Customer Mentors Hardwire Wisdom into Customer Experiences

[The following guest post is by Chip R. Bell, respected author, consultant and speaker. Among his many best-selling books are Wired & Dangerous (co-authored with John Patterson), Managers as Mentors (co-authored with Marshall Goldsmith) whose third edition was recently released, and The 9-1/2 Principles of Innovative Service. In this post, Chip shares his initial experience with Starbucks. As a tea-drinker, I can relate! Read on for his customer management lesson.]

I was scared of Starbucks!  I went in one time early in their rise to renown and felt I had been dropped into some private club to which I was not a member and I did not know the password or secret handshake. I could not wait to go to Jerry’s Bait Shop where black coffee is just black coffee, not some froufrou label!

My business partner, John Patterson, has been a long-term serious Starbucks fan … ordering the small town size three times a day with extra shots of something I don’t want to even know about.

“You’ve got to go to Starbucks!” John said very early one morning en route to a client meeting.

“I’ve been once and I did not care for it. Their coffee is way too strong.”  I replied. I did not tell him about my intimidating first visit. But after John’s relentless prodding, I finally gave up and went to a Starbucks with him! He confidently walked right up to the counter and started speaking Italian. When I told him I just wanted a small cup of black coffee, he sternly corrected me. “No,” he said, “You want a tall!”

My nightmare elevated when the Starbucks counter person asked me for me order. I nervously blurted out, “Mam, I just want a small cup of black coffee.” With kindness dripping from her voice, she softly said, “Sir, you’ve never been in here, have you?” “Is it that obvious?” I responded.

Again, she warmly smiled.

“Don’t worry, sir,” she told me. “I can give you this!” She proudly gave me a little booklet called “Make It Your Drink: A Guide to Starbucks Beverages.” It was a trainer’s guide to everything a customer might need to know about being a true Starbucks pro. I did my homework, reading the little booklet from cover to cover. It was empowering! I could not wait to go back to Starbucks. I boldly walked right up to the Starbucks counter and ordered, “I’d like a Mocha Grande Hoochie Coochie!”

Improving customer competence and the customer experience
Customer mentors look for ways to embed learning into every touch point of the customer’s experience. After Howard Schultz resumed leadership of Starbucks in 2008, he closed all 7100 locations for three hours of training. He was concerned employees were focusing too much about speed and not enough about creating a great customer experience.

Peterson Caterpillar in Eugene, OR, learned the top ten most frustrating experiences of their customers. One of the top customer concerns was remembering the steps in the complex shut down procedure of a large power generator–the size that powers a shopping center or hospital. With their learning hat on, Peterson created a 30 second YouTube training video that customers could access from their smartphone. It was a huge hit for their customers.

Customer mentoring is more than one-to-one customer tutelage. It is every small way a customer-focused organization ramps up the learning of their customers. Research done by TARP Institute found that proactively providing customers new and useful learning increases their likelihood of repurchasing 32%.  How can you help your customers increase their competence?  Organizations that mentor customers earn as they help others learn.

[Thanks, Chip!]

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