The fourth of four symposiums I have attended was kicked off by John Carroll at noon on Tuesday, March 10th. No complaint on the weather or the venue in San Diego they were both beautiful. Ron Kaufman was introduced as the MC for the three days. Ron performed an admirable job of learning the background of each of the speakers he introduced which enabled the attendees to better know each presenter. Our first keynote, Erica Javellana of Zappos!, discussed the creative beginnings of Zappos! by their founder Tony Hsieh. Tony was looking for a certain type of shoe to purchase and when he couldn’t find them, decided to start a company and make them. Erica went on to discuss the ten core values that the employees created which shaped their culture and a set of values that they could then use to hire and fire. The processes, values and culture that Zappos! has put in place give us a solid look at what we will be experiencing with upcoming generations entering the workforce. Following Erica’s talk there were several captivating panel discussions to choose from and enjoy. Karl Hohmann of ServicePower and I chaired a breakout session discussing Hybrid Workforce Strategies to accommodate Third Parties and Contingent Labor. We enjoyed interacting with twenty attendees, 10 having had previous experience with third parties. The discussion was lively and could have gone much longer with good discussion on the pluses and minuses of these topics.
Day two began with a “wow” moment titled “Seek First To Understand-Then Blow It Up” delivered by, Rusty Walther, VP of Global Escalation Management at Hewlett-Packard. We heard from Rusty at last year’s conference. His talks are highly entertaining and loaded with sage advice. This year’s talk was directed not at the top executives but rather those just getting started. Rusty provided us his list of ten rules to live by as a manager. His first rule is “you have to shoot the raccoon” this referenced a story as to why there is a burning need to remove those people who drag the organization down. For the full list, enjoy reading it on The Service Council web site (Link). His final thought was “Not everyone who dumps on you is your enemy and not everyone who helps you is a friend”, which was delivered with humor and a considerable amount of knowledge and insight.
Our next keynote was Victoria Halsey who delivered a solid discussion on hiring and retaining top talent and what those challenges are. I have been a fan of the Blanchard Company for many years and have attended many of their multi-day training sessions. Victoria discussed in detail the concept of hiring people who THRIVE and then went on to explain the acronym and its meaning. T=Title H=Heart R=Results I=Important skills V=Values E=Excellence. She then discussed the four steps to hiring “A” players. This topic, hiring high-talent “A” players, is, I believe, the most critical task we undertake as managers and it deserves our full attention.
The next keynote was delivered by Roger Rinker, the VP of Talent Management for Comfort Systems USA. Roger provided some key insights on when it’s time to change some things that have historically worked but aren’t working so well anymore. He also provided some insight on the value of listening to our frontline team members who frequently understand the situation better than those removed from the day-to-day. He shared with the audience that after talking with many of their frontline techs they walked away with the belief that the two areas of focus for Comfort Systems is work/life balance and training. Roger commented concerning training “If you’re not a leader in your industry then you are a follower as there is no middle ground”. Roger also commented that a “Comfort Zone” is a beautiful place where nothing ever grows and followed by saying the field will figure out how to look like they are adapting but in reality they aren’t. A dear friend of mine, Stan Bigelow, who has spent an entire career training technicians on interpersonal skills to better equip them to interface with their customers, presented the thought process back in the late eighties the concept of the upside down pyramid. This model basically drives the point that instead of an entire organization built to support the CEO it is built to support the frontline people because they are the ones interfacing daily with the customer. It was interesting to hear Roger discussing this very important concept.
We then broke for the next set of three breakouts; I attended one titled “Service and Customer Engagement: Effort, Effectiveness, and Experience Across All Points of Interaction.” David Hicks CEO of Mulberry Consulting and Vicky Stennes a Senior Consultant of Mulberry conducted a riveting discussion on Net Promoter Score. I have listened to many throw the NPS acronym around and thought I understood it. In this session I discovered how little I knew concerning the topic. We discussed the pros and cons of how easy it is to skew the score by how you ask the questions. There was a wonderful discussion on mapping the customer experience and then taking small pieces of that data to test rather than huge chunks. We also discussed how to identify the moments of truth and pain points for our customers. One of the final comments was “customer experience is the most critical differentiator”. It is always fulfilling for me to be around people who truly understand their subject and are astute in discussing it in depth. David and Vicky certainly pulled this off with a high level of professionalism.
Next began a series of three keynotes beginning with On Amir from the University of California San Diego who discussed behavioral economics and what it teaches us about customer decision making. This subject was very profound and certainly had a scientific bent that made it difficult to absorb in a short period of time. Some real world examples were provided that gave us a glimpse of the concept and how it might apply to real world problems. I just felt the topic was valid but required more than a 45 minute discussion to adopt it into our daily business life.
Next we heard from Steve Miggo, SVP of Operations from Safelite. Steve spent time talking about the traits and personalities they look for during their hiring process. One of their keys was to find employees who had excellent listening skills coupled with the ability to see themselves as their customer views them. All of their frontline folks participate in the “Five T’s”: Time, Touch, Technical, Talk and Thanks. Steve also shared that 75% of their business is conducted in the field rather than in a storefront operation. He also mentioned that they have been using NPS for the past nine years. At a Service Council symposium in the past, I had the opportunity to hear another Safelite executive (fellow Advisory Board Member, Renee Cacchillo) talk about a technician they highlighted in the Northeast and his “above and beyond” approach. Later that year my car and my wife’s car required three crack repairs due to rock chips. I specifically requested Safelite and received the same fabulous service they had talked about earlier in the year.
The final talk for Wednesday was delivered by Rick Mears, VP Guest Services San Francisco Giants. Rick is the only Vice President- Guest Services in the professional baseball realm. Rick walked us through an abbreviated sample of the 40 hour training program that all new employees participate in. Several statements made in the training class are as follows: focus your mental positive state because you are on stage, look through the guest’s eyes and dream, a dream is a wish your heart makes, respect and appreciate everyone, there is no higher religion than human service to work for the common good, you have accepted a job that pays you to be kind to people. Rick also discussed the five most important phrases or words: 1. I’m proud of you. 2. What’s your opinion? 3. I was wrong. 4. Thank you. 5. Please. The last thing he shared with us was his description of excellence: ordinary people doing ordinary things in an extraordinary way. This approach to the customer experience has allowed the Giants organization to be chosen over consecutive years as the best customer experience in baseball.
The event was ripe with content as you can see. As a result, my observations will be broken into 2 parts. Later this week, Part 2 will wrap up my observations of Day 3, key takeaways and considerations going forward.
Cary Chapman, former National Service Manager of Mettler-Toledo, Safeline, is a customer service professional with forty-one years of service and sales background. With Cary’s years of experience, he was hired by Safeline to stabilize a multi-year turnover issue. In this role, Cary was instrumental in completely eliminating service employee turnover while assisting in achieving fifteen percent annual growth over a three year period. Cary is a founding Advisory Board Member of The Service Council.