Posted by Elena del Valle on February 27, 2019
The Journey to Wow
Photos: Shaun Belding
Shaun Belding believes that when it comes to customer service the customer’s point of view is the only one that is important. Convinced it had been 25 years since anyone had written about the issues he set out to remedy the situation by authoring The Journey to Wow The Path to Outstanding Customer Experience and Loyalty (Koehlerbooks, $16.95) using a fictional company to illustrate the salient points.
“It was the right time for this kind of book,” he said when asked by email why he wrote the book now. “Customer experience is continuing to be a dominant factor in organizational success, so the topic is something that every company needs to be focused on.
The inspiration of the book came from two things: The first was that I saw a gap in the existing literature surrounding the topic. While there were a lot of very good books that touch on specific aspects of customer experience – convenience, effort, customer service, etc –there weren’t any that examined it as a comprehensive entity.
The second inspiration was that, since Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles wrote Raving Fans 25 years ago, nobody has really presented customer experience from the perspective of the customer. It seems to me that, when push comes to shove, the customer’s is the only perspective that really matters, isn’t it? I found it a little odd that the one voice that matters, the customers’ voice, hadn’t really been heard for 25 years.”
His target audience? Anyone who is involved with customers and not just customer experience geeks, he said.
“Having said that, some of the core messages are directly targeted to people in executive leadership positions,” he said. “There is a direct relationship between a company’s ability to deliver consistent, sustainable customer experience, and how well a CEO truly understands the perspectives of his or her customers.”
Regarding loyalty the author said, “The best way to define loyalty is through the words of our customers. Loyalty is when a customer asks, ‘Why on earth would I want to do business with anyone else?’ – and then can’t think of a good answer.”
The 201-page softcover book published in 2018 has 26 chapters and an epilogue. It was written using a fictional narrative.
Shaun Belding, author, The Journey to Wow
When asked how long it took for the book to be published he replied, “I’m almost embarrassed to say. The Journey to WOW was a bit of a journey for me as well, as it took ten years to get it from start to finish. I had to squeeze the time out between trying to run a company and travelling around the world with my speaking engagements. Oh yeah – and trying to be a husband and father – I can’t forget about that.
On a positive note, the experience was a bit of a wake-up call for me. Toward the end, when I started re-reading it, I realized how many of the references that I had written in the early stages were already outdated. Nobody uses faxes or PDAs much anymore. I had to change those references.
I also realized that I had not initially included anything related to social media and smart phones – because those hadn’t yet begun to impact the business world in a big way. It was crazy that I had to update the book so much before it even got published. A big reminder of how fast our world is changing.”
When asked why he used a fictional company (Household Solutions) in the book he replied, “With Household Solutions (instead of an existing company) I was able to create a wonderful composite which allowed me to demonstrate many of the common challenges all companies face.
The most important issue I was able to illustrate was right at the beginning – an executive leadership team that had no idea how bad their customer experience was. And that, despite how bright and motivated they were, they still were failing to see how profoundly it was damaging their future. This level of unawareness is far more prevalent than almost everyone realizes. The fact that the iconic retailer Sears filed for Chapter 11 only two weeks after The Journey to WOW came out really punctuated that fact.
Even those companies that are trying to keep their fingers on the pulse of their customers are at risk, because most of the methodologies they are using aren’t giving them the real or whole story. This actually puts them at greater risk in some ways, because the Big Data convinces them that everything is okay, and they become complacent.
It also allowed me to highlight the impact of some common corporate practices that have a profound negative impact on customer loyalty. Things like companies that hide their telephone numbers, and make it impossible to have a conversation with a human. Executives that build walls around them so that they don’t have to talk with customers. Decisions that are focused more on customers’ wallets than on customers themselves.”
When asked: How can a company convince disinterested employees to offer outstanding customer service? He answered: “Fantastic question. And the answer really boils down to two things – leadership and support.
There are indeed some customer service employees who just don’t care. There are many more who do care but don’t know what to do. The question we need to ask is – why? How has this happened?
Far too many customer service employees aren’t set up for success from the moment they are hired. They aren’t given anywhere close to an adequate level of direction, appreciation, respect or tools to do their jobs well. It seems to me that this is more of an indictment of leadership than anything else.
Leaders need to have a clear and motivating purpose for their teams – something that gives their team a reason to care. They need to lead with passion. They need to ensure their team is trained (with professional training, not just a couple of YouTube videos to watch). They need to clearly articulate their expectations to each team member, and then provide relentless support to help them be successful.
Most companies want to deliver outstanding customer service, and most understand the tremendous value and ROI that comes with it. But most don’t know where to start. Most try to apply solutions before they truly understand what it’s like to be one of their own customers.
Not coincidentally, those companies that have succeeded are also the ones which have a strong and sustainable customer-focused culture. They understand that a culture of outstanding customer experience isn’t achieved by just telling employees to deliver better service. They know that delivering outstanding customer experience is a mission. It is in a company’s DNA. Most importantly, they know it’s not a destination – it’s a journey.”
Belding is chief executive officer of The Belding Group of Companies. The Journey to Wow was his sixth book. His first five were on how to navigate difficult people and achieve success in the workplace.