Jim Knight looks like a rock star, with his piercings, spiked hair and "sign of the horns" hand flashes. That probably explains why he rocked the audience last week at the annual Retail Customer Experience Executive Summit in San Diego.
Knight, former training and development director at Hard Rock International, spent most of his career creating programs throughout the brand's system and was recognized by Training Magazine as representing one of the top 125 training companies in the world.
During his keynote, he shared some insights on how to create a "service that rocks," reiterating that customer service and company culture are the characteristics that allow companies to leapfrog other companies.
"The most successful companies in the world have a shared mindset amongst all employees," Knight said. "And they communicate like heck."
To complement such communication, having a simple, one-sentence-long mission statement is important. If it's longer, "you're people won't know it," he said.
The Chick-fil-A standard
One such company that emulates culture and training, according to Knight, is Chick-fil-A. The company shows employees four to five videos during their orientation, including the "Every person has a story" video below:
According to Chick-fil-A, the video was created to "remind us that everyone we interact with is a chance to create a remarkable experience."
"That's a tough video to watch if you're a 17- or 18-year-old kid. It resonates. Instead of selling a product, they are asking them to think about what's going on," Knight said. "They're doing a lot of things from a cultural and service standpoint and they're hiring the right people to fit the brand."
Knight pointed out an example of when he was standing in line at a Chick-fil-A recently, arms folded and legs slightly wide. The cashier grabbed his attention by saying, "Hey there, Peter Pan."
"I immediately got it and we both started laughing. It was great. Anywhere else, the person probably would have said, 'next,'" he said.
'Behaviors are not fake'
This specific example outlines the type of employee restaurants should go after. The cashier took a risk, Knight says; maybe he would have offended Knight or the reference would have just gone over his head.
But, still, the cashier's approach to the next customer in line was different and unpredictable.
"The technical side means doing things you have to do to stay in business. But it doesn't make you feel different. That comes from the emotional side, the unpredictability. How did you make me feel? An emotional attachment is created by a personalized experience," Knight said.
The younger generations — Generation X, the Millennials and younger — "crave" this type of differentiated experience.
"You want employees who are unapologetically authentic in the way they address their customers — those whose behaviors are not fake," Knight added.
Don't be afraid of being expensive
Not only is customer service important, but so is the entire customer experience. This, Knight says, is why Starbucks is an ideal case study.
"This company has revolutionized the way we buy coffee. We're spending stupid-silly money on coffee but it's not about the coffee. It's about the experience — the furniture, art, music, recycling, the barista who writes my name on everything," he said.
Hard Rock has tried to emulate that method and even now sells a $16 hamburger because the "experience warrants that."
"Don't be afraid of being the most expensive," Knight said. "But you'd better bring the thunder."
8 ways to create 'service that rocks'
Knight provided 8 tips on how to create a differentiated service-oriented organization:
- "Be like U2." The band U2 has been around since the late 1970s and "everyone" knows who Bono and The Edge are. But less people know who the bassist (Adam Clayton) and drummer (Larry Mullen Jr.) are. But, "that doesn't mean they're less important. They contribute to the sound. In your company, everyone should be singing off the same sheet of music, and everyone has a part to play," Knight said.
- Create and embody a guest-obsessed purpose to your business.
- People crave differentiation — "consider being unpredictable."
- Value matters. People will pay more for a Starbucks coffee, or a Hard Rock hamburger, or a Rolling Stones concert ticket because "memorable experiences help justify the prices," Knight said.
- "Hire rock stars, not lip syncers, to amp up the band." Knight suggests hiring unique people with unique experiences, or the "square pegs in the round holes." If you give them a chance, expect their loyalty in return.
- If everyone is vanilla, be the chocolate to avoid the 4-letter descriptors about your business, including "fine," "good" and "okay." You want more than that.
- "Create as many pluses as possible to get that mental shelf space," Knight said. Customers should identify you in their top three favorite brands. If not, there isn't enough that stands out about your brand to them.
- Treat each person special, like it's their first date or their first day at work.
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