Here's How Daymond John's SHARK Points Apply to Customer Service
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Self-made millionaire and star of ABC’s Shark Tank, Daymond John watches nervous entrepreneurs pitch their business ideas on national TV every week. He’ll grill startups on their competitors, distribution and pricing strategy, but in his books and lectures the shark swears by customer service as the linchpin of a successful business.
During his keynote at CCW Austin last week, John spoke about his renowned SHARK Points recipe for business success and the importance of customer service, so we decided to explore the connection between the two.
“Over the years, I have learned that customer service is absolutely the most important part of any business.” - Daymond John
Originally meant for entrepreneurs, the SHARK Points are a series of writing exercises loosely modeled after a business plan, designed to encourage people to commit their goals to paper. This simple act, John writes, “will force you to sit back and analyze your decisions.”
Click here to download the SHARK Points Guide.
Set A Goal
John attributes his success as founder and CEO of global fashion powerhouse FUBU (For Us By Us) to relentless goal-setting on a monthly, weekly and daily basis. Establishing a clear-cut vision for customer service is just as important, but so is deciding on and communicating those expectations and metrics to your agents.
At online booking portal Hotwire, agents-in-training meet with their supervisors biweekly to score and evaluate calls and then determine one to two goals to pursue over the next two weeks. Meanwhile, home decor store Pier 1 Imports, recently awarded by CCW for Best-in-Class Contact Center, limits agents’ access to call center data so they only see the metrics that matter most and stay focused on their goals.
Questions from SHARK Points: What is the goal of your contact center? What does a great customer experience entail?
Homework, Do Yours
There is no such thing as an original idea, writes John. Instead, “what you have is a new way or new approach to something that already exists.” Your competitors likely provide an equivalent product or service, so how do you differentiate yours? The best way to sell more than your rivals is to understand what your customers (and their customers) value, and build a purchasing experience closely aligned with their needs and wants.
In addition to helping you sell and market your product, this knowledge helps you better connect with your customers in a service experience context.
As an online shoe retailer, Zappos understands that being unable to “try before you buy” is a major pain point (and disincentive) for those who purchase shoes online. Consequently, the company introduced free shipping and free returns so that customers could buy several shoes at once and return the pairs they don’t want. Zappos also offers stellar customer support, where agents are encouraged to stay on the phone with customers for as long as needed and build an emotional connection with them - recently setting the record for the longest customer support call at 10 hours and 43 minutes.
In SHARK Points, John floats the million-dollar question about your unique value proposition: “Can you target the customer quicker or cheaper?” It’s often difficult for companies to do both. Zappos is known as the most convenient, customer-friendly online store for shoes, routinely wowing customers even when it can’t offer the lowest price.
Questions from SHARK Points: What are your customers’ main pain points? What solutions can you provide?
Adore What You Do
Entrepreneurs are passionate - hence their risk tolerance for potential bankruptcy, job insecurity, and innovation. If you are passionate about customer service, it will shine through not only to your customers but to your agents. The CEO may love what the company does for customers, but if the agents aren’t on board, the love won’t shine through. Agents who are passionate about the brand mission naturally deliver a more authentic experience, listen better, and resolve problems quickly and efficiently.
“It is 20 times harder to acquire a new customer than it is to resell and up-sell an existing customer. Make your existing customers happy and they’ll support you until the cows come home.” - Daymond John
Questions from SHARK Points: Are your agents passionate about the brand? Do they understand their value in providing a great customer experience?
Remember, You Are The Brand
Serving on the frontlines with customers on a daily basis, your agents are your strongest brand ambassadors, so it’s imperative you hire people who fit the brand image or mission. Where relevant, look for those who are already fans of the brand.
While training agents, emphasize brand values in addition to systems and scripts. Agents should be cognizant of the brand’s ambition and image whenever they interface with a customer. Finally, the metrics you measure and the way you manage your agents should reflect the brand’s goal. For instance, the Ritz Carlton aspires towards lifetime customer loyalty, and frequently makes headlines for going the extra mile.
In 2007, a family staying at the Ritz in Bali had brought specialized eggs and milk for their son, who had numerous food allergies. Upon arriving, they discovered that the food had spoiled, and after the Ritz Carlton dining staff scoured the town they still could not find a replacement. Then the executive chef remembered a store in Singapore that sold the items, so he asked his mother-in-law to buy the products and fly to Bali to deliver them, which she did. For a business like the Ritz, the costs of over-the-top gestures are repaid in lifetime customer value.
“The goal is to develop such a strong emotional engagement between the hotel’s staff and their guests that a guest will not consider staying anywhere else, even if they have an option.” - Simon Cooper, COO at Ritz-Carlton
Questions from SHARK Points: How well does your customer service represent the brand mission?
Entrepreneurs rebound from failure and think creatively to overcome the obstacles in their path. Persistence is consistency, so don’t stop looking for new and better ways to improve your customer service. Some “policies” are meant to be broken; always think of ways to revise your scripts, processes, agent performance and systems in the interest of creating a better customer experience.
The St. Regis in San Francisco got this one right by introducing an “undo” button on its elevator so guests could backpedal after pressing the wrong floor. While it’s a convenient fix for the errant button-presser, it also reduces wait times for other elevator riders.
Given the importance of customer service as a differentiator, always aim to get ahead rather than catch up, even if your competitors settle for mediocre customer experience. And when things do go wrong, always be ready to rebound from bad interactions or a blow to your reputation. No brand is perfect, but customer-centric brands know that a goof-up is an opportunity to remedy a pain point for the customer.
Questions from SHARK Points: What is a problem you have? Who can help you with this problem?