitment to the process, commitment to them, you listened. You understood that, you know, “I made a mistake. I just got to own up to it.” But I also think that, you know, at a very early stage in my business, I was already focused on the experience. And I did not want them to leave with a bad taste in their mouth, to feel like they had been duped, to feel like I wasn’t paying attention. And that, I think, is lacking in a lot of companies right now, paying attention.
Theo Gilbert-Jamison: [00:27:35] The problem with so many companies is that they automatically, “Oh, we’re going to lose money.” But you gained. You gained. And you know what? By that, they became a customer for life.
Jill Heineck: [00:27:44] But it’s looking at the long game, right? They’re short sighted, right? So, I always have looked at the long game. You’re building your business and you can’t worry about churning and burning. You have to pay attention to the process you’re in now. And I understand that every company wants to continue to have customers banging the door down. You know, you want that funnel filled. You want people to continue to call you. But you have to take care of the ones you’re with today so that they’ll keep coming back, so you don’t have to worry about continually spending money on getting new business.
Theo Gilbert-Jamison: [00:28:18] Exactly. So, you know, in a nutshell, what you did, it’s a four step process. The first thing is, if the customer has an issue or problem, the first thing is that you listen without interrupting. Allow them to vent. Sometimes in their venting, they’ll say, “Jill, I just don’t want this to happen again.” So often while people are venting, we’re already in fix it mode. We don’t even have to fix it. So, first is to listen.
Theo Gilbert-Jamison: [00:28:46] The second is to always empathize. The ability to put yourself in that person’s shoes – which I’m sure you did – you know, “Wow. If that were me, what would I want done to empathize?” And empathy can be as simple as, “I apologize. I’m so sorry that that happened,” you know, depending on the incident. But you empathized, typically, that brings a person’s temperament down. Ever had someone screaming to the top of their lungs over something that’s very minute. But as soon as you empathize, “I’m so sorry. I could understand why you might be upset. Let me see what I can do.” Guess what they do? They calm down, “It’s not you. It’s just that today this happened and that happened before this. And I’m just so – I apologize. I didn’t mean to yell at you.” So, we listen. We empathize.
Theo Gilbert-Jamison: [00:29:36] This is the tricky one that I teach in service recovery. Ask, “How can I fix this for you?” Now, people get scared because they’re afraid, “Oh, my God. They’re going to want the whole thing for free now.” Ninety percent of people don’t. Ninety percent of people say, “I don’t know. I just want you to fix it.” But if they’ve told you -sometimes they’ve already told you, so that it could also be act, “Here’s how I’m going to resolve this for you. I apologize. Here’s what I’m going to do to resolve it.” And then, produce that solution.
Theo Gilbert-Jamison: [00:30:07] And I always say follow up. This is where a lot of customers and service recovery or a lot of companies stop. Even after you listen, you empathize, you ask how you can fix it, you fix the problem, the last thing is to follow up with them a few days later to ensure it’s been resolved to their satisfaction. Because sometimes that’s the problem is that, “I have listened. So, I gave you something for free, which you didn’t care about. So, it didn’t mean anything to you. And so, you’re still disgruntled, dissatisfied, upset. You’re going to badmouth me.” And like you said, with technology and social media, that’s really easy to do. Follow up. You have the ability to come back and say, “Miss Jones, last week this happened and we did this. I just want to follow up to make sure everything is okay.” Oh, my goodness, that’s like the icing on the cake. You have created a customer for life now. Not only are they your customer for life, but they’re more likely to tell other people about you even though you made a mistake. Tell more people about you, buy more from you, recommend you, all that great stuff.
Jill Heineck: [00:31:12] Again, it comes back to grace. They’re giving you grace. You owned up to your mistake. Everybody makes mistakes. We’re human beings. And so, to your point, when you are following up, they realize, “Okay. They took notice of me. They made a note. They made an effort to call me back.” And even if the response was, “You know what? No. Nothing really changed. And, you know, I’m still not happy.” It still gives you an opportunity to try again. And sometimes you get shut down, but at least you made the effort. And I think even then someone is still going to refer the business because there was that effort made on the back end.
Theo Gilbert-Jamison: [00:31:52] And so many people don’t. This is what makes you such a superstar. So, many people in their companies, you have problems. They’re already blaming. That was H.R.’s fault. That was accounting’s fault. They don’t care. So, okay. That’s back-off number one, bad experience. They don’t empathize. You know, they don’t ask you how they can fix it. They have produced a solution that’s not going to cost them any money because they’re so afraid they’re going to lose a few dimes. And then, nobody ever follows up. So, if you follow that simple process, I mean, you become such a superstar. That’s why I say, getting 90 percent is not as difficult as people think. It’s just consistency around a couple of simple things. Number one is kindness and respect, smile, be kind.
Jill Heineck: [00:32:39] To another human being, to a human. Remember, there are human beings on the other side like you.
Theo Gilbert-Jamison: [00:32:46] Exactly. So true. So true.
Jill Heineck: [00:32:48] I totally agree with that. One of the things that we’ve implemented and that we’ve been training our team on from the listening perspective is, when you’re in that initial stage with that customer or client, we’re asking them questions like, “How do I win with you? You know, we want you to shout our names from the rooftops when we’re done working together on this particular transaction. So, how do I win with you? And then, tell me, “How do I lose with?” You know, what things, you know, really make you crazy? And then, how do you prefer to be communicated with? I know with online businesses, like, for example, our friends at Amazon, everything’s online. But I’ll tell you my experience with their customer service department has been stellar. Their texting customer service process has been stellar. And they said, “How else can I help you?” And then, a day later, I’ll get another call or email, “How was that? Are you okay with it? Will you now rate us?”
Jill Heineck: [00:33:43] So, you know, sometimes you don’t have a choice on how are you going to be communicated with. But in my case, you are. And then, we talk about, “Look. If this experience isn’t working out for either one of us -” you know, we figure that out in the first month working together. But, you know, either one of us can say, “You know what? This isn’t working for me. Let’s go our separate ways.” You know what that does? It sets you up for, like, “Wow. They’re being transparent. They care about how I feel.” And you know me, 99 percent of the time, that’s not going – you know, we’re together. We’re together to the end. But the fact that they have the option – God forbid – that they’re not feeling comfortable in the situation, they don’t feel locked down, it’s not going to be this big knockdown drag out to get out of the contract.
Jill Heineck: [00:34:24] So, I think, you know, every business is different and that’s just the way we work. And not every company can do it that way. But I think, you know, to your point, that’s where we’re going with elevating that customer experience so that they feel like, you know, this is a company who’s paying attention and invested in me.
Theo Gilbert-Jamison: [00:34:41] And if I can add to that, because so often, one thing that I talk about, you’re actually showing how you demonstrate it is personalizing the experience. Because then you make a person feel valued. And just in asking those questions, that helps down the road so that you know their likes, their dislikes, how do they like to be communicated. Do they want text? Do they want a phone call? Do they want an email? All of those are things that help you just to connect a little bit closer with that client or that customer by personalizing that experience. That’s another just big way to move on the trajectory of achieving 90 percent. Achieving and then you have to look at keeping those things going so that it’s sustained.
Jill Heineck: [00:35:23] Absolutely. I mean, we could go on for days about this, right? But one thing – just to kind of bring everything around full circle here – when you talk about listening and being genuinely focused on what the person is saying and not interrupting them, I think that in it of itself is huge. And I think this quote by Maya Angelou – which is amazing and I’m sure you’ve heard it a million times – I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. And, you know, you could have had a complete meltdown with this client or they could have had a complete meltdown when they’re talking to you. But in the end, you’ve provided solutions and then they will feel validated and will want to come back to you even after the meltdown. And I just have to keep that that quote in front of me so often. I have it on my phone. I have it on my laptop. I have it on my wall. And I just have to continually think about that and then put myself in that position, how would I feel if I were them?
Theo Gilbert-Jamison: [00:36:29] You know, it’s all about how people feel, like you said. So many times – we’re not perfect. The customer doesn’t expect us to be perfect, but they do expect us to fix things immediately when they go wrong. And I think about how often if you just listen, empathize, make them feel valued, how you, again, regain that and you make sure that that thing doesn’t happen again. — that problem. The shipping was wrong. They got charged too much. Some of their employee was a little abrupt with them. You know, you just make sure that doesn’t happen again. That listening is just so important.
Theo Gilbert-Jamison: [00:37:09] You know, with listening, one of the things that I realized, too – and we teach this – is that when it comes to listening and service recovery, people want instant, instant. “Let’s hurry up business because I got five other clients on the line. I don’t want to hear them ramble and vent.” You know, we listen at a speed, I think, of about – well, people speak at a speed, I think, of about 125 words per minute. But we listen and comprehend and process at about 400 words a minute. So, we’re processing and comprehending so much quicker than the person can explain it, that sometimes that’s a talent and a curse. Because of that, we have a tendency to cut them off because we already know how to fix it.
Theo Gilbert-Jamison: [00:37:53] And like you say, feeling. Feeling valued means that sometimes you just let them go ahead and vent and get it all out. And once they’ve done that, sometimes they’re apologizing to you. You know, then you make sure you resolve that. Because, again, in my years in hospitality, I can think of how many times someone’s room service was later, this happened, or that happened, we messed up their dry cleaning, their laptop is missing, this, that. We apologized. We’d send them some cookies or a bottle of wine or something, but we never fixed the problem. So, they come back next week, it happens again. So, as a part of service recovery, that issue has to be or that process has to be fixed. Where’s the gap in the process that’s causing dissatisfaction and and so on?
Theo Gilbert-Jamison: [00:38:42] And I just keep honing on that because so many organizations and leaders think that, “Oh. We just take them to Theo’s training.” Because they love that. They had such a great time in the training. And, you know, even the best person, if the processes are flawed – I think it was Demming that said that 80 percent of issues in any organization is processes, not people. So, listening, fixing the process, personalizing the experience, we could go on and on. That’s why you have this lovely show, because there’s so much on this.
Jill Heineck: [00:39:16] There’s so much to cover. And it really is a passion of mine, because I think that – now, I think more and more companies are making it a priority. And so, you have been such an incredible guest. I so much appreciate your time. And I know that our listeners have enjoyed you so much. I know that they have, preemptively speaking. So, I wanted to thank everyone for listening. I’m proud to share this show with you as these tips prioritize the customer experience as a legit business strategy – hear that everyone? It’s a legit business strategy – reminding us that no matter the business you’re in, whether it’s consulting, food service, hospitality or real estate, the customer experience should always be the heart of the business.
About Your Host
Jill Heineck is a leading authority on corporate relocations, and is highly sought after for her real estate industry acumen and business insights. As a published author, frequent panelist and keynote speaker, Jill shares her experience and perceptions with people from around the globe.
Jill is a founding partner of Keller Williams Southeast, established in 1999, and the founder and managing partner of Heineck & Co. Her real estate practice specializes in corporate relocations, individual relocations, luxury residential, and commercial properties. Jill’s analytical approach to problem-solving, along with her expert negotiation skills and sophisticated marketing, deliver superior results to her clients. Her winning strategies and tenacious client advocacy have earned her a reputation for excellence among Atlanta’s top producers.
While Jill has received many accolades throughout her career, she is most gratified by the personal testimonials and referrals she receives from her clients. Jill’s unwavering commitment to the customer experience, and her focus on the unique needs of each client, serve as the foundation of her success.
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