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A Case Study in Loyalty: The Cabela’s CLUB

Cabela's Logo How do you create a world-class customer loyalty program? Focus less on providing best-in-class benefits and more on creating a great customer experience. That’s the advice of Sean Baker, the incoming CEO of Cabela’s World’s Foremost Bank and leader of the Cabela’s CLUB program.

I interviewed Sean to learn more about Cabela’s CLUB and its critical role in driving their customer experience. The lessons certainly apply to retailers as a class, but also have something to teach anybody wanting to create better relationships with customers.

CLUB Components

First, a quick background on the program. The Cabela’s CLUB is a loyalty program paired with a Visa card. It began as a partnership with a small regional bank as a way to give their best customers free gear, but in 2001 Cabela’s brought the program in-house. They are now one of only two retailers who entirely own their own bank to run their loyalty program (Nordstrom’s is the other). Read more

Guest Post: Personal Touches Make Great Online Customer Experiences

Today we have a guest post by Andrew, the Marketing Manager at GoInstant:

For all the great stuff that the internet can do, building a personal connection is much easier in person. Go to a shoe store, a car dealership, or even a McDonald’s, and you’ll notice that the human touch matters. To create great customer experiences, offline stores have learned how to cultivate strong personal connections with their customers. It’s how they provide value in a world where they can’t compete with Amazon on price. Whether it’s a smile at the cash register, or a calendar from your real estate agent, they know that great customer experiences need a bit of wonder in them. If they can provide that bit of wonder through a personal connection, loyal customers will keep coming back.

A new generation of e-commerce companies is realizing that they can also make strong personal connections with their customers. By using those connections to build unforgettable customer experiences – ones that only offline businesses had been capable of in the past – they’re competing with much more established e-commerce companies, like Amazon and Zappos, who haven’t seized on the importance of building personal connections. In other words, incredible customer service isn’t enough today. You need a more personal, human connection with your customer in order to really make their experience a great one. Read more

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Last month I had the opportunity to give the keynote speech at MindSurfFrom People to Profits: The Business Case for Employee Engagement.  This 4-minute video gives some of the highlights.  Read below for more information.

httpv://youtu.be/f6i7ky0mWNM

The description:  Employee Engagement is not just a feel-good program. Companies are seeing significant productivity and profitability gains through building a culture of engaged employees, as reported by Gallup, Towers-Perrin, Hay Group and others. The worst economic downturn in decades left many employees afraid to leave their jobs. Now that the economy is loosening up, experts warn we may see increasing turnover as employees leave for greener pastures. How will you keep your best people? This session will focus on best practices to engage employees, including the ROI of engagement and how you can get started at your company tomorrow.

The Three Keys to Great Employee Engagement:

  1. Point to a clear direction
  2. Develop your coaches
  3. Let your employees find the way

Learn more in, “From People to Profits: The Business Case for Employee Engagement!”  Contact Jim at Heart of the Customer to learn more about how he can help you improve your employee engagement.  Or visit here to see another sample video and more speaker information.

Your Customer Experience Infrastructure is Crumbling

We are facing a management crisis.  And our customers and employees are paying the price.

The mantra over the last 20 years, but particularly during the Great Recession, has been “Do More with Less.”  Financial pressures have led to gutting anything that doesn’t show a direct return, from business investments to labor in retail stores.  But as documented in my white paper, what looks good for 3 months ends up with long-term consequences.

Management is another casualty.  Reorganizations and management shake-ups are a regular occurrence.  The role of a professional manager who has the time to develop her people is a relic of the past.  And that’s negatively impacting both our employees and our customers.

Read more

Customer Experience begins with a clear strategy

Do you have a clear direction?

Asked differently: If I ask three members of your team to give me your customer experience strategy, will I get the same answer?  If the answer is yes, you have an unusual level of clarity – congratulations!  If not…

 

Clear Direction is Crucial

Fifteen years ago I was tasked to create a new business practice at ExecuTrain – providing training to IT professionals.  I laid out a clear strategy, telling my team how we were going to be first to market to beat the competition by offering classes that they didn’t yet have.  My team was excited about the opportunity.  That is, until that evening at our all staff meeting.  That’s when our CEO introduced our program to the company and told the staff that our strategy was to be fast followers.  We would let the competition try all the new classes, and we’d follow up with those that were successful.

Clearly, the team was confused.  Which was it?  In this case, they had two different leaders with opposite directions.  Which was correct? It’s like they were in a boat with kids that each tried to go in a different direction.  And we went nowhere fast! Read more

What a Ramen Noodle Shop Can Teach You About Customer Experience

 

Do you celebrate your best staff?  And do you do it publicly? Here’s a group that serves as a great model.

We always drive to the family cabin in Maine.  This year we stopped by Toronto on our way home, and I let my daughter Becca determine our itinerary for our half-day visit.  Becca has loved travel since the day she was born, so naturally she chose to take us to Chinatown.  As we wandered around we found this fantastic Japanese Ramen restaurant, Ajisen Ramen.  I highly recommend  a visit, as both the food and staff were excellent. But this isn’t a travel or restaurant blog.  What can we learn about customer experience that can apply to call center managers, grocery store leaders, travel agents or other customer experience pros?

What struck me most was Ajisen’s approach to their customer satisfaction survey.  Rather than asking a 5-, 7-, 10- or 11-point rating of satisfaction, loyalty, likelihood to recommend, etc., they do something different. Instead, they ask you to vote for the Best of the Best among their staff.  Check out their questionnaire.  They also promote the program through the poster at the entrance to the restaurant.

Read more

Join Jim at Mindsurf!

I’m pleased to announce that I will be the keynote speaker at this year’s Mindsurf conference.  Join me as we discuss From People to Profits: The Business Case for Employee Engagement.

We will walk through not only the business case, but also three very concrete steps that you can take to improve employee engagement at your organization.  The official description:

Employee Engagement is not just a feel-good program. Companies are seeing significant productivity and profitability gains through building a culture of engaged employees, as reported by Gallup, Towers-Perrin, Hay Group and others. The worst economic downturn in decades left many employees afraid to leave their jobs. Now that the economy is loosening up, experts warn we may see increasing turnover as employees leave for greener pastures. How will you keep your best people? This session will focus on best practices to engage employees, including the ROI of engagement and how you can get started at your company tomorrow.

I hope to see you there!

Case Study: Personal Customer Connections + Employee Empowerment = a Great Customer-Inspired Experience at Davanni’s

“We pretty much let our employees and customers decide what’s on our menu.”

That’s a great example of the philosophy that has led to long-term success at Davanni’s, a Twin Cities pizza and hoagy restaurant. While their local focus and fun atmosphere are definitely part of the mix, it is the extreme efforts to keep fresh with customers and employees that really drive their results.

Davanni’s has 21 locations throughout the Twin Cities. They have been in business for 37 years, featuring family-friendly food on the lower end of the cost spectrum. I originally asked to interview them about their experience with Coke’s new soda machine. But I ended up discovering the best example I’ve found of a company trusting their strategies to their customers and front-line employees. This story is a great example for any industry. Read more

Tekserve: A Blueprint for a Great B2B Customer-Inspired Experience

“Our job is to make our customers look good to their bosses.” 

That’s the philosophy of Tekserve, an Apple retailer and IT services provider in New York City, as articulated by Director of Marketing Jazmin Hupp.

Imagine that you are a long-time Apple retailer and supplier, and then Apple builds their flagship store just two miles from you, then four more just as close. Some might find it time to close up shop. Instead, Tekserve used the challenge as an opportunity to refocus on their customers. Their reward? Consistent growth, being featured in the Crain’s New York Business Fast 50 and the Computer Reseller News’ 2012 Solution Provider 500 list, which ranks the top technology integrators in North America.

Tekserve doubled-down on the service surrounding Apple’s products, particularly for businesses.  Almost 2/3 of their revenue comes from B2B relationships, where they are far nimbler than Apple. Much of their work involves integrating Apple products into existing networks, including wholesale conversions from PCs to Macs.

Tekserve credits their growth to three main areas of focus: Read more

Does technology replace the customer experience?

From Iconoculture:

UK: “Facebook” pub serves punters with table-side technology
The Thirsty Bear pub in South London is using tablet technology to help punters order food, drink and update their social network status without leaving their table. Table-side iPads and serve-yourself beer taps enable customers to order food and drink for self- or waiter-service. To start an electronic tab, punters simply leave a credit card behind the bar in order to add to their bill. Finger clicking is no longer required to grab waiters’ attention. Connected consumers can simply text staff direct via an instant messenger app to alert them that they require table service.

This is a fascinating idea. But how long can it last? Read more