Have you ever wondered what it is that makes some companies so likeable? According to CX expert Jeanne Bliss, leaders of these companies all have one thing in common – they treat their customers the same way they’d treat their mothers.
Last month, Jeanne joined Acquia to present a webinar on the topic of her latest book and revealed how our favourite brands are the ones that “Make Mom Proud” when it comes to the customer experience.
Bliss kicked off her session with a powerful point: Businesses must earn the right to growth by improving people’s lives. Not only is growth a right that businesses must earn (more than ever, in today’s hyper-competitive landscape) but that it should be achieved via philanthropic intentions towards customers, rather than simply selling harder and faster.
Using examples based on shared values from the women in her life (her mother and grandmothers), Bliss identified four key behaviours that the most beloved brands share:
- Be the person I raised you to be.
- Don’t make me feed you soap.
- Put others before yourself.
- Take the high road.
Be the Person I Raised You to Be
When Indra Nooyi became CEO of PepsiCo, she went home to visit her mother. As guests arrived at the house, Nooyi noticed that they didn’t congratulate her on her new role, but instead congratulated her mother on bringing up a daughter who had become so successful. Nooyi carried this principle into her new role and began a practice of writing letters to the parents of her senior executives, thanking them for the gift of their children to the company.
Bliss used Nooyi’s story as evidence for how the most loved companies put key values at the heart of the business, then hire people who are congruent with those values and enable them to thrive.
In another example of putting values first, Bliss recalled how Toby Cosgrove, former CEO of Cleveland Clinic (one of the largest healthcare organisations in the U.S.), introduced two simple but powerful rules which transformed the customer experience. First, Cosgrove introduced a “no passing rule,” meaning that no staff member, regardless of job function, was allowed to pass a patient’s room without checking in on them, if their call light was turned on. Second, regardless of their job functions, all staff members’ top priority was to become a “caregiver.”
Bliss highlighted how both of these fairly simple rules empowered staff to take time to put customers first. What’s your company’s equivalent of the “no passing rule”?
Don’t Make Me Feed You Soap
On this point, Bliss stressed the importance of removing the barriers that make doing business with your company difficult. One of the most precious gifts you can give customers is time and companies that do business on their customers’ time will never be perceived as caring companies. (Examples here include dry cleaners that close before 6 p.m. and service providers that give a five-hour window for when they may – or may not – arrive to carry out a job).
Another sticking point that severely impacts the customer experience is how well you know your customers and taking time to provide a human touch. Bliss pointed to examples such as Stitch Fix, a personal styling service that learns about your personal style and tastes, creates a profile for you, then appoints one of its more than 4,000 stylists to curate a box of clothing items that you might like. Not only is “knowing the customer” central to this service but, rather than simply using AI to make style suggestions, the company maintains a personal touch by appointing human stylists who write letters to customers, explaining their choices.
Stitch Fix has achieved $730 million growth in less than six years.
Put Others Before Yourself
“Beloved companies realise that to achieve their goals, they must first enable the customer to achieve theirs,” Bliss said. “This sometimes leads to actions that, on the face of it, might go against common business sense.”
As an example, Bliss referred to Alaska Airlines, which created an employee app called the “We Trust You Toolkit.” The app is accessible to all Alaska Airlines staff and arms them with the ability to bypass the usual administrative barriers to offering customers perks such as lounge access, free meals and even free flights or upgrades.
“The toolkit means that staff no longer need permission to do right by the customer,” Bliss said.
Tying this point back to the #MakeMomProud theme, Bliss shared the following quote:
“When a mother sees there are only four pieces of pie for five people, she decides she never did care for pie,” Tenneva Jordan said.
Putting your customer needs first will help you to organically achieve your own, Bliss said.
Take the High Road
By “take the high road,” Bliss said it is crucial to openly trust your customers in order to gain their trust in return.
Bliss referenced a newly launched U.S. insurance company, Lemonade. Lemonade’s unorthodox approach to insurance works on a principle called the “honesty pledge,” whereby customers make an insurance claim, not by completing a form but, instead, looking into the camera on their mobile device and recording themselves requesting the claim, face-to-face with the company’s AI bot, Jim. (Note the very mother/child nature of this interaction, by having to look someone in the face to evidence you’re being honest.).
In exchange for this display of honesty, Lemonade rewards customers by processing most claims within five minutes. Any leftover claims at the end of the year are then donated to charities.
Lemonade is one of the fastest-growing insurance companies in the U.S., experiencing more than 200 percent growth since launch.
To recap, according to Bliss, the most popular companies choose to:
- Enable their people to bring the best version of themselves to work.
- Get rid of the moments that make it hard to be a customer.
- Redesign processes to put customer needs first.
- Create a balanced relationship with the customer.
Signing off, Bliss had one final piece of advice for businesses re-evaluating each step of the customer experience: “Just ask yourself, would you do that to your mother?”